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It's a good time to be a gamer: The new generation of consoles is out, PCs are chock-full of interesting games, and mobile phones and tablets let us play wherever we are. No matter which kind of gamer your dad or graduating kid is (and chances are they're at least one), there's a good gift out there for them.
Millions of gamers play the biggest, highest-budget games, things like "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" and the "Battlefield" series. Generally you want to let these gamers pick their own titles, but this season there are a couple guaranteed buys — if they don't have them already.
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"Watch Dogs," the open-world hacking/shooting/driving game from Ubisoft, is coming out on every major console and PC next month, and there's hardly a gamer out there not looking forward to it. "Titanfall" is another surefire hit if they haven't gotten around to picking it up.
Another possibility: Consoles generally only come with one controller, so lots of games made to be played with a friend on the couch are out of reach. That second (or even third) controller will let them try new titles, invite friends over, maybe even get family members in on the fun. Make sure you buy an official one for the right system — don't be taken in by cheaper third-party options.
If they're more of a "Candy Crush" or "Angry Birds" person, the fact is they're going to find their new addiction on their own — and those games are usually free! It may sound like a cop-out, but a gift card to the App Store or Google Play Store is actually great. It lets them play games like the new "Farmville" at their own pace, without the guilt of spending money (their own, at least) on virtual hay.
Just because someone plays on an iPad or smartphone doesn't mean they're not a "real" gamer, as many who do so will tell you. But what games are "real" games? You can't gift apps on Android yet, but for iOS we have two recommendations.
"FTL" (Faster Than Light) lets you play as the captain of a starship on the run through star systems, upgrading and battling as you go. It's brutally difficult but also highly entertaining, and no two playthroughs are the same. The highly acclaimed desktop version of the game was recently updated specifically for the iPad.
"Kingdom Rush Frontiers" is the sequel to one of the best "tower defense" games of all time, and while it doesn't do anything particularly groundbreaking, it is extremely fun and will make plane rides disappear. The HD version for high-rez tablets is $5.
Does this particular dad or grad take pride in his gaming prowess? This season, there's one game that will truly put it to the test. "Dark Souls II," on most consoles and just recently on PC (the best version by far), is one of the most punishingly difficult games ever made — and even worse, it's totally (well, mostly) fair. The beautiful, mysterious and extremely dangerous world of Drangleic will consume him — if he doesn't tear his controller in half or collapse from rage.
A slightly less nerve-wracking option is the latest update for "Diablo III": "Reaper of Souls," which basically makes the game better in every respect — and adds new challenges for anyone who thought they'd hit the limit in the original version. The update is available on its own, or bundled with the full game.
There are plenty of gamers who look back on the '80s and '90s as a golden age, and developers have been catering to this niche recently. There are lots of great options for nostalgic gamers on every platform.
"Wayward Souls" ($5 on iPad) is a top-down dungeon-crawler with a Super Nintendo look and feel — but its deep and involved story, tons of unlockables and surprisingly decent controls set it well apart from the herd. If that sounds good, better get it quick; the developers plan to raise the price with every major update.
The "Blackwell" Series is an epic point-and-click adventure in the classic Lucas Arts style (think "King's Quest"), with graphics to match, but with a mature and satisfying supernatural-whodunit story. After eight years and five installments, this massive series has just concluded in "The Blackwell Epiphany" — and old-school gamers who loved these games in the '90s will surely enjoy working their way through the whole thing.