Even Santa’s finding it tough to fulfill videogame fans’ holiday wish lists.
Unfortunately, the highly anticipated Nintendo Switch doesn’t ship (from the North Pole) until spring. And one of the hottest gadgets in the country right now — the NES Classic Edition console — is selling out faster than Nintendo can keep them stocked on store shelves. (Work faster, elves!)
Fortunately, there are plenty of other desirable gift options, including membership to a North Texas memorabilia-packed museum that is the first of its type in the country and an upcoming symphonic concert at Bass Hall. If you’re finding yourself perplexed in the electronics aisles, here are some great gifts for gamers who have been very good.
National Videogame Museum Membership
We may not have oceans or mountains here in North Texas, but we’ve got just about everything else, including Frisco’s National Videogame Museum, a world-class facility filled with fascinating artifacts and curiosities, including rare prototype cartridges, the world’s largest Pong machine, a timeline of video game consoles and a recreation of a typical retail store during The Great Video Game Crash of 1983.
Among other values, membership grants unlimited admission for one year, a 10 percent discount in the gift shop and double tokens for use in the museum’s best feature — Pixel Dreams — an ’80s-style arcade housing such hits as Frogger, Ms. Pac-Man and Space Invaders.
Where to shop: National Videogame Museum, www.nvmusa.org/tickets. $59.99 ($44.95 until Dec. 31) for an individual, $129.99 for a family of four.
Fort Worth Symphony’s ‘The Legend of Zelda’ concert
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the new year will be a multimedia presentation of 30 years’ worth of music from The Legend of Zelda. The concert, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at Bass Hall, will include a video presentation over the stage, as well as music performed by the full orchestra and a chorus. Fans can even expect to hear music from the newest Zelda game, “A Link Between Worlds.”
The performance, officially called “The Legends of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses,” is part of a nationwide tour of the production, produced by Jason Michael Paul Entertainment and Nintendo. (Miss it in Fort Worth? It stops at Oklahoma City’s Civic Center Music Hall on Jan. 21.) Find out more about the show at http://zelda-symphony.com.
Where to shop: www.fwsymphony.org, 817-665-6000. $53-$93.
PlayStation 4 Console Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Bundle
A gift that is pretty much the polar opposite of receiving coal in your stocking, this PS4 bundle comes packaged with what many in the industry are already calling one of the best video games of all time. Not only can your beloved gamer fire up the epic, cinematic, gorgeously rendered Uncharted 4 right out of the box, he or she can use the PS4 console to play all those DVDs and Blu-rays that Santa is bound to bring.
PlayStation 4 bundles featuring such titles as Call of Duty Black Ops III and Star Wars Battlefront are available as well.
Where to shop: GameStop, Target, Walmart. Sony, $249.99.
The much-ballyhooed virtual reality experience has yet to fully take hold of the mainstream masses, but Sony hopes the PlayStation VR will do just that. Essentially an expensive and elaborate peripheral for the PlayStation 4, the headgear unit immerses you in such exclusive titles as Battlezone (based on the classic tank game) and Batman Arkham VR.
According to Andrew Hayward, writing for www.polygon.com, “This is a comfortable headset…fits around glasses much more comfortably than its contemporaries… I spent the majority of my time with the PlayStation VR shifting between a vague disappointment at the visuals in some games and amazement at how well it all worked… The number of games available at launch, and their overall quality, is impressive.”
Where to shop: Best Buy, GameStop. Sony, $499 (full set), $399 (minus the camera and Move controllers).
Atari Flashback 7
If the NES Classic Edition is too “modern” for the gamer in your life, or you simply can’t find one, you could opt for the seventh iteration of the Atari Flashback, which features such classics as Asteroids, Centipede, Frogger, Millipede, Missile Command and Super Breakout. The “little console that could” comes with 102 games in all, including a few “homebrew” titles, which are recently produced games designed by independent programmers.
