Pixelkin 2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Gaming Families

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When the most popular game on the planet is free to play on every available platform, including phones, what’s a parent or relative shopping for games to do?

Despite its popularity, Fortnite isn’t the end all of video games. This year saw huge new franchise releases in a variety of genres, such as Assassin Creed Odyssey, God of War, Dragon Quest 11, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Digital gift cards such as the Nintendo eShop gift card make easy and effective gifts (and fine stocking stuffers) as indie games continue to fill the in-between gaps, including Dead Cells, Celeste, Two Point Hospital, Moonlighter, and Octopath Traveler.

And 2018 marked our first full year with the Switch, adding dozens of high quality indie games as well as first party releases such as Super Mario Party and Pokémon Let’s Go. Nintendo is also the only major game company truly thinking outside the box with the release of the Nintendo Labo kits.

Below you’ll find links to our 2018 gaming gift recommendations, organized by system and age rating: Young Kids (under 10), Kids and Teens (10-16), and Mature Teens (17+).

For the first time this year we’re also adding a board game category, recognizing the rising popularity of tabletop games for kids and adults of all ages. In an age of increasing reliance on digital distribution, opening a physical board game for the holidays would make for a very satisfying gift.

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disney villainous

Pixelkin 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Board Games

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Board games aren’t exactly new, but they are a new addition to our Holiday Gift Guide. In an age of increasing reliance on digital screens, we recognize the value of getting friends and family together around a table for quality game time. From deckbuilders to miniature wargames, Disney card games, and RPG dungeon crawls, there’s a game for every kind of family.

Board games also make fantastic gifts. Since this is our first year doing board games, we’ve listed some of the hottest new games of 2017 and 2018 by age, Kids (~8-13) and Teens (14+). Note that “Kids” doesn’t mean Teens and Adults won’t love them too!

 

Kids

Dice Throne

Combining Yahtzee with a dueling RPG is just crazy enough to work. Each player chooses a hero with their own unique deck of cards and player board. The board lists all the abilities you can unleash, provided you roll the right facings. Dice Throne (Age: 8+) is incredibly easy to jump into, and features gorgeous art work and a quick but exciting play time.

Hardback

Hardback (Age: 10+) is the follow-up to 2014’s Paperback, a deckbuilding word game. Players work on finishing their novels by stringing together a word every turn from the letters they’ve purchased. It’s much more forgiving than Scrabble since you can turn any letter into a wild, and there’s fun synergy for staying within your genre.

Magic Maze

Magic Maze (Age: 8+) transforms a traditional dungeon crawler into a kid-friendly cooperative heist mission. Instead of everyone controlling a different hero, each player has a very specific ability and movement action they can perform. It’ll take everyone working together and coordinating their actions to successfully escape.

Megaland

In Megaland (Age: 8+) players run through video game levels represented by cards. The longer they stay in the more treasures they can accumulate, but they risk losing it all if they draw the wrong card. It plays fast and quick and is a great introduction into bigger board game concepts like managing resources and navigating risk versus reward (read our review).

Queendomino

Kingdomino (2015) is the original, easier game, but Queendomino (Age: 8+) expands the brilliant dominoes + builder combination by adding the ability to construct buildings on certain spaces. It’s just enough complexity to add more long-term gameplay without losing sight of the easy-to-learn concept of  carving out your own little empire out of matching dominoes.

Shadows in the Forest

shadows in the forest

Based on a classic 1980s game from from Germany, Shadows in the Forest (Age: 8+) can only be played in a dark room, or at night, as it relies entirely on light and shadow. The unique game is sure to delight a group of giggling kids as the cute Shadowlings try to avoid the light caused by the Seeker’s lantern (read our review).

 

Older Kids & Teens

Clank! In! Space! Apocalypse!

Clank in Space (Age: 13+) smartly expands on 2016’s deckbuilding dungeon crawler Clank by adding a modular board and greater card depth without making it unwieldy. This year’s Apocalypse expansion adds more modules and cards as well as Schemes, creating new deliciously debilitating effects if the players linger in Lord Eradikus’ spaceship too long.

