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If you’re into video games like I am, you know the struggle—there are always those friends that look at you funny when you bring up a difficult Bloodborne boss or try explaining the Legend of Zelda timeline. We know they’re missing out on masterful storytelling, adrenaline rushes, breathtaking fantasy worlds, and triumphant feelings, but even getting them to try a Pokémon game is hard. Still, I have hope that these misled non-gamers can be turned into full-fledged gaming connoisseurs. And the holiday season is the perfect time to get them to take the plunge. Gaming is more popular than ever thanks to the rise of streaming services, smartphones, and cutting-edge game consoles. Still, most people who want to game are in it for the experience of kicking back on a couch and spending a few hours running, jumping, slashing, shooting, or using magic. Whether you’re shopping for a hardcore or lapsed gamer, these gaming gifts include some core components they’d appreciate.
- Best game console: Nintendo Switch
- Best controller: 8Bitdo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller
- Best handheld PC: Asus ASUS ROG Ally
- Best handheld PC Dock: Syntech Mini Dock
- Best TV: Samsung S95C OLED
- Best monitor: Samsung Odyssey G30A
- Best mouse: Razer Viper V2 Pro
- Best keyboard: 8Bitdo Retro Mechanical Keyboard
- Best headset: Logitech G PRO X
- Best mobile gaming controller: Backbone One
- Best compact gaming computer: GEEKOM Mini PC
- Best gaming laptop: ASUS ROG Strix G16
- Best for streaming: Elgato HD60 S+
- Best WiFi routers: Eero 6+
- Best webcam: OBSBOT Tiny 2
- Best microphone: SteelSeries Alias
Best game console: Nintendo Switch
If you’re in the position to give someone (or yourself) their very first console this holiday, don’t chase after the flashy new PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. The Nintendo Switch is a better starter piece because it has something for everyone, whether that’s classic Mario or Zelda games, online team shooters like Overwatch, or even a game where you walk around as a goose, honking and messing with people. Nintendo also offers the Switch Lite for $100 less, but you can only play it handheld-style instead of connecting it to your TV. I’d suggest opting for the original version if you can swing it—the option to switch from TV to handheld is a delight. If you want to go a little more luxe, you can spend an extra $100 on the Nintendo Switch OLED Model, which has a larger, more vivid screen and plays all the same games.
Best controller: 8Bitdo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller
8Bitdo’s Ultimate Bluetooth controller lives up to its name. The gamepad, which works with both the Nintendo Switch and Windows PCs, feels great in the hand, has a familiar button layout, and can switch between Bluetooth and a 2.4GHz wireless connection. Additionally, buttons on the back can be programmed on the back to trigger custom commands in compatible games. Perhaps the coolest thing about this controller is the included charging dock, which makes topping up its battery a lot easier. If you keep the controller docked when you’re not playing, it’ll never run out of juice. Xbox and PlayStation players shouldn’t feel left out, as the official first-party controllers for the Xbox Series S/X and PlayStation 5 are available. If you’d like a wired option, PowerA has you covered.
Best handheld: Asus ASUS ROG Ally
The ROG Ally is one of the most innovative gadgets we’ve reviewed in 2023, and it’s a fierce competitor to Valve’s venerable Steam Deck. The Ally runs a full version of Windows, which means you can play games from multiple digital game stores, from Steam to Xbox Game Pass. ASUS packed the ROG Ally with a 7-inch 1080P display, custom processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage, so it’s stacked enough to play the AAA games from 2023 at high settings. If you’re catching up with games released years ago, you should be able to push them to ultra settings while maintaining a steady framerate. Like the Nintendo Switch, you can connect this handheld to your TV to play games at higher-than-HD resolutions, too. As handheld gaming PCs go, the ASUS ROG Ally is the top of the heap, and any Windows gamer will sink hundreds of hours of games over the holiday season and beyond.
Best handheld PC Dock: Syntech Mini Dock
If you’re going to connect your gaming handheld to a TV, you’ll need to get a dock. The best one we’ve tested is this six-port model from Syntech, which doubles as a stand. An integrated USB-C cable connects the dock to your portable computer and allows you to plug in accessories (via USB-A), a wired internet connection (via Ethernet), and a TV or monitor (via HDMI). The dock required no software to run and was instantly recognized by the ROG Ally as a compatible accessory. There’s even a USB-C port on the dock, which you can plug into an outlet using a USB-C cable and power adapter to keep the handheld charged. If you’re going to get someone a handheld gaming PC—or know someone who already has one—this is the accessory we recommend gifting them.
