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Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Games (Very Little) Money Can Buy


At two weeks out or so, depending on your holiday persuasion, time is growing increasingly short for any gift acquisitions still left on your list. Thoughts of circling the mall parking lot for an hour or more looking for a space fly through your brain, and the crush of similarly lackadaisical shoppers elbowing for space in the aisles and at the checkout line haunts your dreams. Got a gamer on your list? Got several? Then look no further. Uncle Ez will hook you up with some excellent leads that will please most any gamer and won’t break the bank. That’s because I have a secret, and I’m here to share it with the huddled, confused shopping masses yearning to breathe free of canned Christmas muzak.

The secret is: the best way to acquire kickass gameage for your favorite console jockey or WASD wizard is to buy no games at all. Better yet, you can make most of the purchases from the spot where you are currently sitting and without putting on pants (unless you read the site from work, in which case I suspect — read “hope” — you had to put on pants to get there…but I digress).

[ad#longpost]If your gaming geek gift recipient is of the console persuasion, hie thee to Gamefly. The Netflix of the gaming world, Gamefly carries an enormous number of titles for just about any console of the last two generations. For the price of a single new-release next-gen console game, you can pre-pay four months’ worth of one-at-a-time rental service. New release titles can be had week or even day of release, and they maintain an immense catalog of older titles as well. Even better, if your player finds they can’t part with a disc they’ve rented, Gamefly offers the option to purchase the game (at better used prices than most retail stores), and will simply mail you a case and manual to go with the disc. If you don’t want to go the rental service route, you can always hit up Gamefly’s store for excellent deals on used titles and gift certificates, but really, the rental service is where it’s at.

Your gamer not a console type of player? Then Gametap is the answer to your game-giving needs. With a collection of over 1,000 titles, Gametap has become the go-to answer for PC players looking to game on the cheap. For an annual fee of about the price of a new game release, you get ad-free access to a huge collection of titles, ranging from ancient arcade classics of yore to a stack of more recent titles. Some are classified as “premium” titles and require a separate (though still significantly cheaper than retail games) purchase, but there’s more than enough quality stuff in the free-with-membership catalog to keep anybody busy for years.

For those that don’t keep their PC specs up to the challenge of this year’s top of the line, there’s also Good Old Games. While not a rental/subscription service like our previous two entries, offers a host of classic titles for the PC, all DRM-free and at very reasonable prices. If you’ve got somebody on your list that yearns for the classics of computer gaming, there’s a lot here to choose from. The selection isn’t nearly so vast as Gametap or Gamefly, but GOG’s only been in operation for a couple of months, and they seem committed to expanding their offerings at a pretty good clip. Prices are pretty much in the sub-$10 range.

There you have it. Three URLs to simpler holiday game-giving. No more worrying about whether or not they already have a title or if someone else might buy it for them. Why buy a game library of your own when you can rent ’em as you want them or play ’em for free with an annual membership fee? You’re welcome.