The holiday season is officially here! This year for our gift guide we are tailoring it to our favorite things- fandom finds, games, and other awesome ideas for everyone on your list! Read on for our 2023 holiday gift guide and enter for your chance to win a 4K digital copy of Avatar: The Way of Water.
Thanks to our partners including Nintendo and Funko for review copies of some of the items below. All opinions are our own.
2023 Holiday Gift Guide
Video Games Gift Guide
Welcome to the bright and bold Flower Kingdom, a neighbor to the familiar Mushroom Kingdom, who you guessed it, has been overtaken by Bowser. The Kaiju turtle has fused himself with the kingdom's main castle thanks to the land's Wonder powers. Now life is miserable for all the inhabitants and it's up to Mario and his friends to help free the land from Bowser and his son Bowser Jr. Along the way Mario will encounter new enemies and unique situations–Nintendo really pulled out all the stops on the game mechanics. He also meets new friends including an omnipresent talking flower that shouts encouragements and funny random thoughts throughout each level.
It's been over a decade since we had a traditional Mario 2D sidescroller and Super Mario Bros. Wonder does not disappoint. New power-ups (including the ridiculously fun Elephant Fruit), creative levels, and dazzling worlds not only bring a fresh feeling to familiar gameplay but are guaranteed to bring immediate smiles. This game really is, as the name suggests, full of wonder. Every frame is packed with vivid colors and imaginative style while the special Wonder effects turn expectations upside down, sometimes quite literally. Whether you play solo or with up to three friends. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is an absolute joy to play.
Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy are tricked into traveling to Monoth because the citizens are in need of saving asap! In order to prevent a mega disaster and get the picnic they were promised, the Fab 4 must track down three magical tomes before it's too late. In order to find them, they must travel to the three biomes that make up Monoth's 2-D landscape and face-off with the bosses who currently possess the tomes. After a few cutscenes that could double as Mickey Mouse shorts, thanks to their wit and animation, the characters set off on their quest to save Monoth.
Illusion Island is a combat-less Metroidvania adventure that is packed with charm, wit, vibrant colors, and plenty of fun. It's a simple story that is presented in a way that will appeal to gamers of all ages. Most of the big events are depicted in cutscenes reminiscent of Disney's House of Mouse while other interactions are purely text-based. Both the physical and dialogue-based humor land, with the latter eliciting more than one laugh out of this Disney fan. The self-aware jokes being cracked are gold for those that know. Quick setup, easy enough controls, and a breezy story, this game hits the sweet spot for family-friendly entertainment.
Fast-paced action, vehicle options, and controls that are easy to handle, Nascar Arcade Rush is a top pick for tweens looking for a fun racing, arcade kart-style game. The customizations are my son's favorite part. As you play you can unlock over 1000 new items for your car or your driver such as new paint schemes, spoilers, driver suits, and helmets. It features 12 tracks, colorful graphics, and multiple modes for local single player or online multi-player gameplay.
Must Have Tech
This version of the popular Nintendo Switch features a vibrant 7-inch OLED screen, a wide adjustable stand, a dock with a wired LAN port, 64 GB of internal storage, and enhanced audio. Like the original Nintendo Switch, it also converts for 3 modes of playing: TV mode, tabletop mode, and handheld mode.
Games look great on this system in handheld mode. The details and colors really pop on this model. The storage upgrade was definitely needed in our house, and of course there is still an option for additional storage via a SD card. It is also a win that our other Joy-Con controllers work with the OLED model. Another win is the bluetooth capability meaning I can enjoy planning vacation homes in Happy Home Paradise while someone else watches a movie or show.
Bring on game night! Typically in our house the Christmas Eve gift is something the kids can share and board games are perfect for this. We have several fun picks this year.
Something Wild puts a new twist on family game nights with six different Disney-themed sets featuring adorable figures of our favorite characters. The more sets you collect the more fun there is to be had by the whole fam! Power cards add in a fun twist as do the Pops which aren't just adorable they can help you win the game too. Play numbered and colored character cards to make sets and runs. These make perfect stocking stuffers!
A must for any Cars fan! Cars Launch ‘N' Race is easy to set up and play. It puts a fun twist on the whole race you to the end of the board play that kids love. It comes with two figures- Mater and Lightning McQueen, who compete to win the race. But it isn't the first one to the finish this time, nope you have multiple laps to try and win it!
