Do you know someone who would like a video game for Christmas, but you have no idea what to buy? Here’s some help.
There are a lot of game choices out there, but for the uninitiated, it might seem like a daunting task to get the best ones or just avoid the trash. Here is a list of the best games to buy for a friend, family member, or even yourself.
Note that this list only includes games available for purchase at retail or the retail versions of some games.
2017 Games and Newer
Persona 5 (Playstation3, Playstation4)
We have to start off with possibly the best game this year. Popular among Japanese role-playing game fans, this 100-plus hour game tasks you with changing the hearts of various wrongdoers by entering their subconscious and making your way through stylish levels while combating figments of the host’s personality with your own “personas,” which you can level, customize, and fuse to create stronger versions (like a more complex demonic Pokémon).
That’s only half the game. You also spend time interacting with characters to grow your relationship that corresponds to your strength in battle. This game has great acid jazz music, gorgeous art, well-written characters, and emotional moments.
This is for those who love jrpgs, character interactions, and style, as well as any of the other Shin Megami Tensei games. Previous games are not required to enjoy this.
Rated M for Blood, Drug Reference, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence.
Nier: Automata (Playstation 4)
Do you want to play as a sexy robot in a post-apocalyptic world with a story revolving around existential crisis and questions about sentience, self-worth, and the value of life? This game has two main selling points—its unique and interesting story and its fast, fluid combat. It’s a little unorthodox in that it features 26 endings, achievable through some truly bizarre means. It also has an amazing musical score.
This is for those who love action games that might be a little different or an out-of-the-box way of storytelling, or if they like other Platinum-developed games like Bayonetta. While this is the second Nier game, the first is not required to understand the story.
Rated M for Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Violence.
Horizon Zero Dawn (Playstation 4)
As a newcomer to Sony’s first party lineup, I can grab your attention about this game with two words: robot dinosaurs. It’s actually a little more complex than that; it’s the far-off future, humans have reverted to a tribal state, and they compete in the environment with mechanic organisms that resemble prehistoric creatures. The facial animations are amazing, the world is beautiful, and the combat is fun.
This is for those who love scale and scope as well as fighting a mechanized T-Rex that has Gatling guns and laser beams. There is a base game and a complete edition that features all post-release content.
Rated T for Alcohol and Tobacco Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Violence.
Resident Evil VII: Biohazard (Playstation 4, Xbox One)
A familiar face on these kinds of lists, “Resident Evil” is back with a new vision from its past few entries. This horror game is more intimate and lower focus than its high-octane predecessor, “Resident Evil 6.” While the first-person view might put fans off, I can assure you that this is a tried and true “Resident Evil” game, from the tense atmosphere to the level design, to the little visual details. The game also has a virtual-reality mode if you have a PSVR.
This will appeal to those who love horror or classic Resident Evil games. Previous games are not required to understand or enjoy this game, but for those who have, the game has many nice callbacks. There is a base version and a complete edition that features all post-release content.
Rated M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language.
Nioh (Playstation 4)
Ever since the onset of “Dark Souls” (or “Demon’s Souls,” its precursor), the gaming community has been captivated by its respect for the player with fair challenge and intricate world design. Many developers have tried to emulate the Souls series phenomenon but have failed.
Nioh, a fantasy feudal Japan–themed game, comes closest to realizing this goal of being a worthy successor to “Dark Souls.” The game has enough to differentiate itself, though, with a complex combat system of multiple weapons, tools, and fighting stances for each weapon, along with equipable spirits to grant passive bonuses or to unleash a massive attack.
This is the choice for those who love difficulty, feudal-era Japan style, and “Dark Souls”/“Demon’s Souls”/“Bloodborne” or games like “Onimusha.”
Rated M for Blood and Gore, Violence.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Playstation 4, Xbox One)
The newest game in a classic series from the ’90s, this game has some of the best writing in modern videogames. In an alternate history of the United States where the Nazis won World War II, B.J. Blazkowicz focuses on trying to combat the Nazi onslaught against the few remaining survivors as he battles his dying body, staying strong for his family, and taking down the Nazi threat.
