Video-game players aren't that difficult to shop for. Let's face it: It's an expensive hobby, and most gamers have something on their list that they've set aside in the hopes that Santa might deliver.
First, it's imperative that you know which game consoles your recipient owns — Sony's PlayStation 4, Microsoft's Xbox One or Nintendo's Wii U. (Heck, any one of those makes a solid gift if you're willing to spend a few hundred bucks.) Then you're ready to hit the stores. All of these picks are available at big-box retailers like Target and Best Buy or smaller game stores like GameStop.
ROCKIN' AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE
This year's revival of rock 'n roll games is the best news for families looking to play together after the Christmas turkey's been destroyed.
— "Rock Band 4" (Harmonix/Mad Catz, for the PS4, Xbox One, $250 "Band in a Box") offers the full package — fake guitar/bass, drums and microphone — as well as an enormous library of downloadable songs.
— "Guitar Hero Live" (Activision, for the PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, $150 for two-guitar bundle) skips the drums, though you can add on a $20 microphone. It's more fun for dueling Jimi Hendrix wannabes.
These beefy solo adventures will keep the player busy for months. All are rated M, for mature, so don't plop your 6-year-old niece in front of them.
— "The Witcher III: Wild Hunt" (Warner Bros., for the PS4, Xbox One, PC, $60) is a medieval sword-and-sorcery epic that goes to some truly unexpected places.
— "Fallout 4" (Bethesda Softworks, for the PS4, Xbox One, PC, $60) explores a vivid alternate Boston decades after a nuclear apocalypse.
— "Rise of the Tomb Raider" (Square Enix, for the Xbox One, $60) continues the rebirth of the globe-trotting Lara Croft in a search for the secret to immortality.
— "Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain" (Konami, for the PS4, Xbox One, PC, $60) is a sweeping espionage thriller that turns global politics into a seriously weird psychodrama.
Nintendo is still the best at creating games that children and parents alike can revel in.
— "Super Mario Maker" (Nintendo, for the Wii U, $60) invites players to create their own challenges featuring Mario and his friends — perfect for the aspiring game designer in your family.
— "Yoshi's Woolly World" (Nintendo, for the Wii U, $60) stars Mario's dinosaur buddy in an utterly charming romp that's easy enough for Grandma but offers deeper challenges for more dedicated fans.
The "toys-to-life" genre — in which physical action figures come to life on the game screen — is a boon for gift-givers: If your recipient already owns one of the games, the add-on characters make great stocking stuffers.
— "Lego Dimensions" (Warner Bros., for the PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, $100; add-ons $15-$25) mixes characters from a ridiculous range of pop-culture worlds, including "The Lord of the Rings," DC Comics and "The Lego Movie."
— "Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars" (Disney, for the PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, $65; add-ons $10-$40) welcomes Luke Skywalker, Yoda and the rest of the Lucasfilm gang to play with Disney toons and Marvel superheroes.
— "Skylanders Superchargers" (Activision, for the PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, iOS, $75; add-ons $13-$35), which started the whole trend, introduces land, air and sea vehicles to its delightful universe.
— Nintendo's amiibo lineup (Nintendo, for the Wii U, 3DS, $10-$35) keeps expanding with the addition of the goofy critters from "Animal Crossing" — and no Nintendo fan could resist an adorable Yoshi made out of yarn.
Follow Lou Kesten on Twitter @lkesten