Once again it is that season, the season of buying things for people you know. Things which they will cherish, love, and consider in their hearts forever. Or, like, a cool t-shirt is probably fine too.
Below you'll find a range of suggestions sorted into practical budget categories of $25 or less, $50 or thereabouts, and $100 or more. We also lead off with some of our favorites, regardless of price, and close with some neat tabletop games and musical recommendations. Pro tip: Jump to the music section, kick off an embedded Bandcamp link, then jump back up so you've got a nice accompaniment to your scrolling.
They're all items we can either personally vouch for because we own them, or gifts we'd be happy to give or receive ourselves. Some are directly related to PC gaming, while others bear a looser connection: Practical, like a super comfy pair of pants to wear while working from home, or tasty, like a collection of holiday ice cream.
Before we get to the gift ideas, one note for those of you looking to buy the special PC gamer in your life a fancy new VR headset, chair, laptop, or even whole PC: our Black Friday PC gaming deals is where you can find our constantly-updated picks on hardware this week.
Without further ado, the gifts!
Our Absolute Favorites
Our Absolute Favorites
Metal Gear Solid Codec Pins: Snake?! ($29)
This set of lenticular pins shifts between two images depending on viewing angle, and even comes with the codec interface so you can set up different conversations depending on how you feel each day. It is a set guaranteed to delight Metal Gear fans. And tell me… Do you think love can bloom, even on a denim jacket?
A Guide to Japanese Role Playing Games ($47)
One of the most impressive works of game history we’ve seen, A Guide to Japanese Role Playing Games chronicles one of the most influential genres to ever release, quite comprehensively, from 1982 until 2020. Every printing of this book so far has sold out, and the next is scheduled for the end of this November. This is, hands down, the best gift for any JRPG fan in your life, casual or hardcore. Snag one if you can.
The Games That Weren’t: Could’ve Beens ($40)
If you can’t, here’s the backup. The Games That Weren’t is a chronicle of games that never happened, made and unreleased, half-made, or detailed concepts. It’s a compelling reminder that not only are games incredibly hard to make, requiring many people or years of effort, but that some games don’t make it to your screen at all.
Dygma Raise: Actual Ergonomics ($300)
The Raise is one of the few keyboards available that can genuinely stake a claim to one of the most loosely-used marketing words in gaming: “ergonomic.” The main benefit of its two-piece, split setup is control over the angle of your wrists, which otherwise crook inward on most conventional keyboards. The fully programmable board is available in eight different keycaps. PC Gamer editors Evan Lahti and Tyler Wilde use the Raise as their work and gaming platform.
Razer Charging Pad – Chroma : RGB It. ($60)
If the person you’re buying for is going all-in on RGB, and Razer’s Chroma products feature prominently in that, there’s not much greater than a wireless RGB charging pad. I converted to wireless charging last year, and my smartphone’s battery life has thanked me for it. Sit down, pop it on the pad, lights change colors, move on with your life.
Even people who hate to read love comic books. Here, then, we have the most delightful history of video games you can read and/or stare at. Diving through the politics, history, and personal stories surrounding the history of games, Edward Ross’ illustrations carry you through what could be a dry topic to a rather delightful one instead.
Geralt in the Bath : Tub Time for Geraldo ($68)
Look, we started this meme, and we’re going to see it all the way to the end and beyond.
Gifts for PC Gamers under $25
Player One Coffee: ($15)
We’re not huge fans of things that are branded for gamers just so they can upcharge you, or sell you on some imaginary lifestyle, so believe us when we say that Player One Coffee isn’t just cute. It’s also delicious. I’m a fan of God’s Gift, which pairs really well with the nutty nuance of steamed oat milk.
Myst Journal: Return to the Age ($19)
Perhaps the most famous adventure game ever made, Myst enchants us all with its emphasis on books and reading. Take note of where you are, always, with this journal. Journaling is, after all, one of those activities that staves off Alzheimer’s among many, many other bad things. And so I close, realizing that perhaps, the ending has not yet been written.
Respawn Point Sign ($27)
A superb addition to any gamer’s space, this respawn point isn’t just stylishly designed, but a vital notice that should the worst befall you in a game you’re never more than a click away from triumphant return. No camping by order.
I’ve put this on our gift guide before, and I’m putting it on here again. It’s the single handiest tool I’ve ever owned for cleaning the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies of your mouse, keyboard, and controller. They are grimy and disgusting and you know it, so please clean them.