Disney Villainous

Disney games are typically aimed at kids, but Villainous (Age: 10+) includes six asymmetrical Disney villains vying to complete their own objectives in a surprisingly tactical and advanced card game. Each player gets their own unique villain – and hero decks, as well as villain boards that reflect their setting, goals, and adversaries. You’ll have to juggle your own needs while hindering your opponents. Bonus points for cackling gleefully. Read our review.

Sagrada

Stained glass window design isn’t a super common theme in board games, but it does provide Sagrada (Age: 14+) with a lovely rainbow display of dice. Sagrada is sort of like Sudoku with dice as players take turns drafting the colors and numbers they need to fill out their display window while maximizing combo points.

Star Wars: Legion

Fantasy Flight Games released the Star Wars minatures game of your dreams with Star Wars: Legion (Age: 14+). With Legion you can simulate iconic battles from the movies while mobilizing AT-ATs or cutting down Storm Troopers with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. As is the case with any minis game, there are expansion packs you can buy to bolster your forces.

pillars of eternity 2

Pixelkin 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: PC

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A gaming PC can be a fantastic gift for an older gamer who likes to tinker under the hood. While the initial cost is greater than that of a console, the PC can obviously do much more. Even then, you can grab a solid budget gaming PC for a decent price.

PC is the easiest platform to develop on, and sees the most amount of game releases each year. The cost of games is also far cheaper thanks to a steady stream of constant sales on digital stores like Steam. Steam gift cards make great gifts for PC gamers.

 

Younger Kids

LEGO DC Super-Villains

The LEGO games are often the best cooperative family games around, though the quality can vary from game to game. The superhero genre fits together with the LEGO style beautifully, especially when TT Games can craft an original story around it. LEGO DC Super-Villains is unique in starring your own super-powered, customizable figure as they join forces alongside a cast of comic favorites.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Overcooked 2

Even if you’re not a fan of Iron Chef or Great British Bake Off, you can find a lot to love in this delightfully charming cooperative cooking game. Each level in Overcooked 2 features a kitchen filled with zany hazards and traps as you and up to three others race to chop veggies, bake ingredients, and toss each other dishes across rivers and through portals. Easily one of the best co-op games of the year.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

 

Older Kids & Teens

Burnout Paradise Remastered

One of the best racing games of the previous generation of consoles finally got an HD remaster earlier this year. Burnout Paradise features an open-world city filled with cars, races, jumps, takedowns, and secrets. Starting up a race is as simple as revving your engine at an intersection. The remaster also includes the excellent Big Surf Island DLC which adds an entirely new area.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Civilization VI: Rise and Fall

Rise and Fall adds new Golden Ages and Dark Ages that reflect your successes and struggles through your Civ’s history. These ages can have huge affects on your gameplay, creating an era of prosperity or revolt and repression. It also adds nine new leaders and eight new civilizations, making Rise and Fall a must-have for Civ fans.

Dead Cells

For years indie games have filled the niche of 2D action-platformers in a variety of formats and styles. With a cool neon art style, tight controls, and clever level design, Dead Cells may be the peak of the genre (read our review).

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

The Dragon Quest series has never been quite as popular outside of Japan, but that should hopefully change with this excellent entry. Dragon Quest 11 features a cast of likable characters alongside an epic 60+ hour story and the always enjoyable character and monster art of Akira Toriyama (Read our review).

Also available on: PlayStation 4

Forza Horizon 4

The racing genre hasn’t been terribly prolific in recent years. Thankfully with the release of Forza Horizon 4, we’re pretty sure you won’t need much else. The Forza series didn’t need much fixing when it came to racing, card handling, and real-world licenses. Instead we get welcoming new features like a well-integrated online racing world and a dynamic weather system that affects road conditions.