Best TV: Samsung S95C OLED
If the gamer in your life demands the absolute best fidelity from their games, Samsung’s S95C OLED is the ultimate screen. Samsung decked its high-end display with four HDMI 2.1 ports, allowing console and PC gamers to play the latest titles in 4K at up to 120 frames per second. Our reviewer played Returnal on a PlayStation 5 during his testing time and was extremely impressed with the results, even in a brightly lit room. The advantage OLED TVs have over their LCD counterparts is far better contrast and color reproduction. These are key specs for gamers since they’ll want the most immersive and lifelike experience possible. The good thing about this gift is that it can be enjoyed by non-gamers who want to watch TV shows and movies that look their best.
Best monitor: Samsung Odyssey G30A
Speaking of monitors, PC and console gamers will all appreciate Samsung’s Odyssey G30A. Its 144Hz refresh rate will make games look super smooth, and support for AMD’s FreeSync technology will prevent abnormalities like screen tearing (distortion) from getting in the way of online matches or intense sequences with a lot of movement. Additionally, its large size means gamers will feel immersed while playing titles at their desk. We also like that the G30A has multiple HDMI ports so that multiple consoles can be plugged into it simultaneously. We understand not everybody has enough room for a 27-inch display, which is why we feel like 24-inch LG’s 24GN600-B is another good option. If the person you’re getting this gift for has expressed interest in curved monitors, Samsung’s 34-inch Odyssey G5 deserves a look.
Best mouse: Razer Viper V2 Pro
Regular mice are too slow to keep up with the split-second movements necessary to play PC games competitively, which is why we recommend getting serious gamers Razer’s Viper V2 Pro. The wireless optical mouse provides peak performance on any surface and can survive up to 90 million clicks without faltering. Razer even allows you to change the mouse’s sensitivity by pushing a button instead of managing it through software. The most impressive feature of this mouse is that it’s wireless, which is atypical for gaming mice as it can lead to latency (lag) between your input (movement or a click) and how long it takes the PC to respond. Razer feels like it’s cracked the code on how to offer premium performance without a cumbersome cable. If wires aren’t an issue, Razer’s Basilisk V3 is another good pick; its optical sensor is almost as good, and it’s equipped with RGB lights and even more programmable buttons. Not sure? Check out additional cheap gaming mice we recommend.
Best keyboard: 8Bitdo Retro Mechanical Keyboard
Gaming keyboards are nothing new, but 8BitDo’s Retro Mechanical Keyboard is more than just a nostalgia trip. The mechanical keyboard’s color scheme is themed after the original Nintendo Entertainment System, complete with red “B” and “A” buttons. But Windows users can use 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software 2 to customize its function row and other buttons to your liking. If you’re playing games, changing these macros can help give you a leg up—or stay competitive in popular titles. MacOS users won’t be able to use Ultimate Software 2, but that platform isn’t known for gaming. That said, the keyboard’s stock functions are completely compatible with the Mac. This keyboard can be connected to your computer in three ways: with a USB cable, over Bluetooth, or using the included 2.4GHz USB dongle. If you’d like the best-looking mechanical gaming keyboard around, this is it. If you’d like a keyboard with a slightly more modern design, SteelSeries’ Apex 3, has most of the same other features of its higher-end models for under $50. We’ve got other picks if you’d like even more options.
Best headset: Logitech G PRO X
Hearing and speaking to teammates is essential when playing competitive multiplayer games online, which is why Logitech’s G Pro X is such a great gift. The headset can create a virtual 7.1 surround sound environment, so players will be able to hear opponents approaching from any direction. This makes a huge difference when playing games where every second counts. The G Pro X’s large, 50mm drivers will deliver clear sound regardless of which game they’re playing. The headset’s microphone is flexible, so gamers can move it around to find the perfect place for them. Communication is key during online matches, so having a microphone that’s always near and ready is a huge plus. This headset is compatible with PCs, the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch (Xbox gamers should check out this headset instead). Or, if you’re feeling extra giving, there’s Audeze’s $299 Maxwell wireless headset.
Best mobile gaming controller: Backbone One
The Backbone One effectively turns your iPhone 15 or Android smartphone into a Nintendo Switch. This controller shell connects directly to the smartphone’s USB-C port and grips itself to both sides of the device. Once connected, gamers can play iOS titles that support external controllers with traditional buttons, triggers, and control sticks. The Backbone One can also be used by iPhone gamers who want to stream cloud games using services provided by Microsoft, Sony, and NVidia. This accessory brings out the full gaming potential of the iPhone or Android device. If you have an iPhone 14 or earlier, you’ll need to get the version of this controller with a Lightning jack instead.
