- gift guide
2016 has been yet another terrific year for sports video games. From consoles to games and accessories, there are a lot of great options when it comes to picking up gifts for the people on your list that love winning on the virtual field. With that in mind, here are some of the top products to consider this holiday season, along with an explanation of why each could be worth purchasing for that special someone – or even for yourself!
Xbox One and PlayStation 4
Updated versions of both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 released this year making a console purchase decision more complicated than ever.
The Xbox One S is considerably smaller than the original while adding in HDR and 4K support. (Xbox One S Bundles)
The PS4 Slim is the new standard PS4 and as the name suggests is simply a smaller, sleaker design. (PS4 Slim Bundles)
The PS4 Pro however is a slightly more powerful system allowing for 4K resolution, HDR gaming, and higher framerates. The price difference could prove worth it for those with 4K television sets. (PlayStation 4 Pro)
Those making a choice between the consoles have a lot to consider. Advantage wise in Xbox’s corner is a built-in 4K Blu-ray player, the EA Access subscription service, and racing game exclusives like the Forza series. On the PlayStation side is the exclusive MLB The Show series and stronger support for games from independent developers.
NES Classic Edition
One of the hottest consumer items this holiday season is the NES Classic Edition, a miniature NES that packs in 30 classic games for just $60. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to get a hold of due to low production runs by Nintendo.
Those ready to take a leap into the future can do so with the first quality consumer VR products from three different companies.
The one with the most potential to catch on is PSVR as it pairs with the PlayStation 4 system. It’s not quite as advanced as the other two but stronger adoption rates could lead to having the widest selection of games over time. It does require the PS4 Camera and Move Controllers which have been offered in bundles with the headset. Unfortunately, due to low supply, PSVR is currently difficult to find anywhere in stock. (PlayStation VR)
The HTC Vive is considered by many to be the “best” of the VR products but it’s also the most expensive and the most complicated to set up. The Oculus Rift is nearly as pricey and was the first of the three to reach the market earlier this year. Both require high-end PCs so the necessary investment all combined nears $2K. (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
There may be fewer major league-licensed video games than in the past but the quality of the group as a whole has never been higher. There are also a number of unique games from independent developers adding some variety to the mix.
Madden NFL 17 is easily the best game out of the series in a long time, capitalizing on the thrilling moments of the NFL better than ever before. Whether it’s on special teams, from the commentary, highlighted in the presentation, ball-carriers in the open field, the ball physics, or great play from the defense – something that’s never been seen or heard before will likely occur in every single game of Madden NFL 17. (Sporting News Review)
The Pro Evolution Soccer series may not sell at the rate that its competitor FIFA does but its gameplay is unmatched now that issues with goalkeeping and a lack of fouls have been addressed with PES 2017. For those who are able to get past the licensing shortcomings (the ability to share edited files is present but only on PS4) its a no-brainer for soccer fans. (Sporting News Review)
Forza Horizon 3 introduces some compelling new features to the franchise like online campaign co-op, the ability to create Festivals as well as various events and challenges, and Drone Mode to follow and capture action as it takes place. The new setting of Australia is brilliant not just in terms of visuals but is critically important to the variety of racing it provides. It’s one of the best racing games ever made. (Sporting News Review)
The enthusiasm surrounding NBA 2K17 may not match that of the previous two editions in the series but it’s still the deepest sports video game available in terms of sheer content. The influence of Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors is undeniable with 2K17, which includes new ratings categories, higher shooting percentages, and a ‘dynamic duo’ theme. Additional ways to start and play through the franchise modes are welcome and the story mode thankfully incorporates career elements with the rookie season instead being locked away until the conclusion of a movie. (Sporting News Review)
Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 is a pleasant surprise, with accessible and fun gameplay, Career Mode playable as both “Coach” and “Player”, and a well-designed sharing system with community created files that can deliver real teams (67 colleges and all 9 from Major League Lacrosse). The $50 price may prevent those with only curiosity from diving in but it’s worth a look whether a big lacrosse fan or new to the sport. (Sporting News Review)
Three mountain sports games released at the tail end of 2016 but the most appealing one one is Steep, which features not just snowboarding but also skiing, paragliding, and wingsuit flying.
