As we finish wrapping gifts for loved ones and ponder just what we’ll be getting in return, we wonder what the reactions will be. Will they like what we got them? Will we like what they got us? Or are we going to hear a bunch of, “Woooooowwwww… where’d you find… this? –Uh I love it!”
No matter what, there will be much merriment, real or manufactured, and we’ll likely at some point be taken back to that one year when we got that incredible gift. That item we pined for and perhaps never thought would appear. What gifts made a holiday to remember for us? You’ll find out in this round table– and tell us what your own favorite gifts were in the comments below.
One wintry Christmas day six-year-old (or seven- or eight-; as if I remember) me woke up, rushing downstairs to partake in his second official Christmas. (The previous years my Taiwanese parents didn’t really understand why everything, for example, was red and green, and just stayed indoors to avoid all the insanity going on outside. Thanks to commercials, we all learned a lot about this Krismass thing.) Of course, I went to the stockings first, because those are gifts you can grab before your dad comes out with his camcorder and demands that everyone wait before tearing their presents apart, while he fumbles with the camera controls. And what was inside the stocking but Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo! I could only stare at it, wondering if it was actually real. Then I opened it and started immersing myself in the instruction manual. Yep, it was real all right.
(Which brings us to another point: how come none of us immerse ourselves in instruction manuals anymore? They used to be so great. Of course, I used to be much younger, but nevertheless.) (The ones for Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow are still fantastic, though.)
There was just one teensy problem, though. I didn’t own an SNES. Sure, I was still plenty happy with just having Yoshi’s Island— it was that amazing to me, it being my first video game ever (I guess I should have mentioned that; it sounds important), but a part of me kind of thought it confusing that Santa would have given me a game when I didn’t own the actual system. Santa, I reasoned, must have thought our family was much better off than we actually were, and who was I to question Santa’s assumptions? Fortunately, my parents came downstairs, saw me holding the game, and quickly (over-excitedly) asked me what Santa gave me. I told them and mentioned that well, it’s cool, but we don’t have a SNES. So my parents told me to open the large box under our plastic Christmas tree. And, of course, it was a SNES.
“How did Santa know you were going to get a SNES?” my parents asked, bemusedly.
“I don’t knoooooow,” I sighed. I knew from then on that Santa was a force to be reckoned with.
In the annals of gaming holidays, nothing ultimately compares with the Christmas present that launched my gaming life: the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was 1986 and television was flooded that holiday season with a commercial promoting the re-released Atari 7800. “The Atari 7800… more games at about half the price” the announcer declared, an obvious reference to NES’s fledgling library and higher price tag. The commercial smacked of desperation, though, as it was clear to just about everyone that the hot item that winter was not made by Atari. Like most kids, my brother and I told dad that we wanted Nintendo’s 8-bit console, but it still came as a complete shock the day that we peeled back that wrapping paper and saw an NES Control Deck with Super Mario Bros. in front of us.
Of course, dad didn’t just hand us over the keys to Mario’s world that easily. He dragged us upstairs and gave us a stern warning about the system being a potential “brain sucker,” probably echoing what his father had declared to him regarding the “boob tube” that was the 1950s TV. My brother and I listened as well as two kids who just won the jackpot on Christmas reasonably could, and then hurried back down to the basement of our split-level house to begin collecting coins and diving down pipes. Sometime later that week, dad made things even more interesting when he went out to the local retail store and secured the last copy of Kung Fu.
While my family generally downplayed the significance of receiving gifts, it was not an uncommon occurrence for me to awake on Christmas morning and find a video game-shaped present waiting for me beneath our tree. I had gotten so many over the years that it’s difficult to even remember all of them, and the excitement of receiving one waned pretty rapidly. That said, undoubtedly my favorite gift was one I got in 2009. That year marked my second Christmas with my girlfriend, and by that point in our relationship we had more or less given up on trying to surprise the other with unexpected presents. She compiled a list of games I was interested in (arranged according to my level of interest), but she did not tell me which of them she would actually purchase. I did likewise with the items she wanted, and I soon stopped trying to guess which game I would be receiving.
