You gotta start somewhere
Holiday shopping can be pretty difficult, especially when you have really different interests and hobbies than your non-gamer friends or family. Gift-giving can, however, be a great opportunity to introduce your loved ones to the magic of gaming, because there’s nothing better than helping someone understand your passions and then enjoying them together.
The only thing is, if you’re going to get someone a game who has never tried them before, you’ve got to make sure it’s the right one, lest you risk putting them off of games forever. To give you some handy suggestions, or at least get you thinking on the right track, here’s our list as some of the best newb-friendly games to gift to your favorite non-gamers this holiday season.
When taking into account different types of potential players, Minecraft is an all-arounder when it comes to game recommendations. It can appeal to people who just want to chill out in creative mode and build something cool, as well as those who want to challenge themselves with survival mode.
There are also a plethora of mods out there that can cater to all kinds of niche interests, so you can customize the game to be appealing to anyone in your life. To top it all off, it’s also a great way to help someone learn gaming controls in a low-stakes, low-pressure environment.
2. Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is a great choice for a new player because of its more casual feel. The game never rushes or forces you to do anything in particular — you can play it however you want. The mechanics are also simple and relaxing (with the exception of combat, but new players can work their way up to that), and do a good job of easing the player in as they learn.
There’s also the benefit of it being a 2D game, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with the whole moving-and-looking-at-the-same-time thing if that’s a stumbling block. Just make sure you set them up with the practice fishing rod at the start, and your buddy should have an awesome time.
I kind of missed the Pokémon train the first time around, but after playing Sword & Shield, I have to agree with my friends that say this series is a great way to introduce someone to turn-based combat or JRPGs. Having cute little critters to collect makes for a fun, easily understandable objective, and you don’t have to be amazing at the game to progress, especially with the newer entries in the series. I’ve heard Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee! can be a great place to start, but you’re probably fine if you try any mainline series entries that have come out in the last decade.
4. Telltale’s The Walking Dead
Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a great choice because while it does introduce new characters, it’s part of a franchise that non-gamers are already familiar with. It’s even structured like a TV show with its episodes, which also divide what is overall a longer game into manageable chunks.
The gameplay itself is mostly limited to dialogue choices, but also includes some classic point-and-click adventure stuff — both of these factors can make it a great jumping-off point to try some other games that share these mechanics.
Portal is also a great game I recommend to newbies, seeing as it’s the game I played to learn shooting mechanics on a controller. Because it’s a puzzle game that only has stationary turrets as enemies, you can really take your time as you try to figure out how the camera works. Some of the later levels require perfectly-timed shots, but by the time you get there, you pretty much have the controls down.
There’s also the fact that Portal has one of the best game stories out there, so in addition to helping a new player learn the ropes, they can also see some of the superb storytelling that games are capable of. I’d just steer clear of this one for someone who is particularly puzzle-averse, because it can be pretty challenging to figure out some of the solutions.
One of the problems I’ve run into while trying to recommend games to someone who has never played them is how long most of them take to complete, but Journey negates this issue by having a run time of about two hours. What better way to convince a skeptic than to have them play a great game that’s no longer than a movie?
Journey is also new player-friendly because of its fluid, relaxing gameplay. There are no enemies to be seen, so your friends shouldn’t have any issues making it to the end. The game is known for its gorgeous visual style and music as well, so if you show someone Journey, they know they’re getting some of the best that gaming has to offer.
Want to be able to play alongside that friend or family member while they learn the ropes? No problem! Overcooked is a great option — while things can get a bit hectic as you progress through the levels, the game is designed to be easy to pick up and understand. Considering it’s one of those games where you can see yourself mastering it as you go along, it can make for a good confidence booster before throwing your new player into the deep end.
Firewatch is such a fun ride, but in different ways than you might expect. The gameplay is super simple, and mostly involves walking around and interacting with items. The real star of the show here is its story, particularly its voice acting, which can make it the perfect option for someone who prefers a more narrative-based experience, if that’s something your new gamer is into.
I know for me, story games were a great way to initially get into the hobby, and then I started trying out some more gameplay-heavy games once I learned the ropes. Firewatch also has the benefit of helping players learn the controls at their own pace, similar to Portal.
9. What Remains of Edith Finch
Many of the principles that apply to Firewatch are also in play here. What Remains of Edith Finch is in the upper echelon of game stories, in my opinion, so it’s another excellent choice for those who like storytelling.
It also just has some really clever gameplay sections that I think showcase some of the best narrative design in the industry. It’s wistful and moving, and is yet another relatively short play that can help you learn controls, so this one is a must for new players.
10. Uncharted 2
If you have a buddy who loves action movies and just wants to feel like a hero, Uncharted 2 is the way to go. I could be recommending the first Uncharted, but parts of that game haven’t aged super well gameplay-wise (I’m looking at you, jet ski level), and the sequel is where Naughty Dog really hit their stride with the franchise, both in terms of narrative and gameplay.
You’ve got loveable characters, swashbuckling action, and puzzles that will make you stop and think, which makes it perfect for a movie buff. Plus, if they end up liking it, there are still four other Uncharted games they can go and play.