Toys and games — what an great category! Is that present for mom or dad, or one of the kids? Does it matter? A lot of these present suggestions really are good for the whole family, cliche or not. Click on the gift guide logo on the right to see the aggregated GeekDad Gift Guides of this and prior years.
EyeClops Night Vision Binoculars
Kid-oriented night vision goggles are rare, and usually they’re fake — a green flashlight, essentially. These ones are the real deal, using an infrared lens, mini LCD screen and IR illumination to let you see in the dark. Buy them on Amazom.
Tauntaun Sleeping Bag
It’s the holiday gift that started as an April Fool’s joke! Yes, it’s the Tauntaun sleeping bag from ThinkGeek! You can read the GeekDad review here, but the short story is that it’s both the geekiest gift possible, and a really good sleeping bag. Buy it on ThinkGeek. (Currently showing out-of-stock, so put it on pre-order).
D&D Dungeon Tiles
I love these tiles — they let you put together a dungeon on seconds. Dungeon tiles are essentially double-sided cardstock dungeon elements — caverns, hallways, bridges, etc., inch-gridded for easy measurement of movement and areas of effect. While designed for D&D, you can use them for Shadowrun or Warhammer or any other pen & paper roleplaying game. Buy Dungeon Tiles sets Arcane Towers and Sinister Woods on Amazon.
Wii Fit Plus
If your Wii Fit routine is getting a bit stale, or if you’re in the market for a home exercise activity for the first time, don’t miss Wii Fit Plus. In addition to what is included in the original Wii Fit, it adds 15 new activities, plus a lot of functionality including custom, pre-set and random workouts that combine activities. Some of the new activities are logical extensions of older ones, but some are completely unrelated and unique. The Kung Fu one is even like Rhythm Heaven, but using your body. You can buy Wii Fit Plus as a stand-alone game, or, if you’re new to the genre, you can buy the game packaged with a balance board.
A very fun Wii game, great for parties (hence the name) because of the low learning curve. In the game, the Squeeballs are sentient toys destined for the marketplace. However, they must be tested first: crushed, eaten, stewed, ground and so on. Bowl the Squeeballs over or splat them with a catapult. Grind them into sausage and feed them to the insatiable El Toro! Buy it on Amazon.
Nerf N-Strike Raider Dart Blaster
The king of Nerf blasters. Simpler and less expensive than last year’s hit Nerf Vulcan, the Raider packs a fantastic 30-dart drum magazine and very quick pump action that can shoot off darts as fast as the Vulcan’s motor can. You will definitely win the office wars with this one. Buy it on Amazon.
Dingoo a320 Pocket Emulator
In order to get in our full Recommend Daily Allowance of playtime, most GeekDads have to game on the go. The Dingoo a320 lets you carry three decades of videogame history right in your pocket. With onboard emulation support for the NES, SNES, Gameboy Advance and Sega Genesis systems (not to mention Neo Geo and CP System I /II arcade support), it’s a portable emulator for all seasons. Use it to while away those idle hours otherwise wasted waiting for your kids in the carpool pick-up line, watching your spouse shop or stuck in your office during conference calls. Wait, I’ve said too much! Buy it on ThinkGeek.
HEXBUG Nano are tiny battery powered robots that use tiny vibrations and engineered legs to propel themselves forward. Specially designed to mimic the behavior of real bugs, they scurry over small obstacles and pop back up on their feet when knocked over. The engineers created over 150 leg variations using 3D printing and other rapid prototyping methods to come up with the final design. You can see the evolution of the Nano on the HEXBUG website. Buy them at ToysRUs or Radio Shack.
Wedgits are a little hard to describe. They’re colorful. They’re durable plastic. They stack. They can make pretty patterns and shapes. But you can also make elaborate objects that hold together, because some of the pieces are wedged in just right (thus the name Wedgits). There are starter sets, portable sets, transparent sets, sets for babies, advanced sets and even sets that are shades of one color. There are also design cards that give you ideas of what to build. Buy them on Amazon.
Magic: The Gathering — Planechase
Groundbreaking new variant of Magic, the most successful collectible card game around. In Planechase, the players use 10 special double-sized “plane cards” that provides the backdrop for the duel. Each set also comes with rules, a deck of 60 cards (including 8 rares!) as well as a special 6-sided planar die. This is a self-contained game and you don’t need anything else to play. Buy it on Amazon.
U-Create Games and Artimation
Younger kids can build and customize their own games with this toy. It’s not programming but it provides kids with drawing templates, the ability to use their own photos, and sound effects that make the game uniquely their own. Basically, it’s the closest I’ve seen to actually putting your young child actually in a game. It loads with a disc and then all you have to do is plug in the drawing table, which contains the folding camera, into the USB port, and you’re ready to go. Buy it on Amazon.
