Holiday gift guides, curated by nameless nobodies who don't give a crap about you or your tastes, generally suck. Which is why this year, we're doing it differently. We're bringing you things we actually like in nine different categories, so that you might like them too. So here's the list of video games you're going to want to get.
Just bought an Xbox One? Have one already? There is only one definitive simulator to get, and Forza Motorsport 5 is it. Amazon's now selling the Game of the Year edition, which comes with all those extra downloadable bits as standard. And don't you love when someone throws extra options in for free?
Photo credit: Bryce Wolmendurf
If you don't have the latest-and-greatest generation of gaming console, that's actually totally fine. The latest-and-greatest racing simulator in the Sony Playstation ecosystem is still on the PS3. Featuring over 1200 cars (some of which aren't Nissan Skylines), customizable race circuits, and a huge variety of racing formats, there's a reason why the Gran Turismo series is still the king. And because it's been out for a little while, it's a damn good value now, too.
Photo credit: Alexander Nie
The Grand Theft Auto series has always been a beautiful reflection of America, and the latest rendition is even more of that. There are cars, there are planes, there are choppers, there are bikes, there are boats – and oh yeah, guns. And rocket launchers. And baseball bats. And a submarine. It's everything you've ever loved, and it has some surprisingly great racing, too. The game has just been released on the new consoles, so it looks better than ever.
Just between us friends here, simulators like Forza 5 and Gran Turismo 6 aren't great for gathering a group of people together, all of varying experience and backgrounds, and throwing them right into a race. For that sort of party, you need a crazy game like Mario Kart 8. Yes, Mario Kart 8. While that may sound like a lot of Mario Karts, there's a reason there are so many. Mainly, because they're a hell of a lot of fun.
No driving game is truly complete without a steering wheel. And if you're going to be dropping serious dough on a console, a game, and a wheel, you might as well go big or go home. So while the $399 suede-covered Mad Catz Pro wheel and pedal setup might be dangerously pricey, it's also dangerously delicious. Don't trust us? Trust our bleep-bloop brethren over at Kotaku – they said it changed the very way they played racing games. Don't have an Xbox One? Its rough equivalent on Playstation is the Thrustmaster T300RS.
If you're tired of all this driving around and just like the taste of rum, there's always the open sea. And lucky for us, Boatlopnik is the second most-beloved of all the 'lopniks (after Rocketcatlopnik, of course). Assassin's Creed: Rogue is the definitive old-timey naval warfare game, letting you cruise the North Atlantic, fire some big cannons, and, oh yes, explore the coast of Canada while entirely drink-besotten. Its Caribbean predecessor, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, is also quite the catch, and is available on both PS3 and Xbox 360, as well as Wii U, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Note: rum not included.
It doesn't matter if you don't have a fancy-shmancy gaming console or devoted PC rig. More likely than not, you've got a phone, which means you can play the lauded Asphalt 8. The damn thing is free (okay, they expect you to pay if you want more cars, but to start out with, FREE!), and it features sweet jumps, big crashes, and a whole lot of damage. It's everything you want in a mobile racing game.
Alright, so maybe sick jumps aren't everything you want in a mobile game. Maybe you're a Serious Person who needs Serious Racing while you're killing time waiting at the dentist. That's what this game is about. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it's gorgeous.
Simulators too serious, but Mario Kart too hokey? Then snag a copy of Forza Horizon 2. It's a huge open-world game, and from all accounts that matter it's as close to living your car fantasy as you're ever going to get. And where else are you going to race a Noble M600 offroad? If you're on Playstation, I hear good things about Drive Club, though I haven't had personal experience with it.
This rally game might be old as the moldy slime you found growing underneath your Chevy Citation's floorboards, coming out in 2011, but Dirt 3 is still the best game around, hands down, for driving on slidey bits. It's got rally, it's got rallycross, it's got hillclimbs, it's got off-road truck racing, hell, it's even got gymkhana so you can do your best Ken Block impression. Though I should probably give you a heads up. It may or may not cause you to start hooning your mom's Ford Fiesta around like an absolute maniac.
Top Photo credit: TransformersMan