VGBlogger’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: Strategy Guides and How-Tos

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From campaign walkthroughs, collectible locations, and multiplayer strategies in your favorite games to manuals for learning how to cook like a geek or survive the zombie apocalypse, these are our top holiday picks for strategy guides, how-tos, and reference books.

Read our ongoing Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks and Gamers series for more shopping ideas at the following link(s):

Gaming Hardware and Peripherals Gift Guide
Comic Books and Novels Gift Guide
Art and Coffee Table Books Gift Guide
Gadgets, Stocking Stuffers, & Beyond!

Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection – Buy from Amazon or Scholastic:

Minecraft

Scholastic’s Minecraft handbook box set has been freshly updated this year, providing even more combat and construction tips to fuel the sandbox-building imaginations of Mojang’s fanbase, the pre-teen audience most of all. Also sold individually for those who may just want help specializing in a specific aspect of the game, the complete set consists of hardback handbooks dedicated to combat, construction, redstone circuitry, as well as an essential guide with general gameplay information and instruction. The combat handbook features armor, potion, and weapon recipes, PVP battle strategies, and a bestiary with stats, loot drops, vulnerabilities, and “Do” and “Don’t” quick-tips. Aspiring builders will want to dig into the construction handbook for step-by-step tutorials on creating everything from basic structures like wooden houses and decorative gardens to more advanced builds like floating islands and rollercoasters, with periodic community spotlights showing the creations of experienced Minecrafters offering additional inspiration. Last but not least is a guide teaching the ins and outs of redstone circuitry so you too can create pistons, lighting systems, minecart stations, and supercharged fire arrow launchers. Budding Minecrafters will definitely love the helpful guides and the collectible appeal of the high quality binding, printing, and box set packaging.

The Maker’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse – Buy from Amazon or No Starch Press:

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Simon Monk’s handy guidebook will prepare you for a zombie invasion by teaching how to turn salvaged car parts, batteries, basic hardware like nails and screws, horns, string, disposable cameras, and other bits and bobs into makeshift yet fully functional power sources, tripwire alarms, distraction devices, and communication systems using basic circuitry and soldering techniques. Though taking the subject matter a bit more seriously than, say, Kovac’s Rules from How to Survive, this guide does keep things somewhat lighthearted with the occasional cartoonish graphic as well as other elements such as a table charting the attributes of zombie varieties from popular works of fiction like Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, and Night of the Living Dead. On the off chance that the zombie apocalypse expands beyond the realm of fiction and somehow becomes a reality, it would be wise to have this how-to manual in your end-of-the-world survival kit. Really, though, this is a themed book of crafting projects for geeky guys and gals who like to tinker with electronics and take things apart to create new inventions or just to put them back together again.

Cooking for Geeks – Buy from Amazon:

CookingForGeeks

The second edition of Jeff Potter’s book of geek cookery shows aspiring home cooks how to approach the kitchen with curiosity rather than fear, with a zeal to experiment with recipes rather than rigidly follow the norm. From traditional buttermilk pancakes to poaching apples in the dishwasher, Cooking for Geeks covers the basics while also digging into the science behind food and introducing advanced techniques like sous vide and molecular gastronomy. The book has around a hundred different recipes spanning breakfast, breads, appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, and desserts. There are nearly two dozen interviews throughout, with chefs and scientists like Jacques Pepin, Adam Savage, Adam Ried, and Bridget Lancaster, that touch on all aspects of cooking, including food safety, kitchen equipment, modernist cuisine, food mysteries, baking, and more. And of course a cookbook for geeks wouldn’t be complete without a host of lab experiments teaching fun ways to calibrate an oven using sugar, test your palate, build your own sous vide setup, or create homemade liquid smoke. This is a clever and approachable cookbook full of fun recipes and activities, not to mention an underlying sense of geeky humor. It’s sort of like the cookbook lovechild that would be born if TV cooking shows America’s Test Kitchen and Good Eats hooked up.

Fallout 4 Vault Dweller’s Survival Guide – Buy from Amazon or the Bethesda Store:

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Prima’s behemoth of a Fallout 4 strategy guide–it’s well over 500 pages!–has everything a Vault Dweller needs to survive the harsh Boston Wasteland, including quests walkthroughs for the campaign, factions, and side adventures, and an extensive world map accompanied by smaller individual maps divided into zones. The maps contain icons showing primary and secondary locations, location boundaries, points of interest, workshop locations, underground links, and even a threat indicator graph which highlights the difficulty level of creatures sort of like a storm warning weather map. For colllectible junkies, the appendices condense the locations of things like bobbleheads, magazines, and unique/exceptional items into charts. The actual quest walkthroughs aren’t always as clear and informative as they could be, but if they were any more in-depth the guide would simply become bloated. There’s a single-print limited edition bundle out there if you can afford its lofty $130 price tag, but for most players either the hardcover collector’s edition or paperback standard edition will due.

Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX Collector’s Guide Box Set – Buy from Amazon:

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No, you haven’t clicked into some magical Internet time machine. We’re still in 2015, folks, don’t worry. So why am I talking about strategy guides for Final Fantasy games that are well over a decade old? Because Brady/Prima Games have released a box set compiling guides for PlayStation 1 titles Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and Final Fantasy IX, arguably the greatest sequential three-game run in the series. (I’d say it’s a toss-up between these and the preceding run of Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI.) The box set includes revised (kinda-sorta) editions of the original Brady guides for all three games, each dolled up nice and pretty with hardcovers and tethered ribbon bookmarks. The hardcovers are plain white with each game’s logo centered on the respective front, which may be too minimalistic for some, but to my taste is just the type of clean and classy aesthetic I want from such a collection. All three guides come housed inside a slipcase box with a magnetic closing flap to keep the contents sealed up inside nice and snug. While the guides have little in the way of design flair, the matching white slipcase at least features some embroidery-style flourishes for a little extra pop. Completing the set are three 10.5″ x 7.5″ lithograph prints, each presenting a work of promotional art from one of the games. In terms of substance, the guides are basically reprints of the original Brady guides with improved image quality and some formatting changes, the most noteworthy being the insertion of all of the PlayOnline tips from Final Fantasy IX into the flow of the guide rather than appearing as a bunch of callout boxes to visit PlayOnline to access the information. Errors still exist as well, the most glaring of which comes from the Final Fantasy VII guide, where Red XIII’s character profile text appears under Vincent Valentine’s bio. With user walkthroughs and reference material readily available online for these older games, this box set is strictly a nostalgia play for series collectors.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Collector’s Edition Guide – Buy from Amazon:

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Another goliath of a book from Prima, The Witcher 3 guide is stuffed with nearly 500 pages of information to help you parse the game’s immense depth of content and discover every nook and cranny of its massive open world (plus a bonus chapter of 32 sampler pages from Dark Horse’s standalone The World of the Witcher art book). Nearly 300 of those pages focus on quest walkthroughs, including sections for the main story path, secondary quests, contracts, Gwent quests, and treasure hunts. The quest guides even have markings denoting when to watch for minor and major decision points, and if you don’t mind spoilers, there is an entire section showing how to get all epilogues and endings. The guide also features a gorgeous atlas of the Northern Realms, as well as extensive appendices content including a full bestiary, locations for the 15 Places of Power monuments, item and equipment stat tables, and Gwent card collection lists. This is seriously as thorough as strategy guides come. As an added bonus, the collector’s edition comes with a supplemental 96-page art and lore mini-book with a faux leather hardback binding.

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate Collector’s Edition Guide – Buy from Amazon:

AssassinsCreedSyndicate

Of all the guides on this list, this is the one that looks most like an art book that you would be happy to leave out on the coffee table when not in use. The collector’s edition also has the best overall bundle of extras, including two sheets of wall cling decals, a bonus chapter containing 16 pages of concept art, a code to redeem for the Angel Knuckles in-game weapon, and a huge (somewhere in the ballpark of 20″ x 40″) double-side poster featuring the Frye twins key art on one side and a full-color map of London on the other side, complete with colored icons highlighting collectible locations. (The softcover standard edition also includes the poster, but none of the other extras.) The guide itself is fantastic, featuring a walkthrough for 100% synching all nine sequences of the main story, as well as walkthroughs for completing the London Stories and solving the PS4-exclusive Dreadful Crimes. When the icons on the poster map aren’t enough, the in-guide maps offer accompanying collectible descriptions to help hone in their locations without doing all of the work for you. Additional reference info includes skill tree overviews, descriptions for perks and upgrades, and stat tables for weapons and outfits.

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Batman: Arkham Knight Collector’s Edition Guide – Buy from Amazon:

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Need help freeing Gotham City from the clutches of the iconic rogues gallery of Batman villains? This BradyGames guide will give you the tools needed to beat the story mode and finish all of the Most Wanted side stories and AR Challenges. The location descriptions and thumbnail-size screen grabs aren’t as effective as they should be at aiding the process of finding Riddler Trophies and other collectibles, so even though you’ll be clued in on the general area you still may have to do some of the detective legwork on your own. For connoisseurs of fine Dark Knight art, the collectors edition will make a sweet edition to the home Batcave art gallery. It contains a pack of four 10″ x 7″ foil-stamp lithographs featuring images of Batman, the Batmobile, Scarecrow, and Arkham Knight, plus a bonus chapter with over a dozen sneak peek pages from DK’s Batman Arkham Universe: The Ultimate Visual Guide art book.