Also available on: Xbox One

Into the Breach

Into the Breach is basically Chess, if Chess involved time-traveling mechs versus giant insects. From the makers of FTL come this brilliantly balanced tactical strategy game where every turn demands pain-staking attention to detail and perfect planning. It’s incredibly tense for a turn-based strategy game, and equally rewarding.

Also available on: Switch

Jurassic World Evolution

Even if you’re not a big fan of the recent Jurassic World films, Evolution is a fantastic theme park sim from the makers of the also excellent Planet Coaster (and a wonderful successor to 2003’s Operation Genesis). Splice genomes to breed dinosaurs, build proper enclosures, and keep them happy for your guests. The dinosaur AI is deep enough to be consistently entertaining and when things go wrong it’s running and screaming in all the right ways (read our review).

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Mega Man 11

One of the most prolific platformers in gaming, Mega Man enjoyed a triumphant return to prominence this year with the well-received Mega Man 11. The action is colorful and fast as the Blue Bomber once again battles a series of themed robot masters, acquiring their powers along the way. Different difficulty modes ensure a wider range of players can enjoy the classically-inspired gameplay.

And if you’re nostalgic about the old Mega Man games, the Mega Man Legacy 1 + 2 Collection serves all your needs.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Monster Hunter World

The Monster Hunter series finally gets the love it deserves thanks to Monster Hunter World. The portable gaming series has been rebuilt for home consoles and the behemoths have never looked better. Add in more streamlined concepts and abilities for a new crowd and full online co-op and you have the recipe for Capcom’s best Monster Hunter game yet. A must-buy for action game fans.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

While lacking the official involvement of beloved children’s anime film company Studio Ghibli, Ni No Kuni 2 still captures that bright animation and whimsical style while infusing RTS and town building elements into a fine JRPG.

Also available on: PlayStation 4

SoulCalibur VI

Move over superheroes and ninjas, it’s time for the true weapons-based warriors to shine. SoulCalibur 6 is another stellar fighting game to add to the championship belt. As a reboot it also makes for an excellent jumping on point for series newcomers. It includes bonus character Geralt from the Witcher series, as well as the ability to design your own fighter.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Two Point Hospital

The last several years have seen an explosion of nostalgic games and genres thanks to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. Two Point Hospital is a more-than worthy spiritual successor to 1997’s Theme Hospital, designed by the original creators. The hospital simulation is perfected, but even more impressive is the delightfully charming humor that feels both classic and fresh.

Valkyria Chronicles 4

Valkyria Chronicles presents an intriguing combination of RPG, tactical-combat, and third-person action set in an alternate Earth during World War 2. Take turns directing troops on the battlefield, line up shots in your crosshairs, then enjoy their banter in between battles. Although it’s the fourth game in the series, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a stand-alone story featuring its own cast of young soldiers.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

 

Mature Teens

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey builds upon last year’s Assassin Creed Origins and leans even further into the RPG genre, including dialogue choices, romance-able NPCs, and multiple endings. For a series first you can also choose to play as either a male or female sibling, both fully voiced, fully realized characters within the hand-crafted world of Ancient Greece.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Banner Saga Trilogy

The Banner Saga trilogy reached its conclusion this year with the release of Banner Saga 3. The series is known for both its intricate turn-based tactical combat and its bleak, emotional story-telling that forces you to make tough decisions while facing the end of the world in this Norse-inspired strategy game. All three games are excellent, and included in the bundle.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Dark Souls Remastered

The original Dark Souls practically invented a new subgenre of action game with obtuse, challenging, but very rewarding gameplay. Develop your preferred weaponry and playstyle as your journey through a darkly gothic world. The original has been given a graphical face-lift and includes the Artorias of the Abyss DLC.

Also available on: PlayStation, Switch, Xbox One

Frostpunk

If you’d like your city builders with a bit more emotional gravitas and story-telling, 11 bit Studios has the perfect game for you with Frostpunk. In an apocalyptic world ravaged by a never-ending winter, you’re tasked with keeping humanity’s last city alive. You must build out from your geothermic reactor while dealing with the harsh truths of keeping people alive at any cost.

