From consoles like the Nintendo Switch OLED and PS5 to accessories and services, there's something here to spark your gaming-gear gifting abilities.
Lori GruninSenior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
ExpertisePhotography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Dan AckermanEditorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications.
"Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
ExpertiseI've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever.Credentials
Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Gift shopping for gamers can be a mind-boggling experience, especially if you're unfamiliar with the video-game realm. It can also become quite pricey -- the must-own gear is never cheap. While many items featured in our guide of the best gifts for gamers come with a heavy price tag, we've also included options that appeal to budgets of all kinds.
You can expect to find enduring favorites here -- they include the Sony PS5, Nintendo Switch OLED, and Microsoft Xbox Series X and Series S -- but because you're shopping for a gamer, they very likely own at least one of these already. There are also items we have yet to include, such as new Windows-enabled handheld consoles like the Asus ROG Ally and Lenovo Legion Go. Price-wise, they're on the steep end and, in our opinion, not quite ready for mass consumption.
Digging deeper into the gamer sphere, Meta's Quest 2 has yet to be beat as the best VR headset, even though the Quest 3 just came out. It's still good but cheaper, and that can make a big difference when you're shelling out for a lot of presents. We also haven't finished reviewing the Quest 3, and our opinion may change after we do. The update to Sony's veteran PlayStation VR headset, the PSVR 2, is also great, but it costs as much as the PS5 that's required for use.
These flashy options are nothing without accessories like gaming headsets, mice and keyboards. While cheaper and more gift-friendly, they can still get pretty pricey. We're plowing through a seemingly infinite number of options, but we're trying to provide recommendations at all price levels -- and we'll be adding more choices between now and the last possible minute.
Valve is the company behind the hugely successful Steam online game store, and its Steam Deck handheld comes closer than anything we've seen to nailing the openness, flexibility and scale of PC gaming that devoted WASD gamers have yearned for.
Before opting to gift the device, make sure you know your recipient. It's a handheld AMD-powered PC running Linux (with an overlay called Steam OS), and it plays many, but not all, of the PC games on the Steam online store. As long as they're prepared to do some tweaking and experimenting with settings, and feel comfortable with general PC game troubleshooting (versus the plug-and-play ease of living room consoles), the Steam Deck is a fantastic gaming device.
The company just launched a new, higher-end model with a larger OLED screen, bigger battery and a 1TB solid-state drive. It's more expensive than the older models, starting at $549, but it's worth it for the upgrades. You can still get the original 256GB model for $399, though. The other two original models have been discontinued, but you can still buy them for $349 (64GB) or $449 (512GB) until stock runs out.
The smaller, cheaper Series S version of the Xbox plays all the same games, but at 1440p resolution, which lies somewhere between traditional HD and 4K. More importantly, it's great for downloading and playing the huge catalog of Xbox Game Pass games, or for free-to-play online games like Fortnite.
There's a newer model in black with twice the storage for about $50 more, the Xbox Series S 1TB, but it's not necessary unless you specifically want to gift the black or you know your gamer keeps having to delete games because storage is tight. If you want to give the white model, you can spring for an inexpensive plug-in drive to go with it.
Watch your virtual world come to life without sacrificing comfort using Zenni's VR prescription lenses for Meta Quest 3. They include anti-scratch, anti-reflective and water-resistant coatings. There's also an oil-resistant coating (a $9.99 value).
Though they're not quite at stocking-stuffer prices, solid-state drives for the Xbox Series S, Series X and PS5 won't take a chunk out of your wallet the way a lot of these gifts will, starting as low as $70 for 512GB. You do need to know which console you're buying for; if you don't know and don't want to ask, you might want to pass. Xbox add-on storage plugs into the back of the consoles, while a PS5 M.2 NVMe SSD replaces the existing one and requires opening up the console. You'll want to get one equipped with a heat sink to keep things cool.
Don't confuse these devices with external hard drives for the consoles, which likely have more attractive prices. You can't run games off of those.
This fourth iteration of Nintendo's Switch hybrid handheld has the biggest, best built-in display (the OLED screen in its name), plus a redesigned kickstand and TV dock. For anyone looking to give a first Switch or add a second unit for household multiplayer, this is the default model to consider.
