Happy holiday weekend, everybody! Welcome back to the 2019 Holiday Gift Guide. You’ve survived the family get togethers, ate your weight of pumpkin pie and strangled that line cutter who tried to get your Black Friday discounted flatscreen TV and through it all the Guide keeps coming.
Here’s what’s posted already:
Blu-Rays, Part 1
Blu-Rays, Part 2
Books, Part 1
Books, Part 2
And now we’re on to Gaming. This section will cover video games, board games and accessories. I’m not a member of the PC Master Race so most video games you’ll find below are console-based, but when applicable I’ve included links to whatever platforms each title is available on (Xbox, PS4, Switch, etc).
There are also a couple titles missing purely because the good will of the series has run out for me and while I hear both the new Call of Duty and Gears of War games are actually pretty good I haven’t played them myself and as such can’t give ‘em a pass. I’ve been hurt before! That said, I did hear good things about both, so consider them.
As usual I’ve double checked pricing on this section, but this weekend especially prices are fluctuating as sales and price-matching continues, so make sure to look at the price before you blick buy on anything.
Let’s get to it!
Cheap ($24.99 and Under)
Gaming covers so much ground. Case in point, we’re starting off with a couple of puzzles from the good folks at Mondo. First up is this 1000 piecer that recreates Killian Eng’s Alien print which sold out during Alien Day in 2016. The finished puzzle is 19×27, which is almost as big as the original print. So you can assemble it, glue it all together, hang it on the wall and pretend you have the fancy original.
For those puzzle fanatics who don’t want movie nerdery to overlap with their puzzles there’s this 1000 piece puzzle put out by Mondo and Fifty-Nine Parks that is a lovely US map that points out the location of our National Parks. It finishes at 19×27, just like the Alien puzzle.
Cinephile is, you guessed it, a game made by and for movie geeks. You get 150 illustrated cards and how you play is up to you. You can do a six degrees game that links two random actors together or what Doug Benson calls the IMDB game where a name is picked at random and you face off with an opponent listing off their filmography until someone is stumped. There are other options as well. Definitely a top option for an affordable fun night with your nerd-ass friends.
It’s inconceivable to me that I neither own nor have been invited to play this game. What’s wrong with me and what’s wrong with my friends? So, this four player take on the best film of all time has roles for Quint, Brody, Hooper and the Shark and progresses in two stages. First is on land as the shark gobbles up swimmers and the humans try to close the beaches to stop that and the second stage you flip the board and turn Amity into the Orca and the humans try to kill the shark. If I don’t get gifted this at least three times on Christmas day I’m going to be extremely upset with my friends…
So believe it or not, this movie trivia game themed around the now dead video rental chain Blockbuster is supposed to be legit. I never would have guessed it, but it’s popping up on many Best Of lists. The packaging is funny, I’ll give it that. It mimics the hard shell plastic VHS cover you’d get when renting back in the day. Blockbuster is a party game that works best with teams and has multiple levels, from basic movie trivia knowledge, quoting lines to your team so they guess the right title, to something as simple as listing of movies with, say, dogs in them. The idea is to win enough cards that you have a collection of all 8 included genres. Yeah, it does sound pretty fun, gotta admit. Blockbuster and it’s bullshit late fees can rot in hell, though. Strong words without a hint of holiday cheer in them, but I stand by ‘em.
I gotta throw in one of those “lie-to-you-friends” party games. In the past I’ve highlighted Werewolf, Witch Hunt and Mafia. Now it’s time for Secret Hitler! That’s right, guess which one of your friends is Hitler! The game is played like Mafia except instead of townspeople and mafia it’s liberals and fascists. The liberals have to enact progressive legislation and root out the fascists before they can elect their own Hitler. I’m sure some of my lefty friends can easily tinker with it and make it more relatable to modern US politics, but if you don’t want to piss off your racist Uncle at the family reunion it might be safer to stick with the classics…
Sign me up for any intricate board game that incorporates real rounds of Texas Hold ‘Em into the gameplay. Western Legends is an open world tabletop game where you take on the identity of real historical figures from the wild west and set out to build your legacy. Choose to be a bandit, a gambler, a lawman, etc. And yeah, play poker (deck included). Think of it like Red Dead Redemption, but you play with your friends instead of angry, racist 12 year olds online. Unless your friends are angry, racist online 12 year olds. Then I imagine the experience is gonna be somewhat similar.
Betrayal Legacy isn’t brand new, but it’s new enough, damn it! This is the Legacy version of Betrayal at House on the Hill, a constantly evolving board game that changes every time you play it. Depending on how and where you explore (you build out the map as you go) you’ll uncover different challenges to end the game and there’s almost always a turncoat in your crew working to stop you. It’s kind of like Cabin In The Woods: The Game, with the variety of monsters and challenges that can pop up. The regular game is fun as hell. The Legacy game is even more intricate and meant to be played by the same group over and over again, the rules changing as you go and different things unlocked depending on your choices. I love the Legacy tabletop experience (Risk Legacy is an all-timer) for existing somewhere between the classic board game experience and the modern video game experience.
