Game Informer's Back-To-School Buying Guide 2023

As the new school year gets underway, there’s plenty of fun stuff to discover, from tech and threads to bring to class to games and toys to fill downtime to décor for your new dorm room or gaming setup. Check out our curated selections of new gear to ease your transition back into learning.

Disclaimer: Recommended products are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company, GameStop.

The Light Phone

Contemporary popular phones boast hundreds of features and immediate access to the internet from anywhere, but The Light Phone is taking a different approach. It strips down its features significantly to help you look at a screen as little as possible. You can make calls, send and receive texts, listen to podcasts and music, and get simple driving directions on its electronic paper screen (which will be familiar to e-reader users), but it purposefully does not have internet or social media access. If you want to lower your screen, internet, and social media time (and potentially focus more on school), The Light Phone is a great avenue to do just that. $299

Star Trek USS Enterprise Hoodie

Everybody needs some cozy study gear to help them survive those long nights looking at books. Whether you’ve come to the franchise through the excellent recent Strange New Worlds or are an original series fan, this comfortable Star Trek zip-up should please you. Sturdy embroidered patches and emblems and the NCC-1701 registry printed along the sleeve all look good without being garish. Here’s hoping your coursework isn’t a five-year mission, but even if it is, you can stay warm as you explore. $90

Dragonbane Core Set

While North American fans explored the early editions of D&D, Scandinavians had their own sprawling tabletop RPG renaissance in 1982 with the widely loved Drakar och Demoner. Over 40 years later, this new and retitled English edition offers classic fantasy adventures that are fun, funny, and incredibly harrowing. Breathtaking art by Johan Egerkrans is almost worth the price of admission, but it’s the simple-to-learn rules and brisk structure of play that will keep you and your evening gaming group hooked. The boxed set is a first-rate introduction to an awesome game, with plenty to offer both veteran and beginner role-players. $46

Star Wars Yoda Milestones Statue

We hope you have some great teachers this semester, but they’d be hard-pressed to compete with the 900-year-old Jedi master’s years of tutelage. This 1/6th scale statue meticulously captures the foundational character as he appeared in The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke Skywalker finds him by a rotted tree on the benighted world of Dagobah. Yoda may be more diminutive at just over 5 inches in height than many other scaled replicas, but the detailing is spot-on. Plus, judge him by his size, do you? And well, you should not. $200

ROG Ally

For many, the Steam Deck opened a new avenue, capably bringing the PC gaming experience into a user-friendly handheld experience. Since its launch, many competitors have joined the fray; ASUS makes a strong case for the next step forward. Running on Windows 11 makes it more familiar for many, and the included tech, from the 16 GB RAM to the slick graphics provided by an AMD Ryzen Z1 Series processor, leads to a smooth and enjoyable play experience. The Ally runs quietly and coolly and feels great in hand. The Full HD 120 Hz display looks beautiful, whether you’re loading up Steam games or tapping into your Xbox Game Pass titles. If you’re considering a jump into handheld PC play to bring along to school this year, it’s well worth a deeper look. $700

Optimus Prime Rise of the Beasts Signature Robot

Squarely targeted at the most dedicated collectors, Robosen’s pricey robotic Transformers figures have set a new bar for authenticity. Far more than a toy or statue, this representation of the Autobot leader is an actual moving and speaking (but not transforming) robot, capable of swinging weapons, shifting into new poses, and responding to your voice. New dialogue recorded by Peter Cullen (the character’s original voice actor) helps the figure take on a lifelike cinematic presence, and you can control his actions through 16 distinct commands or via a connected app. Standing at 16 inches in height, Prime towers even higher when mounted on his stand as he shifts between different postures and scenes. If the live-action movie characters aren’t your thing, check out Robosen’s takes on the original G1 characters, including Grimlock, Bumblebee, and a more classic take on Optimus Prime. $900

Foldable Gaming Chair

Whether you’re dealing with a tight dorm room, or a living room sofa that’s too far from the TV, it’s not always easy to set up a permanent comfortable seat close to your gaming screen. The foldable gaming chair aims to solve those unique cases, with a design built around comfort and easy stowaway between play periods. In practice, the chair feels like an exceptionally cushy outdoor chair, but one that includes a bevy of options, including a headphone hangar, a recessed controller space, a cupholder, and even a wine glass slot for the more discerning adult player. $149

Cyberpunk 2077: No Coincidence

Even as the long-awaited game expansion prepares to roll out, CD Projekt Red is expanding the Cyberpunk fiction in new directions. This new novel, by celebrated sci-fi author Rafał Kosik, pulls together a tense and intricate heist plot that feels grounded in the neon-soaked trappings of Night City. While largely standalone, the storytelling also sheds some added light on threads left behind from the game. If you’re considering a return to the bleak future of 2077 on your gaming screen, this additional yarn is a perfect accompaniment. $19 (paperback)

