Disclosure: purchasing something from the links in this guide will give us a small share. Feel free to review our Terms of Service!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Lights twinkling! Chestnuts roasting (apparently)! Your friends and family being infuriatingly vague about what they want for the holidays! Well stress no more, pal. Fanbyte is here to lay it down for all the familial archetypes in your life. Use our guide and we promise you’ll walk away from Holidays 2018 with bragging rights for next year.
Here’s how we’ll break it down:
- One major release recommendation
- One budget recommendation
- One non-video game recommendation
- Misc additions
We’d love to say this is where you’ll find the hottest deals, but deals change constantly. Think of this as mainly a recommendation engine with links when deals are available.
Gifts for Working Adults
You work. Every time a game comes out and screams “there are over 200 hours of content,” you lose a year of your life. Here are gift ideas you can jump in and out of at the drop of a hat!
Forza horizon 4 (PC, xbox one)
Okay, maybe Forza Horizon 4 is one of those 200-hour games, but it’s about the kind of hours it delivers. Microsoft’s newest racing game might seem like an odd idea for the commuter in your life, but imagine the freedom of taking any car and blazing your own trail through the English countryside.
This is a great “big” game for working adults, because you can drop in and out of the action and have a blast for an hour at a time. The nature of the game’s Season system allows for variety, too. If you take a break for a couple weeks, you’ll come back to a game that feels fresh.
- Microsoft is still selling an Xbox One S bundle with the game
Celeste (pc, mac, xbox one, ps4, switch)
One of this year’s indie standouts was Celeste, a game about having an existential crisis disguised as a pixel-perfect platformer. What makes Celeste work for the working adult is not just the subject matter (but lol because yeah), but rather how easy it is to jump in and out of sessions to try and beat some of the game’s tougher challenges. Nearly every stage is divided into single screens that save your progress as you go.
More important context for this recommendation: you can play this game pretty much anywhere. It’s on PC, Mac, Linux (only used by working adults), and consoles. Our recommendation is Switch. Take it with you! Play it on a plane!
Swiftpoint Z mouse
This high powered (and pricey) mouse says it’s for gaming. And sure, it’s for gaming. You can do a lot of customizing out of the box, but you won’t need to do much. It can serve as a joystick, controller, and mouse all at once. So yeah, you can do a lot of gaming with this mouse.
However, Swiftpoint’s Z is also for “power users,” which is fancy speak for “people who do a lot of worky work on the computer.” I rolled my eyes at this distinction at first, but after using this mouse with its ergonomic design and easy access core function clicking (copy, paste, tab, window—all built-in!), I’m a Swiftpoint Z user for life. Amazon has it right now discounted at $179.99.
- Diablo III: Eternal Collection for Nintendo Switch
Possibly the perfect travel game, Nintendo Switch might be the best place to play Blizzard’s hack n slashterpiece.
- Reigns: Her Majesty (iOS)
Are you into games with narratives, but don’t have the sit-down-for-10-hours investment time? Reigns: Her Majesty puts you (and countless generations after you) in charge of a realm. You’ll die. You’ll fail. Mostly, you’ll have a really good time engaging with this charming, Tinder-like mobile game.
The Most 2018 Gifts
This year was a year, huh? Listen, you know next year might be a total disaster. You retweet every single apocalyptic thing happening every day. When scientists discover a near earth object that might hit us in the distant future, you tweet “end me, daddy” at some poor Ars Technica intern. These recommendations are for you.
Fallout 76 (pc, xbox one, ps4)
Is there any game that sums up 2018 more perfectly than Fallout 76? We don’t even know what it is, even though it’s been out for weeks. Its creators don’t even know what it is, even though they made it. It’s a broken, muddled mess. It’s charming, though, in its… way. What’s more fitting than walking around in the busted, terrible world with your friends trying not to die?
Give it a shot! It’s being discounted by the day, it seems. And Bethesda has a few patches on the way that should make it a little bit more appealing.
caves of qud (pc, mac)
Are you a mechanically-armed mutant? Swamp thing with a stinger? Have you ever wanted to be these things? Caves of Qud is a rich simulation RPG where basically anything is possible, you have to constantly be on your toes, and the depth of absurdity surprises you at every turn. It’s like a fun, better version of what 2018 represents and, as a budget Early Access game on Steam, you are promised a consistent stream of updates that change the game in exciting ways.
Quite possibly the only cooking device you’ll need in the wild wastes of 2019, the Instant Pot has transformed the lives of countless folk who didn’t think they were capable of making pho from scratch, or a killer pot roast in an hour. Go ahead, get one! But listen…
ALWAYS. VENT. THE LID.
So…You Enjoy Anime
We hear that you like anime. That’s cool. These are gift ideas for you!
Dragon Ball FighterZ (pc, xbox one, ps4, switch)
At some point in the last few years, Dragon Ball stopped giving a damn. And it’s been amazing. The self-referential Dragon Ball Super breathed new, silly life into the flagging series. Meanwhile, Guilty Gear developer Arc System Works made a fantastic fighting game with that new, fun spirit and unexpected gameplay chops.
