So we are at the three day mark until Christmas and this past weekend some analysts had said that it was one of the busiest shopping days of 2010. Some of you out there may have gamers on your list, but have no idea on what to get because their tastes may be eclectic as mine is. I won’t lie about my gaming tastes, I do love some of the blockbuster games as well as some of the small niche titles out there. From this, the eclectic gamer is quite possibly the hardest to gift for… I present to you my picks for great games that could make for great stocking stuffers or last minute presents for the gamers in your friends and family.
(Disclaimers: The main focus of my guide covers consoles that I own at home and games I have had some experience with. Prices listed are retail value and does not factor in used prices or prices online. For the PC gamers, I can only advise Steam for bargains as Valve knows how to make a convincing sale and if your loved one is a computer gamer… Give them cash to spend on Steam.)
3D Dot Game Heroes – Sure, it’s a love letter to the Nintendo classic “The Legend of Zelda”… However, it’s far more challenging that the game would lead you to believe. From my own first play-through of the game, I easily clocked 50-60 hours just trying to do nearly everything and I am still not done. The classic RPG elements make for a great game as well as the hilarious references to game such as the Zelda series, Dragon Quest series, Demon Souls, Armored Core. It can be found at local or online retailers for $29.99.
Little Big Planet: Game of the Year Edition – Media Molecule’s smash hit embodies the ideals of “Play, Share, Create” in this wonderful platforming game. With a myriad of costumes, items, and tools, you can make a story out of almost anything. The “Game of the Year” edition features a free set of costumes and content that’s well worth the cost of the game. Also with Little Big Planet 2 coming soon, the content in Little Big Planet: Game of the Year Edition is fully supported! Bonus points for the fact that Sony also made a bundle for this game that gives you a FREE DualShock 3 controller. The Game of the Year edition goes for $29.99 on top of being a Greatest Hits title and the bundle with a DualShock 3 for $59.99. The bundle essentially makes the controller almost half the price. On top of that, it’s also a great hint to the gamer in mind you do want a game to play together with them.
MAG – One of the more quiet shooters on the list, MAG is a great console based first-person shooter. Boasting up to 256 players in certain match types, it is a really deep class based game that heavily emphasizes teamwork and communication. Also, MAG is one of the few shooters that does have PlayStation Move support for those who are majorly into motion gaming. Zipper Interactive has done a great job with community feedback so the game continues to evolve on a pretty regular basis. The player community is much more sincere than the sorts of folks you’d find playing Call of Duty: Black Ops for those a bit shy of doing online gaming. The game retails for $29.99 and it is a Greatest Hits title to boot.
Knights in the Nightmare – I had reviewed this earlier this winter and the price of $29.99 for a game with 40 – 60 hours of content is plenty to keep you occupied. Add in that game has a unique system on top of a deep story. So far, the promo that includes Yggdra Union seems to be in effect so it’s one hell of a bargain.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy – Even though this was technically released last year… Square Enix has cut down the price to a budget value and finally published the game on PlayStation Network as a downloadable game this year. It merges the qualities of a great fighting game with a Final Fantasy series twist. The best part is that the most hardened of Final Fantasy fans will be able to play out their dream battles and settle scores with friends on who’s the baddest villain or if their fave hero could wipe the floor with the carcass of another hero. Dissidia: Final Fantasy can be found for $19.99.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker – A game that is canonical to the story realm of Metal Gear, it’s one of the games that dives back into the realm of stealth operations. However, under Hideo Kojima’s direction there are some fresh new elements that make the game a blast to play. This iteration makes Peace Walker more than just an action game, but in some ways even a strategy and RPG to boot. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is available for $29.99
DeathSmiles – Lolicon sorceress girls who blow things up with magic spells and familiars, this game demonstrates the uniqueness of Japanese arcade shooters. It is a game that is fun to play and very hard to master. Unlike the Japanese gamers, our edition has the “Mega Black Label” edition of the game bundled in to boot. There are some portions where the game was changed with regard to speed from the Japanese versions, but overall the game is a worthy purchase at $29.99. Some retailers have the “Limited Edition” which comes with a special edition DeathSmiles faceplate and game sound track for $39.99.
