Kotaku Readers Share Their Favorite Holiday Gaming Gifts

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Earlier this week, I shared a story about my favorite Christmas gift. It was an Xbox 360 I had begged my late grandma for, which she bought alongside a copy of Gears of War and a second controller for my bestie and I. This gift would set the course for my life’s current trajectory, one neither I nor my family thought would ever be possible. (Told you, grandma, video games can be a job. If only you could see me now…) Anyway, after sharing my memory, I asked Kotaku readers to share their own favorite holiday gaming gifts, and y’all really pulled through with some hilarious and touching stories.

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Folks talked about Final Fantasy VII, a broken arm and the SNES, an unexpected copy of Super Mario Bros. 2, and the GameCube. I laughed, teared up, and smiled the entire time while reading these anecdotes. They’re quite moving, with a few going into vivid detail about the exact moment and the feeling of receiving these gifts.

Read More: Kotaku Asks: What Was Your Fave Gamer Gift Ever? 

I encourage you to go through the comments of that Kotaku Asks post for even more stories about sentimental gaming gifts. I’d also love to read other memories of your fave holiday gifts, so drop them in the comments if you’ve got them, dear reader. Without further ado, though, here are some of my favorite stories y’all shared with us.

Happy Holidays, see y’all in 2024.

I got an original Game Boy for Christmas in 1990, with a copy of Tetris, Super Mario Land, and DuckTales, if I remember correctly. It was a total game changer, and the mountains of time I put into that little console over the next 4 or 5 years was amazing. It completely changed the way I thought about video games, made me into a life-long gamer, and dropped my middle school GPA by at least a full grade. So many incredible games, but some standouts were Super Mario Land 2, Darkwing Duck, the first Final Fantasy, and Kirby.

I will never forget that morning, and wish I still had the system, which was lost between many military moves and 2 kids of my own. Luckily I can emulate all of them on basically any handheld device I own now, but there was something truly special about the genuine article. — Segador

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When I was eleven, ALL I wanted was a GameCube. It was the only thing I talked about for like half the year. We’d go to the video rental store and I’d just stay in the GameCube section lamenting games I couldn’t play. I’d say at least once, every night, that I wanted a GameCube for Christmas. I told everyone who had ears just how much I wanted a GameCube, and ONLY a GameCube, to the point that I surely annoyed everyone who wasn’t in my age bracket. I was adamant that I did NOT want a PS2, or an Xbox, or literally anything else in the world. I wanted a GameCube. Period.

Well, on Christmas morning I got a little stack of presents, because Mom liked wrapping and presenting everything super pretty. I knew my GameCube was the box at the back, but you have to open all the little presents that were like clothes and stuff first, right? So I plucked the little package off the top and unwrapped it…it’s an Xbox-branded CD holder. My heart dropped. Like. My whole world came crashing down. I turned to plead to my dad with my eyes, and he just shrugged and said, “The guy at the store said that was the best one.”

And, of course, Mom’s taking pictures and we need to show each present and thank them for it and all that, so I try my best while literally fighting tears. Whole Christmas was ruined. I went through the rest of the presents with all the enthusiasm of doing chores, pretending to like shirts and candy while internally mourning the loss of literally the only present I wanted.

Well, the very last box was, in fact, a Gamecube. My dad just wanted to make me suffer for the months of annoying the shit out of him. I still have that CD holder, it’s where I keep all of my diagnostic discs for PC repair. And I will never, ever get rid of it. — staindgrey

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It was Christmas ‘98. My family has their annual Christmas gathering on Christmas Eve, and we met like we always did that year. I remember opening a gift from my grandparents to find Banjo-Kazooie, and thinking, “I don’t have an N64, I can’t play this.” I was young, and I figured someone made a mistake, which is understandable. I made sure my mom *really* understood we had to return it to get something else. This was critical. I hammered that fact home. This had to be rectified.

Next morning, I unwrap an N64 from “Santa.” Imagine my surprise! Banjo-Kazooie turned out to be a massively formative game for me. It informed my tastes in gaming that I still have to this day. It was the first game I ever beat (which is to say, the first game I ever rolled credits on). It was certainly the first game I ever completed 100%. I had no idea I was unwrapping not only one of the best games ever made, but what would become my absolute favorite game ever. — MegaMan1138

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The most memorable was likely the PSX back in 1997. I had seen my cousin playing Final Fantasy 7 earlier that year and wouldn’t shut up about it. Months later there was a PSX and FF7 under the tree. No memory card of course, because why would a parent know that this thing needed more accessories. So I played the first few hours of FF7 every day for the next couple of days until I could get my mom to take me to Toys R Us so I could spend my money on a memory card. — Bkral

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As soon as I stopped believing in Santa, my parents gave up on trying to hide what I was having for Christmas so while I had plenty of stuff I loved, none really registered as a great surprise and they all blur together. So unlike most commenters I would pick something from adulthood and from a birthday, not Christmas.

When I turned 24 I was living in Paris where I had found my first “real” job, and so did about half of the people I graduated with so I had plenty of friends around (and most of those who didn’t move to Paris lived about 1h by train from there). We were all engineers (or so our diploma said, I never really worked as one) so we made a decent living but life in Paris is expensive so we weren’t swimming in money either, so it came out of nowhere when during a birthday bash thrown at our place (3 of us were sharing a flat conveniently set above a dentist office and below a pretty much deaf lady, so no one ever complained about the noise), my friends got me the full Rock Band set with guitar, drums and microphone. That’s the only gaming gift I ever had that I don’t remember expecting, and it’s conveniently a great party game that we played for the rest of the night. Most of those people are still my friends, so it’s still a fond memory to me. — Nassim Tekaya

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Christmas Eve in the year 2000, my family went out to see a movie (which one, I can’t remember) and afterwards, we spent some time poking around in the surrounding shopping complex. 10-year-old me loved wandering around bookstores, so that’s where I beelined, and I stumbled into something I’d never imagined— an artbook for a video game, Final Fantasy IX, which just so happened to be the game I most wanted to find underneath the Christmas tree.

