Chances are pretty good that there’s a gamer on your holiday gift-giving list. And if you still haven’t picked up a present for them, chances are really good that you’re stumped for ideas.
But Macworld is here to help out: we’ve compiled a short list of the best games and game accessories to get your favorite Mac-using gamers this holiday season. There’s a little something for everyone in our bag of goodies this year, from casual games to hardcore titles, games that make you think to ones that are pure pulse-pounding adrenaline action.
For Gamers with Time to Kill: World of Warcraft
One of the hottest titles that’s just come out is World of Warcraft (
Blizzard Entertainment ), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game from the same folks who have brought us the Warcraft series, Starcraft, and the Diablo series. This game puts thousands of players online together as they become heroes, exploring a gigantic world chock-full of monsters and beasts to slay, treasure to collect and quests to fulfill.
System requirements run on the steep side—you’ll need a 933MHz G4-based system or higher to play, with Mac OS X v10.3.6, 512MB RAM and a 32MB ATI or Nvidia graphics system. Presuming your Mac fits the bill, though, you’re in for a fun time. The game is rated “T” for Teen by the
The game is available in two versions – a basic $50 edition and an $80 collector’s edition. If you can get your hands on it, the hard-to-find collector’s edition includes all sorts of extras, like a soundtrack CD, a “making of” DVD, cloth map, coffee table art book and more. Also, please be aware that like many massively multiplayer online RPGs, World of Warcraft costs money to play after the first month – so you (or someone else) could also get the lucky gift recipient a pre-paid game card (available in stores where World of Warcraft is sold) for an extra month or two of play.
For Casual Gamers: Big Bang Board Games
Not everyone has the time or patience to spend weeks and months mastering the intricacies of an online world like World of Warcraft. That brings us to our next choice, a great collection of titles for gamers looking for some classic fun: Big Bang Board Games (
Freeverse Software ).
Big Bang Board Games pits the sun and moon in variations on classic board games like Checkers, Chess, Reversi, Mancala, Backgammon, 4-in-a-Row and Tic-Tac-Toe. You can play against computer-controlled opponents or friends and strangers online, using e-mail, iChat, or Freeverse Software’s own game-matching service, GameSmith. What’s more, the games play well with iTunes, Mail, Address Book, iChat and your iSight camera, if you have one.
Big Bang Board Games only asks for Mac OS X v10.3 or higher and 250MB hard disk space, so it’ll play well on slower machines. Although Freeverse has listed no ESRB rating for Big Bang Board Games, there’s nothing in here to offend—it’s safe for families. And it only costs $25, so it’s easy on the wallet too. Look for it at Apple Stores and other spots where Mac games are sold, or buy it online from Freeverse itself.
For First Person Shooter Fans: Call of Duty, United Offensive
World War II has been a popular era for developers of first person shooters to draw from lately, and there isn’t a better game in this genre for the Mac than Call of Duty (
Aspyr Media ). You’ll assume the role of American, Russian, and British soldiers as you complete missions during D-Day, the Russian Charge at Stalingrad and the Battle for Berlin.
What makes the $50 Call of Duty better than Medal of Honor? The game’s designers were largely the same folks who worked on that other title, but Call of Duty has spiffier graphics and more realistic physics, and the ability to play through three different soldiers’ eyes definitely gives you a different perspective. Some gamers with a particular penchant for online gaming may prefer Aspyr’s Battlefield 1942, which is worth taking a look at as well.
Aspyr recently expanded the Call of Duty universe with a $30 new
expansion pack called United Offensive, which involves players in the Invasion of Sicily, the Battle of Kursk and more, adding new weapons, multiplayer maps and lots more. If the gamers on your list already have Call of Duty, this would be a nice addition—doubly so if you’re getting the original game for them too. This gritty war game sports depictions of bloodshed and violence, which is why it got a “T” for Teen rating by the ESRB.
For Adventure Game Mavens: Myst IV: Revelation
Myst returns to the Mac with the release of Myst IV: Revelation (
Ubi Soft Entertainment ), the latest installment of this legendary computer game series. It’s hard to believe, but Myst is more than a decade old now, and it’s gone through various iterations and sequels to get here.
Myst IV: Revelation takes gamers into a fantasy world where a magic technique can transport you from a book into an “Age,” an island-like world full of unique creatures, people and places to interact with an explore. The hallmarks of the Myst games have always been jaw-droppingly pretty graphics and mind-bendlingly difficult puzzles to solve, and Myst IV: Revelation delivers up both aspects while wrapping the experience using an entirely new game engine architecture that offers more realistic effects than ever before.
Best of all, the $40 game ships on hybrid DVD-ROM discs for both Mac OS X and Windows PCs, so you should be able to find it anywhere computer games are sold. Be aware, though, that Myst IV isn’t fully supported on laptop computers, so this may not be the best choice for PowerBook or iBook gamers. It’s rated “T” for Teen by the ESRB.
