We’re nearing the end of the year, and that means it’s almost time to exchange gifts. If you’re having trouble coming up with something for a youngster or a gamer in your life, you’re in luck! We have some suggestions below that should put a smile on nearly anyone’s face.
Disclaimer: All indicated prices were accurate as of publication, but online sales and discounts shift rapidly.
Remember those red plastic View-Master goggles you played with as a kid? Gift shops everywhere used to sell the paper discs with inset photos that let you view a stereoscopic image of a famous landmark or scenic vista. It was kind of neat back then, but the images were static, and the 3D effect was hard to get right.
Those discs are a bit harder to find now, but Mattel has updated its product line for the information age. With the View-Master Virtual Reality starter pack ($18.99), you can view those landmarks or vistas as if you were standing nearby, and check out everything around you just as if you were really there. This isn’t just a panorama, it’s a full 360 degree view, and you can look in any direction. Simply download the View-Master app, insert your smartphone, and click the lever to virtually visit some of the most famous structures and scenery from around the world. You can even purchase additional Experience Packs through the app to see more vistas. You can’t throw the paper discs around like throwing stars, but that’s the price we pay for progress.
Minecraft has introduced an entire generation to the joys of crafting things block by block, and as a result, kids are more receptive than ever to the idea of game characters rendered in squares. Pixel Pals ($16.68 and up) recreate some of your favorite game heroes in their classic poses, or re-imagine famous characters in a 16-bit throwback style. Old favorites like Mario ($36.99) and Mega Man ($27.99) are here, along with more recent characters like Halo’s Master Chief ($18.41) and God of War’s Kratos ($16.68). There are even some non- game characters like Superman ($16.69) and Wonder Woman ($17.66). Each of the figures can light up with the aid of some AAA batteries (not included). Collect your favorites and light up your room with style.
Little boys (and girls) love playing in the dirt, and they love running over things with toy trucks. That’s why Best Choice products has a couple of sturdy remote control devices that combine these two interests into a single toy for kids (or adults) age 3 and up.
The 4-Wheel Drive Remote Control 1/12 scale monster truck ($28.99) features off-road tire tread to help it climb over all sorts of things like rocks, dirt, or your little sister. The rechargeable battery pack means you never need to worry about replacing a ton of batteries, and the easy-to-use remote control will work up to 100 feet away. If you’d like to record what you’re running over, you could also try out the 1/18 scale All Terain 4WD Remote Control real-time video truck ($39.99). With this truck you can synchronize the built-in camera to your cell phone for a first-person view from the truck’s perspective. The shockproof system should help budding directors film their own car chases no matter what type of terrain they’re driving through.
Santa works only once a year, while his elves work year-round churning out toys. But what if he brought something sort of like a personal elf, something that could make toys year-round?
3D printing is a lot of fun, and kids love making their own toys. The Da Vinci Minimaker 3D printer ($149.95) lets them build anything up to six inches across. It comes fully assembled, and some of the hassles of setting up a 3D printer have been taken care of already. Auto-leveling software helps keep setup, calibration, and maintenance simple. You can use the included PLA filament to get started printing right away, and it can read STL, 3W, and 3MF files for flexibility. Just find a model, load it into the system using a USB cable, and a few hours later you’ll have a brand-new toy to play with. If you can’t quite find what you’re looking for, you can use the included design software to make your own model. It’s not quite the same as having your own elf, but much less expensive than a year’s supply of Purina Elf Chow.
As much fun as tech toys can be, it’s hard to beat the classics. LEGO has been making construction toys since 1949, and the interlocking bricks are still one of the best ways to encourage creativity in youngsters. This Classic collection ($79.99, or $67.98 with the promo code LEGO15OFF) features 484 individual pieces in 35 different colors and lots of windows, wheels, and doors to let your kids build whatever they’d like. If you’d prefer to build something a little more ordered, the LEGO Batman Ultimate Batmobile ($141.39, $120.18 with promo code) comes with a lighted, rotating Bat-signal and can be rebuilt into the Batwing or Bat-Tank. Just keep the Kragle away and don’t walk around barefoot, and everything should work out fine.
If you’re serious about gaming, it helps to be able to hear everything around you. An enemy’s footfall, the whump of a rocket launcher being fired, or the sharp metallic sound when you slide in a new magazine can all enhance the experience or help let you know what’s going on around you. Most gaming headsets aren’t meant to be flexible, but Roccat’s Cross set ($49.99 and up) has a bonus feature most of its competitors lack.
The Cross headset is designed to be versatile, and can easily be swapped between a gaming headset with a boom microphone attached to a normal set of over-the-ear headphones by simply removing and replacing the included cord. It takes less than a second to switch between the two configurations, and there’s no loss in audio quality thanks to the 50 millimeter Neodymium drivers. No matter which way you use them, there’s a convenient volume control knob on the back of the left ear cup for easy accessibility. The whole headset weighs less than half a pound, so it’s barely noticeable during long gaming sessions. It’s quite durable as well; I’ve been using a Cross headset for more than a year with no dip in audio quality. If you’d like a high quality gaming headset that can easily swap to headphones you can use in public without feeling embarrassed, the Cross might be right for you.
Many years ago, Santa brought switches and coal to bad little girls and boys. These days, you have to be very good indeed for Santa to bring you a Switch ($305.00). And you’ll need some games to go with it, of course. You can’t go wrong with first-party Nintendo titles like Super Mario Odyssey ($57.95), Splatoon 2 ($54.90), or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ($59.99). But you’ll probably want to upgrade the included micro SD card if you’re planning on buying a lot of digital games. Newegg has many options available, but this SanDisk 256 Gigabyte card is a particularly good value at $44.99 ($40.49 with the promo code EMCERPV27). And you may want to consider picking up a Switch Pro Controller ($74.95)… it’s a bit more expensive than other controllers, but it’s sturdier and will also work on your PC via Bluetooth. This means you can use it for playing games on Steam just as well as on the Switch.
2018 was a fantastic year for the PlayStation 4, with multiple Game of the Year contenders exclusive to Sony’s platform. If the gamer in your life hasn’t played God of War ($42.72), Marvel’s Spider-Man ($54.95), or Shadow of the Colossus ($23.38) , the holiday break will be a great time to remedy that situation. Keep in mind God of War is rated M for mature, though the other two games are appropriate for teenagers or older.
If your loved one doesn’t own a PS4 or prefers to play on a different system, that doesn’t mean they’re out of luck. Lots of great games were released on multiple systems this year, and some of the best can be played on both PS4 and Xbox One. Monster Hunter: World ($32.15 on PS4, $54.99 for Xbox One digital code) was one of my favorites this year, and you can’t go wrong with Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rated M, $59.99 for both PS4 and Xbox One). Or you could pick from a few older titles that are still getting regular updates like Overwatch, ($43.28 and up, available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One), or our final entry…
This time of year, a certain red someone sneaks into places they weren’t invited and leaves piles of loot for the inhabitants. Hm? Oh, no, not him. I was talking about Diablo, the Lord of Terror, the Prime Evil, Bad Guy extraordinaire. It’s an easy mistake to make, their nicknames are quite similar.
In any case, the Diablo 3 Eternal Collection includes the base game, the excellent Reaper of Souls expansion, and the Rise of the Necromancer DLC. Not only that, you can play with up to four players on a single screen or take the battle online to team up or fight against other Nephalem. Every feature found in the PC version is included, from seasonal content to the frankly ridiculous amount of difficulty levels. There are hundreds of hours worth of playtime here, all at a bargain price. You can check out our review of the Switch version over on GameCrate, and grab the Diablo 3 Eternal Collection on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One.