Video Game Christmas Gift Guide 2020 – the best games and consoles this year

Video Game Christmas Gift Guide 2020 – the best games and consoles this year

A new PS5 or Xbox Series X might be top of many people’s Christmas lists but what present do you get them if that’s not possible?

It’s never easy buying presents for a gamer, especially as the increased use of digital downloads means there’s often nothing to wrap up and put under the tree. But this year has an additional problem: the next generation consoles.

The release of the new formats poses the question of not only which one to get, the Xbox Series X or the PlayStation 5, but whether you can actually find any in stock before Christmas.

That’s something we can only help with to a degree but what we can definitely do is outline the pros and cons of each system, rate some of the most high-profile new games out this year, and suggest some of the best game-related presents that aren’t just a game or a console.

Video game console Christmas gifts

If you’re thinking of buying someone a video game console for Christmas then that’s not going to be an easy thing to organise this year, for multiple reasons. The brand new, next generation, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have just launched and that’s what many game fans will be after – except they’ve been extremely low on stock ever since they came out and the chances of getting one before Christmas are low.

If you keep an eye on our site, and the Twitter accounts of various retailers, you might be lucky and snap one up before they sell out again but it’s absolutely not something you should be promising anyone for Christmas – unless you explain to them that they might have to wait till next year for it to actually arrive.

The one easy alternative is the Nintendo Switch, which is still just as popular as ever, but buying anyone an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 is also problematic. They can be had for cheap now and, unlike the next gen consoles, have a huge portfolio of games, but the two advanced models – the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X – are also very low on stock (because Sony and Microsoft are diverting all efforts to manufacturing the new consoles).

Not even the PC is an easy alternative, because the new state-of-the-art graphics cards that have just been released – the AMD RX 6800 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti – are also impossible to get hold of. Just like the new consoles, they are being sold on eBay but at grossly inflated prices from shadowy groups of scalpers who you probably don’t want to encourage.

All of which makes buying someone a new console this year just about the most difficult thing you could possibly consider. But below we’ve laid out the various options and here’s a link to our comparison between the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.

PlayStation 4

(~£270)

The base model of the most popular console of the outgoing generation. Its line-up of games is unrivalled, although it’s been so successful that most shops don’t bother to discount it much. It’ll still be supported by new games for the next couple of years, although there’ll increasingly be new titles that only work on PlayStation 5. Be aware there’s also a ‘Digital Edition’ of the PlayStation 5 that is £90 cheaper and doesn’t include a disc drive – although, unlike the Xbox Series S, it is in all other ways identical to the more expensive model.

PlayStation 4 Pro

(~£320)

The upgraded version of the base model runs all the same games but with better performance and sometimes extra features. Ever since the next gen consoles came out though it’s been very hard to find.

PlayStation 5

(£450)

The brand new, next generation PlayStation is incredibly hard to get hold of right now but is the hottest new gaming product for Christmas. You can read our full review here and a round-up of its impressive launch line-up of games here.

PlayStation VR

(~£230)

Although you need to send off for a free adapter cable the PlayStation 4’s VR headset is backwards compatible with the PlayStation 5 and there’s a new ‘Mega Pack’ this Christmas that costs £300 and includes five very good games (Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, Everybody’s Golf VR, Moss, Blood & Truth, and PlayStation VR Worlds). There is the worry that a new headset will be released for the PlayStation 5 but even if that does happen it won’t be for a couple of years yet.

Xbox One S

(~£180)

As the least powerful of the last gen consoles (not counting the Switch) there’s not a lot of reasons to get an Xbox One S now that its replacement is out and the Xbox Series S is so cheap.

Xbox One X

(~£320)

Microsoft’s more powerful last gen upgrade would be a lot more desirable except it’s already been discontinued and there’s little point paying over the odds for it on the secondary market.

Xbox Series X

(£450)

Currently the most powerful console in the world, although just like the PlayStation 5 it’s out of stock almost everywhere. Despite it’s power though there’s not a lot of ways to demonstrate it at the moment as the console didn’t have any exclusive new games released for its launch and at the moment its main selling points are its excellent backwards compatibility – that lets you play most older Xbox games on the same console, often with major enhancements – and the great value for money offered by Game Pass. You can read our full review of the Xbox Series X here.

Xbox Series S

(£250)

While the Xbox Series X is good value for how powerful it is the smaller Xbox Series S is easily the best bargain of the new generation. It’s not quite as powerful as the more expensive model, and has no disc drive, but the other differences are minor, in that it cannot run games at native 4K resolution and its SSD is smaller. Other than that it’s exactly the same, so the only problem is the lack of games and the fact that it’s also out of stock at the moment.

Nintendo Switch

(~£280)

The Switch is newer than the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One but it’s still last generation, although that doesn’t really mean much when it comes to Nintendo consoles. Despite a lack of new games this year (Nintendo’s way of working has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus) the Switch has sold better than ever thanks to the success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the Switch’s back catalogue of other critically acclaimed games.

