Video game gift giving 101 for parents, grandparents

Arnold Carreiro

M-rated games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Mass Effect: Andromeda have been known to make their way onto a youngster’ s video game wishlist after hearing about them on the playground.

What's the difference between a Game Boy and an Xbox? If you're a parent, grandparent, or other individual shopping for a video gamer but you don't quite know the answer to this question, fear not. The video game world can seem overwhelming to those who aren't immersed in it, but there are some timeless techniques to ensure that the video games you buy will be appreciated for years to come. Read on for our tips on shopping for video gamers when you don't know much about the games yourself.

Check the game's age level and content rating

A common mistake that some well-meaning givers make is accidentally gifting a video game that was not created for a child's intended age group. All modern video games sold in stores are evaluated by the ESRB, or Entertainment Software Rating Board. The ESRB provides age and content ratings that are clearly marked on the front and back of every game's packaging. Just as movies are generally rated G through R, the majority of video games are labeled with the following ESRB ratings.

E or E+10: "E" stands for everyone, and these video games will rarely feature a content rating harsher than "mild cartoon violence." The "E+10" rating indicates that while the content is as inoffensive as any other video game with an E rating, the mechanics of the game may be too complicated for players under ten years old. Examples of E rated games include Kirby Star Allies and Super Lucky's Tale.

T: "T" is for teen, and in a nutshell, it's the PG-13 of ESRB ratings. Games rated T are often a little more violent than E-rated titles. They may sport a few additional descriptors, such as "animated blood" or "use of tobacco." Examples of T-rated games include Fortnite and Overwatch.

M:  Video games rated "M" are intended for mature players age 17 and older. Video games that earn a mature rating commonly sport graphic content descriptors such as "blood and gore" and "intense violence." Examples of M-rated games include Resident Evil 7 and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition.

An adult rating ("A") also exists, but major retailers don't typically sell adult video games. As a result, publishers will go well out of their way to tone down the content to ensure that their games receive an M rather than an A. Don't worry; you will never purchase an adult-rated game by mistake because they barely exist in the first place!

Make sure you're buying the correct version

Let's say that the creative sandbox game Minecraft was on someone's wishlist, but they did not specify which gaming console they own. Since Minecraft is available on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, PC, and a host of other platforms, not knowing which version of the game to pick up would be a huge problem for you. Don't be afraid to ask which video game system a requested game belongs to. It will definitely save you time, and no one likes to hear, "Thanks for the game. I was really looking forward to it, but I can't play this version."

Not sure which system your giftee owns? Your best bet is to check with the giftee (or their parents) if you don't know which system they have. This prior knowledge could save you a lot of hassle.

Learn about any important video game accessories needed

Sometimes buying a new video game is a little more complicated than checking the ESRB rating and matching the game to the right console. That's because certain games require additional accessories before players are able to enjoy them to the fullest.

For instance, popular multiplayer-focused video games such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Halo 5 require a controller for each player. If you are gifting a game into a household with multiple video game enthusiasts, consider bundling an additional controller or two so everyone can play together.

Other universally useful video game accessories that giftees will always appreciate include controller charging devices (because no one likes hunting for AA batteries when their opponent is on the ropes), memory storage devices that allow gamers to save more videogames and content, and quality headsets that allow players to communicate and cooperate with others while playing online.


These simple buying guidelines could save you lots of time and stress this holiday season. Instead of wondering if you bought the right item, you can focus on watching their eyes light up when they receive their new favorite game.


Arnold Carreiro is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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