Dragon Ball FighterZ looks and plays great. So much so that it’s become a lot of fighting game fans’ favorite new esport. Its story mode, while rough around the edges, is also full of in-jokes. Together, these features make it the most authentic licensed game since Batman: Arkham Asylum—albeit with a lot more color.
Heaven Will Be Mine (pc, mac)
Heaven Will Be Mine is a funny, sexy, poignant little game about bodies and existential threats. It’s also set in an alternate 1980s and features big robots fighting each other with black holes. Sounds like your typical cult classic mecha anime right?
Well, it’s actually one of this year’s best visual novels. Three queer mech pilots tell the tale from three unique perspectives, with three different endings. It’s not terribly long, but manages to pack a lot of character into its extremely complex premise.
Delicious in Dungeon Vol. 1
Delicious in Dungeon starts with a very familiar premise: a group of adventurers must enter a classic, D&D-style dungeon on an mission to save a friend. The problem is that they have no food and no cash to buy any more. The solution? To cook and eat the dungeon’s monsters, of course!
Excruciating detail (just look at those food illustrations) and charm elevate Delicious in Dungeon far above its simple setup. It starts as a cozy, often funny series about mouth-watering dishes made from disgusting creatures. It quickly evolves into one of the most intricate fantasy series of the past decade.
- Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza Kiwami 2 (PS4)
The Yakuza series is great. Grab yourself a PS4 and dive into this series. You do crime. You run cabarets. You hang out with your buds. There’s never been a better time to jump in, too. Yakuza 0 prequel-izes the Kazuma Kiryu saga, while the Kiwami entries remake Yakuza 1 and Yakuza 2.
Gifts for PC Builders
<pulls up a chair> So, you’ve decided to enter into the world of PC gaming. Welcome. It’s a supersaturated space with far too many options and opinions. Our opinions are the best, though! Our hardware correspondent Tuan Mai weighed in with some of his picks for this holiday season.
Samsung’s budget-friendly 970 EVO offers blazing fast read/write speeds—up to 3,500 MB/s and 2,500 MB/s respectively. If you aren’t booting on an SSD currently, now is the best time to upgrade. NVMe drives are as cheap as ever. This drive requires an M.2 SSD slot, so make sure your motherboard has one before buying.
Nvidia cards may be kings when it comes to performance and efficiency, but AMD graphics cards typically have them beat in value. With the cryptocurrency market tanking, manufacturers are unloading their overstocked cards at extremely affordable prices. AMD’s RX 580 offers similar performance to Nvidia’s GTX 1060 and can now be had for a fraction of the price.
If you’re still using an air cooler, or a stock CPU cooler, it’s time for an upgrade. Modern liquid coolers are easy to install, safe, and backed by great warranties. They’re also relatively quiet and do an amazing job of keeping your CPU cool while gaming. EVGA’s CLC 240 is one of the more affordable options, but is still being manufactured by the same OEM vendor as most of the bigger brands. It also comes with great software for monitoring and managing your fans and temperatures.
It’s a little pricier than most mid-range gaming headsets, but SteelSeries’ Arctis 3 is a great gift for yourself and others. They’ve got a great retractable microphone, comfy headband, sleek looks, and killer sound. And they work for both PC and consoles, too!
You must try the video game Crysis if you’re going to build a powerful PC. This is the law.
Gifts for Seizing the Means
We live in a world where the systems around us are working as intended to keep vile people in power and the disenfranchised in the lurch. Here’s some cool stuff for folks who understand this!
tetris effect (ps4)
You want to strap on a VR helmet and completely trip yourself out into a blissful, hopeful state? Tetris Effect is one of 2018’s most pleasant surprises. You don’t need VR to enjoy it, but it might be the definitive way to play one of the year’s low-key best games. It’s the perfect chill-out experience when you’ve had a rough day. You can play it with tons of different controllers, too, if that’s (somehow) your thing.
you are jeff bezos (browser)
Want to put some things into perspective for you or someone you know? Kris Ligman’s (an ex-colleague, for full disclosure) excellent Twine game, You Are Jeff Bezos, serves a helping of context regarding today’s unfathomable wealth gap. The game is free, though donations are welcome. And hey, if you’re in the mood for cats and saving the world, you can play their other game, Pet Cats, Save the World.
the great British bake off
Just get anything related to this show. An in-exhaustive list:
- Netflix account for watching this program
- A DVD set of five seasons of this program
- Oven mitts from this program
- Mary Berry’s Baking Bible
You know, for cigars and stuff.
- Fire Pro Wrestling World (PC, PS4)
Like professional wrestling, but don’t want to give money to the big wrestling company that keeps doing ghoulish stuff 24/7? Fire Pro Wrestling World doesn’t have the flash, or even the coherence of the WWE 2K series, but it is a blast with customization options you won’t believe.
Single Players with Tons of Time
Are you unattached? Have a situation that allows you to play all the rich, single-player games out there? First of all, congratulations. Holy smokes! Second of all, in case you’ve been living under a rock, here are some suggestions for you!
god of war (PS4)
Listen, I wanted to stick with Q4 suggestions, but let’s be real. God of War is the best single-player game to come out this year. Do not “at us,” cowboy. It’s a beefy experience if you’re headed from A-to-B, but you need to spend well over 60 hours in Kratos’ snowy new digs to do everything.