Razer Gaming Mouse Bungee: ($20)
I’m converted to the way of the Mouse Bungee, and Razer’s latest model is quite a good one. It’s low profile enough to save desk space and high enough to keep your mouse cord from dragging about as you play. It’s a bigger quality of life upgrade than you think it is. It also comes in RGB ($40). You know if the person you’re buying for needs that upgrade.
Church of the Sun Shirt ($25)
If someone you know loves Dark Souls, here’s your gift. Oh, if only we could all be so grossly incandescent.
Written by an urban planner and game level designer, Virtual Cities takes you on a tour of how games explore our largest public spaces. It provides commentary from both an urban design and game design viewpoint. It explores some 45 of the most famous urban areas in games, including City 17 and New Vegas, with beautiful original maps and illustrations to suit.
If someone you know loves not just the games, but knowing the ins and outs of the industry itself, how games are made and distributed, this is the book for them. It explores how video games have moved from niche interest to mainstream moneymakers, and the business strategies that took them there.
It’s a giant RGB mouse pad. It is absolutely monstrously huge and it glows. There are more customizable pads, there are larger pads, and there are pads that fit into whatever software suite runs your RGB: But there are none that do it at this price point.
PC Gamer subscription: Hey, that’s us! ($26)
Our website’s cool, but did you know you can read it on paper, with beautiful page layouts and exclusive cover stories and special features about all things PC gaming before they hit the web? It’s true! We think it makes a pretty dang good gift.
Stardew Valley Ginger Island Beach Tote ($19)
A good size canvas tote with an adorable Ginger Island design screen printed on it, this is the ultimate accessory for Stardew Valley players who wish they, like their game character, could escape the depths of winter to a beautiful tropical getaway. It even comes with a cute golden walnut charm. Pair with the slightly more expensive updated edition of the Stardew Valley Guidebook ($29) for true joy.
Compression Gloves ($10-20)
Fingerless gloves are good for gaming if you’ve got cold hands. Compression gloves are nice if you’ve got sore hands. Gaming with no gloves can give you cold, sore hands. I think you get where I’m going with this. Oh, and some brands will try to sell you weird things like copper threading. You don’t need that.
Gifts around $50
Gifts for PC gamers around $50
There are few things finer in this life than a clackity keyboard, and this Havit is one of the better entry-level mechanicals because not only does it have those nice gaming-friendly Red switches, it retains a numpad rather than the less-useful PrtScn, Insert, and Delete rows. If you want those, we’d recommend the G.SKILL KM360, or dive deeper into our list of the best gaming keyboards for a wider variety and more price points.
Slay the Spire is very good. I shudder to imagine the collective hours that the PC Gamer team has spent ascending higher and higher, towards that top, that distant reach where dwells the very heart of terror, a beating evil that neither rests nor sleeps, but thumps eternal.
Witcher Holiday Sweater ($50)
We’re still calling them ugly holiday sweaters, but we’re all wearing them anyways, so why are they ugly? Clearly we like them. Perhaps the problem is in the limitations of language, not the sweaters themselves. Perhaps Ugly is happily seen, in the heart, as beautiful indeed.
Pirates don’t peel bananas. Pirates bite directly through the peel. The peel, after all, is where the good stuff is. The Sea of Thieves player in your life knows this, and they will appreciate this hoodie for it.
Undead Legion Hoodie ($50)
Dark Souls 3 hoodie? Dark Souls 3 hoodie.
Razer Kraken X Headset ($30)
A great combination of affordable and quality, the Kraken X is a headset with a superb microphone for its price. It’s also light, comfortable, and quite durable. It is, in short, a superb headset for any but the more demanding audiophile. If you’ve got one of those, or would like to spend a bit more, check out our list of the best gaming headsets for more.
Razer DeathAdder v2 ($35)
With a superb grip and size, the DeathAdder fits nearly any hand. For the majority of games and gamers, the DeathAdder V2 is a fantastic mouse. Its design is simple, with two perfectly placed, generously sized thumb buttons. It also has an excellent optical mouse sensor that will work on both hard and cloth pads. For other choices, go over to our guide to the best gaming mouse.
A look at the gaming industry in the United Kingdom, Britsoft: An Oral History takes you through the largely PC-driven world behind the British games industry. It has interviews with designers like David Braben and Peter Molyneux, and loads of archival images that show the explosion of creation that drove the early British game design scene. Pair it with the documentary From Bedrooms to Billions for a nice double feature.
