Great Gifts for iPhone Gamers

What to buy for the mobile gamer on your list

Whether it's the holidays, a birthday, or a "just because" present, it always feels good to give a gift. But if your giftee is obsessed with the digital-only world of mobile games, how can you wrap something up and put a bow on it?

Fear not, gift-giver. You won't need to shell out several hundred dollars to treat them to the latest iOS device. There are plenty of neat options once you look outside the touch screen. We've rounded up some of our favorites to help get you started.

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Pixel Press

If you're buying a gift for someone that loves to create, Bloxels might just be the perfect choice. Using a collection of colored cubes and a plastic board, Bloxel creators can design their own video games and test them immediately on their phone or tablet — and best of all, no coding knowledge is required.

Different colored blocks will represent different elements of your game, so if you wanted to place terrain, for instance, you'd use a green block. If you needed to place an enemy, you'd use a purple one.

Each of these elements can be further designed by creators, as Bloxels allows users to turn their 13x13 board into a canvas for creating pixel art. You'll even be able to animate your creations using multiple frames, so the hero you create in your game can move and walk naturally (so long as you build them that way).

While it's not meant to be a feature-complete game design studio, Bloxels is a great way to introduce novices to some of the elements of game design without needing to know how to write a line of code. (It's worth noting that, while you can share your creations in the Bloxels community, this isn't intended as a platform from which you can publish your own games to the App Store). More »

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While it took a few years for iOS to adopt a standard for controllers, there's been no shortage of choices on the market since the MFi (Made for iPhone) standard evolved to include controllers in 2013. From SteelSeries to MOGA, MadCatz to Logitech, it seems that everyone in the accessories game has an option or twelve to consider.

Our current favorite, though? That's the Gamevice — a device that fits snugly around your iPhone or iPad and creates an experience that's not unlike a traditional games handheld. It features dual analog joysticks, triggers, bumpers, face buttons and a d-Pad. In short, everything you've come to expect from a modern controller. And what's more, it's comfortable to hold and doubles as an external battery to keep you charged when you're playing on the go.

iOS controllers come in a range of configurations, from console-style controllers to controllers like the Gamevice that wrap around your phone so that you can treat it as a single device. For the sake of comfort, we greatly prefer the Gamevice style — though if your giftee disagrees with us, the SteelSeries Nimbus is a great choice for those who want an experience that echoes a more traditional console controller design. More »

Pokemon GO Plus
Jim Squires

One of the hottest mobile accessories available has also become one of the hardest to find — but if you luck into one, there's no better gift for the passionate Pokemon GO player than a Pokemon GO Plus.

A device that can be worn on the wrist or clipped on your clothes, Pokemon GO Plus allows players to experience the game without having to pull their phones out of their pocket. Using a colored LED and a series of vibrations, players are able to engage in different activities that will increase the health and number of Pokemons at their disposal.

A buzz with a green flash, for example, will let you know there's a Pokemon to capture nearby, while a buzz with a blue flash will let you know there's a Pokestop from which to gather items. A simple button press will trigger either event, with a colorful indication to let you know if you've succeeded or failed in your attempt.

While not using your phone directly to play might take some of the fun out of Pokemon GO, nobody wants to take their gloves off in January to catch yet another Pidgey. With that in mind, there's really no better gift for the year-round Pokemon enthusiast. More »

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Game Soundtracks

PinOut Soundtrack
Douglas Holmquist

When people think of music, they rarely think of soundtracks. And when they do, it's even rarer to think of games. Add mobile into the mix, and you've got a niche that's almost entirely invisible. And yet mobile games music is among some of the best you'll ever hear.