Best compact gaming computer: GEEKOM Mini PC
One of the biggest barriers to entry for would-be computer gamers is finding enough space for a desktop, but GEEKOM’s latest Mini PC is an interesting solution. This compact gaming PC can run many newer titles at 1080P with medium to high settings enabled, and you may be able to eke out even more performance on a game-by-game basis. That’s due in large part to the machine’s 13th Generation 14-core Intel i9 processor, 32GB of RAM, and 2TB NVMe SSD. There are less expensive mini PCs out there, but GEEKOM’s is one of the few that can offer excellent performance without a dedicated graphics card, and in a form factor this small. If you’re shopping for a lapsed PC gamer, or someone who wants to give gaming on Windows a try, this is the gift to get.
Best gaming laptop: ASUS ROG Strix G16
Gaming laptops used to be incredibly compromised, but ASUS’ ROG Strix G16 proves how far technology has come. The Windows laptop has an Intel Core i9-13980HX processor, 16GB of RAM (memory), 1TB SSD, and a GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card with 8GB of dedicated video memory under the hood. Its 16-inch HD display has a refresh rate of 165Hz, which is better than most gaming monitors. A higher refresh rate allows the screen to keep up with fast-paced games without lagging. This laptop’s specs are overkill for casual gamers who mostly stick to indie titles, but it’s the right machine for gamers who like to live on the cutting edge, but travel too often to justify getting a high-end desktop. The laptop is also chock full of ports, so connecting accessories won’t require an adapter; it even has an HDMI port, so plugging it into a monitor or TV is a single cable affair. Razer’s Blade Stealth 13 is a good alternative if you’d like to get them a similarly specced machine with a smaller footprint.
Best for streaming: Elgato HD60 S+
Elgato’s HD60 S+ simplifies the complicated process of getting console game footage onto your PC for editing or live streaming. The unassuming puck has HDMI ports and a USB port, which is all you’ll need to connect your console to a computer. The HD60 S+ can capture 1080P high dynamic range video at up to 60 frames per second. It’s compatible with all current-generation game consoles and Windows PCs. If ever there was a great gaming stocking stuffer, this is it.
Best WiFi routers: Eero 6+
You might not think WiFi routers are a great gaming gift until you realize it’s impossible to stream or download games without a solid connection. This set of three Eero 6+ routers can blanket an area of up to 4,500 square feet with a wireless WiFi 6 network that supports speeds up to 1,000 megabits per second. In all likelihood, that means you’ll get the top internet speed you’re paying for without having to plug your console or PC into your cable modem. If the gamer you’re shopping for complains about getting dropped from matches constantly, this gift will solve the issue once and for all. We prefer mesh WiFi routers because they can cover more ground, but Netgear’s Nighthawk Pro is the best single-point option for gamers, thanks to its ultra-fast top speed.
Best webcam: OBSBOT Tiny 2
A webcam is another essential accessory for game streamers, and we can’t recommend Obsbot’s Tiny 2 highly enough. The 4K webcam sits on a rotating stand and uses AI to follow a subject as they move. During active streams, the streamer will always stay in frame, which is especially important during games like Dance Dance Revolution or any title with motion controls. If you’re shopping for a streamer who records VR games, they need a webcam that can keep up with them since they can’t manage their video stream while playing. It doesn’t hurt that the Obsbot’s video looks crystal clear, and that its microphone is surprisingly good, too. Static streamers may enjoy Logitech’s C922x, which has similar specs but won’t move around.
Best microphone: SteelSeries Alias
It’s almost impossible to build an online audience for game streams without talking to them while you play, which is why SteelSeries’ Alias microphone is such an excellent gift for gamers. The microphone connects to ones computer over USB, and LEDs on the mic itself will let you know whether your levels are peaking if you’re not monitoring your sound, and a knob on its front side allows you to quickly adjust your gain. This microphone is designed to work with SteelSeries’ Sonar software, which lets you adjust innumerable audio settings to get your voice sounding just right. A more budget-friendly USB alternative is Senheisser’s Profile USB Microphone, which doesn’t match up to the Alias feature-for-feature but will make streamers sound better than their laptop mic would. Feeling spendy enough to assemble a broadcast-quality rig complete with external interface? Bump up to the SteelSeries Alias Pro, which comes with its own.