Bayonetta – If you want to nit-pick and say it’s technically a game from 2009, because that was when it came out in Japan… Be my guest! Bayonetta made it to North America around January 2010 and it’s a fresh take on the over the top style action game genre. Directed by Hideki Kamiya of Devil May Cry fame and published by Platinum Games, it’s a game that is fun to play and challenging to master. The price of $29.99 makes it a great game for those who crave a stylishly sarcastic heroine with some intense boss battles. Personally, the Xbox 360 version had much less graphical quality issues compared to the PS3 version.
Alan Wake – For a game with a great story and plays much like many episodes of The X-Files… I can highly recommend Alan Wake for the Xbox 360. The controls are great and I know that Jarret gave the game a great review for the game earlier this year. I personally loved the game and played it from Jarret’s recommendation… I just remembered killing many of my nights just wanting to get to the next chapter. It became a slight addiction of sorts for me because the story was so compelling. There are also more new chapters on Xbox Live for a few bucks. Alan Wake can be found for $34.99 at your local retailers and it is a GREAT bargain!
Sin and Punishment: Star Successor – A sequel of the legendary Japanese only N64 game “Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Earth”, it is a game that shares elements of an action platformer with that of a rail shooter. The game was produced by Treasure and it is a total gem that any quirky Japanese gaming fans will take to love in their hearts. The game is playable via the Wii Remote + Nunchuk, Wii Zapper, Wii Classic (Pro) controller, and the GameCube controller which is great for those who have their preferred method of playing the game. The game is a little on the pricey end of the spectrum ($49.99) but I think it’s great
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle – Quirky humor, over the top action, and an unexpected sequel to a franchise that was originally supposed to be a one-off run. Truly a unique game from the minds of Japanese designers and a fresh take on action games. This breed of game is really rare for the Wii as it’s a bit more on the mature size of things. It’s not often you see gems like these land on the Wii and I can endorse getting these games as they are were a joy to play. Definitely a great purchase for the price of $29.99 and well worth the pick-up.
Super Mario All Stars – The vintage gamer will have a great appreciation of the Mario lineage as a whole and it is an update to the Super Nintendo/Famicom cartridge of the same name. The games are still in the same in tradition, but scaled up with slightly nicer graphics. For the Mario fanatics, the game comes with a soundtrack CD and a booklet documenting and commemorating Mario’s history. The price may be a little steep at $49.99, but you are also owning a piece of Nintendo’s history. Super Mario All Stars gets an honorable mention from me.
What if you end up going “They have plenty of games… but they don’t have enough stuff to go with the system(s).“? Well I have the honorary mentions list next. Caveat Emptor: This portion can get a little expensive compared to the above game picks.
For PC gamers, I will recommend the following:
1) Gaming Mice: A gaming mouse will sharpen the game play experiences of a PC gamer. For a great choice, the Logitech G500 is a good gaming mouse with a high DPI although it is on the very pricey spectrum at $69.99. For the gamer that can’t have clutter and cords, the G700 is a step above the G500 with being able to detaching away from the cord and going wireless.
2) Gaming Keyboard: Gaming keyboards will make gaming nice for the insomniac gamer as most of them are back lit for night time sessions. On top of that, some gaming keyboards do feature LCD screens to display game stats and other nice features to facilitate in gaming enjoyment. Recommendations for the desktop PC gamers would be a G110 ($79.99) and G510 ($119.99). For the PC gamer confined to a laptop, I’d recommend a G13 Advance Game Board as it allows you to program macros and keep your hands in a comfortable posture for gaming sessions at the price of $79.99
3) Gaming Headphones: Sound can alter how a player perceives his/her surroundings in addition to being able to give the jump to an enemy unaware that their quarry can hear their steps. Good headphones can give great games a level of depth thats so much more deeper and improve the experience of a game to boot. Also, gaming headphones will typically have great microphones that are able to transmit audio data which can be valuable for multiplayer games. For the mobile gamer, Logitech G330’s are great from their size and their comfortable wrap-around design at $49.99. If you have a bit more cash to splurge, headphones like the Logitech G35 at $129.99 for 7.1 surround sound are an amazing choice to give to your PC gamer.
The home console gamers can be grouped into a lot for peripherals go for honorable mentions. This applies mostly for PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. The PSP portion will be covered afterwards.
