You may have heard. Gaming is one of today’s most expensive hobbies. Games for major platforms like the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 cost $60 each, while Wii and PC games are generally $50 a pop. Mobile games are cheaper, but for big, cinematic experiences, players need to be sitting at their couch or at their computer, facing down hordes of demons, zombies or whatever else comes their way.
So what games can you get for your significant other, for your kids or parents, or for friends? We’ve got a great list of titles you should pick up, but just make sure they don’t already have it!
Xbox 360 Exclusive Games
Gears of War 3
It promised to be one of the biggest action titles of the year, and developer Epic Games pulled through on that promise. Gears of War 3 is an amicable conclusion to the Xbox 360 sci-fi saga, one that includes a fun, sordid campaign and several excellent multiplayer modes that continue to excite even months later. You don’t want to pass on this.
Forza Motorsport 4
Forza Motorsport 3 was huge, with over 400 cars and a disc just to install a ton of content. Forza 4 does all of that and more, with better photorealistic graphics, more cars and tracks, Kinect functionality, and the same great racing. If there’s a racing game to get this holiday, it’s Forza 4.
Dance Central 2
The original Dance Central was revolutionary; it took the dancing games we all wanted to enjoy on the Wii and made dancing in front of a TV fun. Whether it’s to work out, to learn some dance moves, or to make a fool of yourself at a party, Dance Central 2 ups the ante with two-players dancing side-by-side and a slew of new songs to get jiggy with. I wouldn’t call it kid-friendly; most of the tracks are fairly explicit (no bad words, but there is plenty of questionable content), though you’re likely to hear them on the radio nonetheless. Games like Dance Central are the reason to own a Kinect.
The game that brought the Xbox into the limelight returns, completely revamped with new HD graphics, online coop, and new game modes available in last year’s Halo: Reach. It may not look quite right to play the old classic with such updated graphics (I myself just love the old-school blocky textures), and the game isn’t an exact duplicate. Grizzled ancients will have new secrets to hunt and unlock while younger gamers who missed the original can give the game that started it all a serious go. For $40 it’s a great buy, even if you own the original Halo: Combat Evolved like I do because of the improved resolution and the chance to play it over Xbox Live.
Playstation 3 Exclusive Games
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
If there’s one definitive franchise for the Playstation 3, it’s Uncharted. The first title, Drake’s Fortune, was great, but had a lot of room to grow. The second, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, quickly became a fan favorite, and the third, Drake’s Deception, is a stunning cinematic experience. A stunning single-player campaign, a fabulously fun cooperative play mode and a different yet still bombastic multiplayer make Drake’s Deception a must-buy, for the few who don’t have it already. Because if you don’t, you are surely missing out. It’s one of the few games where you can actually enjoy watching someone else play, and never picking up a controller yourself.
There are few games that inspire the feeling of “I wish I could do that in real life” more than Infamous 2, at least for me every time I see a power line. While the original was a strong game, Infamous 2 picks action up a notch and gives players not only several different massive cities to explore, but the ability to take on player-created missions, and even make their own. That, along with some very fun DLC, makes Infamous 2 a must-have.
The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are incredible games, both ahead of their time and timeless. I sadly missed both when they released back for the PS2, but caught up and am so glad I did. Both of these games are just incredible, the kind that make you gape in wonder, that make you constantly feel astounded. Your kids may hate you because both games feel slow, with limited action going on at any given point of time, but few games ever manage to reach the level of sophistication and artistry these two do. Bundling them together with improved graphics is just a side bonus.
Great Multi-Console Games
Batman: Arkham City
The return of the Dark Knight this decade has just been astounding. First two (and soon a third) film, then an amazing game, and now a kickass sequel. Batman: Arkham City is not just a romp around a fine prison; it’s a full-scale town to silently stalk through. Arkham City is a definite best-buy for any player, not only because the game is just so fun, but because many gamers missed it in the flood of holiday games. Don’t let this one pass you by.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
It’s big. Everyone wants it. It’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. In fact, if you don’t already have it, the only question is why not? We loved it, all your friends are playing it, and unless you’re stuck in Skyrim (see below), there’s no reason Modern Warfare 3 shouldn’t be in your game collection.
