The holiday season is upon us — like Mario on Princess Peach — and it’s time to get a special gift for the gamer in your life. Unfortunately, you may have no idea what titles he or she already owns, nor the gaming console of choice.
If video game gift-giving makes you feel like Pac-Man with no power pellets, never fear: Our list of gaming-related items is here. Instead of buying a typical game disc or download (which the recipient may not want, or may already have), consider surprising your turtle-jumping, tomb-raiding, dot-munching loved one with one of the following peripheral presents.
Pac-Man Connect and Play
Released to celebrate Pac-Man’s 35th anniversary, this nifty gadget plugs directly into most any TV set and includes 12 old-school arcade games, mostly mazes and shooters: Pac-Man, Pac-Man Plus, Bosconian, Galaxian, Mappy, Super Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, New Rally X, Pac & Pal, Xevious and Pac-Man 256, the last of which lets fans play the 256th board in Pac-Man, when the coin-op classic would famously freeze.
The RetroN 5 helps retro gamers relive gaming’s glory days by playing cartridges (sold separately) from nine vintage systems.
Ms. Pac-Man is noticeably absent, and the joystick isn’t as sturdy or as sure as that on a real arcade cabinet, but this will make any Pac-Fan smile. (The cord can be stored in the controller for a streamlined look.)
Where to shop: Wal-Mart, www.toysrus.com.
‘Legend of Zelda’ Link Robe
Give the green gift of comfort with this one-size-fits-most-adults Link bathrobe, which features a pointed hood, a removable brown belt, two pockets (for snacks, magic potions and the like) and a decorative shield on the back. Perfect for marathon gaming sessions (there’s no time to get dressed or even go to work when there are kingdoms to conquer and princesses to rescue), it’s made of 100 percent polyester, so it should last through many adventures.
Non-Zelda fans will be none the wiser when you tell them it’s a Green Arrow or Robin Hood robe.
Where to shop: www.thinkgeek.com.
‘Mario Kart 8’ GO!!! Racing System
The “Mario Kart” series, which began with Super Mario Kart (1992) on the Super NES and continues today with Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, features some of the most popular racing video games ever made. A natural extension of the franchise is this super-cool slot-car racing kit, which includes a lap counter, a pair of controllers, Mario and Toad in their respective racers and a twisting, turning, infinity-shaped track.
The set is recommended for children age 8 and up, but parents and grandparents who played with slot cars during the toy’s heyday of the 1960s and ’70s will enjoy it as well. This is a great way to spend some family time together away from screens.
Where to shop: Hobby Lobby.
Nintendo’s cute, colorful Amiibo figurines are compatible with certain titles for the Wii U and 3DS, unlocking bonus content and features (such as costumes and weapons) in those games. Even if the person you’re buying a gift for doesn’t have a Wii U or 3DS, Amiibo figurines are cool collectibles and make for great game-room decorations.
There are numerous Amiibo designs, including iconic characters like Donkey Kong, Mario, Pac-Man, Pikachu, Princess Peach, Sonic the Hedgehog and Zelda.
Even if the person you’re buying a gift for doesn’t have a Wii U or 3DS, Amiibo figurines are cool collectibles.
Where to shop: Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, GameStop, Target, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us.
‘Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie’
Screenwave Media, $19.99 (DVD), $24.99 (Blu-ray)
Whether hardcore or casual, most gamers who are also film fans have seen such big-budget pictures as Pixels and Wreck-It Ralph. However, there’s a thriving indy video game movie scene as well, exemplified by such fun but relatively obscure features as Nintendo Quest and King of the Arcades.
A standout in this category is Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie (starring YouTube sensation James Rolfe), which is noteworthy not for its quality but for its lack thereof. Adult in the most juvenile sense of the word (Rolfe is famous for his expletive-laden tirades), the movie is so bad it’s good. Call it Plan 9 From Outer Space for the vid-kid generation.
Where to shop: Amazon.com.
