A 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Every Gamer on Your List

A dozen ideas for all kinds of characters

A November survey by The NPD Group found that four out of five U.S. consumers have played a video game over the past six months. Key learnings from this study include a growing commitment to entertainment dollars in the sector, and more importantly, a 100 percent increase in the need to step up one's game when it comes to holiday shopping, because more gamers means more gaming personality types.

With that in mind, we present this selection of holiday gift ideas for all the characters in your life.

For the Late Adopter who patiently waited … the Oculus 2 VR Headset

You stood and watched on the sideline, credit card tucked firmly away, biding time before a VR headset was more than just a high-priced novelty. Now it's all come together, as the superior tech of the new Oculus is reasonably priced, and the games live up to the promise of the hardware. Good things come to those who wait.

And for those who couldn't wait … VR games Half-Life: Alyx and Beat Saber 

Those who bought VR headsets already, and have waited years for the games to catch up with the tech, can have an active holiday with either Beat Saber or Half-Life: Alyx. The former answers the question, "What if Obi-Wan developed an immersive workout game in VR?" The other is the long-awaited sequel to the masterpiece games that Valve built their rep upon. Both are must-haves for the holiday break.

For the Gamer who doesn't treat themselves often enough … the Xbox Elite Controller

You see it all the time—a person who never cared much for fancy sports cars gets a chance to spin around town in a Ducati, and BOOM, they can never go back to their Prius. Same deal with this top-class controller that can only be described as: decadent. It's got a hefty price tag, but it performs like a dream, feels great in your hands and is durable as hell. If a gamer you know made a positive contribution to your life in 2020, make them smile with this next-gen/last-gen compatible beauty.

For the Gamer who loves to wax nostalgic … Nintendo Game & Watch Anniversary Edition

Got that one friend or family member who sees the ray tracing magic of Assassin's Creed: Valhalla on next-gen systems and sniffs, "Meh, games were better when I was a kid"? They're not entirely wrong. Simple and endlessly playable are rare traits—and nobody did them better than early-stage Nintendo. This anniversary throwback to the OG era of the Japanese novelty company is more than just something to show off; it's literally hours and hours of high-score-chasing entertainment.

For the mobile Gamer who knows how to control their spending … a link to Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact has taken the freemium gaming world by storm in 2020, delivering the closest thing to Zelda: Breath of the Wild that you can play for free and while you're on the go. But here's the thing about the word "free"—when you're sucked into the exceptionally designed world of Genshin, the desire to spend money to gain deeper access and shinier toys is strong. Still, it's stealthily one of the best games of the year. Provide the free download link, $20 and a stern warning, and you've got a top-notch gift for the frugal gamer.

For the Anglophile Gamer … Watch Dogs: Legion 

The first Watch Dogs held so much promise that it was almost inevitable that it would disappoint. The second was an incremental improvement but gave you the sneaking suspicion that our world was not meant to see a third. Lo and behold, the answer all along was ... London. This innovative open-world game of hackers and information theft may not heal the wounds of a Covid-canceled trip to the U.K., but it's overflowing with enough interesting characters and real life locations to numb the pain for about 40+ hours.

For the temporarily grounded frequent flyer … Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

The original Flight Simulator of the '80s and '90s had amateur digital pilots using their imagination to envision the many landmarks and distant vistas they visited. No need for that here! Check your imagination at the door because this is real. Just be sure the person who gets this gift still brings their sense of wonder at what a simulation can deliver, as Microsoft uses its Bing maps tech to provide realistic fly-bys of all the landmarks around the globe—from the Seven Wonders to the sleepy cafe where you first met your spouse.

For the Gamer who dared to dream … a 12-month Xbox Game Pass subscription

For years, as the holidays approached, gamers around the world shared a quiet prayer: "Please bring us a successful startup that manages to create a viable Netflix-for-video-games." And for the longest time our pleas went unanswered, until wouldn't you know it, that tiny little company out in Redmond, Washington, went and did it right. A year subscription to Game Pass brings digital all-you-can-play access to legit new releases and hundreds of five-star classics for PC or Xbox. The dream. It's real! This is one of life's great pleasures and perfect for just about every gamer.

For the relic-hunting Gamer … a box of unopened Pokemon card packs

Everyone from hip-hop stars to popular content creators is opening up classic Pokemon packs these days—all in search of a hidden treasure that could yield six figures at auction. There's no guarantee the Charizard-lover in your life will hit the jackpot, but the journey will be a blast from the past.

For the Gamer looking for the next retro revival … Commodore 64 T-shirts

The iconic gaming brands of the '80s are icons for a reason: They ruled. We're calling the next retro wave right now as the rebirth of the Commodore 64 home computers (from the era when you had to clarify a piece of tech was "for the home"). Working title: Commodore 65.

For the Gamer who takes cosplay to the next level … Master Chief helmet

Halo: Infinite may be delayed indefinitely, but the lucky gamer on your list can go out immediately after receiving this stunning headwear and start turning heads in the neighborhood. It's not built for unfriendly alien environments, though, so remember to wear a mask under there.

For the Gamer who loves to read … Console Wars

The CBS All Access documentary about the battle between Nintendo and Sega in the '90s was appointment TV for gamers and worthy of a subscription to the Eye network's streaming service (for a little while, anyway). The lover of game history will savor every page of this expanded history of the great Mario vs. Sonic war.

The best gift of all this holiday season is to be a happy and healthy presence for the ones you love. So be safe out there, and we'll see you in 2021.

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Doug Scott
Doug Scott is co-founder and chief managing director of Subnation and a general partner in Surround Ventures.

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