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Pillars of Eternity 2 takes the same great computer RPG action and drops you into the Deadfire archipelago. From the beginning of the sequel you’re given your own pirate ship and the freedom to explore a massive world as you hunt down the returned god who destroyed your castle. Just another day in the life of an adventuring party.

forza horizon 4

Pixelkin 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Xbox One

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There’s no doubt that Microsoft and the Xbox One have stumbled a bit this generation. In sports there’s the concept of the rebuilding year. The current season may be lost, so it’s time work on getting things together for the future.

This year has been especially tough as some of the year’s biggest games – Spider-Man, God of War – are only available on PlayStation 4.

Yet Microsoft hasn’t sat idly by. They’ve acquired a number of big-name studios this year and are clearly invested in nurturing and developing quality first-person content. The future of the Xbox brand shines bright. In the mean time, enjoy our list of recommendations.

 

Younger Kids

LEGO DC Super-Villains

The LEGO games are often the best cooperative family games around, though the quality can vary from game to game. The superhero genre fits together with the LEGO style beautifully, especially when TT Games can craft an original story around it. LEGO DC Super-Villains is unique in starring your own super-powered, customizable figure as they join forces alongside a cast of comic favorites.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch

Overcooked 2

Even if you’re not a fan of Iron Chef or Great British Bake Off, you can find a lot to love in this delightfully charming cooperative cooking game. Each level in Overcooked 2 features a kitchen filled with zany hazards and traps as you and up to three others race to chop veggies, bake ingredients, and toss each other dishes across rivers and through portals. Easily one of the best co-op games of the year.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch

Sonic Mania Plus

How well do those classic 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games hold up today? Incredibly well, if Sonic Mania is any indicator. Released last year, Sonic Mania is a love letter to old-school 2D Sonic games that should delight fans young and old. The new Plus version includes the Encore DLC, adding two new playable characters, four player multiplayer, and a new Encore mode that remixes levels in challenging new ways.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Switch

Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Fully 3D action games were still in their infancy during the PlayStation 1 era, but one little purple dragon made a name for himself, because, who doesn’t want to play a flying, fire-breathing dragon? Today Spyro is best known for his starring role in the Skylanders franchise but the Spyro Reignited Trilogy (developed by the Skylanders team) is a worthy trip back to Spyro’s roots, bundling all three 3D platformers in a glorious HD overhaul.

Also available on: PlayStation 4

 

Older Kids & Teens

Burnout Paradise Remastered

One of the best racing games of the previous generation of consoles finally got an HD remaster earlier this year. Burnout Paradise features an open-world city filled with cars, races, jumps, takedowns, and secrets. Starting up a race is as simple as revving your engine at an intersection. The remaster also includes the excellent Big Surf Island DLC which adds an entirely new area.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4

Dead Cells

For years indie games have filled the niche of 2D action-platformers in a variety of formats and styles. With a cool neon art style, tight controls, and clever level design, Dead Cells may be the peak of the genre (read our review).

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch

Forza Horizon 4

The racing genre hasn’t been terribly prolific in recent years. Thankfully with the release of Forza Horizon 4, we’re pretty sure you won’t need much else. The Forza series didn’t need much fixing when it came to racing, card handling, and real-world licenses. Instead we get welcoming new features like a well-integrated online racing world and a dynamic weather system that affects road conditions.

Also available on: PC

Jurassic World Evolution

Even if you’re not a big fan of the recent Jurassic World films, Evolution is a fantastic theme park sim from the makers of the also excellent Planet Coaster (and a wonderful successor to 2003’s Operation Genesis). Splice genomes to breed dinosaurs, build proper enclosures, and keep them happy for your guests. The dinosaur AI is deep enough to be consistently entertaining and when things go wrong it’s running and screaming in all the right ways (read our review).