World of Warcraft has steep system requirements, but the role-playing game brings together thousands of players from around the Web.
Big Bang Chess is just one of the games you’ll find in Freeverse Software’s Big Bang Board Games.
For Strategy Gamers: Railroad Tycoon 3
One of the best games in that genre out this season is Railroad Tycoon 3 (
MacSoft ), which makes you an entrepreneur with a dream of creating a railroad empire.
Railroad Tycoon 3 sports myriad historical and fanciful scenarios for you to explore as you build your tracks, create stations, buy other businesses that will expand as your railroad does, and play the stock market. All the while you have to compete against other railroad tycoons, managing mergers and acquisitions until you’re at the top of the heap.
If you’re familiar with past Railroad Tycoon games, you’ll love the new 3-D graphics, improvements to track-laying, more sophisticated economic model and other improvements you’ll find in this all-new game. Rated “E” for Everyone by the ESRB, Railroad Tycoon will set you back about $50.
For Wannabe Pilots: X-Plane 8
Flight simulators are few and far between on the Macintosh, but the $50 X-Plane (
Laminar Research ) would stand alone by any measure. The game has some of the most realistic graphics and physics we’ve ever seen in a flight sim on any platform. The depth and breadth of X-Plane’s customizability, from the number of planes that are modeled to the amount of scenery that’s been replicated, is positively breathtaking – and what’s more, the simulation software includes modeling tools, in case you want to take a crack at designing your own aircraft too. But all this sophistication does come at a price: X-Plane has a very steep learning curve and a quirky user interface that takes some time to get used to.
X-Plane is in a constant state of refinement and development—its developer is one of the more prolific out there, constantly adding new features and capabilities, fixing bugs and tweaking what’s there. So if you get X-Plane for someone this year, make sure to tell them to stop by the X-Plane Web site to download the very latest version to get the most out of it.
Thinking about picking up a game controller for someone on your list this year? First-person shooter enthusiasts will be the first to tell you that there’s no substitute for a keyboard and mouse—up to now, anyway.
The USB-based Nostromo N52 Speedpad (
Belkin ) takes what’s great about keyboard control and melds it with enough embellishments for gamers to really provide a useful controller for FPS fans. It’s a dedicated keypad with 14 easy-to-reach keys that can be programmed for movement, firing, and other features in your favorite games, using an OS X-compatible software configuration application that’s included with the device. A directional pad, scrollwheel, fire and function button round out the ergonomically-designed controller’s capabilities.
The only downside to the N52 is that it’s designed specifically to be used with your left hand – so if you’re buying gifts for a leftie who’s more likely to wield the mouse with his or her left hand, you might want to keep looking. The N52 SpeedPad lists for $50.
For Gamers Looking to Untether: MX1000 Laser Cordless Mouse
It’s Mac gaming’s dirty little secret: a one-button mouse like Apple’s may be great for a lot of things, but gaming isn’t one of them. If your Mac gamer is still using an Apple mouse, help them out with something with more flexibility. Just about every Mac game out there, especially the games that have been ported from the PC, automatically support second or third mouse buttons, scrollwheels and other capabilities.
One of the hottest items on Mac gamers’ gift lists this year is the MX1000 Laser Cordless Mouse (
Logitech ), one of the highest-precision cordless mice out there. It uses Radio Frequency (RF) to communicate with a base station that’s connected to your Mac, which doesn’t make it ideal for road warriors who want to play games on their laptops while traveling, but it’s perfect for desktop Mac gamers. It features rechargeable batteries, a built-in gauge showing you how much charge your batteries have left, thumb-button controls and other fancy bells and whistles. Expect to pay no more than $80.
For Road Warriors: Wireless Bluetooth Mini Mouse
PowerBook and iBook gamers who have opted to buy a system with an internal Bluetooth module would still benefit from a multi-button mouse. One of the better ones out there right now is the Bluetooth Mini Mouse (
Iogear ), which features two buttons and a scrollwheel. Unlike Logitech’s Laser Cordless Mouse, it uses the laptop’s built-in Bluetooth module to connect, so there’s no external base station to keep track of.
A sleek design and small dimensions make this mouse super-portable for gamers who are always on the go, and a power switch makes sure the batteries don’t get drained when the mouse is not in use. Speaking of draining the batteries, Iogear figured out a nifty solution to this problem: the mouse also sports a mini-USB jack on its top. Tether it to the Mac with a USB cable, and the Mac will top off the mouse’s batteries when they get low.
The Nostromo N52 Speedpad sports 14 keys that can be programmed for movement, firing, and other first-person shooter fun.
If a single-button mouse is cramping your game-player’s style, try the high-precision MX1000 Laser Cordless Mouse from Logitech.
Gamers on the go will appreciate Iogear’s two-button Bluetooth Mini Mouse.