Picking out a gift for the PC gamer in your life can be a real challenge. Check their Steam library for gaps, and they may already have hundreds of titles from Steam sales. Found one they don’t have? Better check their GOG, GMG, Humble, Epic, Uplay and Origin libraries to be safe!
You’ll be tempted to just ask if they already have something or slip a gift card in their stocking, but don’t give up! There are still plenty of gift options—recent games, subscriptions, accessories and more—that you can safely assume will come as a welcome, unique surprise on December 25th.
With holiday sales coming to practically every game-selling retailer and online store imaginable, now’s a great time to look out for deals on some of the best 2019 gifts for PC gamers around. Here’s a list of picks and gifting strategies we think will help wow your gaming giftee.
The latest and greatest in PC games
If you know the gamer in your life is frugal and likes to wait for sales, then you likely can’t go wrong with a recent or upcoming AAA release like STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order, The Outer Worlds, Borderlands 3, Death Stranding or any of the other top PC games out now, so long as you’re willing to drop full price yourself. Most game distribution platforms let you schedule a gift delivery, so you can have it arrive in their inbox on the correct day.
Or, if these big-budget games don’t fit their taste, their computer’s graphical capabilities, or your budget, then we have some more fringe PC titles that may have blown past their radar, but will blow them away once the play it.
Don’t let Disco Elysium’s odd name turn you off: it shines apart from other open-world RPGs with revolutionary dialogue-based gameplay that lets your detective character act well outside of the good, funny or evil boxes most games lock you into. Its hilarious, twisting plot doesn’t restrict you from playing as badly or strangely as you’d like, and you should consider buying yourself a copy so you can compare notes with your gift’s recipient.
With another oddball name, Baba Is You is the perfect choice for friends who enjoy the rush of solving a challenging puzzle more than the adrenaline of shooting baddies. Each of its 200 puzzles—based around reprogramming and manipulating the code of the world around you until you can reach the goal—will stump and confound you, but the feeling of breaking through is immensely satisfying.
Slay the Spire is an amazing entry point for someone who doesn’t understand the appeal of deck-building games. A single-player roguelike in which you build a unique deck and climb a challenging dungeon that changes every playthrough, anyone who gets hooked will get massive replay value from this indie title.
But maybe your gamer spends all their time in one game and knows exactly what they like. Check their most-played title on Steam or just ask what their favorite is, and then buy them in-game currency for that game. For popular battle royales, MMOs and MOBAs like Apex Legends, Fortnite, Overwatch, DOTA 2, Final Fantasy XIV, ESO and others, a new character skin or a funny hat can cost as much as a new game, and they’ll love to splurge and stand out thanks to your generosity.
Unless you’re someone’s rich aunt or uncle, you probably don’t plan on buying a PC for anyone besides yourself this holiday season. But that doesn’t mean your friends wouldn’t love a laptop or desktop accessory that would upgrade whatever mouse, keyboard, headphones or other standard peripherals that came bundled with their current device.
Comfortable gaming headphones make hours-long chats in multiplayer matches bearable, but the best models tend to cost hundreds of dollars. For more reasonably priced but critically acclaimed models with 7.1 surround sound, consider gifting the SteelSeries Arctis 7, a fantastic wireless headset designed to keep you cool and headache-free; the Razer Kraken X, PC Gamer’s pick for the best headset at an affordable price; or the HyperX Cloud Alpha for perfect sound clarity and durable padding that’ll last through the next several Christmases.
Or, with the holiday season, look for drops in prices for the more premier headsets. Consider the HyperX Cloud Orbit S, which improves on the Cloud Alpha’s sound while adding 3D head tracking for digital surround sound. Or, if you’re a fan of haptic feedback to go with your audio, the Razer Nari Ultimate offers the clear, premier choice.
The best gaming mice tend to be slightly more affordable in the $50 to $120 range, but with the added complication of having different sizes, button layouts and configurations—making it difficult to know what will work with your friend’s preferences or physical hand size. If you’re feeling bold, start by (again) figuring out their favorite game or game type. Certain mouses are tailor-made for specific genres like FPSs or MOBAs. And take extra care to remember if they’re left-handed.
For someone who fancies themselves an esports pro at shooters, the HyperX Pulsefire FPS Pro or the ambidextrous Razer Deathadder Elite both offer excellent choices. With ergonomic textured grips and 16,000 DPI for near-perfect tracking, these are great tools for games in which frantic movement and precise aiming keeps you alive.
Or for MMO fans that need a dozen buttons for various actions, the clear choice is the Razer Naga Trinity. It ships with three swappable side panels with two, six and twelve buttons, respectively. With this mouse your friend can use the clunkier layout for slower games with more menuing, then switch to the standard two-button panel for regular work or FPS games.