My parents generously bought me the artbook, and I spent hours that night soaking up all the illustrations, the fascinating characters and environments, hoping desperately that the game was gift-wrapped under the tree. And it was.

Christmas morning, after building anticipation all night, I embarked on the mission to kidnap the princess of Alexandria, the beginning of a long adventure that remains an all-time favorite. — elwittlif

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For me, it was Christmas 1988. In late 1988 Zelda 2 and Mario 2 were out but the chip shortage meant they were both in VERY short supply. As far as I could tell, Mario 2 hadn’t even shown up in stores. It was nowhere. I had absolutely zero expectation that I would get it for Christmas. On Christmas day I was absolutely floored to open a present and it was Mario 2. I was so excited that I didn’t even notice that the game’s shrink wrap was missing. I asked my dad how he found a copy. He then told me a story about amazing timing and the missing shrink wrap.

He had stopped by a toy store (40 minutes away, we lived in the sticks) and asked at the customer service counter if they had any copies; of course they didn’t. As he started to walk away, a woman walked up with a return. She was returning a copy of Super Mario Bros. 2! She had bought it for her 5-year-old son but he was too young to understand it, so she wanted to get him something else. My dad quickly got in line behind her and as soon as she walked away, he asked to buy it. His lucky timing and quick thinking created a memorable Christmas miracle for me. — j-rose

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Christmas ‘98, I was 7 years old. Didn’t have a GameBoy, up to that point in my life all my gaming was purely Super Nintendo and N64 and I was still hyped with my N64 from the last year or so. We went to visit grandparents on my mom’s side first. I unwrapped Pokémon Blue and Yellow as two of my gifts. Score. Absolute hype. But I had no GameBoy. Cue immense anticipation – I was, hopefully, going to get a GameBoy either that night or tomorrow morning. There was no way they were getting me games and not a GameBoy.

We went to see my grandparents on my dad’s side after that, and there I not only got my first GameBoy, a purple Color, but Link’s Awakening DX and Ocarina of Time (which had only come out a month prior), my first Zelda games. I had freaked out about Ocarina of Time since seeing a commercial for it before the Rugrats movie and how cool it looked (being that 3D/N64 games were still brand new to the world). I don’t think I ever heard of Link’s Awakening before that night though. I clearly remember going nuts because the back of OoT’s box confirmed that yes, you could indeed ride a horse.

So it was a mix of gifts, but to this day that remains the most vivid Christmas memory I have, and possibly the most influential having had 25 years of life to reflect on it. Awesome night. — phazonphazoff

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For me, it has to be Christmas 1991. I was in the second grade, and my birthday is a month before Christmas and falls around Thanksgiving. My parents set up a play date with a kid from school I didn’t really like, and my dad took us to the playground in the neighborhood the day before my birthday. I was sat at the slide about to go down, when suddenly I blacked out and woke up on the ground in a pile of rocks. I was in terrible pain and realized the kid pushed me off the slide so he could go down before me. My dad saw the whole thing happen, took us back to the house, and got my mom.

I had a lump in the middle of my upper arm and it hurt like crazy. My dad told my mom that he thought I just sprained my arm, so she rushed downstairs to see. She took one look at me, saw me with no color in my face, smacked my dad, and said, “You can’t sprain your arm in the middle like that!” They called the doctor and he asked if I could move my arm. I extended it out and felt and heard a loud pop, and the same thing when I bent it back. My parents rushed me to the doctor’s office, where they ran X-rays and determined I had broken my humerus clean through. My arm was set and put in a cast.

The next few days I was still in incredible pain. I missed out on my birthday, had to eat Thanksgiving in the living room, had to sleep in the recliner because it was too uncomfortable to lie flat or go up the stairs. A week or so after Thanksgiving, I slipped and fell on the wood floors in the kitchen and landed on my cast. Since I was still in pain and had the fall, my mom took me back to the doctor where they ran a few more X-rays that showed that my arm was never set properly. But since the bone had started growing back together, it needed to be rebroken.

Christmas Eve was the day set for the re-breaking. My dad took me to the hospital, I was hooked up to an IV, and they pumped some pain meds through my system. I was still awake, even though the doctors and nurses said I’d fall asleep. I was wheeled into the next room where the doctor looked down at me and said, “Are you ready!” Bawling my eyes out and looking directly into his soul, I said, “NO!” and he just picked up my arm and snapped it.

I blacked out and the next thing I knew I was on the driveway at my house. I wasn’t in as much pain anymore, I had my cast back on, and I was still in the hospital gown. I went in my room and went to sleep and woke up Christmas morning. That day, I felt pretty good! I ran downstairs and saw what “Santa” had brought me. There were two HUGE presents with my name on them spelled out in gold glitter that was glued on red plaid wrapping paper right in front of the fireplace. I ripped into the first one. A train set! I was excited to get that setup and play. Then I tore into the second and it was my very first ever video game console. The Super Nintendo! I played that thing so much that day going through Super Mario World. It was so much fun and put a nice ending on a horrible month of my then 8-year-old life. — Nicholas Gerecitano

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