Come Christmas Eve, we exchanged our presents. I carefully tore the wrapping paper off of mine, opened the top of the slender, unmarked box underneath, and found within the coolest Zelda T-shirt known to man. I had only mentioned it briefly in a conversation we had some months prior to that day, but I thought it was really sweet that she remembered it. I unfolded the shirt, and what fell out but a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Seeing the shirt first made finding the game all the more surprising, and the combination of the two was absolutely perfect.
We’ve already touched on multiple of my favoritest gifts, so let’s do a different one this year. I’m going to go with one of the last NES games I ever received as a Christmas present. That would be Mega Man 5. A lot of people find this later entry in the 8-bit series to be less than stellar, but I’ve always been quite fond of it, perhaps partially because of the Christmas gift rush. That being said, I spent nearly five hours beating the first six of eight robot masters, and just in case you were curious, I knew it all along that — SPOILER — Proto Man wasn’t really evil and was being framed. I KNEW it!
Mega Man 5 was such a good present that I got it two years in a row. This is because I asked for Mega Man 6 and got the wrong game. I was honored to have received the incorrect game, of course, since it was so fantastic, but it was obvious that I was not going to get the correct game, so I unfortunately still had to return it after business had resumed again the next day. Still, that’s the only game I’ve received twice for a present, so it’s definitely noteworthy.
I’ll never forget the year I got the Accelerator game chair. It was all over TV as the hottest gaming item of the season. It was an ergonomically designed chair made of pure awesome that was sure to up your game to the next level every time you sat on it. It even had a place to sit your N64 and controllers when you weren’t using them. The only thing it was missing was a TV to hook it up to.
I don’t know how many times that I “hinted” to my parents how much I wanted it, but I know they were sick of hearing all its merits by the week before Christmas. That’s because I discovered they’d bought it for me and were hiding it at work so I wouldn’t find it. I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to sit on it and play my games in awesome eliteness (this was before 1337 was around).
Sadly, it didn’t live up to my expectations. The chair was just uncomfortable and the unwieldy design, not to mention the fact that I had to spend 4 hours assembling it since I had discovered it early, meant that I tried to like it but quickly relegated it to the garage, the place where bad furniture went to die. Thankfully I also got plenty of other games that year, and now I can look back fondly to a time when a gaming chair was the epitome of cool.
It’s tough for me to name the single greatest present that I’ve ever gotten on Christmas, but I should be able to name two of the best. One of the first that comes to mind was a gift I received the Christmas of 1999 or 2000, which was a Nintendo 64. Before that, Sega Genesis was my only home console. But after playing the N64 with my friends for years, I had to have one. My dad didn’t seem too keen on the idea however, and told me time and time again that I wouldn’t get another system. Christmas came around, and sure enough there was a Nintendo 64 along with GoldenEye 007 and Mario Kart 64 waiting for me.
Another of my most memorable gifts also came in the year 2000. My mom had always been against video games. My dad got me the Genesis and a Game Boy, but my mom wouldn’t even let me have a gaming system. She always hated to see me bringing my Game Boy back from my dad’s. But that year something changed. For my birthday, she bought me Pokémon Silver. It was hidden inside a bunch of other boxes so I had no idea what could possibly be inside. When Christmas came around, I wasn’t expecting to see another game under the tree. But there was, and that day I added Pokémon Gold to my Game Boy collection. Both of those are not only two of the best Christmas memories, but also two of the best gaming memories that I have.
Seeing how my SNES, N64, and GameCube were all Christmas gifts, I really can’t choose which was the best. I imagine it would be like asking a parent which of the kids is their favorite, only significantly harder because, and let’s be honest here, some kids are absolute pains in the nether regions while Nintendo systems, at their worst, can be a Virtual Boy. However, if I had to name one as the most notable, it would probably be SNES. My brother and I really weren’t expecting it, and it was the console that would effectively make me a helpless video game addict. Also, it was the only system that I actually got on Christmas– the others I got at launch as early Christmas gifts because my parents were awesome and didn’t make me wait.
