December is all about spending quality time with family and friends. Or, rather, spending quality time defeating them.
Whether it’s retro high-score challenges or modern multiplayer melees, Christmas is a crucible for competitive behaviour. And with so many relations under one roof, it’s the perfect opportunity for a round-robin tournament.
Keen to claim the paper crown again this year? From throwback controllers to matching merch, there’s plenty here to upgrade your gaming and keep the whole clan entertained. Even if the main prize escapes you, you’re sure to bag the consolation award for nerdiest merch.
Sega Mega Drive Switch Controller
Ninty’s detachable Switch sticks make it easy to play in different ways. But who wants modular controls when you can mash buttons on a Mega Drive gamepad? Launched alongside a reborn Nintendo 64 controller, the plastic fantastic pad is exclusive to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. So you’ll need to shell out some extra chocolate coins for the privilege of pushing A, B and C. At least signing up gets you access to 14 Sega classics, including the second instalments of Sonic and Streets of Rage.
JBL Quantum 350 Wireless
Was that a rustling bush or a rushing baddy? Tell the difference with JBL’s wireless cans. QuantumSurround immerses your ears in the action, with the option to adjust audio settings through the PC software. The directional mic is designed to focus on vocal tones for clear instructions to your teammates. Going solo? Detach the boom for a lighter load. Memory foam cushions keep your lugs comfortable, while a 22-hour battery life should be enough for even the longest gaming marathons.
Lego Super Mario 64 Block
Mario’s long had a thing for blocks, which makes you wonder why it took so long for the plumber to swap pixels for bricks and hook up with Lego. Inspired by Super Mario 64 (25 this year), this 2064-piece Question Mark cube unfolds to reveal multiple levels from the N64 classic: Bob-omb Battlefield, Cool, Cool Mountain and Lethal Lava Land, with Princess Peach’s castle hidden in the middle. Wrap it up beneath the tree for a surprise within a surprise.
The Ultimate History of Video Games, Volume 2
Unless you want pixellated peepers, even seasoned gamers need to rest their eyes regularly. Treat your lookers to a different medium with this tale of the major players in modern play. Charting the battle between the big names in games since the start of the new millennium, the readable volume chronicles the stories behind the platforms, titles and franchises that continue to shape gaming for a generation of joystick fiends.
Nintendo Switch OLED
We’ve long wanted an OLED screen for the Switch. This year, Ninty’s finally granted our Christmas wish: the Switch now ships with a vibrant OLED display. What’s more, the 7in screen’s slightly bigger than before, the 64GB storage capacity is twice the previous size and the integrated kickstand no longer feels like it’ll snap off every time you use it. All of which adds up to a hybrid console that’s back at the top of our list for Father Christmas.
Modern mobiles are powerful enough to play full-fat games on the go. Transform your iPhone into a genuine Switch rival with the help of this collapsible attachment. It adds proper buttons, analogue sticks, triggers and a D-pad to any iPhone newer than a 6 (as long as it’s running at least iOS13). More than that, its partner app allows you to seamlessly record clips and stream to Twitch, plus it supports remote play from a range of platforms. The best bit? It does it all without needing a built-in battery.
LG UltraGear GP9
Gaming PCs might whizz through the latest titles, but they’re not known for their sonic capabilities. Plonk LG’s UltraGear GP9 beneath your monitor for more immersive audio while you play. A compact soundbar that’s designed to sit neatly behind your keyboard, the GP9 is equipped with a 32-bit DAC more commonly found in proper hi-fi kit – so it also supports hi-res audio. You can tweak tones based on the type of game you’re playing, including an FPS Mode with boosted virtual surround to help you locate where you’re being shot at from. It’s also equipped with mics for headset-free chatter.
Some say gaming isn’t a sport. If that were true, why would someone wear active socks while playing? Show the doubters that button-mashing is a legitimate discipline by pulling these PlayStation numbers up around your ankles. Adorned with two stripes and the Sony platform’s iconic logo, the cotton socks ship in DualSense White with a bit of polyester and spandex added for extra stretch – so you can train for your Olympic eSports debut in comfort.
Headphones are so last year. Shoulderphones are what the cool kids are wearing while they play in 2021. This wearable speaker rests around your neck to surround your head with immersive audio. Four 1.2in drivers fire out your game’s soundtrack, with three settings to suit your style of play – RPG, FPS and Voice. A built-in noise-cancelling mic means your squad can hear you clearly, with the option to wire up via USB for minimal lag.
Razer Gaming Finger Sleeve
A bad workman might blame their tools, but it’s trickier to apportion responsibility when your utensils are the thumbs you were born with. Upgrade your shortest fingers with these breathable digit sleeves. Silver fibres are woven in to increase sensitivity and responsiveness when playing mobile games on a touchscreen. They also reduce friction for slicker swiping, so any limitations on your performance won’t be down to flaws in your paws.
Zelda Metal Switch Carry Case
Link’s satchel carries a whole lot of loot on his travels around Hyrule. But when the greatest trial you usually face is bus boredom, you can probably make do with just a Nintendo Switch. Still want to travel like you’re prepared for a Moblin ambush? This carry case should do the trick. Topped with brushed aluminium and adorned with Zelda theming inside and out, the lightweight shell can harbour a Switch and several game cards.
Logitech Pro X Superlight
A heavy mouse might sound like a first-world problem, but a matter of grams can make all the difference in the world of esports. Worried a weighty clicker will leave you weeping tears of defeat into your QWERTY? Logitech’s Pro X is its lightest mouse ever, weighing less than 63g. The featherweight peripheral also offers a frictionless glide, while the Hero 25K sensor beneath increases accuracy and control. Just be careful your strength doesn’t whip it off the desk when you first click with it.
Seagate Memory Expansion Card
With so many stonkers available to download, it’s only too easy to fill the hard drive of your next-gen Xbox. Gifted a gift card for Chrimbo? Don’t spend half your Boxing Day deleting files to make space for fresh games. Seagate’s Storage Expansion Cards slot easily into the back of your console for an instant space increase – no disassembly necessary. Cards ship in capacities of 512GB, 1TB and 2TB, depending on your appetite for downloads.
8BitDo Pro 2
Rock up to your local esports league with a retro controller and your button-mashing mates will think they’ve got victory in the bag. More fool them: 8BitDo’s latest gamepad might look like a throwback accessory, but it’s every bit the pro peripheral. Compatible with Switch, PC, Mac, Android and Steam, the Pro 2 features a plethora of mappable buttons. Rear inputs enhance control, while stick and trigger precision can be customised to suit. Fire up 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software to assign macros that make light work of your competitors’ manual combos.
Adidas Originals Xbox 20th Forum Tech
Unless they’re kitted out with their LAN clan’s official hoodie, you can’t usually spot a gamer by what they’re wearing. Keen to signpost your die-hard allegiance to Xbox? Don these neon kicks and no-one will be in any doubt as to your playing pedigree. Made to mark 20 years since Microsoft’s first gaming machine hit shelves, the console’s crest adorns the side of the sneakers, while Halo green accents add a fittingly lurid highlight to the heel. Look closely and you’ll also spot the coordinates of the platform’s Seattle birthplace.