There’s also the Switch Lite, which sells for around £200 but is portable-only and cannot connect to a TV – although otherwise it runs the games in exactly the same manner.

Alternative console options

As well as the three main formats and the PC there are also some other useful alternatives in terms of hardware, including various retro mini consoles based on the classic NES, SNES, Mega Drive, and PC Engine. The Nintendo ones came out a few years ago now, so are generally only available at highly inflated prices, but at launch all of them were around £70.

Evercade

(£59.99)

A good alternative to the mini-consoles is the third party Evercade, which can run games from a wide variety of different formats and companies. The Evercade looks and works like a handheld console although it can also plug directly into your TV. The resolution is a little low, but the games work well and in the hardware bundle you get a free game collection including classic titles from Namco, such as Pac-Man and Galaxian. Or there’s the £79.99 Premium Pack which also includes collections based on old Atari and Interplay games.

These games are played by inserting a range of different cartridges, which can be bought separately for around £15 each. The formats involved range from the 8-bit NES and Atari VCS to the more powerful Mega Drive and SNES.

The cartridges themselves are usually themed around different publishers or developers. This includes some impressively obscure choices such as collections based on Data East (Midnight Resistance and Bad Dudes), Technos (Double Dragon and Renegade), and The Oliver Twins (Treasure Island Dizzy and BMX Simulator).

That obscurity is exactly what will appeal to older gamers though, especially as those games are unlikely to get a re-release anywhere else. Evercade also runs newer indie games as well, including brand new fan-made Mega Drive games Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood. You also get a proper old school colour manual with each cartridge, which for some is almost going to be the most exciting part.

Oculus Quest 2

(£299.99)

Another viable alternative to a traditional console is the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset. It’s an upgrade of the previous version, that makes it analogous to the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, and easily the most cost effective and easy-to-use VR headset on the market. Although a special adapter cable can allow it to connect to a PC if you want the main selling point of the Oculus Quest is that the headset is completely wireless and everything is run off an internal processor – so it doesn’t connect to a console or PC.

That means the graphics aren’t as good as some systems but the feeling of immersion is greatly increased, especially as the room scale tracking allows you to walk around in a virtual space that’s surprisingly large. There’s a good catalogue of reasonably priced games too, making this easily the most mainstream a VR headset has got so far. The £300 version has 64GB of storage and has become quite rare now we’re close to Christmas, while the 256GB version is £400.

Video game Christmas gifts for kids

Sackboy: A Big Adventure

(PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5)

Although this isn’t a LittleBigAdventure game, with no ability to create your own levels, it is a highly entertaining co-op platformer, similar in style and difficulty to the Lego movie games.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

(Switch)

This clever riff on a regular Mario Kart game uses a remote control car you control via your Switch and which has a webcam on the top, so you’re actually racing around your own living room floor. It’s the perfect Christmas present but the only downside is it’s £100 for just one car and, predictably, it’s been hard to come by ever since it first came out.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Switch)

The game that helped many through the initial lockdown is now one of Nintendo’s most successful games ever and still getting continuous updates. It may initially seem a bit twee, and only for children, but its gentle charm has managed to enchant players of all ages.

Minecraft Dungeons

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and PC)

The first major spin-off for Minecraft is a fun co-op dungeon crawler that’s easy for gamers of any age or level of experience to play but offers plenty of variety whoever you are.

Fortnite: The Last Laugh Bundle

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC)

Although Fortnite is free-to-play there’s always a new retail bundle around Christmas and this one includes some exclusive skins for Batman villains Poison Ivy and the Joker.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time

(Xbox One and PlayStation 4)

It’s hard to say whether this is aimed more at kids or nostalgic adults but for anyone that enjoyed the recent remakes of the PlayStation originals this is almost as good, even if it’s a little short of genuinely new ideas.

Immortals Fenyx Rising

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC)

Not a kids’ game per se but it’s one of the few action games this Christmas that is suitable for all ages, since it’s basically Zelda: Breath Of The Wild but with a setting based around Greek mythology.

Video game Christmas gifts for casual gamers

Ori And The Will Of The Wisps

(Xbox One, Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and PC)

This is one of the best platform games of the outgoing generation and looks amazing on the Xbox Series X/S. It’s quite difficult but otherwise suitable for all ages and types of players.

Football Manager 2021

(Xbox One, Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and PC)

For many football fans this is the only video game they ever play and while it may look impenetrably complicated to anyone else this year’s version is particularly good.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

(PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5)

This isn’t Spider-Man 2 but a shorter spin-off staring Miles Morales in the lead role. If anything it’s better than the original, with a tighter script and a more dramatic relationship between hero and main villain.

