The gloomy forecast about supply chain shortages is all too real. If you’re not planning to shop by Black Friday or Cyber Monday (from, ahem, our Very Best New Toys of 2021 list), you’re likely to run into some trouble — especially if your kid has a specific toy request. Last minute shopping this year won’t look like it has since, well, ever and you’re going to have to ask the family to be flexible. Fortunately, it’s 2021 and a fantastic video game is but a click away. There’s just one thing missing: A package under the tree. That’s why we paired each video game here with a toy — a small, easily obtained accessory — you can give as an appetizer to the main course. Keep in mind downloading a game isn’t instantaneous, so be sure to do it a day or two before Christmas morning.
Stick this in their stockingThe Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit Mario Set
is the closest your kid will get to actually driving in a kart. The tiny camera above Mario’s head turns the RC car into an AR race track that you watch, and control, on the Switch.
This might feel like a gift for yourself, with the classics you grew up with like Super Mario Bros. 3, Double Dragon, Metroid, and Ninja Gaiden. But with so many two-player games, like Ice Climber, Tennis, and Ice Hockey, there are plenty of chances to get your kids hooked on it too. The initial download is free but you'll need to kick in for the Switch Online subscription.
Stick this in their stockingThe Nintendo Super Mario Brothers Game and Watch is a unique handheld version of SMB that is also a clock. So, it can occupy busy hands for a bit and then rest on a nightstand or desk as a beautiful piece of decoration that, occasionally flashes with 35 different animations, including appearances from Mario’s friends and villains.
Stick this in their stockingSure, Sonic is fast. But how fast is he in a car? Leave that mystery up to your kids to figure out with the fun Nkok Team Sonic Racing RC Car, complete with a turbo boost.
Quite possibly the biggest and best Super Mario game yet, Odyssey finds our Italian plumber in new worlds with new abilities to stop that evil Bowser one more time. He's got a fancy new hat — Cappy — that gives him moves that go way beyond just running, jumping, and headbutting bricks.
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Bowser unleashes havoc on Mario in Odyssey all while flying in a pirate airship. Now your kid can recreate the battle scenes on the couch with the Nintendo Super Mario Bowser’s Deluxe Airship playset.
Let kids relive the importance of living and giving in a small digital village all while being neighbors and friends with cute anthropomorphic animals. You inherit an island getaway full of resources where you'll build a personal getaway and customize characters, homes, decorations, and landscapes.
Stick this in their stockingAnimal CrossingClub Mocchi Mocchi Tom Nook stuffy after he hires you in the game.
You know, on paper, Nickelodeon characters brawling in a video game sounds odd at best, but it works. Taking a page out of Super Smash Brothers with cartoon violence, All-Star pits the likes of TMNT, SpongeBob, Ren & Stimpy, and more in over-the-top cartoon mayhem. Also available on PS, Xbox, and PC.
Stick this in their stockingNickelodeon SpongeBob SquarePants with a 6-inch tall Plankton in all the squishable, loveable goodness you’d expect from a plush.
While you can revel in your 80s pixelated glory by playing the old school Legend of Zelda on the NES download for Switch, this version is a great introduction to the franchise for kids. Link explores a strange island where animals talk and monsters live and along the way you’ll meet a cast of funny characters.
Stick this in their stockingNintendo Link The Legend of Zelda
This racing game combines over-the-top cars on fantastic tracks that twist and turn through life-size backgrounds — like a bedroom or library — with an almost Toy Story like vibe. Unlike Mario Kart you’ll have the chance to create a course and drive a mix of Hot Wheels cars and real ones, like a Mustang or Ram pickup truck, if controlling a dinosaur-shaped racer isn't your thing. Also available on Xbox, Switch, and PC.
Stick this in their stockingHot Wheels Night Rider K.I.T.T
Stick this in their stockingMinecraft Skeleton Defense
iOS or Android Tablet
This free game (with in app purchases) for iPad and iPhone lets players be whatever they want in a virtual universe and build mini-games within the game, creating an enormous digital community. You'll want to keep an eye out as your kids play online against others for things like language. Also available on Xbox and PC.
Stick this in their stockingStrucidNerf Boom Strike Dart Blaster not only allows for dart slinging fun, but also comes with a redeemable code to download an item from the game.
Stick this in their stockingDaniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Figure Set
, which includes the whole gang, around 2 1/2-inches tall with moving heads and arms.
Stick this in their stockingPokémon cards have their own supply chain block, so aim for this Battle Figure eight-figure set, which includes Pikachu, and a few of the bigger characters are posable.
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