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4

Mega Man 11

One of the most prolific platformers in gaming, Mega Man enjoyed a triumphant return to prominence this year with the well-received Mega Man 11. The action is colorful and fast as the Blue Bomber once again battles a series of themed robot masters, acquiring their powers along the way. Different difficulty modes ensure a wider range of players can enjoy the classically-inspired gameplay.

And if you’re nostalgic about the old Mega Man games, the Mega Man Legacy 1 + 2 Collection serves all your needs.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch

Monster Hunter World

The Monster Hunter series finally gets the love it deserves thanks to Monster Hunter World. The portable gaming series has been rebuilt for home consoles and the behemoths have never looked better. Add in more streamlined concepts and abilities for a new crowd and full online co-op and you have the recipe for Capcom’s best Monster Hunter game yet. A must-buy for action game fans.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4

SoulCalibur VI

Move over superheroes and ninjas, it’s time for the true weapons-based warriors to shine. SoulCalibur 6 is another stellar fighting game to add to the championship belt. As a reboot it also makes for an excellent jumping on point for series newcomers. It includes bonus character Geralt from the Witcher series, as well as the ability to design your own fighter.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4

Starlink: Battle for Atlas

The once exciting (albeit expensive) toys-to-life genre has all but died, save for Ubsoft’s very late but surprisingly competent sci-fi entry. Starlink uses toys to customize your spaceships, but they’re probably the least exciting aspect, as the game itself lets you zip around planets completing quests, dogfighting enemies, and engaging with fun characters.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Switch

Valkyria Chronicles 4

Valkyria Chronicles presents an intriguing combination of RPG, tactical-combat, and third-person action set in an alternate Earth during World War 2. Take turns directing troops on the battlefield, line up shots in your crosshairs, then enjoy their banter in between battles. Although it’s the fourth game in the series, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a stand-alone story featuring its own cast of young soldiers.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch

 

Mature Teens

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey builds upon last year’s Assassin Creed Origins and leans even further into the RPG genre, including dialogue choices, romance-able NPCs, and multiple endings. For a series first you can also choose to play as either a male or female sibling, both fully voiced, fully realized characters within the hand-crafted world of Ancient Greece.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4

Banner Saga Trilogy

The Banner Saga trilogy reached its conclusion this year with the release of Banner Saga 3. The series is known for both its intricate turn-based tactical combat and its bleak, emotional story-telling that forces you to make tough decisions while facing the end of the world in this Norse-inspired strategy game. All three games are excellent, and included in the bundle.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch

Dark Souls Remastered

The original Dark Souls practically invented a new subgenre of action game with obtuse, challenging, but very rewarding gameplay. Develop your preferred weaponry and playstyle as your journey through a darkly gothic world. The original has been given a graphical face-lift and includes the Artorias of the Abyss DLC.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch

Divinity: Original Sin 2

One of the best PC RPGs last year is one of the best console RPGs this year. Divinity: Original Sin 2 has everything you want in an RPG: great characters, a huge world with tons of choices, an intriguing story, and a deep, meaningful combat system that plays like Chess with Fireballs. Even better: it supports up to four player multiplayer co-op (online and local) and a full editor to create your own campaigns.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4

Red Dead Redemption II

It doesn’t get much bigger than a Rockstar Games release. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel that takes place 10 years before the original, but this long-awaited sequel is light-years ahead of any other open world game, and its world-building depth and ridiculously detailed production is guaranteed to astonish. The story easily lasts over 50 hours, and the multiplayer mode Red Dead Online is coming later this year.

Also available on: PlayStation 4

super smash bros. ultimate

Pixelkin 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Nintendo Switch

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Compared to the Wii U, the Switch is a runaway success for Nintendo, already selling twice as many units over the entire life time of the Wii U since launch last year.

Nintendo had an explosive launch year in 2017. Things settled down a bit in 2018, with of the biggest releases saved for the holidays.