The game plays like a standard first-person shooter (along with some excellent dual-wielding action), even though some of the political messaging can get a little heavy-handed.
This is for those who love alternative history, story-driven games, or heavy-action games like Doom. The game features a quick recap of the previous game’s story to help those who didn’t play “Wolfenstein The New Order.” Other Wolfenstein games are not required to play this.
Rated M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs.
Pokémon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon (Nintendo 3DS)
For those of you who might not be familiar with this classic game, Pokémon is a monster-battling game, where you capture and train fantasy creatures, which you then use to spar with other trainers, both in-game characters or other people online or between two 3DS consoles next to each other.
Pokémon is just fun, and this newest version adds more content to the previous games. Over time Pokémon has gotten better with streamlining its mechanics and adding fun features to keep people engaged.
This is for those who love… well… Pokémon, or games enjoyable by any age, as well as for those who love diverse creature design. This is an updated version to “Pokémon Sun and Moon” and is preferable to those. It contains the same content as the others but with extras. Other versions of Pokémon are not required.
Rated E for Mild Cartoon Violence.
Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)
One of the most iconic game characters is back with the latest 3D platformer that takes Mario around various realms of reality in search of Princess Peach, whom Bowser has captured to marry. This game is pure whimsy and features brilliant level design and fun visuals. You also have a magical hat that can capture nearly anything it lands on, allowing Mario to control it, including dinosaurs.
This is for those who love platformers or collecting things, as well as other Mario games like 3D World or Galaxy. Previous Mario titles are not required, and it’s perfectly fine if this is someone’s first Mario game.
Rated E10+ for Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch, Nintendo WiiU)
In the same year as Mario, Link also managed to get out a great game. This open-world game is quite similar to other Legend of Zelda games, as you collect various weapons, enter dungeons, fight bosses, solve puzzles, or just mess around. While many open-world games now feature mature content, this one is accessible to kids (but still enjoyable for adults).
This game is for those who like open-world games or just messing about. Previous Legend of Zelda games are not required, and this game features many similarities to previous games anyway.
Rated E 10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (Playstation 4, Playstation Vita)
Think of Battle Royale but even more anime. High-school students, each of which features a unique talent, are pitted against one another for survival. When someone dies, a trial commences to find out “who dun it.”
The game is a story and character-focused visual novel with logic puzzle elements via trials. This game is bizarre yet full of personality. It features a lot of reading and some solid characters.
This is for those who love visual novels, mysteries, or varied character casts. Previous games help give context down the line, but almost all of the content can be understood if this is your first time. Previous games (Danganronpa 1 and 2) are also on PS4 and Vita.
Rated M for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix (Playstation 4)
In 2002, one of the weirdest combinations occurred in video games: the fusion of Disney and Final Fantasy. It should have been terrible, but it resulted in one of the greatest gaming series ever—the incredibly popular action jrpg: “Kingdom Hearts.”
This collection features four of the most prominent games in the series (KH1, 2, “Re:Chain of Memories,” and “Birth by Sleep”) as well as cut-scenes and story content from two other games (Re:Coded and 358/2 Day) all on one disc.
It’s a unique game about the shared universe of all the Disney worlds being under threat by darkness and the protagonist, Sora, who must fight it using an iconic weapon: The key blade. It features voice acting from the original Disney movie actors too!
This is for those who like Disney or Final Fantasy. Individual collections for 1.5 (KH1, Chain of memories and Re:coded) and 2.5 (KH2, Birth by Sleep, and 358/2 days) are also on PS3.
Rated E 10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Use of Alcohol.
Games Before 2017 But Still Great
Overwatch (Playstation 4, Xbox One)
This is a recent multiplayer giant that arose from the bowels of a publishing giant, Blizzard, and gained popularity among a wide range of gamers. While it lacks narrative and single-player content, it’s known for diverse character classes and variety of combat options. It also combines the best of competitive and team-based cooperative online multiplayer.
