It's a good time to be a lover of video games, because there is a massive number of worthwhile titles landing every month. If you're shopping for someone else, though, wading through that pile of names can be intimidating.
To help, here is a list of recent releases (which the gamer in your life is less likely to own already) that would be worth their time, broken up by appropriate age group.
Updated on Dec. 20 to add Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to the list.
For all ages
Pokemon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! (Nintendo Switch): Those of us who played the original Pokemon games (Red, Blue and Yellow) on the Game Boy when we were 10 years old are now adults, and many of us have kids of our own. What better way to foster some cross-generation video game love than with this remake of that original adventure, available now for the Nintendo Switch? It uses the Pokemon catching mechanics of the mega-popular Pokemon Go, but everything else you know and love is here, looking better than ever. Catching those original 151 pocket monsters is just as charming now as it was 20 years ago.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy (Playstation 4, Xbox One): Speaking of games of yore, the classic Spyro the Dragon games from the original PlayStation are back. The fire-breathing, gliding and charging gameplay you remember is mostly unchanged (for better or worse), but brand new bright and colorful animation makes the adventures pop like never before.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One): The latest, greatest and possibly last entry in the "toys-to-life" genre (largely kickstarted by the Skylanders series) is also one of the most versatile. If you choose to get the physical version of the game, you'll get to play with cool, well-made spaceships by snapping weapons and wings on and off, which has an immediate in-game effect. If you don't need the extra toy clutter in your house, though, the digital version of the game is still an awesome, family-friendly sci-fi adventure featuring hectic dogfights and engaging exploration. If you have a Nintendo Switch, that version has a lot of exclusive Star Fox content that makes it the best version of the game (and, in some ways, the best Star Fox game in recent memory).
Super Mario Party (Nintendo Switch): The holidays are a great time for parties, and Mario has a lot of experience throwing them. While the core of Super Mario Party will be familiar to anyone who has played the series since its Nintendo 64 debut, the Nintendo Switch controller makes all of the board and mini-game hijinks very approachable. It's OK alone, but this game is most fun with four friends gathered around one TV.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Nintendo Switch): You thought Marvel's latest Avengers movie was the king off all crossovers? I present to you Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which is an all-out tribute to video games as an entertainment medium.
Like fans of the series would expect, at it's core it's a hectic fighting game for up to eight players at a time that crams the screen with craziness. In a single match, Mario can be fighting Donkey Kong, Zelda and Samus on a battlefield inspired by Animal Crossing as a Pokemon hurts one opponent and a fire flower hurts another. While it can be tailored for serious, competitive play, much of the joy in Smash Bros. comes from the explosion of activity that can happen in every second of a match.
While the bulk of the game is centered around Nintendo's own history, there is also a massive amount of references and Easter eggs that pay homage to other influential video games from over the decades. Not only are characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, Pac-Man, Final Fantasy's Cloud and Castlevania's Simon Belmont playable, you'll also see appearances from games like Wrecking Crew, Advance Wars, Golden Sun and Shovel Knight.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate remains try to its name by cramming an extremely impressive amount of stuff into one package. There's the usual, local multiplayer-focused fighting modes, an in-depth single-player adventure (which could easily last you dozens of hours), online multiplayer, an extensive music library and challenges to overcome. It's a love letter to Nintendo's history, and it's a highlight of the Nintendo Switch library.
Tetris Effect (PlayStation 4): Tetris is already a game that can worm its way into your brain and keep you thinking about it at all times, but it's never been this trippy before. Tetris Effect combines the tried-and-true mechanics of the world's favorite puzzle game with mesmerizing visuals and toe-tapping music that changes as you play. If you have a PlayStation VR headset, the experience gets dialed up to 11.
For teens and older
Destiny 2: Forsaken (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC): Destiny has been a series of peaks and valleys, with fans either loving or hating the experience depending on when you ask them about it. For many, though, the Forsaken expansion pack for Destiny 2 brings the sci-fi shooter in line with where the game has needed to be. The weapon system got an overhaul, the gameplay got sped up and the progression got a little smarter. If you left Destiny 2 after it launched last year, Forsaken is a good reason to come back. If you've never played it at all, now is also a good time to jump in.
Marvel's Spider-Man (PlayStation 4): Spider-Man might be the best example to date of a superhero video game. Swinging around the streets of New York as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man feels both natural and exciting, and the story this game tells (which is unique to the game and sets itself apart from any movies or comics) will engage new and old fans alike. If you've got someone on your shopping list that can't wait until the next Marvel movie, this game would be perfect for them.
Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One, PC): For car game aficionados, Forza Horizon is your best pick this year. While it's less serious than its simulation brother, Forza Motorsport, Horizon maintains an impressive level of automobile detail and customization while also being a more approachable driving game that focuses on off-road fun and exploration.
The PlayStation Classic: While not ideal for purists (thanks in large part to the use of some subpar versions of many included games), this mini console will be a hit for casual video game fans who grew up with Sony's premiere gaming system. It doesn't hit all of the PlayStation's highest points, but the 20-game lineup does include classics like Final Fantasy 7 and Metal Gear Solid, which can keep you busy for a long time.
Hitman 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC): OK, so maybe a game about being a professional assassin doesn't feel like it's in the spirit of the holidays, but I hope Jesus forgives me for enjoying Hitman 2 this much. Yes, it's all about killing (sometimes in brutal and even uncomfortable ways), but at its core it's actually more of a sandbox. Every assassination target is a puzzle: How are you going to get in and out unnoticed? If your target is a military contractor, will you arrange an "accident" so that his own weapons of war kill him, or will you take a more blunt approach and poison his favorite food stand snack?
Red Dead Redemption 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One): For anyone on your list that has been waiting for Deadwood to come back for 12 years, Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2 can fill a lot of Western holes in one's heart. It can be slow-moving and deliberate (want your character to have a thicker beard? Better wait for it to grow out. Literally), making it less ideal for someone who just wants to cause a ruckus in the Wild West. But anyone who wants to be part of an epic outlaw story involving train robberies and bandit betrayals will find a lot to love here.