‘Tis the season to recommend gifts to make your holiday shopping easier! This year, we at USgamer are taking a different approach to our video game gift guides. Instead of a handful of ideas from the staff, we’re offering mega-focused gift guides for the sorts of people who you’ll be shopping for this holiday season.
For this gift guide, we’ll be helping you shop for The Person Who Travels A Lot. More than ever, it’s easy to take games on the road even as you fly around the world. So for the traveling, working gamer in your life, here are some gift ideas and stocking stuffers to make air travel feel less like a trip to the dentist.
The Basic Hardware
Nintendo Switch Lite
Come on, like this wasn’t going to be on the list? For someone who travels even only a few times a year, a Nintendo Switch is worth it. It has become my salve for airport boredom, a panacea for delays, and the respite of long flight times.
So why the Lite? As Mike modeled in our hands-on impressions, it’s slimmer and more compact, perfect for sliding into anything from a backpack to a bag or even pocket. The one drawback is that it can’t dock and output an HDMI signal, but honestly, travellers will mostly be playing this in handheld mode anyways. I might have traveled with Nintendo handhelds before, but the Nintendo Switch has become as essential as a passport at this point.
A Portable Battery Pack
I would honestly be lost without one of these in my pack or pocket at all times. External batteries seemed to really gain steam around the Pokemon Go era, when internal batteries were drained by hours of outdoor activity. But nowadays, they make for an excellent way to keep all electronics charged, especially as apps draw more power.
I’m a big fan of Anker’s portable chargers. They’re pretty big, but the extra weight means a larger capacity, and almost just as important, faster charging. Anker makes a few that are specifically designed for charging the Nintendo Switch, and can often use the same USB-C cable that draws from charger to Switch to charge its battery up again later that night. I’ve had one full charge last several days of use at events like E3, and it’s become a staple of my travel bag.
A Portable Dock-Link
Maybe someone has a Nintendo Switch already, but that dock isn’t easy to cram into a suitcase. To play some proper Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the road, they’re going to need some way to dock that also won’t take up valuable real estate inside their luggage.
My dad, both a Gamer and a Traveler, swears by this multiport hub from RREAKA. It’s the size of a USB hub with HDMI output, USB slots, and a charge pass-through. The dock will still need an HDMI cable and wall plug, but this is probably the slimmest you can get.
Logging onto hotel Wi-Fi is always tricky, especially on consoles. Even if it’s not just the Switch, sometimes a PlayStation might not want to shake hands with the hotel’s internet. TP-Link’s wireless mini-router can create a Wi-Fi hotspot for every device, and once the system is set up the first time, it’s easy to keep doing. It requires laptop setup first, but once that’s taken care of, the whole setup will be online and humming.
Cases For Hardware
A Travel Case
Some Switch owners might think that dropping it in a bag by itself is just fine. But having a travel case is about a lot more than just outer wear and tear. Getting a screen protector and something to hold those slippery Joy-Cons in place can do wonders, and if someone has more than one physical game, a case with extra pockets for Switch carts is about ease of mind.
I use an RDS case for my Switch, largely based off the Splatoon decals, but there are plenty of options out there. Try to identify what sort of things your gift recipient would be looking for in a carrying case, whether it’s style or specific features. If they just need an outer shell with a few pockets for storage space though, an RDS variant will do just fine.
Qanba Guardian Backpack
This is for the fighting game player in your life. While I’ll never fault the utility and frugality of a string backpack, sometimes an avid player needs something a little extra. Packs like the Qanba Guardian are built specifically for these situations: the main pocket can house a fight stick, from the small Drone to the Obsidian and onwards, and there are some other storage areas and clips, as well as pockets for a water bottle. (Hydration is important!) It’s a good way to go 0-2 in style.
A Good Travel Backpack
More often than not, I find myself using a backpack when I travel. I used to make the distinction between personal and work trips on what kind of baggage would be my carry-on. This MATEIN backpack has become my absolute go-to for all trips since the day I bought it.