For all-around gamers, focus on which option would be most comfortable for them. Of the top mouse options, the Logitech G203 Prodigy offers an excellent sensor at a budget price, but works better for smaller hands. Whereas the Corsair Ironclaw RGB offers the best option for folks with larger hands.
Of course, your friend may already have a great mouse. In that case, a thoughtful gift could be a new mouse pad to keep that mouse running smoothly, or a keyboard wrist protector to save your avid gamer friend from their carpal tunnel-inducing habits.
Yes, we chided you for thinking about sending your nerdy nephew a gift card. But if you really don’t know much about your gift recipient, give them a gift card that provides as much value and variety as possible.
Try giving them a 3-month gift subscription to Humble Choice, which lets the lucky owner pick a variety of new PC titles every month, and gives them a discount on all PC games in the Humble Store. You can also gift them the classic Humble Monthly subscription before it expires on December 6th: you don’t pick which games you get, but you get more games for a lower price per month.
Or consider gifting them 3 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which gives the recipient access to all Microsoft titles and participating 3rd party games available on both PC and Xbox—about 100 in total.
To compare the two, Humble lets you keep your games after the subscription ends and is more affordable, but you can only choose from a curated list of games. Ultimate gives you unlimited access to more games, including brand-new releases, but you lose them subscription ends. Both cost the same $15 per month.
Staring for hours at a computer screen playing all these new games is terrible for your eyesight. Encourage your loved ones to look away once in a while with some awesome merch for their desk or walls!
(Keep in mind, though, that most of the best gaming merch will be found on sites where two-day shipping costs as much as what you’re buying. You’ll want to purchase these well before the holidays.)
For the best gaming-adjacent gifts, you can’t go wrong with our advice above about figuring out someone’s favorite game. Try the Blizzard Store (Overwatch, WoW, Starcraft), Fortnite store, Bioware Store (Mass Effect, Dragon Age), Square Enix store (Final Fantasy), or others for the “official” merch.
For smaller or indie studios, they’re likely to have partnered with an official gaming merch brand. Try Fangamer for tons of popular options like Undertale, Dark Souls, Hollow Knight, Stardew Valley, Celeste and more. Gamestop absorbed ThinkGeek and will have toys and collectables for the most mainstream game and nerd brands. J!NX hosts stores for The Witcher, PUBG, Rocket League and several others.
For more gaming-adjacent, nerdy faves like Game of Thrones, we recommend you look into a figurine of your friend’s favorite character. A Pop! Vinyl figure or two will always bring a smile as a stocking stuffer, especially for collectors. But for a more true-to-life version of Arya Stark or whoever, try some of the most popular premium brands: McFarlane Toys, Mezco Toys, or Good Smile Company, for example. Just be ready to pay for quality!
If you’re having trouble finding merch for your friends’ obscure faves, don’t hesitate to try fan-based stores like Redbubble or Etsy, where amateur artists will handcraft poster art, clothing and accessories for basically anything and everything. These often take especially long to ship, but plan ahead and these sites can offer just what you’re looking for.
Santa-level gifting: a gaming laptop
If you got through that list and somehow thought, “But I want to spend even more money on my best friend and/ or favorite relative”, then you can always try giving them an affordably priced gaming laptop that won’t break the bank. Just keep in mind that the best gaming laptops—the high-end Alienwares, Razers and Asuses—may fit into a higher price tier than anyone could reasonably expect.
Economy-priced models like the Acer Nitro 5, Lenovo Legion Y7000 or Dell G7 15 can be found south of the $1,000 barrier, with the qualification that it will handle indie games with ease but may need to use lower settings for AAA releases. You can’t go wrong with any of these, but our recommendation would go to the Nitro 5, which packs enough power to play this year’s most graphically intensive titles without too much compromise.
Realistically, most high-end gaming laptops go well above $1,000, but with the holiday sales looming you may find a deal that brings some truly excellent machines into your price range.
The Razer Stealth 13 is a rare breed of gaming laptop, light and thin enough not to weigh down a backpack (or a stocking), but hitting well above its weight class in powerful specs. With a 10th-ten Intel i7 core, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q, 16GB of RAM and a 4K, 100% sRGB touch display, you get everything you need in a gaming laptop—at a price well below the industry average for those specs.
Or consider the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin, which matches the Stealth 13 in CPU and RAM and includes a Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060-2080 Max-Q GPU. This comes at a higher price tag, a heavier chassis and an FHD display, but gives an intriguing alternative if you’re willing to sacrifice some portability for graphics.