The wireless controllers that come with the unit use less-than-reliable infrared technology, but the console does have two ports for original wired Atari 2600 joysticks, which you can usually find at retro gaming shops like Movie Trading Company and Game Over Videogames.
Where to shop: GameStop, Bed Bath & Beyond. AtGames, $39.99.
Call of Duty MQ-27 Stunt Drone
Drones are to millennials what hula hoops and BB guns were to young people generations ago. Gamers will enjoy this drone inspired by the MQ-27 from the popular “Call of Duty” series. It doesn’t come with a camera, but users will have fun piloting it through the air like some kind of futuristic remote control airplane. Boasting a control distance of up to 150 feet, the drone can flip, roll and make 360-degree turns.
Where to shop: GameStop, https://shop.callofduty.com. DGL Group, $59.99.
Halo Covenant Energy Sword
Anyone can show up to a geeky playground scrum with a lightsaber. However, to really make an impression, pack this Halo Covenant Energy Sword, which sounds like a lightsaber and is made of “marble translucent mold plastic with overspray and deco” and houses 10 blue LED lights for a nifty pulsating effect.
Fifty bucks may be a little pricey for a toy that could get destroyed in battle, but it also makes for a cool game room wall decoration.
Where to shop: GameStop. Mattel, $49.99.
Little Player Magazine
The mission of Little Player publishers Martin and Shelly Alessi is to “provide a safe, fun and advertising-free reading experience that parents can feel good about giving to their kids.” They do indeed achieve this goal six times per year with a magazine that is colorful, slick and nicely laid out, featuring family-friendly articles and reviews by kids and adults.
The latest issue gives readers the lowdown on the NES Classic Edition, complete with screenshots and brief write-ups of all 30 of its games. Plus, the editors weigh in on their favorite classic video games of all time. New and forthcoming releases are reviewed and previewed as well, such as Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the Nintendo Switch.
Where to shop: Barnes & Noble, www.shoplittleplayer.com. Massive Impact, Inc., $6.99 (single issue), $24.99 (6-issue subscription)
Pac-Man Pop! Figures
If you’ve spent any time over the past few years in comic book stores or at sci-fi expos, you’ve probably seen Funko Pop! figures popping up all over the place. The charming, bulb-headed figurines caricature everyone from Harry Potter to Donald Trump to The Little Mermaid.
There are numerous Pop! video game characters, including League of Legends’ Miss Fortune, Dishonored 2’s Corvo Attano and Street Fighter II’s Ken and Ryu, but we’re partial to the super cute Pac-Man figures. In addition to the iconic dot-muncher himself, you can pick up his gal pal Ms. Pac-Man, along with ghost enemies Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde.
Where to shop: GameStop, Game Over Videogames. Funco, $8.99-$10.
Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler
In 1984, everyman Tim McVey played the relatively obscure Nibbler nonstop for more than 44 hours on a single quarter, becoming the first person to score more than a billion points on an arcade video game. This gave McVey some small measure of fame, but years later there was a hot new contender for the Nibbler title, setting the stage for a Rocky-type story of geeky proportions.
While it never quite reaches the heights of the similar, more mainstream King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007), Man vs Snake is nevertheless an intriguing and entertaining tale of an eSports champion from the golden age of the arcades.
The original Simon handheld memory toy isn’t technically a video game, but it is an electronic game, and it was invented by Magnavox Odyssey mastermind Ralph Baer, the genius who came up with the notion of playing games on a TV screen. So we’re going to cheat a little here and include the new Simon Air, a touchless take on Baer’s classic.
As the colored lights blink in succession, you wave your hand over them in the correct order, and the lights blink an extra time with each turn, stretching your memory muscles. A new two-player simultaneous mode where four hands at once must be used to complete certain sequences help make this a nice, challenging, party-ready upgrade over the original.
Where to shop: Walmart, Amazon.com. Hasbro, $14.88.
Brett Weiss is the author of the “Classic Home Video Games” book series (McFarland Publishers) and The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987 (Schiffer Publishing).