This year has been anything but normal, and the holiday season is going to be no exception to this.
The latest recommendations are for forgoing the traditional large scale family gathering; because nobody wants to turn their festive get together into a superspreader event. That means this year will likely be conducted over small meals and Zoom, so at least you can just turn off people’s video feeds if you find you can’t bear to look at them anymore.
It also means it’s a prime time to catch up on your gaming backlog, whether that’s playing games on the latest generation of consoles, or getting your online raid team back together for the new Destiny 2 DLC. Since you won’t be traveling, you’ll have a bit more cash to spend, so treat yourself to something that’ll make your gaming time better.
Here’s our recipe for gaming together this holiday season
Whether you’re hunkering down with your COVID pod, or planning to play online with your buddies, get some gaming done this holiday season with our top picks.
The Wonderful 101 Remastered ($30)
What’s better than an extended family gathering with everyone you barely talk to the rest of the year? Gaming, with over 100 unique heroes to switch between, that’s what. The Wonderful 101: Remastered lets you travel the world to repel the alien invaders, so you can see faraway places without having to expose yourself to germs! And because it’s on Nintendo Switch, all of that teamwork power is in the palms of your hands. Nice.
Death Stranding ($30)
Let me set the stage. It’s the future, society is fragmented under the weight of some kind of invading plague. The only thing keeping the country connected is a private company that may or may not have evolved from the post office. No, it’s not that movie with Kevin Costner, and no, it’s not actually real life, although it does sound pretty close to how 2020 has transpired. Step into the shoes of Sam Porter Bridges, and reunite these un-United States.
GSP 670 from Epos Gaming ($320)
Gaming with your friends deserves a good headset, both so you can hear them and so they can hear you. I mean, if you can’t hear their insults, how do you know they’re your friends? Skip the potential tripping hazard of wired headsets with the Sennheiser EPOS GSP 670 wireless gaming headset, with all of the quality you’d expect from Sennheiser, in a lossless wireless connection that supports 7.1 sound and has a broadcast-quality microphone.
Astro Gaming A20 wireless headset Gen 2 ($120)
The new consoles are here, and so are new peripherals to go with them. If someone on your gifting list has one of the new consoles, the Gen 2 Astro A20 is a great gift. It’s color-matched to the console, has solid wireless thanks to the 2.4GHz connection, and has a flip-to-mute microphone because nobody wants to hear you eating. 15 hours of battery life should get them through even the longest gaming sessions, and it charges via USB-C.
Logitech G PRO X wireless headset ($200)
The worst thing about most wireless headsets is that they’re often heavier than their wired counterparts. Not so with the Logitech G Pro X, which is light and comfortable enough to wear for long periods. It comes with a pro level removable microphone that’s got Blue Vo!ce filters so they can get the best out of their voice, and the 50mm drivers will make them hear every enemy footstep.
PNY m.2 NVMe drives (varies)
Games are getting larger and larger, so maybe stuff someone’s stocking with a new NVME drive, so they can play the latest games without worrying about load times. This PCIe Gen 3 drive from PNY boasts 3,500 MB/s read speeds and 3,000 MB/s write speeds, perfect for those demanding titles. Just an FYI, it won’t work in the PlayStation 5, as Sony wants a much faster drive, and hasn’t even enabled the adding of more storage at this time.
Hisense H9G Quantum Dot 4K Android TV ($699)
Get yourself a new TV to pair with your next-gen console, like this stunner from Hisense. It’s got 55-inches of fun, with quantum dot film for superb color accuracy, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and a built-in Chromecast so you can get Google to control your TV with just your voice. 1000 nits of local peak brightness give you the best HDR experience, and the 120Hz native refresh rate is perfect for the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5.
LG 55-inch Class CX Series OLED 4K ($1,399)
LG’s OLED range used to be out of the price tag of many, but with a hefty price cut that seems to be sticking, the CX range has become easier to own than ever. OLED gives the screen control over every pixel, so just like on your smartphone, the TV can show you the brightest whites or the darkest blacks. It has support for Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG, Dolby Atmos for superb sound, and LG’s webOS smart platform is one of the best to use. Cast from your Apple devices, marvel at the 120Hz refresh rate with Nvidia G-sync variable refresh rate support (that also works with the new consoles), and enjoy all of your content in crisp 4K.
