Gamers love to gear up and snatch any piece of equipment that will help them beat a final boss or help with their stats in online competition. The problem gift buyers face is that there are a dizzying array of controllers, headsets and gadgets on the market.
Here’s a guide that helps you cut through those options in hopes of finding the perfect gift for the gamer in your life:
For the PlayStation fan: Sony finally jumped on the elite-style controller bandwagon and introduced its DualSense Edge controller this year. It feels more luxurious with a sturdier weight and inner grips that are reminiscent of leather on a new basketball.
The two big selling points on the device are that the analog sticks can be switched out if they break down. That means you save money by not needing to buy another controller. While the second one is that, the DualSense Edge has two back paddle buttons that can act as other inputs on the controller.
For example, if you’re tired of hitting the L3 button accidentally, you can just map it to a back button and remove it from the analog stick. All of this is easy to do because the DualSense Edge is integrated into the PlayStation 5 operating system. It also comes with a carrying case and other customizable options. That’s enough value to justify its $199 price tag.
Alternative: The stock DualSense controller doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the Edge but it does the job.
For the fighting game aficionado: The fighting game genre had a great year with the likes of “Street Fighter 6” and “Mortal Kombat 1” arriving on the scene. Fans will have more to cheer about when “Tekken 8” launches Jan. 26. With that in mind, it’s the perfect time to pick up an arcade stick and one of the best offerings out there is the Victrix Pro FS Arcade Fight Stick.
It’s pricey, coming in at $399.99, but players will be getting plenty of quality with Sanwa Denshi parts and a body built from aircraft-grade aluminum. It’s a stick that can take a beating and is built for traveling to tournaments for serious fighting game players.
Alternative: Victrix’s Pro BFG Wireless controller for the PS5, PS4 and PC is a good option if your fighting game fan uses a controller. Players can swap out D-pads or even toss in the included Fight Pad with a six-button layout. The beauty of this $199 controller is its versatility. It even excels at first-person shooters with its back paddles and trigger adjustments.
For those who demand great sound: Headsets have become a must for gamers, especially for those who have a significant other or kids. The right headset will immerse them deeper into the a title’s atmosphere while it can help improve performance in a competitive setting by letting players know where an attack is coming from.
The best tool for the job is the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X. It’s remarkably light and comfortable for long gaming sessions while delivering excellent sound. Best of all, it’s wireless and can connect to several devices including Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. It even has additional bells and whistles such Bluetooth connectivity if you want to play music from your phone while gaming at the same time. It won’t break the bank at $179.99 though it can be found for $134.99 this holiday season.
Alternative: If you’re looking for the best value, HyperX recently revamped its flagship Cloud III line. The new headset looks cleaner as the company eschewed the stitching and other dated touches while maintaining its signature comfort. The HyperX Cloud III also has great clarity and spatial audio. The wired version of the device is priced at $99.99 but players can find it for $89.99.
A controller for children: Sometimes you don’t want your child to mess with expensive controllers. Those Nintendo Switch Pro Wireless Controllers aren’t cheap at $69.99. That’s when you can turn to PDP and their Realmz wired controllers featuring nonremovable action figures inside a clear casing. It’s a little gimmicky but it’s sure to delight kids offering them a special little extra in their own controller.
Best of all, they’re solid devices with a few extras. The Xbox version has programmable paddles in the back while the Nintendo Switch version offers a headphone jack, built-in volume controllers and LED lights similar to other PDP projects. The wired Nintendo versions are $39.99 while the Xbox entry is $49.99.
Alternative: If you’re looking for a wireless Nintendo Switch controller, PDP’s Super Icon Rematch Glow Wireless controller offer is a great value at $44.99. It may not feel as solid as Nintendo’s version, but it functions great and it even has programmable back paddle buttons that can give players the edge in games such as “Splatoon 3.” Kids may also like the fact that the thing glows in the dark.
For people who like to mix work and play: Over the past year, I overhauled my home office and the keyboard sits at the center of that world. I needed a device that I could use while working on articles and later be great for first-person shooters and real-time strategy games after clocking out. That’s how I fell into the world of customizable keyboards, which let users swap out switches so they can get just the right sound and clickiness along with keycaps that help express their personality.
One of the better values I’ve found is the Epomaker EK75 kit. This 75% gasket-mounted mechanical keyboard is hefty with its aluminum case. (A 75% keyboard lacks the number pad but fits better on a crowded desk.) It boasts three ways to connect including Bluetooth, USB dongle and wired. The one drawback is that it takes some expertise to build as users have to install every piece of the keyboard from foams to switches. Because it’s a barebones kit at $149.99, users will find additional costs in switches and keycaps, but ultimately, gamers will find plenty off satisfaction in building a mechanical keyboard. They’ll feel like a Jedi going through a rite of passage building a lightsaber.
Alternative: If you’re a beginner and just want a quality keyboard, the Monokei Standard hits the right spot. With a $118 price tag, the build materials aren’t as luxurious. The Standard is mostly plastic but it is gasket mounted for a flexible typing experience and comes with a great set of keycaps and keycaps. If you want to customize it, users can swap out switches or keycaps easily.
For the virtual reality enthusiast: Slowly but surely, VR is becoming easier to use and edging closer to the mainstream. It’s taking another step to broad accessibility with the Meta Quest 3. The new headset boasts a clearer screen, but more importantly, it offers a mixed reality experience that blends the real world with the virtual.
The device can be used to give users a virtual display while they work, and it can be worn around the house offering views of the surroundings with its color cameras. That means users will be less likely to bump into walls or feel vulnerable while wearing it. Best of all, the device automatically scans a room so that players can jump into a VR space they can move around in. The Meta Quest is easy to just pick and play without worry you’ll be injuring yourself and that’s a big advancement for the medium. The device is expensive starting at $499.99.
I picked up the 512GB version because I suspect I’ll be using the device a lot and VR games are only going to get more intensive as adoption grows.
Alternative: The one element that’s a drawback for the Meta Quest 3 is the visuals. Don’t expect PlayStation 5 level power on the standalone system. If you’re looking for better graphics in your VR experience, the PlayStation VR2 is the way to go. It connects easily to the PlayStation 5 via wires and offers its own brand of VR experiences.
Some of the best ones may be titles that gamers already own. “Gran Turismo 7” is breath-taking in VR and players will feel as if they’re actually driving a real-life supercar through the streets of Tokyo. The sense of speed is great and it’s the best racing experiences this year. Other games such as “Horizon Call of the Mountain” was built for system and highlights the potential of features such as the eye-tracking system and the forcefeedback built into the headset
The two caveats is that the $549 device is wired and it needs more content, and there should be more games such as a VR version of the “Resident Evil 4” remake from earlier this year.
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