As good and bad as some games are, few are as jam-packed with excellent content and top-of-the-line features as Rage. It’s got a lot of holes to plug, and a lot of minor gripes that will annoy. But I guarantee that it‘s not only an excellent first person shooter, but that it really pushes the bounds of what it means to be a shooter. Rage may not be the greatest game to come out this year, but it will certainly open your eyes to the possibilities of future games, and be exciting the whole while. Just don’t forget to save often.
The best puzzle game this year, period. It’s bigger, smarter, and has a deeper story than the original, plus room for two players with double the portal action. Coop alone makes Portal 2 a great buy. Free future updates only guarantee that you’ll want to keep it.
Modern Warfare 3 may own the multiplayer Rambo-style of gaming, but Battlefield 3 is for the team-players, the ones who will grab their friends for an hour-long bout against an equally intelligent group for serious, vehicle-filled combat. Battlefield is for console strategists. Feel free to run and gun, but unless that’s your specialty, your team can definitely use another great member of the crew. Be it.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
As a sleeper hit, Human Revolution isn’t quite the game that the original Deus Ex was, but that doesn’t take away from the game any. It pits players in the same neo-techno future, with body augmentations, incredible combat maneuvers, and multiple ways to play the game, including stealth, engineering, and soldier. It’s one game that’s easy to miss, but don’t. There is so much to do in the big city, it’s like a miniature RPG.
Rayman: Origins is one of those really great games that everyone in the family can enjoy. The simple platforming is complex enough to remain entertaining for hours on end, yet with instant cooperative play with up to four players on a home console, it’s always a fun time with everyone racing and slapping each other all the way to the finish. If there’s one way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Christmas, or any family time together when you’re snowed/rained in, Rayman: Origins is it.
Beware: this is for masochists only! Dark Souls, the sequel to Demons Souls, is an RPG with a difficulty curve that will either make you break your controller in frustration or feel right at home with the sheer insanity of this unforgiving game. If that sounds like the perfect gift for someone, either because they’d love it or end up breaking their game console in frustration, then this is a must-buy.
Saint’s Row: The Third
Saint’s Row: The Third is not what you’d expect from a massive sandbox game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto. It’s goofy, over the top in every way, and rombunctiously fun. So much so that I had to make up a word to describe it, because this game is insane in just about every way. That’s not to say you won’t love it…just keep it out of reach from the kids.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Assassin’s Creed is one of the few game franchises where every game may feel oh-so-similar to the last, but even then the games are still so damn fun it’s impossible to put down. All of the Assassin’s Creed titles have just been incredible, even though Shawn and I may disagree on just how good. But there’s one thing we both agree on: these games are a blast to play. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations doesn’t quite take the franchise to the next level, still following Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, but it further unfolds the tale, both past and present, of the everlong struggle between the Assassin’s and Knights Templar. A blockbuster hit you won’t want to miss.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is the one game you’ve probably seen not only a handful of ads in larger cities, but new internet meme’s popping up daily about. In fact, you don’t have to go far to learn what Skyrim is, which is one of the biggest, most incredible RPGs to come out this year. Our own Shawn Kline loved it. A definite must have, but be warned: you probably won’t be seeing much of whomever you give it to. That may make it a great, or terrible, gift idea.
Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection
There are few games that stand the test of time. Metal Gear Solid isn’t just one game, but an entire series that does exactly that. That’s why the game’s creator Hideo Kojima keeps making new ones even after consistently saying he’s done. That’s why years later people talk about the incredible experience they had in Snake Eater, or how they once ate Alligator meat in the game. Sure, it’s zany and over the top, but putting the Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and Peace Walker in one bundle, in HD, is just another reason to play it, or to buy it for the new generation that didn’t grow up with METAL GEEEEEEAR!