Games are an excellent gift to buy the geek in your life. They’re relatively affordable, and they provide a lot of enjoyment – far more than your average sweater, to be sure. And best of all, with digital distribution now common, you don’t have to suffer holiday crowds.
But perhaps you’re not sure what is hot in gaming this holiday season (or ever). Never fear. I have a few ideas that are likely to be a hit with any gamer.
If you’re reading this guide because you sincerely need to find a gift for a gamer, I’m going to assume you’re not much of a gamer yourself. You probably wouldn’t need my opinion if you were.
My focus will be on titles with broad appeal that can run on a wide variety of systems. There’s only one variable I can’t account for – the gamer you’re buying for. Hopefully you’ve kept tabs on them and know what they’ve already bought, but if not, try to find out.
If you’re looking for the big blockbuster title of the holiday season, you’ve found it. This Star Wars massively multiplayer RPG has been in development for years (some thought it might be released for the holidays last year) but it’s finally going to be released on December 20th.
Although a new game, this MMO will offer stylized but technically simple graphics to ensure older systems can run the game well. Any computer that can play 3D games released within the last few years should play Star Wars: The Old Republic easily.
Given the Star Wars franchise and the traditional MMO gameplay, this title should appeal to most gamers enough to keep them entertained for a month at the least. The game is $59.99, but it does require a subscription to keep playing past the first month. Keep this in mind if the gamer you’re buying for is on a tight budget.
In this side-scrolling platformer, players have to defeat enemies and obstacles by combing the abilities of three different characters bound together by magic. As the name implies, this is a sequel, but like most platformers the story in Trine was more of an excuse for the gameplay than anything else. Even gamers who’ve never heard of the first game can play without trouble.
Trine 2 features some impressive graphics that high-end systems can take advantage of, but the basic system requirements are simple, so most systems capable of 3D gaming will run it without problem.
Now over a year old, the latest installment in the Civilization franchise hasn’t garnered praise from all fans, but for newcomers, it’s the best yet. Interface improvements have made getting in to Civilization 5 easy (for a turn-based strategy game) and improvements to the combat system have eliminated a traditional weakness of the franchise that turned off some gamers.
Ironically, despite the lack of action, this is probably the most hardware intensive game listed here. A newer system with a mid-range graphics solution will be needed, so it’s a no-go if the gamer you’re buying for is running an older laptop. Most desktops with a video card install won’t have any problem, however.
Currently there are two versions available. The standard edition is $29.99, while the Game of the Year Edition is $49.99. The GOTY version adds some new civilizations, scenarios, and map options. None of that is essential, so don’t feel bad opting for the less expensive gift.
Released as freeware in 2004, Cave Story is a game that’s been around for some time, but with only a niche following. It’s a 2D platformer with simple graphics that still manages to be visually striking thanks to creative character design and effects. The 2D art means this game will run on almost any system.
Better still, the gameplay is a hoot. I’m not a big fan of platformers, but I played this one to completion and enjoyed every second. The story is weirdly interesting and the pacing is perfect. Whenever an existing weapon or level is beginning to be a bore, something new comes along.
Though made available originally as freeware, the enhanced version (with improved graphics and new play modes) is priced at $9.99 on Steam. That’s the version you want to gift.
Originally released on the Xbox 360, Bastion quickly made its way to the PC – and by most accounts, the PC version is the way to go. Anyone who has played Diablo or Torchlight should be familiar with the basic gameplay of Bastion, as it’s essentially an action-RPG. There’s a lot of weapon variety and the level design is excellent, not to mention beautiful.
There are a few twists to the game, however. Unlike most action-RPGs, you don’t start in any town. In fact, the entire world has been destroyed around you, and you must rebuild it. Bastion also includes interesting in-game narration moves the plot along smoothly.
Priced at $14.99, Bastion is a steal. Though it features some outstanding graphics, the hardware requirements are low, so most computers purchased within the last three years should have no problem running it.
Gamers who are in the know will see that I’ve largely avoided the biggest blockbuster titles. I did this because they usually don’t fit the criteria I described at the beginning of the article. If you’re not sure about the PC a gamer owns, you can’t be sure if it will run a new title like Skyrim. Games can’t returned if they don’t run, either.
There are a lot of PC games available, however, so feel free to post your gift recommendations in the comments.