Speaking of England: Wow, what a lovely little village. A beautiful place to raise children, perhaps, or go for a walk, or have a pint at the local. Sure would be a shame if this place were also home to a horrible goose of some kind.
XPOWER Airrow: Fwoosh! ($50)
What if I told you that instead of buying cans of compressed air you could buy a tiny blower for only about five times the price?
Speedruns are a delight, a strange gaming tradition with a vocabulary and energy all its own. Speedrun Science takes this community and gives you a door inside, walking you through the technical concepts and ideas behind speedruns, breaking down even the simplest concepts for the uninitiated. It’s also got nice sections on the history of speedruns and on how you might start planning runs of your own.
Legendary Items ($100+)
Legendary Gifts at $100 or More
Logitech G923 Racing Wheel: Speed up. ($390)
With all indications that Forza Horizon 5 is one of the best games of 2021, tricking out your setup to play it is a no-brainer. What better way to do that than with a racing wheel that provides feedback, paddle shifters, and a leather wrap? If you’ve got the cash to splurge, a wheel is like as not the best way to experience what we called “A ridiculous car playground masquerading as an open world racing game.”
Gordon Freeman ⅙ Scale Figure ($120)
“Time, Dr. Freeman? Is it really that time again?”
Some Actual Ancient Clothes ($100-200)
Now you, too, can have a casually comfortable cosplay tunic, undertunic, and pants. Burgschneider’s clothes are all based on real, attested historical finds. Slap on your favorite pair of winingas and the costume is complete. Or, you know, check out the hundreds of other nice period clothes that Bergschneider offers. I’m a big fan of these Viking coats, and maybe a gambeson for some light sparring. They also have a series of absolutely lovely gowns. Roll up to Ren Faire ’22 in style.
The absolute premier gamepad for a PC gamer, the Elite Series 2 controller is a potent piece of hardware. Customizable in the extreme, it’s tailored for the many strange edge-cases that might come up when using a controller on your PC. You can even change some hardware on it to tailor to specific needs. Did I mention it has a 40 hour rechargeable battery life? I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is.
Cook & Becker Fine Art Prints ($100+)
There is little more lovely in a tasteful gaming space than nicely framed, official concept art prints. Cook & Becker is, year after year, the best place to get them. I’m particularly drawn to their series of pastel concept arts from Cyberpunk 2077, and have long lusted after this print of Dark Souls’ Anor Londo.
Officially licensed by Airbus, these inspired-by sidestick and throttle sets are one of the highest-end accompaniments you could want for Microsoft Flight Simulator. For a more robust, also very expensive throttle experience, you can upgrade to a Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog. That’ll be a better choice if your PC pilot diversifies into cockpits like mechs and spaceships.
Space Marine Advent Calendar ($100)
The Warhammer 40,000 fan in your life will laugh as hard as I am laughing at this. It is hysterical. Lookit the little angels of death. They’re so smol.
NERF LMTD Halo Needler: ($100)
It is hands down the coolest gun in Halo, and now you can have a nerf dart blaster replica to celebrate Halo Infinite. It even comes with a card that unlocks some in-game stuff.
Cuphead Dice Game ($50)
It’s rare to see a tie-in game as delightfully designed as the awkwardly-named Cuphead Fast Rolling Dice Game, but it’s a good one. This is all about cooperative dice-rolling chaos, as you try to get the right combos in real time in order to beat the bosses you’re up against. Each time you play you can unlock upgrades to use in future games, giving it an element of meta-progression and score chasing.
A delightful game of pastoral animals wandering their fantasy world, Wanderhome is a superb game for those who want to branch out into the wild world of indie roleplaying games that focus on character and wonder.
Mothership (Pay What You Want)
On the other end of the indie tabletop spectrum is Mothership, a game of sci-fi horror meant to evoke Alien, Event Horizon, Solaris, or Europa Report. If someone’s love of tabletop leans more toward action and monsters, this is the choice for an indie they’ll love.
Level Up Dice ($10, $25, $100+)
From stylish acrylics to pricy metals and gemstones, Level Up Dice has a lot of gift-worthy designs. These aren’t just the simple things, but the delicious kinds of dice players savor for years across multiple campaigns. Their series of Glyphic Dice is a great addition that spices up any collection.
