It’s a new generation, and that means new game consoles for people to yell about, overpay for on secondhand markets, and camp outside of stores for (even during a pandemic, yes). If you’re out shopping for a gamer in your life this holiday season, you can safely assume they either snagged a new console or plan to the first chance they get.
This guide will help you out, if you need to know not only the best next-gen games to gift, but also which games can still be enjoyed while waiting for the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S to come back into stock. I’ve split these games into multiple categories, but will note if anything applies to both platforms equally.
With that said, check out what I think are the best gaming holiday purchases you can make for the new consoles.
‘Next Gen’ Games Holiday 2020 Gift Guide
If your recipient has a Xbox Series X, or even if they don’t, they’re in a good spot. Several games that are currently (and recently) available for the Xbox One are upgradable to the “Optimised for Xbox Series X/S” versions via a process called Smart Delivery.
What this means is that once you have the game, it’ll detect what console it’s on and download the corresponding version, automatically, for free. Smart Delivery isn’t the only way games can be upgraded, but it’s definitely the easiest. So here are five of the best games you can play in top form on Series X, but won’t need to buy twice.
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon
- Immortals: Fenyx Rising
- Tetris Effect: Connected
- Ori and the Will of the Wisp
- Gears 5
Play Now, Upgrade Later
Future proofing is another factor to consider. This won’t apply to every game, but there are upgrades coming for multiple games that won’t be ready until 2021. But you can still play these games on the Xbox Series X/S or PS5 with some boosted performance, and get upgraded (again, for free), when the big updates launch.
Five upcoming next-gen upgrades to look out for:
- Marvel’s Avengers
- Destiny 2
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Puyo Puyo Tetris 2
- The Outer Worlds
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
If you don’t know what games your person has or doesn’t have, there’s an easy answer: Game Pass. This is a subscription service that many gamers believe is the best deal in gaming hands-down, and if you take a look at what that 15 bucks a month pays for, you might have to agree.
Time cards for one, three, and 12 month periods are purchasable all over the place, and offers a whole lot in return:
- Game Pass: It’s like Netflix. Over 100 games are consistently available as part of the subscription, for downloading. The selection does cycle games in and out, but anything published by Xbox Game Studios is sticking around for the foreseeable future. Those are day and date offerings, meaning a Game Pass card to your friend or loved one means they won’t have to buy games like the upcoming Halo Infinite, but still get to play them on release day.
- EA Play: A big library of EA games, including yearly sports titles and classics like Dragon Age or Mass Effect. Brand new games are also offered at a discount (before they eventually go free).
- Xbox Game Streaming: Cloud-based games that stream to any compatible Android device
- Xbox Live: Online play; required for multiplayer for most games
As much of a big deal as platform exclusives are, there aren’t very many in 2020. The pandemic and whatnot have delayed most of those to next year or later. That said there are a few, and they’re all on PS5.
- Spider-Man Remastered: While the new Miles Morales game is on PS4 too, only the Ultimate Edition comes with a code for a new PS5 version of the first game, making this title a less-advertised exclusive.
- Demon’s Souls: Demon’s Souls is just straight up a PS5-exclusive game. You literally cannot play this game anywhere else, although to be fair it is a remake of a PS3 game. But it’s a full remake, making this release plenty distinct from the original. It’s super hardcore, though, so Demon’s Souls is definitely a more specialized kind of purchase.
- Astro’s Playroom: This adorable game comes for free with every PS5, and it’s even already installed when you open it up. Despite being a technical demo, this charming, nostalgic platformer has been soaking up love from players and critics all over.
Both consoles have backwards compatibility features, and both consoles do that quite differently. Xbox Series X/S will play any Xbox One game natively, upgrades or otherwise. There’s also a curated list of 360 and original Xbox games that have been reverse-engineered to work on the new box.
This is a feature that does require some research, as not every game will just work. It seems like Microsoft plans to add more games as time goes on, but the tradeoff is that most games that do work benefit from the Series X/S’s more powerful hardware.
The PlayStation 5 does its backwards compatibility a bit differently. Natively, the PS5 does not support PlayStation or PlayStation 2 games, full stop. And only a few PS4 games have any sort of enhancements on the new platform, such as God of War.
However, the tradeoff here is that you can pop a PS4 game in the PS5 and pretty much expect it to work, and work well. There are some exceptions, but few and far between. And if it’s a game that wasn’t locked at a certain level, the native juice the PS5 is packing will boost performance. And that’s great, because the PS4 had several more exclusives compared to the Xbox One.
PlayStation Plus Collection
Speaking of exclusives, the PS5 doesn’t quite have a parallel service to Xbox Game Pass. There is a subscription called PlayStation Plus, but it’s more akin to the original Xbox Live, largely granting online play, a few games every month, and extra discounts.
However if you have Plus and a PS5, you get access to a new gimmick called the PlayStation Plus Collection, a curated list of PS4 games that “define” the PS4 generation. It’s unclear if this list will ever change or not, but as it is now these games are available:
- Batman: Arkham Knight
- Battlefield 1
- Call of Duty Black Ops III Zombies Chronicles
- Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
- Days Gone
- Detroit: Become Human
- Fallout 4
- Final Fantasy XV
- God of War
- inFAMOUS: Second Son
- The Last Guardian
- The Last of Us Remastered
- Monster Hunter: World
- Mortal Kombat X
- Persona 5
- Ratchet & Clank
- Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
- Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
- Until Dawn
If whoever you’re shopping for had a PS4 already, chances are they’ve played many, if not most, of these titles. That said, it’s just as likely they missed some, and these are all heavy hitters for some reason or another. Having certified classics on deck from day one is a pretty good perk.
There are other games worth considering for the PS5 or Xbox Series X, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, or Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition. The games I did list feel like not only have better new-gen benefits, but also are more likely to be good gifts.
For what it’s worth, those first two are upgradable across generations, while the niche (but very good) DMC 5 SE is only playable on the new boxes.
Hopefully if you’re someone on the outside looking in, you’ll find this guide helpful and informative. There’s a lot more information to wade through this time around, on top of the inherent overwhelming nature of a new system launch. Let alone two at the same time!