‘Game On! 2016: All the Best Games: Awesome Facts and Coolest Secrets’
Scholastic, $14.99 (suggested retail, discounts are available)
Everyone loves lists, and Game On! 2016 has several that joystick jockeys will enjoy, from “50 Greatest Gaming Moments” to “Glitches, Stunts and Fails” to “The Coolest Gaming Secrets of All Time.” Plus, the book, which is recommended for readers ages 8-12, spotlights some of today’s hottest video game properties, including Forza, Mario Party, The Sims, Madden NFL and the 8-bit-inspired favorite Shovel Knight.
The Legend of Zelda Link Robe is great for marathon gaming sessions — there’s no time to get dressed or even go to work when there are kingdoms to conquer and princesses to rescue.
For a more scholarly work, hold out for Leonard Herman’s forthcoming Phoenix IV: The History of the Videogame Industry (maybe you could give it as a birthday present next spring), but Game On! 2016 is a fun, photo-heavy read that will keep kids entertained (and somewhat informed) while they’re away from their gaming consoles.
Lego Minecraft: The Desert Outpost
If you have kids in grade school, you’ve probably heard of Minecraft. In fact, you may have heard too much about it, as devotees tend to discuss the popular world-building game at length (which is polite phrasing for ad nauseam).
Many fans call Minecraft “digital Legos,” so it only makes sense that there are several related Lego sets available, including our favorite, The Desert Outpost, which, like the rest of the sets, spurs analog creativity. A child with an especially inventive mind can add “Star Wars” blocks and figures (sold separately) and create scenes evoking the dusty planet Tatooine.
Monopoly: Fallout Collector’s Edition
Fallout 4 for the PS4 and Xbox One is just a month old, meaning RPG fans and hardcore gamers are still fully immersed in the game’s vast universe, fighting to survive a world destroyed by nuclear war. But at some point, players must take a break, come up for air and interact with actual human beings. In short, Fallout 4 is an immersive, time-draining, solo experience.
Enter Monopoly: Fallout Collector’s Edition, an immersive, time-draining experience for two to six players. The buy/sell/trade action is similar to classic Monopoly, but with themes based on the popular “Fallout” franchise, complete with Wasteland environment, customized money and Houses and Hotels renamed Shacks and Vaults.
Other video game-themed versions of Monopoly are available as well, including Halo.
Where to shop: GameStop.
Retro gaming is rad, but many people — especially casual gamers — don’t want to go through the expense and hassle of acquiring and hooking up a bunch of dusty old consoles. That’s where the RetroN 5 comes in. This amazing device, which comes with HDMI connections and a Bluetooth wireless controller, lets users relive gaming’s glory days by playing cartridges (sold separately) from nine vintage systems: the NES, Famicom (Japanese NES), Super NES, Super Famicom (Japanese Super NES), Genesis, Mega Drive (Japanese Genesis), Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance.
Where to shop: Fry’s Electronics, Game Over Videogames, http:hyperkin.com.
Yahtzee: Borderlands Claptrap Edition
If you’ve checked this list twice and still can’t decide what to get your favorite gamer, roll the dice on this special Borderlands edition of the popular tabletop game Yahtzee, published by Plano-based Gearbox. Playable solo or with one or more friends, the package comes with a collectible CL4P-TP Dice Shaker Cup, a custom score pad and special dice featuring Borderlands Achievement icons: Vault, Pandoracon, Chest, Map, Psycho Mask and CL4P-TP.
There are Pac-Man-, Super Mario- and Legend of Zelda-themed Yahtzee sets as well.
Where to shop: GameStop.
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).
Holiday gift guides!
Dec. 5: Presents from North Texas
Monday: DVD box sets
Tuesday: The best of “Fab or Flub?”
Wednesday: Homemade goodies from the kitchen
Thursday: Video games and gear
Saturday: Purr-fect presents for pets
Dec. 13: Cliburn pianists’ CDs,
Dave Barry’s Gift Guide