1) Extra Controllers: This can be the expensive portion for a new console owner… However, more controllers means more players to jump in on the fun! For folks who own Wii’s consider a Wii Remote Plus ($39.99) or the Flingsmash bundle ($49.99) that provides a free black Wii Remote Plus in the box with the game. If the Wii owner needs something for certain Wii games requiring the second player have a Nunchuk controller ($19.99) or for the Wii owner who loves deep games that need a Classic Pro controller ($19.99), consider those as options as well. For PlayStation 3 owners, consider extra DualShock 3 controllers ($54.99) or if you want an option to get the family into motion gaming… Look into the Sports Champions Move Bundle ($99.99) and possibly an extra PlayStation Move wand ($49.99) if you can spare the expense. The Xbox 360 crowd, a controller with the Play-and-Charge kits are a great idea ($64.99) and allow the player to play without wires with a charging option. If you’re looking for random amusement that the entire family can get into, check out the Kinect ($149.99) with a free copy of Kinect Adventures. Beware on the Kinect, as it seems to have been a very popular holiday item and may be quite hard to find.
2) Cash/Points for the Digital Console Stores: Many consoles now feature in-system online digital stores. The Wii has the Wii Shop channel, PS3 has the PlayStation Network Store, and Xbox 360 has the Xbox Games on Demand/Live Arcade/Indie Games stores. These stores are also ways to help gamers buy extra content to really open up their games and increase the value of a game as well. These online stores have the option to provide a cash card to fuel the account with money to buy these online games. The Wii currently has a Nintendo 2,000 points card ($20) that is available at many retailers online. PlayStation Network has cash cards that are available in $10, $20, and $50 denominations. Xbox Live points come in either increments of 1,600 points ($20) or 4,000 ($50). The Nintendo Points cards can be used with Wii purchases as well. The same can be said for the PlayStation Network cash cards being eligible for use with PSP owners too. These cards are available for purchase at many retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, 7-11, and Best Buy just to give you an idea of where to find them. These cards are a great way to purchase independent titles on the respective shops.
3) Premium Memberships: This portion applies mostly to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners in particular. Unfortunately, Xbox 360 gamers need Xbox Live to continue their ability to play online with their friends and to add insult to injury, the price for a 1 year membership recently went up to $59.99. PlayStation 3 owners have PlayStation Plus as an optional program for free monthly games, access to sales and betas, and many other perks. Membership for PlayStation Plus goes for $49.99 and if a PlayStation 3 was purchased within 90 days… PlayStation Plus has a discount price for an extended warranty that’s provided by Sony.
For the PSP owners out there, there are few great ideas for quick presents as well…
1) An extended battery – If the recipient in question got a lot of games and they are still using the standard battery… That’s going to limit how much time they can play away from the charger (roughly 3-4 hours). The extended battery extends the play time by double (about 6-8 hours) and is plenty of play time away from the cord! The price of $39.99 for more play time without down time is not a bad deal!
2) A UMD Case – UMD Cases allows the recipient to to store up to 8 games to take on the go without needing to take the big and bulky UMD cases while travelling. This is especially nice as the games stay protected from the elements while being able to give the gamer the ability to have variety while travelling. The cases are cheap and go for a meager $9.99!
3) A Pair Good of Headphones – The PSP is a gaming console at heart but also doubles as a multimedia device on the go for things like movies and music. Quality headphones are something that are a case of “pay for what you get“. There are some of the cheaper brands and the outrageously expensive brands. My personal suggestion would be a great pair of Logitech Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220 noise cancelling headphones at $69.99. Their sound quality is great on top of the fact that they do have noise cancelling for being able to immerse into games and media.
Let these suggestions be a guide for your decisions and maybe inspire you! After all, it is your money and if you really want to splurge on someone take my guide to mind for some of the best budget picks or some of the higher end gifts for your friends and loved ones. The end result for the gift giver is to see the joy from the recipient’s eyes is what should be the moment so savor.
As the Chief Content Officer of Mash Those Buttons, I wish all of those reading to have a fun filled holiday filled with gaming fun. I hope you all have a happy holiday and a very Merry Christmas from all of us here at Mash Those Buttons.