A Dune Board Game ($37-50)
Dune is pretty cool right now, no? So go in for a Dune board game. You can try out Portal Games’ cooperative Dune: House Secrets, directly inspired by the recent movie and based on a tried-and-true game engine. There’s also the classic Dune, a long-standing favorite and a brilliant battle of asymmetrical factions. (If you can get it, there’s also Dune: Imperium for lovers of large-scale strategy. It’s vanished online for now, but your local game store might have one.)
Lost Ruins of Arnak ($45)
Not many impressive board games came out this year, but Lost Ruins of Arnak was one of them. It’s a deckbuilder that’s really tightly made, reducing the random frustrations of larger games into a handful of key cards in a smaller deck. It stacks that on top of a neat adventure theme into a pretty smart, pretty accessible modern board game.
Homeworld: Revelations ($48-100)
Immerse yourself into the series of games that took us all to space alongside the Kushans, playing as the crew of a ship during events ranging from Deserts of Kharak through to Homeworld 2. Modiphius makes pretty high-quality products, so expect this to be a colorful, exciting set of books to own even if you’ve got a Homeworld fan and not an RPG gamer.
The official skirmish miniatures game of Fallout, Wasteland Warfare’s starter set is good for more than a few hours of back-and-forth brawls in the Post-Nuclear future. There are a lot of extra sets on the way, to boot, if you really get into it. The miniatures and terrain also tie directly into the accompanying Roleplaying Game Rulebook ($24), if you want to branch out into another hobby at the same time or stack up an extra-deluxe gift.
Lancer: Mechs, Mud, and Lasers ($60)
This definitively delicious Mech combat tabletop RPG delivers an experience that few others do: A tightly-wound tactical experience in combat, but a narratively satisfying set of mechanics for pilots outside the cockpit. It balances the two worlds, that of wargame and that of roleplaying, like few other games do. It also has one of the best suites of digital tools for an RPG, COMP/CON, and its emphasis on grid-based tactical combat makes it very well suited to online play. You can also get Lancer digitally on itch.io.
Twilight: 2000: Post-post-Nuclear ($55)
While it may have been a weak year for board games, it’s been a great one for RPGs. This is the return of Twilight: 2000, a classic what-if future game from the ’80s that’s now an alternate history. You play as survivors of World War 3 attempting to rebuild society as best they can. It’s a gritty, wild sandbox game exploring a very rich (possible) post-apocalypse.
Beasts of Balance ($89)
Somewhere between toy, video game, and board game, Beasts of Balance is a delightful experience. First released in 2016, this new updated edition sees you stacking animals on each other as directed by an app. At the same time, elements and twists come along that force you to change how you’re stacking and why. It’s a delightful digital toy that makes a fun conversation piece for older gamers or many evenings of fun for younger ones. You can check out more on it at its official website.
Our favorite Bandcamp soundtracks
Here it is: Some of the best music we heard this year. Whether it's Joel Corelitz' unstoppable soundtrack for Eastward or the soothing sounds of Japanese Breakfast in Sable, you can't go wrong with these vibes.
- Eastward original soundtrack Dreamy JRPG jams.
- Forza Horizon 5: Hospital soundtrack Drum & bass from your favorite fictional DJ.
- Conspiravision: Deus Ex Remixed A reimagining of one of the best PC games ever from its original creators.
- HDK 70 † The fortress of Kruglach From the depths of 1986, this is soundtrack of an adventure published in the wonderful Proteus magazine. A perfect accompaniment to your next tabletop RPG session.
- Subnautica Below Zero soundtrack A crystalline vision of another world from FTL and Into the Breach composer Ben Prunty.
- Shovel Knight soundtrack Still one of the modern chiptune classics.
- Aria Awakened – The Crypt of the Necrodancer Metal Soundtrack Four years later, YouTuber FamilyJules’ album is still the best arrangement of game music to metal.
- Darkest Dungeon II soundtrack Crank it up and say ominous things aloud to yourself in the car and recreate the experience of the Early Access game.
One of the highest review scores we’ve given out this year is to Sable, a beautiful game with unmatched sense of style. Part of that style is the lovely soundtrack, which takes a pop-infused tack that most video games just can’t pull off. Japanese Breakfast does it with aplomb.
Death Stranding – Original Video Game Score 3XLP ($45)
Death Stranding is an impressive game, though opinions vary, but what I think many can agree on is its absolutely superb score. Vascillating between synthwave and orchestral, pop and soundtrack, you just can’t fault it.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse Soundtrack LP ($30)
Honestly, just look at that album art.
…or maybe you should make your own vibes? Haha… unless…