Holiday Gift Guide 2016

So, you’re looking for a gift this holiday season for the Sony PlayStation 4 owner in your family or circle of friends? Let us guide the way, featuring some of the best and most anticipated titles of the season, complete with links to make sure it’s shipped, wrapped, and ready for the big day.

This was a tough one this year in that EA released solid iterations of Madden and FIFA and all baseball fans should play every edition of MLB The Show that Sony releases, but 2K Sports wins the title yet again with the best sports simulation available for the PS4. The depth of this release is remarkable, but what’s underrated about it is the consistency from game to game and week to week. It’s the kind of title that one can pick up months from now and it still feels fresh and exciting. In other words, unlike most games, it becomes a part of your library and not just something you finish and move on from. 

Now that the Disney Infinity franchise has closed up shop, there really is no competition for toy-to-life gamers, and I can speak from personal experience (as a father of three boys) that this series has surpassed typical expectations and become a bona fide phenomenon. It’s all my kids want for Christmas. Now, it’s a pricy proposition in that your little ones are likely to want more expansions and new Skylanders after you get them the Starter Pack but take it from this parent: this is a creative, imaginative series, especially this year’s version, in which gamers can create their own Skylanders. It actually got my oldest talking game development and artistic design in general, turning this into way more than just your average video game. The actual campaign is surprisingly short, but it’s a game that keeps giving with new characters, customizable options and expansion packs.  

Rather than release another LEGO game like the Activision folk do with Skylanders every year, the team behind the excellent LEGO Dimensions have merely kept the structure and hub with which gamers are familiar and expanded on it with two fantastic waves of releases, which we’ll get into in more detail in coming weeks. First, if you don’t have 2015’s LEGO Dimensions, you should correct that. It’s clever and creative. However, if you put it away or remember your kids enjoying it last holiday season, it’s time to dust off the portal again. New expansion packs include detailed, multi-level ones based on the hit films Ghostbusters and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, along with character/vehicle packs based on Mission: Impossible, Adventure Time, Gremlins, Sonic the Hedgehog and many more. Most of these expansions packs cost notably less than a full game and they could be perfect stocking stuffers this holiday season.

It’s been a couple of years since EA took this prize from the uber-successful Call of Duty franchise but it wasn’t really much of a contest this year. In fact, this is the best shooter you could possibly buy for the PS4, rich in its detailed campaign offering and breathtaking in its multiplayer design. For me, multiplayer comes down primarily to map design, and the maps of Battlefield 1 are remarkable, opening up new alleys, sight lines, and strategies even after dozens of plays. And the Levolution here—DICE’s mechanic in which the maps change with combat and time—is incredible. It really sets a new standard for multiplayer gaming on the PS4, and it feels like the first game of this generation to really do that.

We’ll be doing a Best Games of 2016 soon, but you can expect Sony’s final chapter in one of their most beloved franchises to rank highly. However, don’t wait. If you have yet to get on this bandwagon, you should do so in time for the holidays. Honestly, if there’s a movie fan in your family—someone who likes Indiana Jones flicks or even the adventures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—this would make the perfect gift. It essentially plunges gamers into their own Hollywood blockbuster, and it’s so rich in cinematic storytelling that you want to keep playing not to “defeat the bad guy” but keep the story moving. In that sense, it changes the way we approach gaming, making us authors of a complex, character-driven story, instead of just gamers trying to finish a level.

So you have a gamer on your holiday list who thinks most games are too easy? Maybe he complains about too many tutorials, hints and maps? Introduce him to the punishing, terrifying, brutal world of Dark Souls, a franchise that has become a phenomenon, and one that featured another award-winning chapter just this year. The Dark Souls games force players to rewire the way they approach gaming in the first place. It’s not about how much you’ll die—which is A LOT—it’s about what you’ll learn each time, heading back into the fray with new strategies. The result is a true sense of accomplishment when a challenge is overcome, something increasingly rare in gaming.