Speaking of Risk, the board game that has broken up more friendships than politics, it is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and Amazon has an exclusive set celebrating that. Upgraded cards, boards, pieces and a cool detailed case. So, jump on that if that sounds cool to you.
Yeah, these branded Monopoly boards are tacky as hell, but it kinda blows my mind that they can happily theme a Monopoly game around a supernatural clown that straight up kills and eats children. I’d love to play this with Wampler just to see him circle the board trying to get the Barrens Pipe. The pieces include Bill’s bike Silver, Eddie’s Loser cast, Georgie’s boat, Richie’s glasses, Eddie (represented twice)’s inhaler and… a balloon. Sorry, Bev, Mike and Ben. Apparently you don’t get to be represented.
They had to change up the gameplay here in this Clue game branded with the It movie imagery otherwise the solve is always going to be Pennywise, in the sewers probably with his big scary teeth. Now it’s up to you to figure out who the next target of dat boi is.
Jedi: Fallen Order is pretty great. I’ve shown incredible restraint not spending the last week finishing it out and finding all the hidden skins and ship paint jobs and whatnot so that I can finish this Gift Guide for you good people. You’re welcome for my sacrifice. I was skeptical at first, but I shouldn’t have doubted Respawn. The game is great and was thoughtful enough to include a “story mode” for babies like me that get frustrated too easily. Story is there, the Star Wars feel is abundant and it’s very smart how they space out you figuring out your different abilities. Lots of Tomb Raider-style puzzle solving and the ability to force push Stormtroopers off cliffs. That by itself is worth the purchase alone.
Another pleasant surprise in the video game world this year was Control, which plays a bit like the great X-Files game that never was. Made by the team behind the super good Alan Wake, Control is an acid trip through the most fucked up office building you’ve ever been in. It has the feel of a horror game with a little David Lynchian weirdness thrown in with a heavy dose of Wachowski high concept gunplay.
Obsidian rejoins the RPG game with this open world space game that is a heavy dose of Fallout mixed with more than a pinch of Bioshock. It’s very addicting and scratched that big RPG itch we all get from time to time. My only complaint is that the game is over a little too quickly and you can’t continue exploring after you finish up. Also, pro-tip… if your companion gives you advice before making a big decision, listen to them. I’ll say no more!
I adore the gonzo world of the Borderland games and the randomized insane weapon drops is crazy addicting. That said I must admit I got a little… bored… with Borderlands 3 and set it aside about halfway through the campaign. To be fair my friends stopped playing it and this game more than any others in the series rewards co-op gameplay. I’ll pick it up again this holiday season, I’m sure. It’s not badly put together or anything, it just hasn’t grabbed me the way the last two have.
This one feels a little daunting for me, y’all. From what I’ve seen the graphics are outstanding and Kojima’s sense of the bizarre is right at the forefront, but man it feels like I’m circling a challenging bit of homework with this one. I’ll bite the bullet sooner or later because I know even if I hate it there won’t be anything else out there like Death Stranding and that by itself is commendable in this day and age. I do know that fans of it are over the moon with it. And I like fetuses, so I’m already halfway there with this one.
I’m surprised more games aren’t set in samurai times. Sekiro is a challenge along the lines of Dark Souls (appropriately so, since it’s made by the same developers), but it has a different vibe thanks to the period setting. Still, this one is for gamers who like to face a challenge. If you’re like me and more apt to crush your controller into dust in frustration this one might not be the best investment this holiday season.
I don’t recommend this game if you have an addictive personality. Because it’s quite possible you’ll lose a couple days to it, no matter what obligation you have in your life. Slay the Spire is a simple deck building game that doesn’t feel too nerdy. Lots of builds and strategy (and luck) goes into this one. You start each climb of the tower (three levels) with basic attacks and defenses and with each battle completed and mystery room explored and treasure chest unlocked you gain in power. If you’re defeated you start again. It’s the very definition of “just one more time” type of game. I can do it this time, I know it! If you travel a lot I would definitely recommend it for the Switch. It’ll make your plane rides fly by.
This goddamn Goose game has been memed to death already. It’s quite ingenious, actually. Because there is no bigger asshole in mother nature than geese, so making a game where you play an asshole goose terrorizing a village is perfect. Man, geese suck.
On the Switch for $19.99
The wildly popular builder game gets a sequel. Here you don’t just play the Mario-themed side scroller, you can make your own levels. You can even share your builds with people online and explore others’ levels, which means you never run out of different challenges.
