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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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.

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Play Overwatch for Free All Thanksgiving Week

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If you’re staring down the barrel of a week-long holiday this Thanksgiving, Blizzard has at least one suggestion. Overwatch will be free to play beginning November 20 until November 26 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

The Overwatch Free Trial includes access to four game modes, all 19 maps, and all 29 heroes, including the recently added gunslinger Ashe. New Accounts will be able to level up, earn loot boxes and gain new skins, sprays, poses and other rewards.

Since progress is tied to your account, any progress made during the free trial will carry over if you decided to purchase Overwatch after the free trial period has ended. Trophies and achievements are disabled during the free trial, however.

Note that playing Overwatch on consoles requires Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus subscriptions.

For players who link their Twitch and Blizzard accounts, you can earn special limited Ashe-themed sprays during the free trial period.

To access Overwatch on PC during the free trial you’ll need to download the Blizzard Battle.net app, create a Blizzard account, and install the game. For PlayStation and Xbox, simply search for Overwatch in their respective stores and download the Free Trial version.

Console players will be able to pre-load the Overwatch Free Trial now.

The Overwatch Free Trial begins Nov. 20 at 11 am Pacific/2 pm Eastern.

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Dreamworks Dragons Dawn of New Riders Swooping In Next Year

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On the heels of releasing a licensed Paw Patrol game, UK publisher Outright Games has announced a partnership with Dreamworks and Universal Games to produce a home console game based on the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, also known as the Dreamworks Dragons universe.

Dreamworks Dragons Dawn of New Riders is coming February 2019, to coincide with the release of the third feature film, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Feb. 22, 2019).

As indicated by the title, Dawn of New Riders is a spin-off adventure that features new Viking hero Scribbler and his dragon, Patch. Patch is apparently a new hybrid dragon species called a Chimeragon. Scribbler sets out to recover his memories while exploring locations in the series, such as Valka’s Mountain and Havenholme.

“The first feature film How to Train Your Dragon debuted eight years ago and has since sparked a beloved franchise that has captivated audiences around the world, inspiring additional films, television shows and more,” said Terry Malham, CEO of Outright Games. “DreamWorks Dragons Dawn of New Riders gives us a wonderful opportunity to be a part of Dragons history by partnering with Universal to create an original story introducing two new, very special characters. We look forward to unveiling more details soon!”

The original story and characters should allow for far more flexibility. It should be noted that both Hiccup and Astrid (and their dragons) are featured on the box cover, and Astrid can be seen in one of the official screenshots. It’s safe to say they’ll at least make cameo appearances.

Dreamworks Dragons Dawn of New Riders is coming Feburary 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch. It has not yet been rated by the ESRB.