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The best gaming gifts for dads this Father’s Day

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Father’s Day should be a time for dad to enjoy himself, and there are few better ways to unwind than playing a quality game. If you’re looking to treat a dad who spends much of their free time exploring other worlds, we’ve picked out a few gaming-related gifts that should spark delight, from controllers and consoles to board games and coffee table books.

8Bitdo

The 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller is a versatile alternative to Nintendo’s Switch Pro Controller that also works easily on PC. It connects over Bluetooth, a wireless dongle, or a USB cable and notably uses magnetic Hall effect sensors in its joysticks, which means it’s much less susceptible to developing the dreaded “stick drift” than traditional controllers. While it might feel a little cramped for those with particularly large hands, its shape doesn’t have any weird curves or quirks, and all its inputs are appropriately crisp to press. Battery life is solid at 20-ish hours, too, and the whole thing comes with a slick charging dock. If dad wants to get hardcore, 8BitDo’s companion app offers a wealth of customization options, such as adjusting the sensitivity of the triggers or assigning macros to certain buttons. 8BitDo sells a few cheaper variants of this controller as well, but those sacrifice the Hall effect sticks, among other features. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Reporter, Buying Advice

$60 at Amazon

Valve

Busy dads, especially one with younger kids, probably don’t have much time to sit in front of a gaming PC. That’s where the Steam Deck comes in handy. Valve’s handheld gaming system puts a ton of games into their hands, and it has enough power to play most indie titles and some AAA ones. Mostly, though, we found it to be a great way to clear out a PC gaming backlog — perhaps as they’re holding a little one who will only nap in their arms.

With the Steam Deck, they can carve out slices of gaming time when they have time to breathe. I’ve personally found it very useful in that wonderful period right after putting the kids down to sleep. They can play PC games in bed without moving a muscle! And if they already have a PC, they can also stream demanding games directly from it. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Reporter

$399 at Valve

Amazon

The Game Console 2.0 is a good coffee-table book for any dad who enjoys looking back on gaming’s history. It’s a visual tour of more than 100 different consoles, from the Magnavox Odyssey to the PlayStation 5 to less-remembered fare like the Tapwave Zodiac. The author, Evan Amos, is best known for taking many of the stock photos of gaming hardware you’d find on Wikipedia (and beyond), so it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that the shots in his book are consistently clean and sharp. Each console has some light yet interesting background detail, and Amos neatly organizes the systems he documents by console generation. It’s not the deepest dive into the industry’s past, but it should be a pleasure for any gaming enthusiast to flip through every now and then. — J.D.

$26 at Amazon

Xbox

Microsoft’s pitch with Game Pass Ultimate is hard to pass up. For $15 a month, you get access to a large library of Xbox and PC titles, including day-one releases from Microsoft studios. Now that new game prices have crept up to $70, Game Pass Ultimate seems like a better deal than ever. It’s a useful way to dive into new and older games, and it’s also helpful for keeping kids busy once they turn into little gamers. If they end up liking a particular title, there are discounts if dad wants to permanently add something to their library.

Game Pass Ultimate also unlocks Xbox cloud streaming, which I’ve found to be useful on the road (all you need is a laptop and an Xbox controller to get some playtime!). It’s also helpful for previewing a game quickly, without waiting for it to be downloaded and installed. Progress is also stored on Microsoft’s servers, so dad can also pick up and keep playing if they choose to download a cloud title eventually. — D.H.

$45 at Amazon

MIYOO

If your dad knows his way around emulators — or if you’re willing to set things up for him — the Miyoo Mini Plus will be a charming way to return to the classics. This is a cute little handheld that’s built like a modern Game Boy, with four face buttons, a quartet of back buttons and a 3.5-inch display that’s pretty decent for a handheld that’s often priced around $60. It can emulate older consoles like the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, PlayStation 1 and Game Boy Advance without issue, so if your dad wants to go back and play NHL ‘94, Chrono Trigger or any of the old Pokémon games on the go, it should serve him well. Battery life checks in around five hours, depending on screen brightness.

Just remember that retro gaming handhelds like these, particularly ones from lesser-known Chinese companies, aren’t known for being user-friendly out of the box. It’s worth watching a setup guide to ensure you’re getting the most out of Mini Plus before gifting one. Also note that you can get this device at Amazon if you want faster shipping, but it’ll usually cost extra. — J.D.

$100 at MIYOO

SteelSeries

SteelSeeries’ previous high-end gaming headphones, the Arctis Pro, were some of the best we’ve ever heard. The company’s new Nova Pro headsets improve on that design with better sound quality, and a plethora of new adjustment options. They also support 360-degree spatial audio on Windows PCs and the PlayStation 5. We’re recommending the $350 wireless model since it allows for more freedom – useful for parents who may also need to rush off to console a crying child at night – but if they don’t mind a cable the $250 wired model sounds just as good. And if dad would prefer a headset he can use in more ways than one, our best gaming headsets guide has a ton of all-purpose options. — D.H.

$292 at Walmart

Grid Studio

If dad has a soft spot for classic gaming hardware, a frame from Grid Studio might be a nice way to spruce up his space. This is a company that deconstructs classic gadgets and neatly showcases their individual components in a piece of wall art. Each part is labeled for good measure. For gaming specifically, the selection includes consoles like the original Game Boy and PSP and controllers like the Wiimote and Sega Dreamcast pad. (Several non-gaming gadgets are available, too.) These don’t come cheap, and they might make dad cringe if he fancies himself a preservationist, but Grid’s artwork generally strikes the right balance between a nerdy nostalgia trip and tasteful decor. — J.D.