There is also the question of games, and that one is significantly easier to answer: Ocarina of Time. Regular readers might know that I have professed my love for Ocarina numerous times and have labeled as quite possibly the greatest game ever made, so one can naturally assume that if it is the best game ever it is also the best Christmas gift ever. I actually still remember the day I got it, which was, once again, not actually on Christmas. My aunt got it for my brother and I at a family Christmas party and when we got home I was given a choice: watch Titanic on VHS or boot up Ocarina. Knowing the end of the film already (spoiler: the boat sinks) I plunged headfirst into the greatest experience available to humanity.
That was a good Christmas!
I think my favorite gift I have ever received was my Wii. If you can remember, Holiday 2006 was nuts. Wii launch numbers were insane, and the console sold out into the holiday season. Hell, there was nearly a two year period in which it was hard to find a Wii! Nearly every store in my area was sold out. I practically begged my mother: “Please! Please! All I want is a Wii! That’s all I want!” to which she continued to remind me of its availability (or lack thereof). Man, those “Wii Would Like to Play” ads got me pumped!
Usually, I opened gifts at my grandparents (not entirely sure why, just a traditional thing), and I had been disappointed throughout the entire morning. I was sure that none of those boxes contained a Wii. Yet then, I opened one up, and there it was! Honestly, it was one of the happiest days of my life, no hyperbole. My grandmother had gone out and waited in line to buy it at a Toys ‘R Us one cold December morning (without doing her hair, mind you, a crime that she usually never commits, under any circumstances whatsoever), which warranted the greatest hug and the most “Thank You’s” ever spoken within one minute.
M. Noah Ward
Video games are such a staple of any gift-giving holiday– at least for me– but it all started 22 years ago in 1988. At that time my family had an Atari 2600 with a couple joysticks, and I was darn happy with it– I’d been playing it for years and my mom and dad (in excellent foreshadowing of today) would even compete for high scores in games like Stealth. I knew that the Nintendo Entertainment System fad had been sweeping the nation for the previous two years, but frankly it was something my family couldn’t afford, I’d never get a gift that fancy and, again, there were countless Atari games lying around. Then Christmas 1988 happened. I had already opened a few great gifts– generic toys, yes!– and then I got one of those clothes gifts. You know the ones– where you may or may not be very happy about it but you know you have to look happy when you open it. Why was I getting a clothes gift as one of my last gifts?!
Ah, but this story was like Andrew Hsieh’s above. I opened the shirt box and it was a bright teal t-shirt with comic strip Link on it, riding a skateboard. “ZELDA Skate Jam!” the shirt said.
“Really?” I thought to myself.
“Wow, thanks! I like the color… that’s pretty cool,” I said. Hey, teal was popular back then. “And Zelda is really cool… but… it’s kind of weird.”
“Why’s that?” my mom asked.
“Because I don’t have a Nintendo. I mean, if I wear this to school, someone might ask me about how much I like Zelda and stuff and I won’t be able to really say anything because I don’t have Zelda or a Nintendo…”
My mom and dad looked at each other and smiled and my dad got up and left the room. He returned with a large-ish wrapped box and put it on my lap with a “here.” I looked at the to/from tag on the box and it said it was from both my parents and my grandmother and granddad on my dad’s side. I ran my hands over the box.
“What do you think it is?!” my mom prompted me.
“I dunno!” I gave it a light shake, which is totally dumb because I knew it wasn’t clothes and that’s really all you care about as a kid. It was something cooler– another generic toy perhaps!
“Well go on and open it!” my dad said.
So I did slowly, since my family’s not the Tasmanian Devil rip-and-shred type of gift openers. I made sure not to look at the ends of the box before I could fully remove the paper.
It was the NES Action Set! I was so excited. It included the neon orange laser gun (which was a must since my dad loves to shoot and he wanted to play Duck Hunt for himself) and also had Super Mario Bros. on the two-pack included cartridge (er, Game Pak, right Nintendo?).
I was overjoyed. My family and I had many great times on the NES, relegating the Atari to the side (though I did still play it a little for some years more), and thanks to the generosity of grandparents who had never gotten me a “wow” gift before, my family was able to get an NES. I wore the Zelda shirt to school with pride. Okay, I didn’t get Zelda that year but I could still say, “Yeah but Mario’s way cooler than Zelda!” I still say that today.
How about you? Tell us your favorite video game gift in the comments below.