Star Wars: Battlefront Collector’s Edition Guide – Buy from Amazon:

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As a multiplayer-focused game without a whole lot of depth or complexity, a strategy guide seems superfluous–and it shows as the information in the official Prima guide for Star Wars: Battlefront is pretty lightweight and doesn’t offer much in the way of meaningful advice or strategies. Still, the guide itself (the collector’s edition that is) sure looks spiffy, and the included pack of four gorgeous screenshot lithographs depicting scenes of Endor, Hoth, Sullust, and Tatooine, may be enough to entice fans who need to collect all things Star Wars.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes Collector’s Edition Guide – Buy from Amazon:

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Tri Force Heroes may not be a traditional single-player Legend of Zelda, but for players who enjoy stacking it up co-op style there is ample reason to snag a copy of the official guide. It contains dungeon maps, recommended outfits, puzzle solutions, and boss strategies for each stage across all eight worlds. If you enjoy the game’s dress-up mechanic, you’ll appreciate the aid of the section showing how to unlock and what materials are required to craft Link’s complete wardrobe of outfits. There’s also a lot of fun artwork throughout, accompanying the maps and screenshots with images of the team of blue, green, and red Links engaged in cooperative shenanigans. For some odd reason the collector’s edition, though it has vibrant character art and gold foil trim on the cover, doesn’t have any text along the binding, so when it’s placed on a shelf there’s nothing to identify what it is. Then again, the collector’s edition does come with a colorful and quite useful microfiber cleaning cloth depicting the game’s box art on one side and logo text on the other. It’s a wonderful little extra, whether you use it to actually wipe down your 3DS screens or decide to display it in your collection like a banner or flag.

Halo 5: Guardians Collector’s Edition Guide – Buy from Amazon:

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Nearly the size of the guides for huge RPGs like The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4, Prima’s guide for Halo 5 totally lives up to the epic stature of the Halo franchise brand. Between the extensive campaign and multiplayer mode walkthroughs, this book has some of the clearest and most descriptive and well-labeled maps of any guide I’ve seen. Long-time fans will also appreciate the additional lore content, such as the historical series recap, character biographies, and a closing chapter featuring 30 pages of developer interviews and concept art. The collector’s edition is a bit lacking in worthwhile content if you ask me, only offering a pair of embroidered Overkill and Legendary emblem patches alongside a DLC code for a bonus Supply REQ pack. Then again, the hardcover is gorgeous, depicting glossy, dueling profiles of Master Chief and Spartan Locke on the front and back, respectively.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III Collector’s Edition Guide – Buy from Amazon:

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Call of Duty games don’t have the sort of expansive single-player campaigns that dictate the need for a walkthrough, but for hardcore completionists who absolutely must complete all level accolades, find every last collectible, and earn 100% achievements, Prima’s Black Ops III guide is an essential resource. For multiplayer specialists, there are full-page maps, descriptions for perks, attachments, and scorestreaks, and detailed charts diagraming attribute comparisons like rate of fire, shots to kill, ammo, reload times, and recoil for each weapon class. Unfortunately the guide is disappointingly light on covering the Zombies mode, offering a basic tour guide of the mode over a handful of pages but specifically stating that no secrets are revealed to avoid spoiling community-driven discovery. I can respect that, even if it sort of goes against the whole purpose of a strategy guide. For the collector’s edition, Prima has included a stocking-stuffer-worthy Jugger-Nog magnet / bottle opener.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Collector’s Edition Guide – Buy from Amazon:

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From the opening Siberian mountain peak through The Lost City of Kitezh, this guide will help you survive the harsh wilderness, treacherous crypts and tombs, and deadly enemies that Lara faces in her latest adventure, sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot. Like any good Tomb Raider outing, collectible hunting is major draw, and that’s probably where this guidebook will come in most handy as it offers extensive map and location clues for all of the relics, documents, coin and survival caches, strongboxes, murals, and so on. Players who enjoy replaying the Expedition Modes may also find some helpful hints for maintaining combos and scoring quicker completion times. Additionally there are descriptions for skill tree and weapon upgrade tiers, a gallery with descriptions for all of Lara’s unlockable outfits, and an almost art-book-like characters chapter with bio profiles and accompanying artwork. Compared to the other collector’s editions, this one’s probably the weakest in terms of bonus material. Sadly, this one only comes with a code for an Expedition Card pack DLC and a brushed nickel key chain.

Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub – Buy from Amazon or iTunes:

FryScores

Video game critic and hobbyist foodie Holly Green turns iconic video game foods into real, home-cooked recipes in this digital cookbook, which is currently out for iOS devices and was Kickstarted earlier in the year for Google Play and Kindle. (A print version will be published at some point as well.) This book has recipes for all courses, inspired by a wide range of fan-favorite games and franchises, like the Sinner’s Sandwich from Deadly Premonition, Yum Yum Deviled Eggs from Fallout 3, Apple Cabbage Stew from Skyrim, a Fat Princess pound cake, and even health and mana potion cocktails. Some of the recipe descriptions provide at least some form of back story or reference to the source of inspiration, but for the most part the video game ties are pretty loose, like the Far Cry 4 Crab Rangoon or the guacamole inspired by Guacamelee just because the names are similar (I don’t recall there being any guacamole in the game itself). It’s an incredibly fun and clever idea overall, though, and the dishes look tasty.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!