Rocket League actually released in 2015 but continued efforts from developer Psyonix to add free content has kept the game fresh and relevant. Whether it’s a spin on the original “soccer with cars” gameplay bringing in basketball and hockey variants, different ways to play with wild power-ups, or new arenas and vehicles, there seems to be something to get excited about with the game on a regular basis.
Accessories and Devices
NFL Faceoff Controller
Sports fans with an Xbox One will appreciate the NFL licensed Faceoff controller, which comes with a textured football faceplate and a code to order an NFL team faceplate for free. The football faceplate adds grip to the pads and the controller has an added button to control headset audio. The one downside is that the controller is wired rather than wireless, but that does bring with it benefits of being lighter and not requiring batteries or charging. (NFL Faceoff Controller)
Add to the grip of Xbox One or PlayStation 4 control sticks with these sports-themed popular add-ons that increase comfort, reduce thumb fatigue, and prevent wear-and-tear to the controllers. (JoyTops)
Improve your controller with these firm padded grips, alleviating sweaty hands and improving overall grip and comfort. (Squid Grips)
Personalize consoles and controllers by applying great looking skins that include licensing for all the major sports. (SkinIt)
Controller Charging Dock
Charge two DualShock 4 or Xbox One controllers at the same time. Deals are often found on this (and similar items) for about $15. (2X Controller Charging Station)
For the more personal audio experience (avoid disrupting family or roommates) one of the excellent headsets will provide great sound and chat ability. (Xbox One Stereo Headset, PS4 Gold Wireless Headset)
PlayStation 4 Camera
Sony decided not to package the camera in with the PlayStation 4 and that proved to be a smart decision, as Microsoft did so with the Kinect and ended up dropping it later. So popular that at one time it was hard to find, the PS4’s camera is primarily used by those who broadcast live streams while playing games and is required for those with PlayStation VR, but it also offers some voice commands and the ability to scan in faces for some games. A new design released this year. (PS4 Camera)
Gameplay Capture Device
While the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 offer limited game recording, those serious about saving and/or editing gameplay videos will want to purchase a dedicated capture device. The Elgato Game Capture HD60 is generally recognized as the best of the bunch and is an external USB device which means it connects to the PC through USB rather than having to be installed inside of it. (Game Capture HD60)
Solid State Drive
Speed up the performance of an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 with an SSD. From booting the systems to the loading of games and saves, everything will be much quicker. It’s a pricey upgrade, particularly for those large enough to hold a bunch of installed games, but many will find the benefits well worth it.
Larger Hard Drive
Originally, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 included only 500GB hard drives. With many games around 50GB, plus other media, those fill up quickly. Microsoft and Sony now offer new systems with 1TB or even 2TB of storage. For those with the smaller drives, however, Xbox One owners can connect an external hard drive, while PS4 owners can switch out the internal drive (as demonstrated here).
EA Access (Xbox One)
Arguably having become the best value in all of gaming, this subscription service goes for $30 a year or $5 month-to-month and is exclusive to Xbox One. Subscribers get all the games in the “Vault” which features the back library of Electronic Arts games on the system and even some from the 360 days. Some of the highest profile games are EA Sports UFC 2, Star Wars Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the Mass Effect series, Battlefield Hardline, and all of the ’16 sports games. Subscribers additionally get 10-hour trials with all EA games plus 10 percent off any digital purchases. EA Access can be purchased through the Xbox One or with a code from retailers such as Amazon. (Purchase through XBL or Amazon)
Needed for playing online on Xbox One, an XBL Gold year subscription retails for $60 but is often found for $10-20 below that. In addition to online, XBL Gold provides free games every month and exclusive discounts. These subscription stack, so they can be useful even for people who already have a subscription. (Xbox Live)
Needed for playing online on PlayStation 4, a year subscription to PSN retails for $60 (the price went up earlier this year) but is often found for $10-20 below that. In addition to online, a PSN subscription provides free games every month and exclusive discounts. These subscription stack, so they can be useful even for people who already have a subscription. (PlayStation Network)
There are many fantastic benefits to an Amazon Prime subscription but one of the newest is the discounts on video games. Prime members get 20% off all pre-ordered games and those that are purchased in the two weeks following release. That takes standard games down to $48 and the discount gets even more valuable on special editions. (Amazon Prime)
Digital Gift Cards
Provide someone with the ability to purchase their own games through the digital storefronts or spend the currency on in-game items with a gift card. (Xbox Live, PlayStation Network)