Video games, while often pricey, make for great gifts. The only problem? There are a whole heck of a lot of them, especially in 2017. This year has been jam-packed with high-quality games across a wide spectrum of genres and platforms. It can be overwhelming if you're shopping for somebody else, especially if you don't know much about games yourself.
So here is a list of great, recently released video games separated by the age group I think would most appreciate them. Note: I'm sticking to games that received a retail release (gifting digital games can still be tricky), and I'm leaning into newer releases in part to keep the list at a manageable length and in part because your giftee is less likely to have already obtained newer games than older ones.
Nintendo Switch: Nintendo's latest system has been a smash hit since it was released back in March. It's a hybrid console that can be played in a portable, tablet form or at home on the couch while connected to a TV. Beyond that magical flexibility, it is home to two of the best video games of the year: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.
Xbox One X: If the gamer in your life demands the most powerful console on the market, Microsoft has their back. The Xbox One X is ideal for families who have (or are looking to soon get) a 4K TV, as its biggest hook is the ability to play games at higher resolutions and better framerates than its competition from Sony and Nintendo. It plays the same games as other Xbox One models, it just plays them better.
Best games for younger audiences
Lego Worlds (Switch, PS4, Xbox One): If your child is burned out on Minecraft and needs a new sandbox game with which to occupy their time, it's fitting that Lego can come to the rescue. Worlds will throw goals and challenges at you that are reminiscent of other Lego video games (including Star Wars and Jurassic World), but its big hook is the ability to be creative by shaping the environment, building structures and customizing characters.
Super Lucky's Tale (Xbox One): Developed in McKinney, this cute and colorful platforming game is evocative of earlier 3-D hits (like Super Mario 64) and is fun for all ages, but its simple level design and relatively easy difficulty makes it particularly well-suited for younger players. It stands out as one of the Xbox One's few exclusive family-friendly games.
Knack 2 (PS4): If you're a Sony household, this PlayStation 4 exclusive is worth checking out. Its two-player cooperative mode is particularly great for game-loving parents who are willing to help guide their child through the game's tougher battles and obstacles.
Great for most ages
Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy (3DS, iOS): Good reading comprehension and, more importantly, deductive reasoning skills are required for this game that's packed with puzzles and riddles. It's the newest entry in the acclaimed Professor Layton series, and it's a wonderful diversion for anyone who likes to exercise their brains.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch): The mashup of Super Mario Bros. and Ubisoft's Rabbids characters (similar to the Minions, only rabbits) should not be anywhere near as good as it is. Yet, miraculously, this turn-based strategy game is funny and highly entertaining. Just be warned: It starts out very easy and approachable, but the game gets pretty difficult closer to the end.
Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon (3DS): This isn't a "new" Pokémon game as much as it's an expansion on 2015's original Sun and Moon games, but it will still be a must-have for the hardcore Pokémon trainer in your family that absolutely has to catch 'em all.
Super Mario Odyssey (Switch): One of the best Mario games to come out in decades, Super Mario Odyssey is a colorful scavenger hunt of an adventure that's a blast to play. Its imaginative worlds invite you to explore at your own pace, and the game's signature "capture" mechanic, which allows you to take over and play as iconic Mario enemies, is a blast.
Snipperclips (Switch): An innovative puzzle game that's best when played with two people, Snipperclips tasks you with cutting your paper partners into just the right shapes to solve tricky puzzles.
Farming Simulator (Switch, 3DS, PS4, Xbox One, PC): OK, hear me out for a second: Farming is kind of cool. Or, at least, it's cool when you don't have to deal with actual dirt. Or actual animals. Or worry about crashing actual farm equipment into actual barns. The Farming Simulator series makes for a surprisingly relaxing video game, and we could all probably take some time to slow down and just grow some crops for a little while.
Cool for teens
Destiny 2 (PS4, Xbox One, PC): Designed to be played online (preferably with a small group of friends), Destiny 2 fixes a lot of the problems that plagued its predecessor. It's certainly not perfect, but anyone that likes playing first-person shooters socially is likely to be hooked.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War (PS4, Xbox One): This game set in the Lord of the Rings universe is technically rated M for Mature (the video game equivalent of an R rating) for its intense fantasy violence, but if your teenager could handle the decapitations in the Lord of the Rings movies, they can probably handle this game. It's a darker take on J.R.R. Tolkien's mythology, and at times the plot feels like elaborate fan-fiction, but the game itself is a fun and addictive open-world adventure that's good for some mindless orc slaying.
Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS): Technically a reimagining of the 1991 Game Boy game Metroid II, Samus Returns is a wonderful return to form for Nintendo's exploratory sci-fi adventure. It's a side-scrolling, non-linear game full of action and puzzles.
Assassin's Creed Origins (PS4, Xbox One): Just as fatigue for the bestselling Assassin's Creed franchise was setting in, Ubisoft gave the games a year off. It worked, and this latest game feels like a fresh take on the series. Set in ancient Egypt, the game takes players to the roots of the age-old conflict between the Assassins and Templars, bumping into recognizable figures such as Cleopatra along the way.
Call of Duty: WWII (PS4, Xbox One): Call of Duty has been going for so long that it's sometimes hard to remember it started as a World War II series. WWII goes back to its roots with a heartfelt campaign that takes you through infamous moments such as D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. The multiplayer is pretty good, too.
The Evil Within 2 (PS4, Xbox One): If you have a fan of horror on your shopping list, The Evil Within 2 might be just what they need. Sure, it's got dark corridors, disturbing monsters and plenty of psychological horror themed around insanity, but it's also got solid gunplay and well-designed open environments that are fun to explore.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PS4, Xbox One): In a drastically different take than Call of Duty's, Wolfenstein II presents an alternate history in which the Nazis won World War II. It's incredibly violent and could often be viewed as irreverent, but in a shocking twist, it's also got one of the most engaging, timely and even emotional storylines in recent video game history. And if the title seems familiar, yes, this is part of a reimagined series based on the classic Wolfenstein 3D, which was developed in Dallas-Fort Worth back in 1992.