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We regularly write about the games we love at Engadget, and even have “best games” lists for each console. But buying a game for someone else is a different matter entirely to choosing one for yourself. Unless you know exactly what they want, where do you even begin?
Well, we’d begin by thinking about what your loved one’s into, outside of gaming. Could they do with something to help them chill out every night? Do they love a good story, something that moves them? Are they a board game freak? Maybe they’re passionate about romancing Greek gods? OK, that last one’s pretty unlikely, but we hope there’s a little something for everyone here.
Why am I recommending a game that won a bunch of awards back in 2020? Because you can finally play it on everything. Over the summer, the game launched across both generations of Xbox and Playstation consoles, joining the PC and Switch versions.
Buy Hades on PS5 or Xbox Series X, and you’ll get a version that can reach 60 fps in 4K. Whichever platform you play on, expect a game filled with varied enemies, playthroughs that are never the same twice, and an ingenious Boon system that augments a strong selection of weapons with extra powers, effects and new moves.
You’ll soon decide your favorite godly ally (and weapon of the underworld), but making it to the end of Hades demands you build some affinity for most skills and techniques, as Boons are randomly granted each run. The game centers around dying, learning and doing it all over again. And again. And again. — Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief
Buy Hades (PS5) at Amazon – $35
If Silksong, the sequel to Hollow Knight, had arrived by now, I’d probably be recommending that. As it is, it’s still a great time to acquaint yourself with the original which came out — first on PC — back in 2017. Thanks to its Metroidvania playstyle (explore, earn new abilities, use abilities to explore even further) and its cute bug cartoon looks, it remains a classic. To explore the world of Hollow Knight, you’ll need half-decent reflexes to both explore dangerous environments and survive encounters with much bigger bugs. The story is lightly woven into your exploration, and while things can feel a little bleak — it’s a moody looking game — there’s plenty of funny little moments and characters to meet.
Depending on your console of choice, it’s also often discounted. Now might be the time to discover your new (but old) favorite game, and hone those skills in time for Silksong. — M.S.
Buy Hollow Knight (Switch) at Amazon – $40
No game has brought me quite as much joy and calm over the past year or so than Stardew Valley and, judging by the plethora of streams on Twitch for the title, I don’t think I’m alone. Farming sims were some of my favorite games to play as a kid (Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life holds a special place in my heart) and Stardew Valley filled that void for me as an adult and gave me a pleasant, playful thing I could focus while the world was spinning out of control. Planning for fall days in advance so I can get as many gold-star pumpkins as possible brings me way more happiness than you’d think, as does collecting the ridiculous amount of cheese and eggs my happy cows and chickens produce. And the Sims lover in me also finds a ton of joy in actually building up my farm — sure, it’s not as elaborate as farms I’ve seen on Twitch or in Reddit threads, but it’s my own little slice of virtual heaven. — Valentina Palladino, Commerce Editor
Buy Stardew Valley at Amazon – $15
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
If your special someone is fortunate enough to own a PlayStation 5, they’re likely craving a game that makes the most of their new console — and few games do that better than Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. The action-adventure from Insomniac not only looks beautiful, with exceptional detail and sharp 4K HDR visuals, but uses the PS5’s ultra-fast storage to offer gameplay that just wasn’t possible on previous-gen consoles. You can warp between worlds in an instant, with loading times almost a thing of the past.
And did I mention that it’s a very enjoyable game even without that instant-travel party trick? You’ll enjoy expanded mechanics that include plenty of blast-em-up action, a diverse set of environments and movement systems like wall-running. The story is compelling, too. The PS5 has few classics at this stage, but Rift Apart is definitely one of them. — Jon Fingas, Weekend Editor
Buy Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart at Amazon – $70
Disco Elysium – The Final Cut
Disco Elysium is a video game for board game lovers, RPG diehards and fans of gritty detective stories alike, and since its release in October 2019, it’s solidified its place among the indie greats. The Final Cut is the definitive version of Disco Elysium, with full voice acting (that’s a lot of characters, trust), fresh art and animations, and expanded storylines. It came out in October for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Switch, and it recently hit PC, PlayStation 4, PS5 and Stadia, so this is a fresh yet proven release for the holiday season. The Final Cut marks the first time the game has hit Switch, PlayStation or Xbox, so it’s especially exciting for players on these platforms. — Jessica Conditt, Senior Editor
Buy Disco Elysium – The Final Cut at GOG.com – $40
Control Ultimate Edition
Control is another title with a solid reputation, and the Ultimate Edition finally unlocks the game on current-generation consoles, the Xbox Series X/S and the PS5. Control: Ultimate Edition is a third-person supernatural thriller set in a mysterious government building that’s been overrun by a horrific, murderous presence. It comes from Alan Wake studio Remedy Entertainment, and it features rapid-fire gunbattles, telekinetic abilities, and creepy creatures galore. Plus, Control: Ultimate Edition includes the base game and both of its expansions, The Foundation and AWE. — J.C.
Buy Control Ultimate Edition at GOG.com – $40
The Artful Escape
Here’s one for the quirky artist, the hopeless dreamer or the serious musician in the family — The Artful Escape by Australian indie studio Beethoven & Dinosaur. It’s a gorgeous, psychedelic, interactive musical with astounding visuals, a fantastic original soundtrack, and a star-studded voice cast that includes Jason Schwartzman, Lena Heady and Mark Strong. The Artful Escape blends the sensibilities of Ziggy Stardust with the dialogue of Douglas Adams and turns it all into a rich, pleasant platformer overflowing with heart. Truly, anyone can love this game — as long as they’re playing on Steam or Xbox platforms. — J.C.
Buy The Artful Escape at Steam – $20
PlayStation 5 and PC players only for this one — everyone else is just going to be sad they can’t play it. Deathloop is the brand new, breakout hit from Dishonored house Arkane Studios, and it’s an innovative, retro-futuristic first-person shooter with killer time-bending mechanics. This is the game that’ll be on everyone’s lips during awards season, and it’s one that serious players won’t want to miss. — J.C.
Buy Deathloop at Steam – $60