'Tis the season
It's the home stretch of the holidays, and those gifts aren't going to buy themselves. But here's some good news: if you're in a scramble to find a present that'll delight the gamer(s) in your life, you've come to the right place. When it comes to buying gifts, it's really the thought that counts - but you're sure to score some extra points with these affordable picks, which are all available online for $50 or less. You won't find any nifty-but-impractical soaps shaped like game cartridges or limited-quantity jewelry here - just genuinely cool, easy-to-acquire gifts that any video game lover would be happy to have.
GamesRadar+ receives a portion of the revenue from each unit sold.
Level-Up Pipe Mug
There are plenty of game-themed coffee mugs out there, but none so perfectly fit the traditional shape of a coffee-holding chalice as this Super Mario Bros. mug. You won't be able to leap down this green pipe and into a subterranean level, but it holds plenty of whatever liquid serves as your personal power-up, and the lip is so much more comfortable to drink from than, say, the Question Mark Block mug.
Image credit: ThinkGeek
Funko POP Power Armor
Given that its gargantuan open world offers 100+ hours of gameplay, Fallout 4 can still be considered the new hotness. Give your favorite Commonwealth explorer a physical reminder of their post-apocalypse conquests with these adorable vinyl Fallout figures done in Funko's trademark, highly collectible style. My personal recommendation is the Brotherhood of Steel power armor - that way, you don't have to deal with the somewhat creepy lack of a mouth and blank, beady eyes inherent to the Funko POP style.
Image credit: ThinkGeek
Video game world map
Anyone who's played an open-world RPG can tell you that staring at fantastical maps is essential, but none are as ornately beautiful as iam8bit's World Map, painted by Scribblenauts artist Edison Yan. This bona fide work of art doesn't recreate any one specific game map - rather, it cherry-picks some of gaming's most famous virtual landmarks and weaves them together in an entrancing expanse. It's pretty, big, subtle enough to be framed and put on a wall, and gamers of all ages will spend hours gazing at this wondrous landscape while trying to identify every last reference.
Final Fantasy 14 hooded blankets
The Final Fantasy series is the origin of not one, but two of the cutest thingamajigs in gaming: horse-sized chicks called Chocobos, and those adorable white puffballs known as Moogles. Now you can get cozy with both of these mythical species, albeit in blanket form. Modeled after their Final Fantasy 14 designs, these Fat Chocobo and Moogle hooded blankets let you bundle up your body and head in shaggy plush, and may cause you to incorporate "WARK" and "Kupo!" into everyday conversations. You'll actually have to give these as holiday vouchers, as they don't ship until February 2016 - but knowing that these on are the way should still warm the recipient's heart.
Game soundtracks on vinyl
If you know anyone with an appreciation for both video games and older analog mediums, these original soundtracks on vinyl will astound them. Quite frankly, you don't even need to own a record player to appreciate these beauties: both the sleeve and the record itself are absolutely gorgeous, with original art adorning the cover and fancy, brightly colored designs for the vinyl. The Super Hexagon EP even comes on a hexagon-shaped record; you don't see those every day. No matter which game soundtrack you choose, this gift will make a handsome addition to any record collection and/or display case.
Splatoon amiibo 3-pack
If you're not sure what amiibo are all about, this explanation is the perfect primer. These official Nintendo-made figures have been all the rage for the past year, sending collectors into a frenzy and enchanting kids with their 'toys-to-life' properties. Now that supplies aren't as limited, it's the perfect time to kickstart an amiibo collection with this lovely pack of three Splatoon amiibo figures. For my money, these amiibo are among the most faithful representations of their in-game counterparts, and the Inklings' designs are just so dang stylish. Be warned: giving this as a gift could very well lead someone on the path of amiibo addiction.
The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia
There are plenty of breathtaking video game art books to choose from, but Hyrule Historia has the best chance of being a smash-hit gift, what with the timeless popularity of The Legend of Zelda. This impressive hardcover tome is rife with magnificent concept art for Link, Zelda, Ganon, and all the oddball side characters who populate one of Nintendo's most legendary franchises. Best of all, it's incredibly affordable compared to most art books, and doubles as a lore history lesson for anyone curious about Hyrule's infamously convoluted timeline.
When it comes to sheer popularity, nothing beats Minecraft. What started as a niche PC game is now a cultural phenomenon, and the younger generation absolutely adores anything having to do with Minecraft's blocky, build-it-yourself world. If you know a diehard Minecraft fan - and chances are, you do - then you really can't go wrong with a neat toy designed in the game's pixelated style. Kids will love a Minecraft action figure of Steve, the game's protagonist, or an official Minecraft Lego set that replicates the creative gameplay. And anyone can appreciate a harmless foam pickaxe made to look like Minecraft's most iconic item.
Vault Boy bobblehead
Fallout 4 is undoubtedly the biggest release of the holiday season, with millions of players diving into its wide-open wasteland. And though Fallout takes place in an arid post-apocalypse, the face of the franchise has always been Vault Boy, the chipper, '50s-style cartoon mascot you can't help but love. Likewise, it's impossible to hate these bobblehead versions of the little fella, which are sculpted to evoke various stats and actions that define the game. That innocuous, plastic smile on the face of the Vault Boy bobblehead can brighten up any day - even those spent fighting off radiation-infected roaches and giant mutants.
Games Done Quick shirts
Too often, game-related shirts fall back on tired jokes, or are so specific that they might fall flat with the person who's receiving your gift. But here's a simple way to cover your bases and support a good cause while you're at it. Games Done Quick is a bi-annual marathon livestream, where expert-level players beat games at super-human speeds while raising money for Doctors Without Borders and the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Every GDQ stream is a bit hit with gamers, and this 'Serious Time' shirt is full of fan-favorite characters in a reference one of the marathons' many catchphrases. Best of all, a portion of your purchase goes to charity.
