Sunday, December 13, 2020



By W. Jefferson


EDITOR’S NOTE: This holiday gift guide may be updated throughout the holiday season. Stay tuned!

LAST UPDATED: Dec. 13, 2020 @ 1909

HOLIDAY 2020 WILL BE truly unique. Never in modern history has a microscopic organism changed our lives, our economies, our health. Despite our numerous setbacks in 2020, video games offered us therapy on so many levels. This year, while the globe descended into chaos, panic and anxiety, gamers found welcome distraction.

This holiday, gamers have two cutting edge consoles and stunning games. From the Xbox Series S and X to the PlayStation 5, it’s a win-win for gamers of all ages.

Microsoft has added many features to their Game Pass subscription that makes it very difficult to pass on. It’s a value, even if you are a PC gamer or play on a tablet, on the go.

Game Pass, starting at just $1 for a month to try (normally $9.99) gives gamers access to at least 100 games. To sweeten the deal, MS added EA Play into the mix. EA Play is a service that gives gamers access to many titles from EA’s exhaustive catalog. EA Play also offers 10-hour trials of their recent releases, including “Madden 21,” “UFC” and “FIFA 21.”

Still on the fence? Upgrade to Game Pass Ultimate for $14.99 a month, and PC users can get the benefits of Game Pass on both PC and Xbox consoles. Gamers also get six free games with Games with Gold. The games are yours to keep, as long as you keep your Game Pass subscription active.

Electronic Arts

Good ol’ EA. This holiday season, EA has every type of gamer - hardcore and casual - covered. Want to hit the gridiron without catching Covid? “Madden 21” says “Hello!” Even with a reduced season, “Madden” brings its A-game to current-generation consoles, as well as last-gen. Like football, but not the American version? “FIFA 21” is right there, just for kicks.

Sports is not your cup of tea? Maybe space battles, intergalactic conflicts in galaxies far, far away? You can try “Star Wars Squadrons,” which plops gamers into virtual cockpits of Rebel and Imperial spacecraft. Are close-quarters more your thing? Grab your light saber and slice and dice in “Jedi Fallen Order.” Added bonus: “Fallen Order” is on EA Play, so if you have Game Pass, you can play it as soon as you download it.

Love “Star Wars,” but combat is not your jam? Then, check out “The Sims 4” expansion, “

Journey to Batuu.” 

Players can create their own unique Sims story as a member of the Rebellion, theEmpire or the Sith. 

Star Wars isn’t the only getaway “Sims 4” offers. Console and PC gamers can escape to an exotic getaway in “Island Living.” You can even turn into a mermaid - or merdude. Want a wintery wonderland without a hint of the pandemic? Check out the “Snowy Escape” expansion pack. Hit the virtual slopes, hang out the lodge and snuggle up by the fireplace. Players can attend festivals, buy food at food stands and even hit up the spa.  If you still want more “Sims 4” greatness, a few more expansion packs include:

Cats & Dogs - you care for your four-legged companions. Your animals can get sick and yes, there’s a vet

Eco Lifestyle - you become a productive citizen, and vote for the upkeep in your virtual community

Get famous - get famous in various careers - acting, blogging, blogging and social media influencer - like your boy Houston Gamer!

If you love throwing your virtual whip sideways, taking out stoplight, that’s my real life, then two remastered racers deserve your immediate attention. “Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” is a reboot of an iconic racer from the PlayStation 2 days. Drive cars more expensive than most nuclear family dwellings as an outlaw or as 5-0, 12 or One-Time (your choice). In “Burnout Paradise,” racers speed around a beautiful tropic locales and smash the mess out of other racers. Both of these gems are playable on on current-gen consoles (Xbox Series and PS5) and available on the Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.

Other EA recommendations: A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Digital Edition (PC)


You already know. Grab your hairspray, Bermuda shorts and Panama Jack lotion, lube up and blast back into the 1980s with their best-selling shooter, “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.” Available for Xbox One and PS4, Activision offers a version for Xbox Series and PS5 version. Need a wee bit more? Grab the Ultimate version which has current AND last-generation versions. The single player campaign features dialogue choices, which impact the overall ending.  Multiplayer is solid, as always. The developers even included an iconic map, Nuketown as a multiplayer map.

If you’re a retro gamer, have no fear. Activision published a reboot - Crash Bandicoot - and a remaster - Tony Hawk. Both games, well three video games would be welcome additions to any gamer’s collection. “Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s about time” is a reboot that bring a fresh coat of paint, as well as a stable, silky smooth presentation and frame rate. “Tony Hawk 1+2” brings the skateboarding legend to modern consoles.


This year, Square has a few solid games that are worthy of Houston Gamer’s recommendation. The games, “Marvel’s Avengers” and “Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory” are two very different beasts. “Avengers” let’s players toggle between Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man and a young woman of color!

In “Melody of Memory,” it takes a unique approach. It’s not the JRPG action you’re used to. This game features musical rhythms, similar to “Dance Dance Revolution” games, without the physical exercise. It’s different but enterta


Nacon has several offerings for holiday 2020. “Warhammer Chaosbane” is a cool, dungeon crawler that lets players fight through hordes of rats, possessed and undead. You can be a soldier, mage, elf or other classes. This was my first “Warhammer;” I’ll definitely keep an eye on the next installment.

“WRC9” (World Rally Championship 9) puts gamers behind the wheels of legendary rally cars from the past and present. There is a very steep learning curve; you’ll crash, you’ll go sideways, and that’s just on gravel! No worries. There are training modules to help virtual rally drivers compete and make a name for themselves on rally circuits. Great graphics, impressive car sounds and real-life venues.

You want over-the-top racing and tricks with monster trucks? “Monster Truck Championship” fits the bill. You can drive several monster trucks, earning points by jumping, performing tricks and winning races.

Driving a monster truck isn’t as grabbing a controller and racing. There’s a training mode that teaches gamers the basics to operating a monster truck. I’ll give it to Nacon; they make their games simulations but offer training modes.

Studio Wildcard

“ARK: Survival Evolved” is not a recent release, but the new “Explorer’s Edition” brings 4K visuals, improved frame rates and numerous upgrades and fixes. Don’t know what ARK is about? It’s a survival game where you learn how to craft your armor, tame dinosaurs and even ride them. The game offers single-player campaign, as well as multiplayer.


This year, Microids has so many games, ranging from racing to simulators, even game shows.

If you are familiar with popular television game show, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” Well, Microids has a console game of the same name. Players have a chance to get in the hot seat and climb the ladder until they win a million dollars. Go solo, local multiplayer or go against others in online multiplayer.

Are you a fan of mystery and own a Nintendo Switch? Take a gander at “Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders.” Analyze evidence, search for clues to solve this thrilling mystery.

Microids also has a slew of “My Universe” games for young gamers to adults. The recent release, “School Teacher,” puts gamers into the shoes of a school teachers. You don’t need to wear a mask or socially distance in this simulator. Help your class succeed and create Star students. Perfect for future educators.

On the Nintendo Switch, there are a few more “My Universe” titles, including “Cooking Star Restaurant,” “Fashion Boutique” and “My Baby.” All of the “My Universe” games are rated E, so even the littlest gamers can play.

Other video games:

DOOM Eternal: Deluxe Edition

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