Lego Bionicle Skopio
Bionicle models have officially leveled up. Once labeled as simplified Lego for the ADHD set, the line introduced some amazing vehicles this year and all is forgiven. Case in point, the Skopio, packing four wickedly detailed legs and a weapons pod that resembles a scorpion’s tail. Plus, the legs fold in transforming this awesome robot into a tank. Buy it on Amazon.
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
Funny, lovable button masher for the PS3, the latest Ratchet & Clank adventure packs futuristic action and a funny storyline that kids love. Non-linear levels, hidden areas to explore, and packed with the obligatory gadgets and weapons. Buy it on Amazon.
Eyeclops Bionic Eye SE
Kid friendly and educational handheld 200X microscope, great for investigating household phenomena. Plugs into your TV via standard AV cables and you can see what the microscope sees on the screen. Less complicated and pricy than previous editions. Eyeclops Bionic Eye SE
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Follow the adventures of fortune-hunter Nathan Drake as he attempts to discover the lost fleet of Marco Polo! Before he knows it, he’s fighting for his life against a ruthless paramilitary organization. First-person action game with amazing graphics — it almost feels like you’re in a movie. The stealth combat is particularly well done. Also features an online multiplayer mode for competitive or cooperative play. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Giant Timeline & Ancient Creature Cards
When teaching your children about evolution, it is sometimes hard to find materials that give scientific information without talking over kids’ heads. Or worse, the products simplify things so much as to completely underestimate kids’ abilities to learn. Charlie’s Playhouse offers a few educational toys that are right in the middle. Full of scientific information, but presented in a kid-friendly way. They offer the Giant Timeline, in both poster and playmat format, that shows how creatures have evolved over millions of years. They also offer their colorful Ancient Creature Cards, with one card for each creature on the Giant Timeline. They would make great companion gifts.
Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Building Set
No one makes robot-making as simple and fun as Lego. The servos, sensors and microcontroller combine with Technics girders to make, well, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Wacky inventions ranging from knitting machines to difference engines and toilet flushers have been created. Buy it on Amazon.
Lego Brickbeard’s Bounty
This year’s killer LEGO set, a fantastic pirate ship equipped with cannons, sails and damsel in distress. One of the best parts of the set? The absurd number of pirate-related minifig accessories like muskets and cutlasses — great for fleshing out your own pirate creations. Buy it on Amazon.
As we showed earlier this year, Numbers League is a really fun card game for kids and grownups of most ages. You build comic book superheroes with which to capture villains, using your math skills to combine hero values. The base game has two levels, so it is easy to play on the level that works for your family. Or you can use the expansion pack to increase the difficulty even further.
Nerf Marauder Long Sword
Magnificent and kid-friendly foam sword, great for acting out barbarian fantasies without maiming the local kids. Even better, dads can play with them too! I fenced my 13-year-old to the very edge of the kiddy pool, but had mercy and let her off without a dunking. Maybe I’m getting soft. Buy it on Amazon.
Wowwee’s helicopters keep getting smaller. The first one was big and complicated, the next edition was smaller and more svelte, this one even more so! Even better, the latest version has a LED turning your chopper into a light show. Buy it on Amazon.
The only limit to playing with Bilibo
toys is your imagination. The large ones can be used to sit in, walk on, carry things or hold objects. The smaller ones can do most of the same, except, well, in a smaller way. Then the Mini Billibo Game gives you a bunch of pieces, but you make up the games! You get six different colors of small Bilibo bowls, colored chips, a die where you can change the colors of the sides and a bag for the chips and die. If you or your kids have a great imagination for making up games and activities, Bilibo will be a real hit.
Nerf Dart Tag Set
Everything you need to play Dart Tag — two Nerf blasters with velcro darts, two pairs of eye protectors, two velcro-friendly vests, and a battery-powered “flag” equipped with an alarm that howls if you move it.
Buy it on Amazon
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
This fall brings the second game in the Professor Layton series for the Nintendo DS, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. It follows the successful first game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village. In both games, you follow a cute storyline while solving hundreds of little puzzles to save the day. The puzzles vary in difficulty from quite easy to very challenging.
A tiny but awesome ducted-fan hovercraft, about the size and weight of a hummingbird. Zooms over concrete, linoleum and low-pile carpet. Looks absurdly easy at first, but there actually is a bit of a learning curve involved and this makes Hoverpod races all the more interesting. Buy it on Amazon.
Retro Duo NES/SNES System
With the Wii’s Virtual Console game selection finally getting up to snuff – hell yeah, Super Star Wars! – you’re probably beginning to think of your classic consoles as little more than obsolete relics. Still, sometimes you can’t beat the geek Zen of some genuine retro gaming. So how is a discriminating GeekDad to balance old school aesthetics without further cluttering his entertainment center? The Retro Duo supports both NES and SNES carts in a single system, and looks super slick with its glossy finish and dog-bone style controllers. Blowing into said cartridges is, of course, optional but encouraged. Buy it on ThinkGeek.