If it's Stitch it's a must in this house. Stitch is excited for the holidays but that excitement is causing him to unwrap presents! Players must choose which presents to try to sneak past Stitch. Roll the dice to find out which gifts he unwraps! The one who saves the most presents wins!
Not only is this one of my favorite holiday films but now it's a must play game. Work together with your kids to complete the scenes before Scrooge wakes up! Each scene is one from the classic animated film.
We are big fans of Avatar and the Last Airbender. Recently, I discovered these adorable plushies and figures from YouTooz which naturally were a must have. Both plushies are soft and huggable, the figurines have great detailing, Appa is actually flocked. I also love how much bigger Momo is compared to Appa!
Book Gift Guide
The long-awaited followup to the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini, Murtagh follows him and his dragon Thorn who find themselves in danger after the evil king they served is overthrown. Everyone hates them and they have been exiled, doomed to be alone forever. However, the two soon discover something wicked is lurking in the shadows of Alagaësia. Determined to prove themselves, they travel to lands both known and unknown to battle a witch who is much more than she seems.
Why we love it: This is a story told within the world of the original series which was told from Eragon's point of view. Now fans can dive deeper into this world and finally discover this hidden threat that has been hinted at for years. It does not negate or detract from the original story, but enriches it and pulls you in almost immediately. Paolini keeps us on our toes in this new adventure that is hopefully the tip of the dragon's tail because trust me, you're going to want more of Murtagh and Thorn.
Katie is dreading the boring summer ahead while her best friends are all away at camp–something that’s way out of Katie and her mom’s budget, UNLESS Katie can figure out a way to earn the money for camp herself. But when Katie gets a job catsitting for her mysterious upstairs neighbor, life get interesting. First, Madeline has 217 cats (!) and they’re not exactly . . . normal cats. Also, why is Madeline always out EXACTLY when the city’s most notorious villain commits crimes?! Is it possible that Katie’s upstairs neighbor is really a super villain? Can Katie wrangle a whole lot of wayward cats, save a best friendship (why is Beth barely writing back? And who’s this boy she keeps talking about?!), AND crack the biggest story in the city’s history? Some heroes have capes . . . Katie has cats!
Why we love it: Cats! A comic book about cats. End of review. Kidding! Other than the adorable four-legged stars, the story is well-written, with surprises and mystery plus fun and thoughtful moments. My daughter also related to the story since Katie is portrayed as a girl trying to find herself and discover the type of person she wants to be all while juggling life, friendships, parental relationships, and of course a lot of cats. There are also aspects about animal rights written into the story that as animal lovers we appreciated.
When Sky Patel-Baum is sent to live with her mysterious uncle, she didn’t imagine she’d end up here: Area 51. A top-secret military base with a bajillion rules and so classified not even the president knows its secrets. Also, it turns out the place is full of aliens. Lots and lots of aliens.
As Sky sets out to explore her extraordinary new home with her pizza-obsessed pet hedgehog Spike, she meets her otherworldly next-door neighbor Elvis and his fluffy pup, Pickles. But something mysterious is afoot in Area 51. Some of the Break Throughs have gone missing… at the exact same time Sky arrived. Where could they be? How can Sky and her uncle convince everyone they had nothing to do with the disappearance? New best friends Sky, Elvis, Spike, and Pickles try to crack the case, but the clock is ticking…
Why we love it: When it comes to getting my youngest to read books they have to be engaging from page 1 plus pictures on the page don't hurt. This is the kind of chapter book that nails both of those things. The pictures on the page enhance the story without being overwhelming and help stoke the imaginations of reluctant readers. Those character designs are really cool! From the first chapter he was hooked, this story was funny and thrilling, with enough mystery to make him want to know what happened next.
Winnie Zeng has two goals: survive her first year of middle school and outdo her stuck-up archnemesis, David Zuo. It won’t be easy, since, according to her older sister, middle school is the pits. Luckily, Winnie studied middle school survival tactics in comic books and anime, and nothing will stop her from being the very best student. But none of Winnie’s research has prepared her to face the mother of all hurdles: evil spirits. When she makes mooncakes for a class bake sale, she awakens the stuff of legends from her grandmother’s old cookbook, spilling otherworldly chaos into her sleepy town.
Why we love it: Girl Power! Aside from a strong female lead, this series has it all adventure, Chinese mythology, and some good old enemies to friends. It is a great addition to the shelves of fans of Rick Riordan's Presents series. My oldest also liked how Winnie isn't perfect and that she struggles with her responsibilities, like any other kid not fighting ancient evil spirits. There is also an important lesson about accepting help when you need it and reconnecting with those closest to you.
