Video Game Gift Guide
Gifts for every kind of gamer
By James Renovitch, Fri., Dec. 12, 2014
FOR THE MATURE SHOOTER
DestinyPlayStation, Xbox, $60
Of course the team behind Halo procures heart-quickening battles, but what people forget is the consistent beauty of the environments. It's difficult not to marvel at the majesty even if the scope of the game is sometimes too big to feel cohesive.
Far Cry 4PlayStation, Xbox, PC, $60
For the mature player, the ultra-violent Far Cry 4 thankfully doesn't take itself so seriously that you can't strap explosives to woodland creatures of varying sizes for the good of the quest. Outré angles to approaching a battle are often rewarded with unexpected success or glorious failure, but, either way, ain't we got fun.
Halo: Master Chief CollectionXbox, $60
It's Halo 1-3, but with so many graphical and multiplayer upgrades you'd barely recognize it if not for the signature seamless gunplay. This also gets the bang-for-your-buck award.
FOR THE GAME MAKER IN TRAINING
The Art of Game Design: A Book of LensesAK Peters/CRC Press, $65
Need a gift for the game developer in your life, or have a friend who is considering video games as a career? Consider this their Design 101 textbook. Author Jesse Schell has readers look critically and recontextualize ideas for games through various arts and scienctific frameworks. It's the perfect cure for the game maker's equivalent of writer's block.
The Iron Yard Code Academy$12,000 (scholarships available)
Don't be scared off by the name of this coding school opening in January. Or maybe you should be. The intense course schedule has students working 60 hours a week for 12 weeks and helps with job placement when the keyboard stops smoking. It's a pricey gift for the person who needs a kick in the pants to get off your couch and into the work force.
FOR EARLY CAREER GUIDANCE
Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!: A Gamer's AlphabetPOW!, $15
Local author Chris Barton guides your game-obsessed 8- to 12-year-old to the engrossing world of books. Each illustrated page features a term that may or may not be familiar to little joystick jockeys. It might even help adults understand what their kids mean when they talk about "griefers" and "sandboxes."
LittleBigPlanet 3PlayStation, $60
The third installment might have a new developer, but the original's crafty cuteness remains. The game is great fun and has a few new tricks up its sleeve, but the creation tools are what set LBP apart. Third time is definitely the charm for a balance of guidance to get creators started and encouragement to dream big.
FOR DINNER PARTY RECOMMENDATIONS
Monument ValleyAndroid, iOS, $4
One of the most beautiful and ingenious apps of the year just added a handful of new levels. Prepare to wow the relatives when you show them the interactive Escher-esque worlds.
Pair SolitaireAndroid, iOS, free
Just when you think there isn't another way to play cards alone, some devious mind comes up with one. It has all the obsessive replayability of standard solitaire with just enough strategy to keep you focused.
What initially looks like an electronic noir comic book becomes much more when you maneuver the panels to ensure your protagonist succeeds. Heavy on atmosphere and style with twists (in the gameplay and plot) at every turn.
FOR THE HACKER AND SLASHER
Dragon Age: InquisitionPlayStation, Xbox, PC, $60
Developer BioWare knows how to go big, and the latest Dragon Age is no exception. Everything is on a large scale from the world map to the time it takes to finish the game. There's a bit of filler mixed in with the killer, but too much marveling at the immensity will likely get you killed.
Middle-earth: Shadow of MordorPlayStation, Xbox, PC, $60
Throwing some balletic brawling from the Batman games into the Lord of the Rings' usual role-playing game trappings is just one of the inspired moves made by Middle-earth's developers. A good balance of lore, action, and strategy keeps swords flying and the powers of good on top.
FOR THE 8-BIT SOUNDSMITH
Lo-Fi SESYou likely missed the boat on backing this locally produced "Sound Entertainment System" on Kickstarter, but don't worry, Assorted Wires ended up raising five times the funding it asked for. The open-source device lets even the untrained lover of 8-bit bleeps and bloops create electronic jams, while more experienced musicians can program cartridges to create and tweak the sound library. The crowdfunders get first dibs, but look for this to be available to the public soon.
FOR THE "E FOR EVERYONE" SET
Captain Toad: Treasure TrackerWii U, $60
No jumping?! Yup, no jumping. Toad may not have the ups of his plumbing counterparts, but he's the best original effort for the Wii U since its release. More puzzle than platformer, Captain Toad has the unparalleled level design and charming characters you expect from Nintendo, and more than enough depth to keep players busy.
Super Smash Bros.Wii U, $60; 3DS, $40
A must-have for the Wii U, especially if you want to get the family gathered around the TV after presents are opened. Up to eight players can each control one of the almost 50 iconic characters and engage in anarchic battle. Don't forget to stock up on controllers.
Skylanders Trap TeamPlayStation, Xbox, Wii U, Android & iOS tablets, $75; 3DS, $65
The latest installment in the Skylanders series is also the strongest. Buyer beware: You'll need to purchase extra figurines to unlock all the areas and abilities in the game. If your kid has a birthday soon after the holidays, this could be a nice one-two punch.