Game makers don't make it easy on us during the holidays. Every year, a glut
of blockbuster releases arrive simultaneously, each vying for a spot on
your holiday wish list. Couple that with whatever awesome games you
happened to miss in months prior, and you wind up with some dizzyingly
We're here to help.
Listed below you'll find three can't-miss holiday picks for each game system,
with an emphasis on titles released over the past two months. We've also
listed other games absolutely worth your holiday cash; with a bounty
this big, there's plenty of fun to be had.
Halo: Reach [more info]
Halo Reach The swansong from original Halo developer Bungie is perhaps their very best game yet. Though it's missing franchise face Master Chief, you'll hardly notice as you blast through the well-crafted campaign while taking down the Covenant alongside a squad of Spartan warriors. And that's just the beginning, because the game's remarkably deep multiplayer will entertain you long after you've saved the planet. Simply a must-have.
Kinect [more info]
Boasting truly controller-free gaming, Microsoft's motion-sensing camera is the
talk of the town. And for good reason: this is forward-thinking tech
that has undeniable appeal for families, parties, or families that like
to party. Whether or not it's exactly right for you depends on a few factors, but we're betting it will be on your kid's wish list regardless.
Call of Duty: Black Ops (also for PS3) [more info]
Another Call of Duty, another entertainment sales record. But there's method to
this blockbuster's popularity madness: it rocks. More specifically,
Black Ops is absolutely packed with content, jamming a single-player
tale of Cold War espionage, a massive suite of multiplayer options and
even a zombie-slaying challenge mode on one awesome game disc.
Gran Turismo 5 [more info]
Gran Turismo 5 Sony's long-awaited sim racer almost missed 2010's checkered flag, getting delayed several times before they finally decided to unleash it just in time for Black Friday. We're glad it made the cut, and if you like
racing games and own a PS3, you should be happy, too. Gorgeous graphics, precision handling...get out of your dreams and get into this car already.
PlayStation Move [more info]
It's not as flashy as Kinect, but Sony's motion-control system has already
proven itself to work as advertised. Think of it like a far more
accurate Wii remote and you've got the gist, though seriously, it's a
FAR more accurate Wii remote. In addition to pack-in title Sports
Champions, consider grabbing the cuddly EyePet if you've got kids.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (also for Xbox 360) [more info]
Wondering how exactly Ubisoft can follow up 2009's epically great Assassin's
Creed II in just one year? Play Brotherhood and you'll find out. It
might be missing a number, but this sequel continues the gripping tale
of Ezio as he tracks down nefarious Templars in Rome. It sneaks a step
further, too, by introducing a brilliant cat and mouse multiplayer in
addition to improved combat and hours upon hours of addictive,
building-scaling fun. Molto bene.
Donkey Kong Country Returns [more info]
Donkey Kong Country Returns The original SNES classic Donkey Kong Country is considered one of the best pure platformers ever, so pardon our excitement over the Wii follow-up. Featuring oodles of brand new gameplay mechanics, throwback level design and very cool two-player co-operative play, it's more fun than a barrel of, well, you know.
Kirby's Epic Yarn [more info]
What Nintendo's puffy pink mascot lacks in name-recognition he more than
makes up for in style, thanks in large part to this adorable adventure.
Best with two players, it features unique, textile-based graphics that
play perfectly into its charming gameplay, which manages to capture that
elusive Nintendo trick of appealing equally to young and old. Great for
kids, great for parents, just...great.
GoldenEye 007 [more info]
Bond is back, though he looks oddly different. That's because Activision
swapped out original GoldeneEye spy Pierce Brosnan for current bad-boy
Bond Daniel Craig, the first of many changes in this impressive remake.
But while you'll notice updates left and right, the fun remains just as
fresh as it was when GoldenEye changed lives back on the N64. If you own
a Wii and want to shoot stuff, you've got to pick it up.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta [more info]
God of War: Ghost of Sparta For years, the best PSP game around was God of War: Chains of Olympus. Looks like it just got some company. Set between the events of the first two God of War games, this high-octane action romp feels like a full-on console release miraculously crammed onto the PSP, with amazing visuals, tight controls and the same awesome gameplay that made this series one of the most mimicked in history. Pass on the posers and check
out the real deal.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker [more info]
This isn't the first Metal Gear Solid game to hit Sony's handheld, but it's
most certainly the best. Packing all the features of its console kin, it
takes series lead Solid Snake overseas as he tracks down his traitorous
mentor, establishes a militia, and stops another Metal Gear from
wreaking havoc. All in a day's work -- and somehow, all on the PSP. If
you fancy yourself even a vague fan of MGS, don't let it sneak by.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep [more info]
The immensely popular Kingdom Hearts series hit the PSP this year, once
again bringing together the seemingly disparate worlds of Disney
characters and Japanese role-playing games. Odd it may be, but the
formula tastes as good as ever. With three story paths to follow,
updated combat and enough Disney goodies to please even the grumpiest
fans of the mouse house, it's an easy call for PSP role-playing gamers.
Also consider: Valkyria Chronicles II
Super Scribblenauts [more info]
Super Scribblenauts Loved last year's innovative, vocabulary-building puzzler Scribblenauts but were stymied by the loose controls and lack of adjectives? Then you're not just in luck, you're in heaven. This revamped take on the 2009 DS game fixes most of what was broken and adds those delightful descriptors. Need a broom? How about a FAT broom? Or a BROWN broom? Or a WITCHY broom? That last one might not be legit, but there's only one way to find out.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future [more info]
The well-heeled sleuth and his helper Luke are at it again, this time travelling through
time in an effort to solve a strange disappearance. Of course, it gets
more complicated than that, thanks in no small part to the 100+
brainteasers packed inside. With top-notch visuals and an engaging plot,
it doesn't take a detective to see why it's an easy buy.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies [more info]
you just want to slay a few dragons. This massive role-playing game
will let you do just that, in addition to all sorts of cool things.
Sporting high production values, a tried and true combat system and an
absolute treasure trove of dungeons to explore and monsters to fight,
it's the DS gift that keeps on giving.
Also consider: Picross 3D
StarCraft II [more info]
Starcraft II Back after a decade, Blizzard's stellar sci-fi strat series blazed its way
to the top of the charts at its July release, and shows no signs of
slowing down. A gorgeously presented tale of rebellion, courage,
betrayal and bravery, Starcraft's story will have you on the edge of
your seat...and then you'll be floored altogether by the multiplayer,
which is easily one of the year's best competitive games.
Civilization V [more info]
Turn-based strategy games aren't exactly sexy - or, at least, they weren't before
Civ V came along. Not only is its one-more-turn gameplay insanely
addictive, it's one of the deepest strategy games in its class - and
boy, does it ever look great. A worthy successor to a legendary name.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm [more info]
For the 12 million addicts of Blizzard's epic World of Warcraft, there's
simply no other choice. Cataclysm reshapes Azeroth, the game's setting,
by unleashing an ancient evil upon the world - and as any fantasy fan
knows, where there's ancient evil, there's awesome battles.