Video game gift recommendations for Christmas
Looking for a gift for a child? A sports fan? A book lover? Pavan Shamdasani has done all the legwork and more for our festive guide to video games
It's Christmas and, to many people, that means presents - which also means endless drama and indecision as we try to decide what to get our loved ones. Modern technology has made matters worse, with books, movies and music all available at the click of a button. And as there's no physical item to be wrapped, they don't make ideal gifts.
The last vestige? Video games, those little bundles of immersive fun that still come on actual discs. Year after year, games routinely outsell the big-screen movies that often inspired them. Those who think they're not gamers should just look at their smartphone and all the games available for it.
Games are for everybody these days. Regardless of whether you're a former player wanting to get back into the saddle, a book or film lover who never considered going interactive, or a parent looking for a bit of adventure, we've got you covered.
Here's our Christmas gaming guide, featuring some of the best games from the past three months, all lovingly ordered with your friends and family in mind.
For literature lovers
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Fans of the written word often say nothing beats the humble book. We won't get into that argument, but The Vanishing of Ethan Carter does a fairly great job of recreating macabre 20th-century fiction on a grand gaming scale. Blending Chandler-like mysteries with Lovecraftian horror, this mystery game sends players into a short adventure that treats them to a good dose of fiction, while challenging their intellect. Book lovers won't trade in their libraries anytime soon, but they might put down that tome for an hour or two.
Availability: PC, but coming in 2015 for PS4
For music geeks
Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved
Plenty of games have tried to blend music with video games, but few have succeeded. Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, based on the classic animated movie, was a surprise hit last month, and it's the perfect gift for musicians with little interest in gaming. The motion-controlled game lovingly pays homage to the Disney masterpiece and recreates the world of classical composition, alongside beautifully rendered animation scenes. It's multiplayer and uses the handheld Kinect device, meaning it never truly feels like a "game" - the perfect segue into the world.
Availability: Xbox One, Xbox 360
For movie buffs
Not all gamers love movies and not all movie fans love games. Bridge that divide with Alien: Isolation, a first-person stealth game based heavily on the classic first film in the popular sci-fi/horror series. Set 15 years later, players take on Ripley's daughter as she journeys into space to discover the fate of her mother, only to experience her own terror. We won't spoil things, but with most of the original cast voicing characters and plenty of clever nods, this may well be the game that'll turn the tide.
Availability: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
For tinkering dads
Here's where most articles would recommend a golf game or the like - but we know your hip dad better than that. Project Spark takes everything DIY he loves and puts it in game form, allowing players to create their own little adventures through an impressively robust - but still easy to use - level editor that allows impressive customisation. What's more, it allows allows new gamers to test out a bunch of genres, with everything from 2D platformers and first-person shooters to 3D adventures that can be custom built.
Availability: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360
For bored mums
Is your mum bored at home? Mine is, for the most part, and I know that she loves games. She'll love Fantasy Life, too, a highly engrossing RPG that simplifies the best of the genre for casual gamers. Think The Sims and Final Fantasy combined, but toned down to the point that anyone can play it. It's handheld, making it easy to not consider Fantasy Life a real "game", and it's multiplayer, so mum's social life won't suffer.
For (really) little ones
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Games aren't really made for children anymore, sadly. They're too complex, too violent, too sexually targeted. Thankfully, the Lego series is known for taking the best of modern gaming and reinvigorating that. Batman 3 is the ideal adventure for kids, bringing back the amusing story, simple controls and teasing puzzles, while focusing more heavily on the exciting comic-book aspects of the classic character. And it's the kind of thing that parents sitting by their side won't get bored watching: the ideal set-up for a lifetime of procrastination.
Availability: PC, Mac, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, iOS
Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
Yes, pretty much all of you reading this. If you truly love Hong Kong, you need this game. An upgrade of 2012's underground hit Sleeping Dogs, this Definitive Edition doesn't add anything new to the mix, but it does give you a second opportunity to live through what's pretty much "GTA: Hong Kong". Triads, corrupt cops, physics-defying shoot-outs, ridiculous car chases, a classic 1980s story - all set against the stunning backdrop of our favourite city.
Availability: PC, PS4, Xbox One
For reality haters
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Know someone who's sick of their humdrum lives? They need a bit of Dragon Age: Inquisition: the third entry in the BioWare series, the game is a vast world of forests, mountain ranges, wastelands and deserts, with players taking on a fantasy character attempting to save the world. But the 50 hours of story aren't the draw here - it's the action-oriented RPG quests and vast open-world exploration, where gamers are given the opportunity to relive their lives to the fantastically fullest. It's the kind of game that they can play through to Christmas 2015.
Availability: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
For outdoors types
We get it: not everyone likes to stay home and play video games. Some people actually want to go outside and interact with the real world. But there's a game for that, too: Depth is a recent indie release that has gained a lot of momentum, mostly for its innovative deep-sea diving concept. Four players control treasure-hunting divers, while two control a pair of sharks. It's a simple idea, but the possibilities are endless, and ideal for anyone who has ever dreamed of true adventure while stuck underwater.
Car games are a dime a dozen, and it takes a lot for motorheads to get excited in the virtual world. Driveclub is different, though: it's the first to take advantage of the social aspect of racing, a key reason why many fanatics get into the hobby. Much of the game takes place online, with players forming clubs and taking on rival groups, and each turn of your wheel affects the overall team standing. In a place with such cramped streets as Hong Kong, it might be the best chance for your car-freak buddy to make some likeminded friends.
For retro gamers
Super Smash Bros
There's a retro revival going on in the gaming world, so this is the perfect time to get your once-and-future fan back into the world. Super Smash Bros is a Nintendo series, and the latest edition updates things for Nintendo's most recent consoles. It doesn't add anything new, but that isn't a bad thing, keeping the classic fighter down to its core, while updating characters and graphics for the modern world. It's addictive as ever and oh so much fun, the ideal game to bring them back into the fold.
Availability: Wii U, 3DS.
For sports fanatics
Football Manager 2015
Football is the only sport that grips the entire planet's attention. Don't believe me? I have just two words: World Cup. It's easy to master straight-up simulations such as Fifa, but true fans dream about tactically leading their side to glory. Get them the latest Football Manager, a time-sucking simulation where players take on the role of head coach as they battle through multiple seasons of matches, players and competitions. It's a game where minute details can be the difference between winning the treble and getting the sack.
Availability: PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, PS Vita, Android