Have an armchair avenger in your life? There are lots of nifty new video games that would make the perfect gift, such as “Call of Duty: WWII,” “Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2,” and “Star Wars Battlefront II,” but your favorite gamer may already have these hot titles.
Instead, why not buy something a little more unusual, such as a special-edition console, a book about video games or some other peripheral item?
Here are nine suggestions for gifts most any gamer would enjoy finding under the tree.
Nintendo 2DS with “The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D” (Link Edition)
We like themed gaming devices, so we went absolutely gaga over this distinctive green and yellow Link Edition of the Nintendo 2DS, which is essentially a flattened version of the 3DS (it plays 3DS games, but only in 2D, and it doesn’t fold, so it lacks those easily breakable hinges).
If your loved one enjoys gaming on the go, but you don’t want to pay $300 for a Nintendo Switch, you could certainly do worse than this system, which comes with a digital download of “Ocarina of Time,” a beloved “Zelda” game that debuted in 1998 on the Nintendo 64.
Where to shop: Target, Wal-Mart, Gamestop. Nintendo, $79.99
“Phoenix IV: The History of the Videogame Industry” (by Leonard Herman)
We’ve touted “Phoenix,” the first comprehensive history of the video game industry, before, but the fourth edition is now available in a deluxe hardcover edition in full color.
The price tag may seem a bit steep for a book, but it’s a big, fat, indispensable guide filled with interesting info and tons of photos of rare and common gaming systems, including such obscurities as the SG-1000 (Sega’s first console), the Virtual Boy (Nintendo’s first effort at 3-D graphics) and the Fairchild Channel F (which beat the Atari 2600 to market by a year).
Video game school is in session, people.
Where to shop: Amazon, www.rolentapress.com. Rolenta Press, $80
Kontrol Freek Thumbsticks
Organized competitive gaming, also known as eSports, is huge. So huge, in fact, that even such sports moguls as Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones are getting in on the act.
Whether you compete in tournaments for big bucks, or you just want to increase your skill at such games as “Destiny 2: Ghost” or “Call of Duty: WWII,” check out Kontrol Freek’s line of thumbsticks, which are analog stick extenders that you simply pop on your controller for your favorite current console.
The company sells other controller gear as well, such as grips and skins. These are small items, so they make great stocking-stuffers.
Where to shop: www.kontrolfreek.com. Kontrol Freek, $14.99-$17.99
Super Mario Cereal
Is a box of breakfast cereal a lame item to give someone for Christmas? Not if it’s Super Mario Cereal!
Produced by Kellogg’s, Super Mario Cereal is similar to Lucky Charms, with a mix of cereal stars and power-up marshmallows. The predictable concoction is flavored by a “blast of mixed berry,” but the cereal itself is almost beside the point.
Kids (and adults) will be more excited by the collectable “Super Mario Odyssey” box (complete with a maze on the back), which functions as an Amiibo accessory. By tapping the box on your Nintendo Switch, you’ll receive a heart or gold coins in the game.
Where to shop: most any grocery store (beginning as early as Dec. 11). Kellogg’s, approximately $3-$4
Art of Atari Poster Collection (by Tim Lapetino)
Cliff Spohn. Hiro Kimura. Judy Richter. Chris Kenyon. Warren Chang. Burrell Dickey.
You may not know these names, but if you’re 40 or older, you’ve probably seen their artwork, which adorned the boxes of such Atari home video games as “Asteroids,” “Centipede,” “Home Run” and “Missile Command.”
“Art of Atari Poster Collection,” which is the follow-up to Lapetino’s “Art of Atari” hardcover history/art tome, showcases these iconic images beautifully in the pages of an oversized softcover book that is meant to be taken apart and plastered all over the walls of the recipient’s office or game room. It includes 40 frame-worthy prints.
Where to shop: Amazon. Dynamite Entertainment, $15.29
“Sonic Mania: Collector's Edition” (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
If you grew up during the 1990s and played a lot of video games, you were probably a Nintendo or Sega kid, preferring either the slower, more exploratory pace of Mario or the speedy, attitudinal thrills of Sonic, who dashed, zipped and looped through levels with reckless abandon.
For fans of the latter character, “Sonic Mania” recaptures the excitement of the original 2-D “Sonic the Hedgehog” on the Sega Genesis, but features new zones, new hidden paths, new secret areas and new abilities, such as Sonic’s Drop Dash.
This collector’s edition of the game is super cool, particularly the Sonic statue featuring a Genesis-style base for him to stand on.
Where to shop: Amazon. Sega, $69.99-$99.99
Super Nintendo Classic Edition
The follow-up to last year’s hottest retro gaming device, the NES Classic Edition, this plug-and-play console features 21 built-in SNES games, including such classics as “Donkey Kong Country,” “Super Mario World” and “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.” Expensive, hard-to-find role-playing games are part of the package as well, including “EarthBound” and “Final Fantasy III.”
No cartridges are necessary, and you even get a previously unreleased Super Nintendo title, “Star Fox 2,” which was programmed during the 1990s, but was never officially offered at the retail level.
One caveat: You may have to go to several stores to find a Super Nintendo Classic Edition, as they are selling out about as fast as retailers can stock them.
Where to shop: Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, GameStop. Nintendo, $79.99
Xbox One S 1TB “Minecraft” Limited Edition Bundle
If the gamer in your life is still playing an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, it’s time for an upgrade, such as this Xbox One S special-edition console themed on “Minecraft,” the open-ended, creativity-inducing game that is all about “placing blocks and going on adventures.”
The system looks sharp in blocky brown and green, and it makes “Minecraft” sounds when you turn it on or pop open the disc tray. In addition to a download of the “Minecraft” game and a matching controller, the unit comes with a free month of Xbox Game Pass and a 14-day trial of Xbox Live Gold.
Where to shop: Amazon, Target.com. Microsoft, $399.99
“The Gaming Historian: Volume 1” (Blu-ray)
One of our favorite retro gamer personalities is Norman “The Gaming Historian” Caruso, who creates mini-documentaries for his YouTube channel. Norm’s family-friendly videos are concise, well-researched and easily digestible, covering such topics as “The Story of Super Mario Bros. 2,” “The History of Wolfenstein” and “The Life of Satoru Iwata,” the fourth president and CEO of Nintendo (sadly, Iwata died in 2015).
This Blue-ray contains 16 remastered episodes of “The Gaming Historian” supplemented with audio commentary, plus such exclusives as a complete history of the show, a tour of Norm’s new game room and an episode on the controversial “Grand Theft Auto” “hot coffee” mod, a not-so-family-friendly element of 2004’s “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”
For you foodies, there’s an episode of “Cookin’ With Norm,” where he demonstrates how to make his spicy North Carolina barbecue.
Where to shop: thegaminghistorian.com/shop/, $20
Brett Weiss is the author of nine books, including The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987 and The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A-M).