There are lots of good reasons to like it: price point, look, lots of even compartment size. But the finer details are what’s really made it for me. Specific pockets are great for items like flash drives and Switch cables. Remember the external chargers I mentioned earlier? There’s a USB pass-through on the outside of the backpack-just link it up to a charger on the inside, and anytime a phone or handheld needs juice, it can link up to the pass-through. This might veer more into lifestyle than gaming-centric, but even for infrequent travelers, a good backpack can go a long way.
Best Games for On-the-Go
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
There are a few things that are absolutely crucial to making a good travel game, and the latest Fire Emblem has become my go-to airport game because of how well it rewards time, no matter how much I play in one sitting. Does it help that I love Fire Emblem? Absolutely. But it’s easy to make bite-sized progress in this game, or to deep dive into a chapter. With a great story, fun characters, and a lot of replayability thanks to multiple routes and paralogues, it can eat up plenty of a traveler’s hours.
Dragon Quest 11S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
If tactics games aren’t your gift recipient’s go-to, Dragon Quest 11 is the bedtime story of RPGs. It is the Princess Bride that becomes a sprawling epic, something that is both comforting and grand in equal measure, and its approachable for just about everyone.
Despite having a save system, the nice part about Dragon Quest 11 is how easy it is to pick it up and put it down. Many parts of the game have been streamlined as well, so it’s rare to burn time looking for a place to forge or farm resources. There is something calming about its story, world, and characters that might soothe tensions during a long flight delay. It’s also really long, so it can last through multiple trips, like an airport novel.
Nintendo eShop Gift Card
Okay, we’ve listed two really large RPGs with dozens, if not hundreds of hours total playtime combined. But traveling can also make bite-sized experiences better, and there’s something to be said for ease of access. Outside some major games, it can be hard to find outlets that sell digital game codes-you’d need to search through outlets like GameStop or Amazon to find them-and they also tend to not exist for the smaller, one-sitting indies we’re looking for. Plus, you’ve got a stocking to stuff, and you don’t want to break the bank on it.
Here’s where the magical eShop card comes in. Gift cards are nice because you’re basically handing someone money that comes with vague directions to spend it in. You can encourage someone to splurge on something they want with that kind of gift. A $20 card might be the excuse they need to finally dig into Hollow Knight, or start putting runs into Slay the Spire. Into the Breach is a solid travel choice, as is really any roguelike, but they can also find games like Undertale, Axiom Verge, and Cuphead to scratch an itch without spending a ton.
Odds and Ends
Maybe your gift recipient is not a Nintendo person. Maybe they’re really into mobile gaming, and have recently jumped on the Apple Arcade bandwagon. That’s great, but some of those games could use a little extra touch of control and fidelity.
Bluetooth adapters can work in some cases, but a controller with a phone clip is going to deliver the all-in-one package. This one from PXN mimics a 360 gamepad, and gives a solid, stable platform for on-the-go phone gaming.
Bluetooth Adapter for Nintendo Switch
This doesn’t need much of an explanation. Headphones these days are rapidly advancing toward Bluetooth, with budget sets of wireless earbuds plummeting to extremely affordable ranges. (Those make great stocking stuffers, by the way.) The Nintendo Switch doesn’t natively support Bluetooth for some unearthly reason, but this Genki adapter will do just the trick. It also has a pass-through for chargers, a big plus.
Screen Protectors, Screen Cleaners, and More
Nobody likes a smudged screen, but after hours of The World Ends With You, there might be fingerprints all over the display. Or maybe rolling around in that backpack is starting to feel like a screen hazard, especially with all those cables and prongs nearby.
Peace of mind is thankfully cheap. Sets of these usually come with some of the cases mentioned above, but for a first-timer or a refill, RDS sells pretty cheap packs that come with game card cases, cleaning clothes, microSD cases, and screen protectors, including that little wedge you use to get all the air bubbles out. At five bucks, there’s not much excuse not to have something like this on hand.