One of the most anticipated games of the year, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, isn’t even out until December 7. If your family has a Switch, or is getting one this year, it’s safe to say that Smash Bros. will be a must-buy, but may be hard to come by.

Throughout the year the Switch received a ton of slightly older indie games, as well as ports of great games from other systems (including the Wii U). For that reason, the Nintendo eShop Gift Card is one of the best gifts you can give to a Switch owner this holiday season. If you’d like to make your gift card a bit more personable, you can purchase specific indie game gift cards at places like GameStop.

Keep you eyes peeled for Black Friday deals this year, as it could be the first chance to find the Switch at a slight discount. The best deal announced so far by Nintendo is a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Bundle. For the standard price of a Switch by itself ($299), the bundle includes a digital copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (normally $60).

2018 holiday gift guide

Since the Switch is still a fairly new system, you may want to check out our 2017 Holiday Gift Guide as well, where you’ll find last year’s huge hits like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8, and Super Mario Odyssey.

 

Younger Kids

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was one of the best, most unique first-party games to come out of the Wii U. Toad is the star of this 3D puzzle game where he must navigate and rotate a series of cube worlds to reach the exit. The Switch version includes new levels based on Super Mario Odyssey.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

While Tropical Freeze was a wonderfully nostalgic, yet modernized 2D platformer, it was also notoriously challenging when it launched on Wii U back in 2014. The new Switch version adds Funky Kong as a playable character and an easier Funky Mode, which features more hit points as well as the ability to double jump and hover in mid-air.

LEGO DC Super-Villains

The LEGO games are often the best cooperative family games around, though the quality can vary from game to game. The superhero genre fits together with the LEGO style beautifully, especially when TT Games can craft an original story around it. LEGO DC Super-Villains is unique in starring your own super-powered, customizable figure, as they join forces alongside a cast of comic favorites.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Nintendo Labo Variety Kit

Nintendo is still the leader when it comes to out-of-the box game design, and Nintendo Labo is the perfect illustration of their design philosophy. Less a game and more an interactive toy, it comes with cardboard material that can be built into different objects, such as a piano or RC car. The Joy-Con controllers can then be inserted and programmed using the free Toy-Con Garage software to produce unique physical toys brought to life with the Switch.

Overcooked 2

Even if you’re not a fan of Iron Chef or Great British Bake Off, you can find a lot to love in this delightfully charming cooperative cooking game. Each level in Overcooked 2 features a kitchen filled with zany hazards and traps as you and up to three others race to chop veggies, bake ingredients, and toss each other dishes across rivers and through portals. Easily one of the best co-op games of the year.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!

When Pokémon GO launched on mobile phones two years ago, it became a global phenomena. The hysteria has since died down, but Nintendo and The Pokémon Company have capitalized on the more simplistic capturing controls, using the Joy-Con to launch PokéBalls. Let’s Go is an interesting redesign of the original Pokémon Red/Blue that should appeal to Pokémon GO fans as well as younger kids.

Sonic Mania Plus

How well do those classic 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games hold up today? Incredibly well, if Sonic Mania is any indicator. Released last year, Sonic Mania is a love letter to old-school 2D Sonic games that should delight fans young and old. The new Plus version includes the Encore DLC, adding two new playable characters, four player multiplayer, and a new Encore mode that remixes levels in challenging new ways.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Super Mario Party

The Mario Party series has had its ups and downs over the years. With the Switch version Nintendo has doubled down on the best parts of the gameplay: the fun four-person mini-games. You can play the mini-games online for the first time, but this is still a game best served by a room full of friends and family enjoying easy to pick up and play mini-games.

 

Older Kids & Teens

Dead Cells

For years indie games have filled the niche of 2D action-platformers in a variety of formats and styles. With a cool neon art style, tight controls, and clever level design, Dead Cells may be the peak of the genre (read our review).

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Dragon Quest Builders

If your kids are into Minecraft but looking for a bit more story and classic video game structure, Dragon Quest Builders fills that role nicely. It combines the brightly colored world design and creatures of Dragon Quest, with the rewarding creativity of building your own town and community from the ground up.