$269 at Grid Studio

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

The Razer Basilisk V3 is a comfortable and responsive mouse for any dad who does a lot of PC gaming. The top pick in our best gaming mouse guide has a sturdy frame that should fit all but the smallest of hands and well-sized buttons that are satisfying to press. While it’s not the lightest mouse, and won’t be the absolute fastest for twitchy shooting games, it tracks smoothly and accurately. And outside of games, the fact that its scroll wheel can tilt side-to-side and swap to a free-spinning mode makes it a handy option for navigating large documents and Excel sheets. Just note that, like many gaming mice, it’s made for righties first. — J.D.

$49 at Amazon

Nintendo

You know your dad’s tastes better than us, so if there’s a particular game you think he would enjoy as a Father’s Day treat, go get it. If you want a suggestion for a recent game that could scratch that nostalgic “old man” itch, though, consider the Switch remake of Mario vs. Donkey Kong. As we note in our review, this is a charming puzzler with the kind of polish you’d expect from a first-party Nintendo project. It’s a spiritual successor to Donkey Kong for the Game Boy and very much not a 3D platformer in the vein of Super Mario Odyssey, so Mario doesn’t move with the same freedom here. But its mini-challenges are (mostly) thoughtfully constructed, starting out simple before stretching out with complications. There’s a “casual” mode if things get too tough, and none of it is overlong, either. Some may consider that last point a ding, but we’d rather gift a weekend or two of pleasurable brain teasers than some infinity-hour game that’s designed to dominate lives. — J.D.

$44 at Walmart

Satisfye

The Switch is a wonderful device, but it’s not the most ergonomic thing out there. If dad has complained about this before, a Satisfye ZenGrip can help him stave off sore wrists and tingly fingers while running around Tears of the Kingdom or Super Mario Odyssey. This is a molded, hard plastic grip that slots around a Switch and makes it feel more like you’re holding a very wide Xbox or PlayStation controller instead of a flat rectangle. It won’t make the buttons feel any better, and it certainly adds a bit of bulk, but it’s solidly constructed and sized for medium or large hands. Unlike many other Switch grips, the design won’t scuff the console when removed, plus it leaves enough room for the Switch’s fans. Satisfye sells grips for all three Switch models in various colors as well as bundles that pair the accessory with a specially designed case. — J.D.

$90 at Amazon

Engadget

If dad likes to game on his phone, the Backbone One will give him a more natural way to play. This is a mobile gamepad that attaches directly to a phone’s Lightning or USB-C port and works with any game that supports controllers. It has all the inputs needed to play modern games, and while its buttons won’t feel as luxurious as a full-size pad, they’re still responsive and properly spaced given the size constraints. The contoured grips are comfy to hold over time, plus there’s a built-in headphone jack and charging port for your phone. For beefy mobile games or streaming PS5 and Xbox games, it’ll be much less fiddly than touch controls. — J.D.

$100 at Amazon

My Arcade

It’s best viewed as a show piece on a shelf rather than something dad would play seriously, but one of My Arcade’s Micro Player mini arcade cabinets is an adorable way for him to display a retro favorite. While there are certainly cheaper and more convenient ways to play old games, these 6.75-inch cabinets don’t feel flimsy and generally convey the spirit of each game well. (Just note that the artwork is usually “inspired by” the game in question, not a replica of its original cabinet.) Their buttons are surprisingly responsive and, while the 2.75-inch screen looks washed out from an angle, it’s bright and colorful enough to be usable. There’s a speaker and headphone jack built in, plus each joystick is removable if dad would rather use the mini d-pad instead. The line includes several classics, including Pac-Man, Galaga, Street Fighter II and Space Invaders, among many others. — J.D.

$40+ at My Arcade

Photo by Jessica Conditt / Engadget

Panic’s Playdate won’t ever compete with the Nintendo Switch, or even the PlayStation Vita, when it comes to graphics or the depth of its library. But it’s undoubtedly one of the most intriguing pieces of gaming we’ve seen recently. Imagine a super-slim version of the Game Boy with a sharp screen and a cute crank on the side, and you’ve got the Playdate.

While it only has two buttons and a directional pad, most games are built to use the crank, perhaps to steer a surf board as you’re trying to catch some waves, or to direct a bumbling robot as he tries (and fails) to reach his date on time. It’s a limited system (it doesn’t even have a backlight!), but those limitations have led to some truly unique gaming experiences. — D.H.

$199 at Panic

Rio Grande Games

If you’re looking for a tabletop game you can play with your dad (and a couple others), you can’t go wrong with Dominion. Board game veterans will be familiar with it by now, but this is one of the forefathers of the genre known as the deck-builder. If you know video games like Slay the Spire or the recent hit Balatro, you have a sense of how it works. Two to four players start with the same small set of cards. With each turn, each player draws from their deck, then uses the resulting hand to buy new action, money and other modifier cards from a common market. The goal is to create an optimized deck, one that makes it easier to acquire more “victory” cards before a certain supply runs out. There are what feels like a million different strategies you can take, a feeling aided by the many expansions that have been released since the game went on sale. As things progress, the choices you’ve made in previous rounds build on themselves, and your plans morph accordingly.

It all makes for a game where every decision matters, regardless of who makes it. Rarely will two games play out the same way. It can be tricky to grasp at first — and it takes a bit to physically set up — but after a session or two the fog should clear. (To wit: My wife and I have played with her parents, both in their 60s and far from tabletop veterans, for years.) Pretty card art and a helpful rulebook add to the appeal. If all of this sounds appealing but you’d like to try the game first, note that you can play the online version for free. — J.D.

$32 at Amazon



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