There's a whisper in the shadows, a silent warrior. It's a ninja! The magic tree house has whisked Jack and Annie to ancient Japan. They need to learn the secrets of the ninja in order to help their friend Morgan! But how do you find a warrior that hides in the shadows? You don't find a ninja . . . the ninja finds YOU!
Why we love it: If you're a fan of the original series this is the perfect way to revisit it. And for new readers it is an excellent way to get into one of the most endearing young reader series around. My daughter has grown up with this series and has been enjoying the new graphic novel versions, her only complaint? They need to come out faster!
Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.
Why we love it: First and foremost, Sidharth Chaturvedi’s brilliant illustrations. This book is just so beautiful. Chaturvedi brought this world to life in the most detailed, eye-catching way. Everything about this book elevates the classic story, even down to the typeset chosen for the words. It is must-have for all Inheritance series fans.
Nicholas Flamel is the greatest Alchemyst to ever live. The records show that he died in 1418, but what if he's actually been making the elixir of life for centuries? The secrets to eternal life are hidden within the book he protects–the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed, and in the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. There is one hope. If the prophecy is true, Sophie and Josh Newman have the power to save everyone. Now they just have to learn to use it.
Why we love it:
A reimagining of the original tale, brought to life in a way that only graphic novels can accomplish. Just like the Magic Tree House and other graphic novel adaptations, this is something both new and longtime fans will enjoy. The graphics pop, showing this world in a way we always imagined it to be. Looking forward to the next one!
The Lunarian is a magical theatre with a mind of its own, often redecorating on a whim or making it snow from the rafters. The theatre’s troupe call themselves the Dreamatics, and together they grow sets from seeds, sew costumes that can change an actor’s shape, and each night when a girl named Luna goes to sleep, they produce her spectacular dreams: dreams of memories, family, and her beloved dog, Murph. But when something devastating happens in Luna’s waking life, the theatre falls under new management in the form of the Bad Dreams. Now it’s up to a loyal stagehand named Dormir and the Dreamatics to put things right and restore balance in their world and in Luna’s.
Why we love it: Calling all theater kids and animal lovers, Dreamatics is the book for us! The story is a fresh and intriguing twist on how dreams are made, but beware it may bring more than a few tears to your eyes while you read. Packed with joy and magic, this book is one that is destined to be read over and over again.
Big manga and anime fan here. One of the hottest anime out right now is Jujutsu Kaisen and if you aren't reading the manga then you may be trying to avoid spoilers without the help of infinite void. So save yourself the hassle and pick up the manga so that for better or worse (depending on your favorite character!) you will know what is going on before some random TikTok on your FYP gives it all away!
Every 12-year-old kid feels like they don't fit in sometimes but for Noah it's even worse. When a meteor crashed to Earth on his seventh birthday, the whole planet got superpowers except for him! Thanks to his foil superhero costume the powers bounced off of him and onto his little sister. But when the biggest, baddest villain in town plots to take over Superworld forever, Noah and his supercharged best friends are the only ones who can save the day.
Why we love it: Told from Noah's POV with fun comic-style illustrations and witty writing, this is the perfect book for the middle grader on your list. The story is engaging, funny, and there are some surprises in there too. My youngest who isn't the biggest book fan was hooked as soon as he started it. After reading through it myself, I can see why. We both hope this book will turn into a series.
In this second book in The Underdogs series, crime is on the rise in Dogtown. An art forger has stolen one of Puplo Picasso’s masterpieces with a fake. Normally the Top Dog detectives would get the case but since they are on vacation it is up to the Underdog Detective Agency. Barkley the German shepherd, Carl the Chihuahua, Dr. Spots the Dalmatian, and Fang the cat are on the case. They are determined to catch the culprit before the Top Dogs make it back, proving once and for all they are the best sleuths in town.
Why we love it: Animals being detectives, what's not to love? There is plenty of mystery and chaotic fun to be had as your child reads through this book. The illustrations on each page help the story come to life and in certain parts enhance the comedic beats. This is another book my picky youngest devoured. Lucky for him and you, there is another book coming soon!
What is on your wishlist this year?
Avatar 4K Giveaway
One lucky reader will win a 4K Digital Copy of Avatar The Way of Water. Winner will be contacted via email and have 24 hours to respond in order to receive their prize.