Pikmin 3 Deluxe

(Switch)

It may be a little too complicated for very young players but this clever take on real-time strategy games has a co-op mode where two people can play the whole game together, which makes it a lot more fun for everyone.

FIFA 21

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC)

Along with Call Of Duty this is one of the stalwarts of the Christmas season, but while this year’s COD is one of the lesser entries in the series the new FIFA is a surprising good effort and one of the best of recent years.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC)

This remake of the old PlayStation skateboarding games is extremely well done and won’t just please nostalgic gamers but anyone with an interest in the sport.

PGA Tour 2K21

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC)

It’s been a long while since there’s been an officially licensed golf game but this first entry in what will likely become a new yearly series is off to a promising start.

Paper Mario: The Origami King

(Switch)

It got a little overlooked at launch, after Animal Crossing blew up, but this is an utterly charming action adventure that has one of the most gently funny scripts of the generation.

F1 2020

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC)

Codemasters’ Formula 1 games have always been good but this year’s was a real step forward in terms of realism, features, and sheer entertainment.

Video game Christmas gifts for core gamers

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

(PlayStation 4)

Remaking one of the most famous video games of all time should have been a disaster but somehow Square Enix managed to avoid all the pitfalls and ended up with a game that pays perfect homage to the original and manages to be an innovative and enjoyable game even for complete newcomers.

Game & Watch Super Mario Bros.

This is in the core gamer list because its appeal is really just based on nostalgia, but if you know a 40-something gamer that loves Nintendo then this would be the perfect gift. As with seemingly everything this Christmas though it’s in short supply, so you may have to pay over the odds to get one.

Star Wars: Squadrons

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC)

Normally Star Wars games are aimed more at casual gamers but while this is reasonably accessible for all it doesn’t pull its punches in terms of offering a relatively complex simulation of Star Wars starfighters. It’s got a great multiplayer mode too and the VR options on PlayStation and PC are fantastic.

Demon’s Souls

(PlayStation 5)

The most technically advanced of the PlayStation 5 launch games is a remake of the spiritual predecessor to Dark Souls. It’s just as difficult as that game’s reputation suggests, but nothing that patience and a little co-op help can’t overcome.

Doom Eternal

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC)

The most entertaining shooter of the year is also not for the fainthearted in terms of difficulty but the fluid gameplay, heavy metal styling, and over-the-top visuals are top notch throughout.

The Last Of Us Part 2

(PlayStation 4)

Along with Ghost Of Tsushima, this represents the swansong of the PlayStation 4 as Sony’s premier console. From a technical point of view it’s stunning and the storytelling, although largely out of your control as a player, is extremely effective, with a harrowing (if not downright depressing) tale of violent revenge.

Cyberpunk 2077

(Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC)

This one’s impossible to recommend at the moment because it’s not out until December 10 but it is one of the most highly anticipated games of the year. So if the reviews are positive it’s going end up on a lot of people’s Christmas lists.

Video game gift cards

With the new consoles (and some of the old ones) impossible to get hold of and fewer games than ever being released at retail there’s no getting away from it: buying video games as gifts for other people is hard.

That’s why buying a gift card is often the best option, especially if you’re not sure what someone wants. All the major consoles have their own gifts stores and major retailers like Amazon and GAME also sell gift cards for specific formats and individual games. In-game currency for things like Fortnite and Roblox can often be the perfect gift, even if they’re not very exciting to stick under the tree.

Video game headsets

Another good option if you’re not sure what to get the gamer in your life is a peripheral like a new controller (racing wheels are particularly desirable but very expensive) or a good pair of headphones. Headsets in particular tend to be one of those things that everyone wants but never quite get around to buying themselves.

Many of them only work for one specific console, so that’s important to check, but Turtle Beach tends to have the most popular range, with headsets aimed at specific formats, price ranges, and types of players. The new Stealth 600 Gen 2 and Stealth 700 Gen 2 are good all-rounders though, especially as they have versions that work for both PlayStation 4 and 5, and Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.

Video game Christmas jumpers

For some reason video game themed Christmas jumpers have been a thing for years now and there are some really cool ones at the Christmas Jumper Club and Numbskull. They are shockingly expensive, at £30+ each, but if you want to demonstrate your love for video games via the medium of gaudy jumpers you only wear for one day a year than your bases are well and truly covered here.

Video game toys and merch

Memorabilia is another good way to get around the problem of what to buy a gamer as there’s always a mountain of merch for any halfway popular game or franchise. From Lego Super Mario to Roblox action figures, you can get something for almost every game and price range – from cheap little Funk POP! toys to hugely expensive statues.

The best way to find what you want is to just search for the game you’re looking for at somewhere like Forbidden Planet or Amazon and then just add ‘toy’, ‘action figure’, ‘statue’, ‘book’ or whatever at the end and you’re bound to come up with something. Toy shops like Smyths and The Entertainer are also good bets for kid-focused stuff like the new range of Fortnite Nerf guns.

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