Konka 50-inch QLED 4K TV ($399)
Konka might not be a name you’ve seen before, but they’re one of the top five TV brands in China, and now they’re available here. You’ll get all of the quantum dot goodness, just at a much lower price than the established western brands. Nice. This set’s smart features are powered by Android TV, for access to the entire Google Play Store, and built-in Google Assistant for hands-free navigation.
Enclave CineHome II Wireless 5.1 Home Theater Surround Sound ($999)
The best part of having a killer TV setup is surround sound, with Dolby goodness immersing you in glorious noise. The worst part about surround sound? Wires. Tons of wires. Enclave does away with the messy wires by making every speaker wireless, so all you need to do is find some wall sockets to power them. Plug your TV into the CineHub transmitter, and all of the surround sound goodness will get sent to the correct speaker. It’s also got Bluetooth 5.0, so you can cast your favorite music from your mobile device, never having to touch a button again. No mess, no fuss, just great sound.
Arcade1Up NBA JAM arcade cabinet ($490)
Get yourself the authentic video arcade experience from the comfort of home, with Arcade1Up’s officially licensed cabinet replicas. Like this one, which has NBA JAM, NBA Hangtime, and NBA JAM Tournament Edition inside, with four sets of controls for some multiplayer mayhem. The 17-inch LCD display replicates the real thing, all wrapped in a replica marquee with the original game art on it. That’ll look amazing in the entertainment room.
Replicade arcade machines (Varies)
If you like your gaming with a side of retro goodness, but don’t have space for a full-sized arcade cabinet, how about putting a whole damn arcade onto your desk? Yes, we said onto, because the Replicade Arcade cabinets from New Wave Toys are 1/6th scale models of the real thing. They’re loaded with classics like Centipede, Street Fighter II, or Asteroids, and even come with scale quarters so you can replicate the whole arcade experience. Well, except for the sticky carpets.
Not everyone has a powerful gaming PC, but almost everyone has a mobile device, right? Put your gaming PC in the cloud, with Shadow. The service gives you a virtual desktop with dedicated system resources, and a Windows 10 install so you can game on any device. All you have to provide are the games, which you can get from any of the usual Windows game storefronts. I’ve been using this for a couple of weeks now, and it feels just like using my desktop, while I’m laid on the couch using my iPhone. It’s really pretty impressive and brings gaming to more screens than ever since all the heavy lifting is done in the cloud.
They recently added new tiers for Ray-Tracing support, so even the latest titles can be played in stunning visual fidelity. Perfect for the holiday season, to stop arguments over who gets to use the new gaming console first.
Creative Labs Stage V2 ($119)
It’s been said that good audio is also good gaming audio, so why risk it with a lesser-known brand? Creative has been at the top of the gaming audio market since its inception, and the Stage V2 soundbar with subwoofer continues in that proud tradition. Surround sound and clear dialog are a must for almost any content, whether it’s the latest games or kicking your feet up with a good movie.
If you prefer your gaming audio to be more intimate, the G3 external gaming DAC/AMP might be a good fit. It’s got USB-C so it works with your Nintendo Switch, and brings Creative’s surround sound tech to the party.
Glorious Gaming peripherals
We’ve followed Glorious from their first device, the GMMK, and they’ve gone from strength to strength. Some of the best gaming peripherals on the market have been put out by them, from the Model O and Model D mice, and the new Model O wireless; and you can now get mechanical keyswitches, mousepads, and more. The latest hotness is the GMMK Pro, which brings some of the high-end keyboard features from short-run group buys into the mainstream, like gasket-mount, and rotary encoders.
If you’ve been trying to use your Nintendo Switch on your crisp, 4K TV, and been disappointed with the image quality, you need the mClassic. This little magical dongle plugs in between your console and the TV, and intelligently upscales the content, sharpening up the image and removing jaggies. Your games will never look better.
Movo VXR10-PRO mic
A good microphone makes all the difference between your teammates being able to hear your callouts or you losing because you sound like you’re shouting through a tunnel. If you don’t want a headset mic, try using a pro mic that’s designed to pick up your voice from distance, like this VXR10-Pro from Movo. It’s got a 3.5mm TRS or TRRS connection so you can use it with your consoles, and it’ll beat most headset mics for clarity. You’ll need a small tripod with a hotshoe mount, like this one, to hold it steady. It’ll also work with your smartphone, so you can start creating your own content.
Now you’ve got some ideas for making your gaming holiday memorable. Stay safe out there, wear your mask when outside, and wash your damn hands.
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