Also available on: PlayStation 4

Fortnite

fortnite switch

Fortnite Battle Royale is technically free to play, but if you’re also looking at purchasing a Nintendo Switch, Nintendo has a Fortnite bundle that includes 1,000 V-Bucks (which can be used to purchase a seasonal Battle Pass) and some other digital goodies.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Mobile

Into the Breach

Into the Breach is basically Chess, if Chess involved time-traveling mechs versus giant insects. From the makers of FTL come this brilliantly balanced tactical strategy game where every turn demands pain-staking attention to detail and perfect planning. It’s incredibly tense for a turn-based strategy game, and equally rewarding.

Also available on: PC

Mega Man 11

One of the most prolific platformers in gaming, Mega Man enjoyed a triumphant return to prominence this year with the well-received Mega Man 11. The action is colorful and fast as the Blue Bomber once again battles a series of themed robot masters, acquiring their powers along the way. Different difficulty modes ensure a wider range of players can enjoy the classically-inspired gameplay.

And if you’re nostalgic about the old Mega Man games, the Mega Man Legacy 1 + 2 Collection serves all your needs.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate

Capcom brought their Nintendo 3DS Monster Hunter game to Switch this year. The Monster Hunter series is highly complex but very rewarding, and supports multiplayer co-op. Note that this is not the same game as Monster Hunter: World, which launched on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and later on PC) and brought many modernized features and impressive new visual detail.

Also Available on: Nintendo 3DS

Octopath Traveler

Usually we rely on indie games to provide the old-school nostalgic 80s and 90s gameplay, but Square Enix has begun returning to this lucrative mine in recent years. Octopath Traveler is their latest RPG, with classic turn-based battles and 2D artwork. Play through the interweaving stories of eight characters, each with their own distinct abilities in this deceptively huge RPG.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas

The once exciting (albeit expensive) toys-to-life genre has all but died, save for Ubsoft’s very late but surprisingly competent sci-fi entry. Starlink uses toys to customize your spaceships, but they’re probably the least exciting aspect, as the game itself lets you zip around planets completing quests, dogfighting enemies, and engaging with fun characters. The Switch version also has exclusive access to Star Fox, instantly making it the best version.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate doesn’t release until December 7, but we’re confident including it on our Holiday Gift Guide. Featuring a jaw-dropping 70+ fighters from a variety of Nintendo (and other) gaming series, the Smash Bros. series has always been one of Nintendo’s best on any console, and a perennial fan-favorite fighting game.

Valkyria Chronicles 4

Valkyria Chronicles presents an intriguing combination of RPG, tactical-combat, and third-person action set in an alternate Earth during World War 2. Take turns directing troops on the battlefield, line up shots in your crosshairs, then enjoy their banter in between battles. Although it’s the fourth game in the series, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a stand-alone story featuring its own cast of young soldiers.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

 

Mature Teens

Banner Saga Trilogy

The Banner Saga trilogy reached its conclusion this year with the release of Banner Saga 3. The series is known for both its intricate turn-based tactical combat and its bleak, emotional story-telling that forces you to make tough decisions while facing the end of the world in this Norse-inspired strategy game. All three games are excellent, and included in the bundle.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Dark Souls Remastered

The original Dark Souls practically invented a new subgenre of action game with obtuse, challenging, but very rewarding gameplay. Develop your preferred weaponry and playstyle as your journey through a darkly gothic world. The original has been given a graphical face-lift and includes the Artorias of the Abyss DLC.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Diablo III: Eternal Collection

Diablo 3 is six years old this year, and still fresh as ever thanks to years worth of quality content updates, patches, and improvements. The Switch version includes all previously released DLC, including last year’s Rise of the Necromancer. Hack and slash your way through demonic hordes as seven different classes, and join forces with up to three players in online and local co-op. A Diablo 3 Switch bundle is also available.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One