The latest installment of the Zelda franchise is Link’s Awakening, which is really an update of a Gameboy game. Still, it’s graphically updated for the Switch and acts differently enough to not feel like the same experience.
Nintendo has had a lot of great ideas over the life of the company, but one of my favorites is that someone somewhere said, “What if Luigi was a Ghostbuster”? We’re not three games deep into the Luigi’s Mansion franchise, the latest of which came out this past Halloween. Solve puzzles, catch ghosts and thumb your nose at Mario (you don’t need him, Luigi! You’re a star with or without your limelight-hogging brother!).
Super Smash Bros Ultimate came out last December, but it deserves a spot here solely because of the hours of my life I’ve lost to the Smash Bros franchise going back to my teen years. There’s nothing more satisfying in any video game as launching someone off the map and hearing their screams trail off into the distance.
Overwatch has taken over the consoles and PC and now you can take it on the go with your Switch! Overwatch 2 is on the horizon, but from what they’ve announced it seems more like an add on to Overwatch than a from the ground up rebuilt sequel, so you should be pretty safe in terms of future-proofing your purchase. Take it from this solid low gold player, Overwatch is super fun and super addictive (and has more longevity than almost any other game on the market).
There was a hot second where my friends and I lost a lot of evenings with this Friday the 13th game. You play either Jason or one of a bunch of camp counselors. The counselors are trying to get out of the map and Jason’s job is to gather all the counselors together for a campfire sing along. Ha, I’m just joshin’ yous guys. Jason’s gotta brutally murder every single person and not allow them to escape. This multiplayer game really captures the feel of the movies and now it can be played on the Switch!
As someone who is constantly a year behind on any interesting tabletop games I had a research night going into the 2019 Holiday Guide and the top game from friends polled and google searches logged was this one. It’s called Nemesis and it’s fuuuuuuuucking expensive, but it’s also massive. This sucker is 12 pounds and comes with 500 pieces. The story is pretty familiar… You’re a crewmember on a spaceship and you wake up from hypersleep and one of the crew is dead and something (or some things) are on board. You have to fix the ship while these things are running around. So, yeah. It’s Alien at its base. The game mechanics are supposed to be very fluid and the gameplay super fun. I know it’s definitely one that’s on my radar now.
Gloomhaven is essentially a D&D campaign in a board game world. Loot dungeons, gather materials, upgrade your character and fight some shit as the path before you shifts dynamically depending on the choices you make. Again, it’s a very expensive set, but you get a lot for your money. It’s a 20 pound box packed with cards, mini figures, maps, etc. Definitely more of a game for the experienced tabletop player with a hardcore group of friends that gather together regularly.
It may seem crazy to have a controller on this list that costs almost as much as some of the lower end consoles on the market. But I gotta say, the Elite Xbox controllers are amazing and having used the first Elite controller for a while I can say it’s saved me money in the long run. The Elites are built to last. The $60 regular controllers wear out… the sticks start drifting, buttons stick, triggers wear their springs down. The Elites are different. You can modify it to your liking, swap out different thumbsticks depending on your preference, etc. I’m dying to get my hands on the new Elite 2 controller, but can fully vouch for the first one and the quality of life upgrade it gives you while gaming.
For The Super Rich Only ($250.00 and Up)
Tis the season for console bundles, fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la. The Xbox One X has a good one out that gets you a 1TB console, including a built-in 4K blu-ray player, controller and the deluxe version of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which is a $70 value in and of itself. This is a good deal if you were looking into getting a new console or upgrading from the not-as-awesome Xboxes.
Playstation is a little tougher on the bundle front this year. They have a great Limited Edition for Death Stranding (that includes an exclusive skin on the console itself and a fetal juice transparent controller), but since it’s a limited edition it’s already sold out, but (as of this writing) you can get it without too huge of a markup from secondary sellers. It’s pretty neat, but word is we’re getting a new Playstation next year so you can also save your money for the next gen console.
And then the regular old Switch. This feels like the first year when you can buy a Switch without jumping through hoops or rushing Best Buy the second the Black Friday doors open. I didn’t come up with any super special versions of the Switch or some fun bundles. Nope, just an ease of a one-click purchase.
Finally, how about your own personal Pac-Man arcade cabinet? This is not a full size cabinet. It’s a quarter size cabinet that stands 17 inches tall, hence why it is at all affordable. This thing is otherwise authentic. Made of wood, buttons do the right stuff, etc. It’s just a little guy is all. And yes, of course, it’s the full playable game. Now go get them big dots and eat you some mini-ghosts!
And that’s the Gaming Section. We’re in the homestretch now! Only a few more categories left! Coming up we have Apparel, Housewares and Toys/Collectibles! See ya’ then!