Some sort of handheld device for gaming is a great gift. Firstly, because handheld devices aren't as ubiquitous among gamers. Most of us are playing on various different home consoles or PC — not all of us have a PlayStation Vita or a 3DS.
Secondly, they tend to be a little cheaper than your fully fledged home console, particularly a couple of years into their lifespan which is, coincidentally, usually the best time to buy a handheld — after the dust has settled and a fairly decent library has been established.
Another coincidence. That's exactly the situation both the 3DS and the PlayStation Vita are in at the moment. Yay!
She Needs Premium Dude! PREMIUM!
New Nintendo 3DS XL I'm going to come right out and say it: the 3DS is super great and if you have money to burn, the New Nintendo 3DS XL is the handheld I'd recommend. It has a phenomenal library packed with a number of established classics such as Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and the best Zelda game in a decade A Link Between Worlds.
And don't forget my own personal game of 2013 Luigi's Mansion 2.
There are a ton of different 3DS models and choosing the right one can be difficult. In general I recommend you go for the XL version if possible. The original 3DS XL is a good choice, particularly if you can get it cheap — but if money isn't an issue go with the New Nintendo 3DS XL. You'll regret getting the smaller version in the long run. I literally cannot go back to my old 3DS after upgrading the XL.
The 'In Case You Missed It' Machine
PlayStation Vita I've spent way more time with my Vita than I ever expected. Why? It's the indie games. It's those indie games that I missed out on when they were first released on PC/Console. Eventually they make their way to the PS Vita and I fall in love with them. Some of these games, I'd argue find their natural home on the Vita. That's why this handheld is completely unmissable. Complete classics like Hotline Miami and Fez — I played those on the Vita and they felt more at home there than they did on my larger screen.
Here's the thing: the PS Vita is a luxury. Not that it's expensive necessarily, more that it's not a console you necessarily need, more like a console you indulge yourself with. That's what makes it such a great gift choice for someone else in your life.
Surprise! iPads Are Great For Gaming
iPad Mini 3 Alright hear me out here. It might sound silly to recommend an iPad Mini on a site specifically for people who play video games, but it's getting to the stage (I think) where the iPad is actually one of the best handheld consoles out there. When I think about games I've enjoyed this year, a massive amount of them were on iPad. A huge number of these games were also premium experiences: Monument Valley, Framed — games like this are as good as anything I've played on the PS Vita or 3DS.
I think an argument could be made that the iPad, sorta like the PS Vita, is a bit of a luxury. Most iOS games can be played on an iPhone if you have one, but the iPad screen is just so glorious and some of these high end games look spectacular on an iPad. I started playing Framed on the office iPad. When I made the switch to my mobile phone I swear I could hear the sound of a balloon deflating.
And — again — indulgences make for the best gifts.