This is for those who love online multiplayer or unique character designs. A game-of-the-year edition is out with all the post-game content, as well as a base version of the game.
Rated T for Blood, Use of Tobacco, Violence.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Playstation 4)
One of Sony’s best first-party series, this Indiana Jones–inspired game has you trek, climb, and shoot across stunning environments full of amazing detail. The game is well-written, with compelling characters improved with quality facial animations and solid voice acting.
Scaling the set pieces is the heart of the series, and you explore fictitious monuments, ruins, cities, and statues. It’s a gorgeous game whether you’re in a firefight or rope-swinging along a cliff.
This is for those who love classic adventuring, in the likes of Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones. The first three games are also available on PS4 as part of a collection of PS3 games. While the gameplay can be enjoyed alone, the story and characters are amplified if you have context from the previous games.
Rated T for Blood, Use of Tobacco, Violence.
Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator (Playstation 3, Playstation 4)
This is the embodiment of ’90s Japanese Heavy Metal. This is one of the best modern fighting games featuring an incredible heavy metal soundtrack, varied character move sets, brilliant designs, quality and lengthy story content, and possibly one of the best sets of fighting game mechanics.
Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator is a complex 2D fighter with a wide range of character play styles that are well balanced and fun no matter what character you use. Online modes are well maintained and allow you to play other content while you wait for a match.
This is for those who love heavy metal and fighting games like “Blazblue,” “Persona 4 Arena,” or the older Guilty Gear games.
Rated T for Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence.
Bloodborne (Playstation 4)
It’s never a time not to recommend the PS4’s best game—the successor to “Demon’s Souls” and “Dark Souls: Bloodborne.” A gothic Victorian-styled action role-playing game with inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft and Castlevania, this game has some of the best atmosphere in modern gaming.
It has a cryptic and disturbing story that must be unraveled through analyzing the environment and item text, which has kept the online community digging through it for years after release. The game is a real challenge but fair, as you explore the detailed and winding environments, fight horrifying bosses, and even become invaded by other players. This game is a real treat and has one of the best expansions in gaming as well.
This is for those who love challenging and atmospheric games, or previous FromSoftware-developed games like “Demon’s Souls or “Dark Souls.” An alternative to this game is also “Dark Souls III,” nearly as good for similar reasons (also sharing many of the same assets). There is a base version of the game or the game-of-the-year edition featuring the expansion “The Old Hunters,” which I recommend highly.
Rated M for Blood and Gore, Violence.
Halo Master Chief Collection (Xbox One)
This is a collection of Microsoft’s flagship franchise: Halo. It’s one of the most famous science fiction gaming series about a warrior combating an alien threat against Earth. It sounds generic, but the execution is incredible.
The game features solid story campaigns that can be played solo or split screen (a dying feature that I sorely miss), as well as online multiplayer. It’s one of the more famous first-person shooter games for a reason.
This is for those who love first-person shooters, other Halo games, science-fiction games, and online shooters.
Rated M for Blood and Gore, Language, Violence.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Playstation 4, Xbox One)
If it weren’t for “Bloodborne,” this would be 2015’s best game, and for many it still is. It’s an open-world fantasy role-playing game that tackles mature themes (in a quality way, not an uncomfortable way) of fatherhood, discrimination, sex, and politics.
The game has a complex living and breathing world with an insurmountable amount of detail for its size. It features hundreds of hours of things to do, in a wide range of ways to do it. It also features a deep and compelling card game that was even made into a game itself. This might possibly be Poland’s best product in the last few years.
This is for those who love high-fantasy games, open-world games, the other Witcher games, or “Game of Thrones” (this is a popular comparison due to its familiarity as well as its accuracy). Previous Witcher games can help the world building for the player, but all necessary information is available, and the player is given the opportunity to customize the events of past games if they didn’t play them.
Rated M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Alcohol.