A funny trend in the world of toys is that, like gifts in general, you might not always get exactly what you wanted. That's the conceit of blind box figures, which are randomly packed into dinky cardboard boxes that keep the product within a mystery. Collectors have a love/hate relationship with the randomized nature of these toys, but they have a certain appeal, in that you can learn to appreciate whatever you end up getting. Some of the most recognizable game franchises have been graced with lines of well-designed blind box figures, including recent hits like Fallout and Don't Starve, or old standbys like Mega Man and Team Fortress 2. Or you could skip the randomness altogether and pick a specific League of Legends champion figure done in the same chibi style - just make sure you do a little recon on the recipient's personal favorite first.
Game Boy iPhone case
Handheld gaming exists as we know it thanks to the original Game Boy from Nintendo, and has continued to thrive thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones. This sleek Game Boy phone case is the perfect way to combine the two platforms, giving any new phone a retro feel (while costing you hardly anything at all). The best part is that any time the giftee takes a mirror selfie with their new case, it'll look like they're holding a Game Boy for no particular reason. And unlike the original Game Boy, you won't need to feed your phone a steady diet of AA batteries.
Anyone's who's played the legendary Mass Effect series of sci-fi action RPGs will instantly recognize this hoodie's look, designed in the same fashion as Commander Shepard's default armor. And though the upcoming Mass Effect Andromeda doesn't star the Commander, every gamer who's played through the series will always treasure their time with their own permutation of Shepard. It won't protect the wearer against lasers, bullets, or Biotic attacks, but this N7 hoodie is the perfect way to keep cozy and pay homage to one of the best heroes in video games at the same time.
Perler pixel art
Hand-made gifts are always a win-win: the recipient will appreciate the time and care you put into making a one-of-a-kind present, and you get to have some creative fun in the process. Art made from low-cost Perler beads is the perfect way to recreate in-game sprite graphics, and requires next to no artistic skill to look delightfully accurate. If you know your giftee loves a particular 8-bit or 16-bit game from back in the day, all you have to do is track down a sprite from that game online, then follow a guide on recreating it with a bucket of Perler beads and a simple peg board. The end result is guaranteed to look excellent, and you just might get addicted to how easy these are to make and go all-out with a full set.
PlayStation Plus / Xbox Live Gold subscriptions
If you can get confirmation of which current-gen systems your gift recipient currently owns, these subscription cards are a surefire bet. Nowadays, most games require a membership to a premium service - PlayStation Plus on PlayStation 4, Xbox Live Gold on Xbox One - to be playable online, which is typically a large part of the fun. Gifting one of these cards - particularly a one-year subscription, if you feeling like splurging - will give the recipient one less thing to worry about while they enjoy their online gaming to the fullest.
Animal Crossing amiibo cards
The amiibo craze has wrought havoc on many a wallet, with Nintendo seemingly unable to keep up with demand for these plastic toys that offer in-game benefits. And while the aftermarket prices on amiibo figures can get way out of hand, there's a much cheaper (and cuter) alternative: Animal Crossing amiibo cards. These randomized card packs are meant to add extra functionality to Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer on 3DS, which you'll need a special scanner peripheral to use if you don't have a New 3DS. But you don't need to own the game to appreciate how adorable and collectible these citizen cards can be, especially if you're already an Animal Crossing fan.
Hardcore Gaming 101 books
Here's one that old-school gamers will absolutely love. Hardcore Gaming 101 is a website devoted to combing through classic games in exhaustive detail, analyzing the historical significance and design qualities of everything from popular hits to obscure spin-offs. They also happen to publish some of their choice articles in print form, filling the pages with gorgeous artwork and crisp screenshots. They're the perfect coffee table book for anyone who fondly remembers the arcades and cartridges of yesteryear, whether you read it as a picture book or a deep-dive into gaming culture. We recommend the Strider and Bionic Commando book or The Unofficial Guide to Konami Shooters.
Plush Hadoken / Mega Buster
Most plush toys are good for two things: hugging, or sitting there doing nothing. But these plushies add a delightful element of play, letting you masquerade as some of Capcom's most timeless heroes. Fighting game fans will be intimately familiar with Ryu's fireball, which you can hurl across the room from your cupped palms while shouting "HADOKEN!" for some harmless fun. And those who grew up playing the 8-bit NES will love outfitting their arm with a plush version of Mega Man's Mega Buster arm cannon, so they can pretend to shoot lemon-like energy pellets from their arms all the livelong day.
GoldenEye 007 is classic N64 game that holds a special place in many a gamer's heart. This first-person shooter starring James Bond set a standard for what multiplayer FPS games could be on consoles, and if you know a gamer over the age of 20, it's all but guaranteed that they've played countless matches of GoldenEye in their time. This nifty GoldenEye watch replicates one the game's most iconic moments: the Pause screen, in which Bond seemingly freezes time while gazing into the menu on his high-tech wristwatch.
Here's another throwback to the beloved fifth console generation, this time on the Sony side of things. One's choice of wallet can say a lot, and this sleek grey number designed in the shape of the original PlayStation says 'I was there when 3D graphics were the hot new thing on consoles'. The opening flap looks just like the PS1's pop-up disc tray, and the wallet's even got tiny versions of the Power, Reset, and Open buttons on its face. Whoever you give this PlayStation wallet to will be filled with nostalgia for the 32-bit era every time they go to pay for a meal or grab their driver's license.