If you're on a tighter budget or shopping for a kid, you may want to check out the stripped-down Switch Lite. It probably won't earn the same level of excitement, but just tell them it's a placeholder for the Switch 2 that's not expected before next year's holiday shopping season (and hope they forget by then).
The Xbox Series X is a powerful 4K gaming machine that works best with a similarly advanced 4K TV or monitor. The platform offers exclusives like Halo and Forza, as well as games from Microsoft-owned Bethesda, including the Fallout and Elder Scrolls games, and the recently released favorite Starfield.
The Xbox's biggest advantage is the excellent Xbox Game Pass subscription service, which includes many of the biggest new games for $15 per month. It also includes PC and cloud gaming.
For exclusive games like God of War: Ragnarök, The Last of Us Part 1 and Horizon: Forbidden West, the PS5 is the way to go (although some of these games eventually make it to PCs much later on).
Comparable to the Xbox Series X, the PS5's big advantage is its modernized, redesigned controller, which gives better haptic feedback. The PS Plus subscription service offers a big, Netflix-like catalog of monthly games, although mostly older ones. For anyone interested in VR, the PSVR 2 is a great, albeit expensive add-on.
Look for the refreshed model, referred to by everyone but Sony as the "PS5 Slim," when you're shopping. The older ones will still be available until stock runs out, but the new model is more compact with a little more storage (1TB).
One of the nice things about gaming subscriptions is that you can get gift codes at reasonable prices, and if the recipient already subscribes to one, they can still use the code to pay for more time.
For Xbox and PC gamers, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is, well, the ultimate gift, providing a large library of games and the ability to stream a lot of them on phones, low-power laptops, Chromebooks and TVs. Many are installable to a PC to play locally. One month is $17.
For gamers who already have a large collection of PC games, Nvidia's GeForce Now lets them stream a growing number of them to any device that's not a PC, such as a Chromebook, Mac or phone. There are two subscription tiers for GeForce Now, Priority and Ultimate. You don't have to choose between them, since that's selected when the code is redeemed. For instance, the $20 code can be redeemed for two months of Priority or one month of Ultimate.
Game controllers that snap onto your phone can be a pain -- even if they attach easily, they make using your phone even briefly in portrait mode difficult -- but they're the slickest, most natural-feeling way to use a controller with your phone. Backbone's One is one of the top models, with a lot of extra software features that make it more than just a convenience.
Models are available for Android and USB-C iPhones and Lightning-connector iPhones, in both Xbox and PlayStation-standard layouts. Before buying, you should know what phone your recipient uses, because these tend to be size- and model-specific (because connectors fall in different places).
This remains one of the most comfortable gaming headsets under $100 you'll ever clamp over your ears. The updated Cloud Stinger 2 now has an expanded frequency response on both ends, an updated headband with rotating earcups, a bendier boom for the mic and a better on-ear volume dial.
Yes, the new Meta Quest 3 is better than the Quest 2, but it's also $200 more, and the Quest 2 is still a great choice. It's totally self-contained, needs no cables or external tracking cameras, and plays a pretty diverse set of games, from shooters to puzzle games to theme-park rides.
And it's not just for gaming; it can be used for fitness training, virtual theatergoing and even VR meetings.
The K100 Air is expensive for a keyboard, but it's very sleek, with responsive, ultralow-profile switches that are great for working as well as gaming. Plus, it connects to three Bluetooth devices in addition to USB and 2.4GHz wireless.
Gamers can be picky about the switches and layout of their keyboards, so you may want to feel out your recipient before going for a keyboard. Or keep the receipt -- they'll definitely be able to get what they want for the price of this one.
For anyone with a pile of old Game Boy games, the Analogue Pocket is a Game Boy revival dream come true. The Pocket plays Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges, as well as other retro handheld games, like the Sega Game Gear, with separately sold adapters. A sharp color screen and a battery with USB-C recharging mean games look and play fantastically -- and the company just added a nostalgic range of colors. A separately sold dock can play games on a TV screen, too.