The holidays are barreling toward us like the Polar Express, and you know what that means: Endless pressure to cross everyone off of your Nice List. And if you have a hard-to-shop-for Xbox gamer in the mix and don’t know Master Chief from Marcus Fenix, things can get overwhelming pretty fast. But we’re here to help.
Here are some of the must-have items that will help you score some points with your Xbox-loving friends and relatives.
Xbox One X ($499)
Microsoft’s latest console is an upgraded version of the Xbox One, and if your gift recipient has an Ultra HD or 4K TV, this is the box they’ll want to plug into it.
In addition to making regular Xbox One games run better, certain “Enhanced” titles like Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War will sport smoother gameplay, faster loading, and even prettier graphics. And if your loved one already has an Xbox One, good news: All of their accessories and games are compatible with the updated version.
This is a great buy for people who like to nerd out over technical specs or just want to make the most of their ridiculously expensive televisions.
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller ($149)
Even if your friend doesn’t land an Xbox One X this holiday, you can still hook them up with one of the most elaborate and customizable joysticks in existence.
The Xbox One Elite is a controller that comes with a carrying case. Why? Because the gizmo packs more options than a Build-A-Bear Workshop. It has three sets of thumbsticks, two different directional pads, and four paddles that attach to the back for quicker and more responsive button presses. It even pairs with an app to let especially fiddly players adjust assignments and sensitivities.
It’s an endlessly customizable device that aims to deliver the perfect experience for every player … provided they have the patience and desire to experiment and find their ideal setup.
Disneyland Adventures ($29.99)
The designers behind Disneyland Adventures spent years bringing the magic of the theme park to the Xbox, paying special attention to everything from paint colors to flowers.
The result is an accurate and beautiful recreation of Disneyland. Players can enjoy 18 iconic attractions, from flying with Peter Pan and defeating Captain Hook in Peter Pan’s Flight, to skiing the exhilarating slopes of the Matterhorn. As they explore the park, they’ll come across dozens of characters, from Mickey Mouse to Snow White to the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. One special character is Karen, based upon the real-life Disneyland tour guide who shared the park history with the designers.
For fans of the Pixar films, there’s also Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure, where fans play as some of your favorite Pixar characters including Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Dory and Lightning McQueen. Rush is available separately from Disneyland Adventures. Both are fun for the whole family.
Available for $29.99 from Microsoft.
Xbox One Media Remote ($24)
The Xbox One doesn’t just play games. It’s also a Blu-ray player and streaming box, and you can even use it to watch live TV. And if your gamer pal wants to use their console to watch their favorite movies and shows, they may not want to try to navigate all that with a controller or, even worse, the Kinect motion controller.
That’s where the Xbox One Media Remote comes in. It’s smaller than the controller, so that’s already an improvement to the interface. And its buttons are labeled in the familiar way so you don’t have to worry which one plays, which one pauses, and which one sends you back to the menu in the middle of your favorite scene.
We’ve played the “guess the button” game with our controllers before, and we’d rather just have the remote.
Star Wars Battlefront II ($59)
2015’s Star Wars Battlefront let fans of the storied space opera participate in some of their favorite events from the original trilogy, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One. The brand-new sequel takes that experience and bumps it up.
Star Wars Battlefront II contains space battles that let players engage in high-action conflicts in a variety of settings, including the scattered wreckage of the second Death Star after the events of Return of the Jedi. It also adds something that was sadly missing in its predecessor: a single-player mode for gamers who want a story along with their online, multiplayer deathmatches.
This is also one of those Xbox One X “Enhanced” titles, which means that if you have the new hardware, you can take advantage of High Dynamic Range (on compatible TVs), which gives you better contrast and more colors to make everything look as pretty as possible.
Resident Evil 7 biohazard Gold Edition ($49)
Fans of horror games who missed out on the most surprisingly terrifying title of the year, Resident Evil 7, will want this special edition in their stockings this winter.
The latest installment in the survival horror series, which has been making players scream like scared children for just over two decades now, takes the terror in a new direction by shifting to a first-person perspective. This has two effects: It creates a welcome change from the original format, and it is super stressful and insane.
This Gold release includes all of the previous downloadable content packs as well as the ones developer Capcom hasn’t released yet. And it’s also enhanced for the Xbox One X, which means that all the scary things trying to murder you will look completely amazing.
Your gamer friend may not thank you if you gift them this ultra-difficult ode to cartoons from the 1930s, but maybe you have some pals that you want to suffer a little bit.
Cuphead casts players as the eponymous, chinaware-domed character as he runs and guns through a series of charming levels, defeating enemies and probably dying a lot along the way. It has one of the most endearing visual styles in recent memory, and it might be good enough to take the sting off of all the times you have to start over … but not by much.
WD 2TB My Passport X External Hard Drive ($89)
The Xbox One already has a healthy amount of storage on it — the new Xbox One X comes with a full terabyte to hold all your stuff. But games aren’t getting any smaller, and it’s possible that could fill up one day.
And if the Microsoft fan on your list thinks that’s a possibility — or their existing Xbox One is already at capacity — an external hard drive like this one could be just what they need. This one will triple the Xbox One X’s storage capacity and quintuple the space of the earlier models. It’s a good solution for digital packrats who prefer to have everything they own ready at all times.
Xbox One Design Lab Controller ($79)
Maybe you want to give your friend a unique controller, but the Elite is outside your budget. We understand; those things are expensive. And for almost half the price of the Elite, you can make your friend something that is truly unique.
Xbox’s Design Lab lets you create an Xbox One controller and pick the colors and styles of every section. That means the front, back, thumbsticks, and all of the buttons. For a little extra, you can also add rubber grips or engraving. This means about 16 billion combinations before you even add lettering, so odds are pretty good you’ll find one that your recipient will like.
Available from $79 from Microsoft.
Astro Gaming A50 Headset ($299)
Gaming can be loud, social, or both at once, which is why headsets are a good idea for most people. A solid pair of ‘phones can keep a late-night game session from waking up everyone in the house, but it also has benefits to the person wearing them.
The Astro A50 features Dolby 7.1 surround sound, which is surely higher quality than what’s coming out of your TV speakers. That may not be the case if you’ve sprung for an elaborate sound system, but we’re pretty sure most people haven’t … especially if they spent all their money on a 4K TV.