Whether you’re into action or Norse stuff or even (surprisingly) intense interpersonal drama, God of War really does have you covered.
hollow knight (pc, mac, xbox one, ps4, switch)
Technically a 2017 release, Hollow Knight has seen a resurgence in 2018 due to releases on Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Metroidvanias might be played out, but Hollow Knight is truly one of the best out there. It’s a big game, too, featuring many side quests that flesh out the story and add major challenges to an already difficult game.
You have the time to play all these huge games, but are you taking care of yourself? How’s your back? How’s your neck? Grab a Secretlab Omega chair (Stealth is a slick color combo). It’s got an ergonomic design, full recline, strong base, and high quality (vegan) leather. You can Platinum games in this chair.
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
The newest game in the very, very well-worn Ubisoft series takes the action to ancient Greece. Was I a huge skeptic when this game came out? Yep. Am I a firm believer due to its excellent protagonist Kassandra (Alexios who?), vibrant world, and varied gameplay? Absolutely.
- Red Dead Redemption 2 (Xbox One, PS4)
Rockstar’s latest western epic might lean into the mundane a smidgen too much, but it’s still a stunning achievement for environmental design and interactivity in a video game. It’s so easy to lose yourself in Arthur Morgan’s world and, if you love single-player games, you ought to give this game a shot.
- Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)
Insomniac’s take on New York’s favorite two-legged arachnid is sometimes uneven and definitely tone deaf at times, but traversing the city as your friendly neighborhood webslinger is fundamentally satisfying. It’s also on the shorter end of our single-player recs, in case you’re entering into a particularly busy phase of your life.
Gifts for the Whole Family
Family is important (whether that’s the people you were born with, or just the folks who mean the most to you). But not everybody that you love also loves everything else that you… love. So here are some games that might appeal to younger and/or less game-centric people in your life.
Spyro reignited trilogy (PS4)
We loved this delightful remaster at Fanbyte. We’re pretty sure your whole family will dig it, too. It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s not too difficult, and it’s a little less expensive than your standard launch AAA game.
Donut County (pc, mac, ps4, ios)
Like all great family content, Ben Esposito’s Donut County has something for everyone. For the kids, you have intuitive puzzle gameplay combining Katamari Damacy with a hole in the ground. For the adults, you have an exceptionally well-written narrative about selfishness and strained friendships in adulthood, told (mostly) via animals. Don’t worry, though! It’s extremely funny.
The controls are ultra-simple on any console. But if you play it on iOS, make sure to turn the sound on or play with headphones. The game has one of 2018’s best soundtracks. Oh also make sure you read every Trashpedia entry. They’re great.
Want to learn a simple role-playing game your family can get into? Pathfinder is a great introduction to pen and paper RPGs that doesn’t over-encumber newbies with minutia.
- Rocket League (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)
A fantastic multiplayer experience that’s easy to learn and supremely difficult to master. It’s soccer with cars! Come on!
- Overcooked 2 (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)
Cooking is tough, but it’s way tougher with the obstacles Overcooked 2 throws at you. Work together in bonkers conditions to make food. You won’t learn how to cook in real life, but you will learn the virtue of teamwork.
Gifts for Hyper-Competitives
I bet you give the best gifts. Oh? You also receive the best gifts? You wrap the best gifts? You have x-ray eyes to see through gifts? Okay it seems like you’re lying now. You’re the best liar? I believe that.
overwatch (PC, Xbox one, ps4)
Blizzard’s class-based shooter sensation is entering its third year, but it might be the best time to get into the action. With recent character additions like Hammond and Ashe, the Overwatch roster is expanding in fascinating ways. Don’t get it twisted, either—behind the shipping and cartoonish style is an at-times wildly intense competitive experience. Take a deep breath and stay on the payload.
Fortnite (PC, Mac, xbox one, ps4, switch, ios, android)
Yeah, we’re not recommending some obscure game deep within the bowels of Steam for our budget entry. Fortnite: Battle Royale is the most popular game on the planet for a reason. Epic Games constantly tweaks the formula to make the game feel fresh and exciting every other week. Though the game is free, you can (and probably will) spend money on its excellent Battle Pass, which gives you extra skins and cosmetics as you play. Don’t act like you’re too cool for Fortnite.
If you’re gonna be the best—the very best—you can’t do much better than MSI’s new 240hz esports monitor. You’ll have to dish out a little more cash than your standard 1080p (or even 4K) monitor, but the response time is totally worth it when every frame matters.
- Call of Duty Black Ops 4 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Skip the light story segments, unless you love a heaping helping of gross gore, and head straight into the game’s battle royale mode, Blackout.
- League of Legends (PC, Mac)
Riot’s MOBA is still one of the most popular games on the planet and its competitive scene is going strong. Okay sure, you might not be one of the top .00001% League players in the world, but you can pretend! Also, name another MOBA that spawned a truly excellent K-Pop band?