While there are plenty of options to listen to these tunes for free, why not treat a record-collecting friend to a vinyl version of your favorite mobile game soundtrack? If you're not sure where to start, we've put together a short list of fantastic albums with physical versions below (and some links even let you sample the music in full before purchasing):

  • Super Hexagon (Game by Terry Cavanagh, Music by Chipzel)
  • PinOut (Game by Mediocre, Music by Douglas Holmquist)
  • Monument Valley (Game by ustwo, Music by Stafford Bawler, OBFUSC and GRIGORI)
  • Sword & Sworcery (Game by Capybara, Music by Jim Guthrie)
  • Downwell (Game by Moppin, Music by Eirik Suhrke and ilkae)
Alto's Adventure Socks

Few things are as important in the winter as warmth and fashion, but I'd say mobile games are a close third. Snowman — the team behind the critically acclaimed mobile game Alto's Adventure — have managed to combine all three of these seasonal priorities with the release of The Alto Sock.

Featuring a fun holiday color scheme, the sock is designed by Harry Nesbitt, the visual design lead on Alto's Adventure. You can keep your feet stylish and comfortable all at the same time, sporting a series of llamas that wrap around your ankles and shins.

The Alto Sock kind of reminds us of a Christmas sweater, but for your feet. We're perfectly alright with that. More »

Plague Inc Board Games
Ndemic Creations

One of the most popular board games in recent years among hobbyists has been Pandemic, a game about trying to contain a disease before it wipes out all of humanity. It should come as little surprise then that Plague Inc launched — a mobile game that is basically Pandemic in reverse — that it became a big hit with a very similar crowd.

Now the disease-flinging fun has come full circle with the launch of Plague Inc: The Board Game. While the gameplay differs from its mobile counterpart, the spirit of the series hasn't wavered. Players each take up the role of a different disease, and collectively try to destroy every living creature on the face of the Earth.

Well, maybe "collectively" isn't the right word. Everybody wants to rule the world (even influenza), so you'll fight it out to be the biggest, baddest bug of them all. If you're looking for a gift for the mobile gamer who also loves board games, or just want something you can gather around the fireplace and play during the holidays, Plague Inc: The Board Game should help you keep your seasonal cold at bay. More »

Play-Doh Touch Studio

Kids today don't know how lucky they have it. When their parents were children, they'd play with Play-Doh and then have to use their imagination to bring their creations to life. But thanks to Play-Doh TOUCH Shape to Life Studio, the only thing kids needs their imaginations for today is creating the creatures in the first place.

Using some pretty impressive technology (ie, regular everyday Play-Doh), kids can build creatures in the Studio and then scan them into the Play-Doh TOUCH app. Once digitized, these creations can be played with and interacted with. Scan in a musical note that you've designed, place it over your critter's head, and watch them dance. Scan in a balloon and watch them float. There are plenty of experiences here that go beyond standard Play-Doh fun, and they're all kid-friendly and accessible.

No matter how kid-friendly it looks, though, I'm sure there are at least a few adults on your shopping list who'd be tickled pink to play with this. I know I would. More »

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Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes Dream Team

Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper

If you're an avid player of Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes (and given its reported success, that's entirely possible), you probably have dozens of heroes and villains in your collection. Yet there's likely a squad of just five characters that you rely on for almost every situation. Wouldn't it be cool to own a physical version of your own personal Star Wars squad?

Because the game draws on existing Star Wars characters, and because Hasbro's Star Wars toyline has been a juggernaut of plastic and excess for more than 20 years now (and nearly twice that if you include the original Kenner action figures), you should have no trouble assembling your very own collection of physical heroes with a little effort.

But don't be selfish, though — this list is about gift-giving, after all. Figure out which characters your friends and family have in their squads, and start hunting! Not all Star Wars characters have a toy currently in production, but you should have little trouble assembling an army from flea markets and auction sites like eBay.

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If all else fails...

iTunes gift cards

While the gifts above might offer a unique selection of gifts for the iPhone gamer in your life, there's a chance that none of them are quite the right fit for the person you're shopping for. If that's the case, we have two back up suggestions that are well worth keeping in mind: you can always gift your favorite games to a friend digitally, and nobody can ever have too many iTunes cards.