Marvel Legends Magneto Helmet

The master of magnetism boasts one of the most iconic pieces of headgear in the comic book canon. The version here aims to emulate the outfit seen in the upcoming X-Men ’97 animated series. The 1:1 recreation of the iconic X-Men villain’s telepathy-blocking helmet is striking, almost reflective, and well-suited to some smart lighting choices wherever you decide to display. Alternatively, the piece includes soft interior padding and an adjustable fit if you prefer to play pretend. We don’t recommend wearing it as you stride through the halls of your school or office, loudly pronouncing calls for mutant freedom, but you do you. $99

D&D: The Legend of Drizzt Tabletop Companions Boxed Set

Back before D&D had the huge following it does today, early heroes from the connected novels helped inspire countless tabletop adventures. On the 35th anniversary of the character’s first appearance, Drizzt Do’Urden and his most loyal friends are getting a boxed set of minis to celebrate. The venerable companions are looking great despite their age (drow are especially long-lived after all), arriving pre-painted and with a ton of tiny details. Drizzt and his loyal panther Guenhwyvar are present, alongside Wulfgar, Bruenor, Cattie-brie, and Regis. The elven ranger’s nemesis has also snuck into the box, so you can enact duels against the treacherous Artemis Entreri. $50

Everdell Farshore

The original Everdell is one of the most successful and celebrated board games in recent years, so it’s no surprise that a new standalone game in the same universe has arrived with high praise. Like its predecessor, the game leverages classic worker placement mechanics with tableau-building. Adorably beautiful anthropomorphic animal art acts as the glue to the experience. If Farshore doesn’t reach that far from its source material, it’s hard to complain too much, as the result is so much fun. $75

Stormbreaker Gaming Mouse

Wherever you’re hoping to compete, the new Stormbreaker offers stellar performance and an eye-catching design that won’t disappoint. While any PC player should appreciate its lightweight and lightning-quick click latency, this high-end mouse is especially well-suited to FPS players looking for an added edge. Top-tier sensor response makes for a tight and responsive play experience. And while the cut-outs look cool, they have the added benefit of dramatic weight reduction; the device feels remarkably light beneath your fingers. Despite the seeming fragility, the magnesium build is stronger than most plastics and easily holds up to long play sessions. $179

TMNT The Last Ronin Gallery Diorama

While the Ninja Turtles have remained in pop culture consciousness since their inception, the arrival of The Last Ronin storyline in recent years helped to recapture the imagination of longtime fans through a dark new take. After years of struggle against Shredder and his progeny, the storyline tells the tale of a final surviving member of the original foursome, intent on revenge for his murdered brothers. This 10-inch statue captures the last warrior as he charges again into battle. Great detailing captures the character, while high-quality PVC helps keep the cost manageable. Which Turtle made it through to this final fight? We’re not telling. $75

The Video Games Textbook

If your interest in gaming at school this year has elevated to academic consideration, it may be time for a more scholarly approach. We’ve been impressed by the new second edition of Wardyga’s weighty tome, which charts the industry’s history through eras of play, individual systems, and notable games over time, focusing on cultural impact and the evolution of the discipline. New sections on VR, subscription gaming, and the most recent consoles reveal a thorough and up-to-date understanding of the subject matter and an ideal way for aspiring students to prepare for a career in the field. $60

Maxwell Wireless Gaming Headset

Some years ago, Audeze’s Penrose headset earned our high marks for its stellar sound production and overall quality. The Maxwell is the successor to that set, improving the experience across the board, making this one of the single best choices for gaming audio currently on the market. The 90mm planar magnetic drivers produce a rich and nuanced soundscape with ample power in the bass. High-quality aluminum and steel components lend durability while remaining comfortable for long sessions. The mic features AI-aided noise filtration for crystal-clear communication. It’s an ample investment, but it’s the only gaming audio solution you need, especially if you’re staring down the lens of a new roommate situation at school this year. $299

Class of ’81 Deluxe Arcade Game

Arcade1Up consistently impresses with its revivals of classic arcade properties for an authentic in-home play experience. With both its external graphical treatment and the quality of the cabinet, and with the included games, the Class of ’81 machine offers a lot. While the lit marquee features Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga, you also get 10 other titles, including Dig Dug, Rolling Thunder, Rally-X, and Tower of Druaga – all landmark early games. As a standalone way to lend some old-school authenticity to your game room, it’s a solid bet. $500

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