When you look past the chunky hardware and required technical expertise, building a gaming PC is a personal, almost spiritual experience. Instead of buying a console identical to millions of others, you put together a machine crafted from your vision. You may turn to outside help (like PCMag) to research the best CPUs, GPUs, RAM, and storage, but it’s your call regarding what goes in the case. There’s a certain pride that comes from seeing your self-built rig perform without a hitch. PC gamers base their identities around this DIY ethos.
This also makes PC gamers especially tough people to shop for during the holiday season. They already know that they want a red-hot Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 or 3080, and will get it themselves—stock permitting. PC gaming hardware also varies so wildly that few recommendations universally apply.
Still, the PC gamer in your life wants to experience the joy of receiving a gift this holiday season. So, bookmark this recommendation list, as it focuses on items you can purchase for a PC gamer without doing too much research.
Best Mechanical Keyboard for Hardcore Gamers
The Corsair K95 RGB Platinum remains one of our favorite mechanical gaming keyboard lines. The Platinum XT continues this winning streak by housing the same excellent design and features, plus an improved wrist rest, more durable “doubleshot” keys, and Elgato Stream Deck support for content creators. Gaming keyboards don’t get much better than this.
Best Wireless Mouse for Esports Competitors
Based on the company’s track record, it should come as no surprise that Razer makes an incredible esports-centric gaming mouse. The Razer Viper Ultimate feels great thanks to its ambidextrous design and wireless connectivity that’s strong and smooth enough for high-speed, high-performance esports competitions. The mouse looks good, too, with its slick, wireless charging dock and glowing green snake logo.
Best Monitor for Playing Games With High Refresh Rates
Powerful PC hardware doesn’t mean much without a monitor capable of faithfully displaying stunning visuals. The 27-inch ViewSonic Elite XG270QG may be expensive, but it absolutely does justice to your rig with a swift, 1ms response time, fast refresh rate, low input lag, gorgeous 1440p image, and flexible stand.
The Best Headset We’ve Tested This Year
In the before times, a gaming headset helped you tune out distractions and focus on a game’s sounds. They still do that, but now they also make sure a game’s audio doesn’t distract anyone you’re quarantining with. The $99 Razer Blackshark V2 offers excellent, 7.1-channel audio quality and crystal-clear microphone performance in a comfortable, wired headset.
Best for Wireless Headphone Fans
For $199, the JBL Quantum 800 headset offers quality performance in a wireless model, with strong bass and effective noise cancellation. It also sports many features especially tuned for PC, such as programmable lighting and a 10-band customizable EQ with multiple presets. No one will ever sneak up on you in a battle royale game again.
Best Chair for Marathon Game Sessions
The idea you need a special gaming chair may sound a little ridiculous, but if you’re going to spend hours in front of a monitor, you owe it to yourself to sit in style. SecretLab’s Titan gaming chair refresh lets you literally rest easy, thanks to quality materials and a comfortable build. If you’re looking out for your lower back health, though, you should invest in a lumbar pillow.
Best Router for Online Gamers
At this point, the internet is as vital to gaming as controllers. You don’t want a bad connection ruining your multiplayer dominance, after all. The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 impresses with fast performance, eight LAN ports, compatibility with digital commands through Alexa and IFTTT, and various ways to optimize your network for lag-free gaming. Just know that it’s as big and expensive as most other gaming devices.
Best Headset for Virtual Reality Lovers
As virtual reality headsets evolved, we either settled for wireless headsets with reduced performance or powerful headsets that tethered us to PCs. Either way, something held back the immersion. With the Oculus Quest 2, the future of uncompromised wireless (Facebook-dependent) VR headsets is finally just about here. The Quest 2 packs a capable processor, sharp inner displays, and accurate motion tracking in a $300 headset you can freely use anywhere. All that’s missing is a better battery.
Best Controller for Customization Options
It may have first launched in 2019, but the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 remains the best controller for gaming on PC, Xbox, or any other compatible device. The hefty and premium materials make this feel like a $179 product. You can swap out buttons, adjust paddles and trigger pulls, and save different profiles to create the most comfortable customizations.
Best Controller for Playing PC Games on Mobile
Compared to most controllers, the $69 PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus serves a different purpose. This full-size controller conveniently connects to your Android phone, making it our preferred way to stream high-quality PC games from the cloud to mobile via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. It’s a perfectly fine PC controller, too, and since Game Pass works on PC, you can enjoy the same games on both your powerful rig at home and your modest mobile device you carry everywhere.
Best Game for Steam Users
After spending two years in Steam Early Access, Hades emerged from Hell to become one of 2020’s most heavenly gaming experiences. This roguelike takes the repetitive death baked into the genre and weaves it into a touching story of family drama in the ancient Greek underworld. The beautiful, illustrated visuals (and hot characters) shine on even modest hardware. Most importantly, the combat mixes and matches fast-paced weapons with random godly powers to create an incredibly addictive gameplay loop.
Best Game for Xbox Fans
Who knew that a revival of Microsoft’s niche amateur aviator simulator would wind up one of 2020’s biggest gaming surprises? Microsoft Flight Simulator uses stunning next-generation technology and online map data to recreate the real world and let you accurately fly through it. Aspiring pilots can navigate through real-time weather conditions and visit recognizable landmarks. If your PC can run this demanding game, give it a try by firing up the Xbox desktop app. There, you can buy it outright or play it as part of a Xbox Game Pass for PC subscription. And don’t forget to complete the illusion with a flight stick.
Best Game for Epic Games Store Enthusiasts
Tony Hawk’s gaming history has as many dramatic ups and downs as his flashiest skating tricks. Fortunately, after a lengthy hiatus, the series has returned with a remaster that shows why the originals were such masterpieces to begin with. A cast of old and new skaters tear through beautiful new renditions of classic maps, with new and classic tunes, using the rock-solid combo system that tests your skills and creativity. Fire up the Epic Games Store and soar with the Birdman.