Video games make great holiday gifts, in that they keep your loved ones on the couch and out of trouble for long periods of time. Below is a selection of the years best games, across a variety of genres and formats. If youre buying for younger gamers, watch those ESRB ratings theyre the equivalent of MPAA ratings for movies.
NBA Baller Beats (X360 Kinect/Rated E10+/$59.99)
A nice gift idea for that athletic kid on your list, NBA Baller Beats uses the Kinect body-tracking camera to provide a virtual basketball clinic for dribbling and ball-handling skills. The game comes packaged with a full-size Spaulding basketball, and employs dance game principles to keep the drills engaging and fun. Since youre literally dribbling to the beat, youll want a solid floor and big playing space for this a garage is best. Nice selection of rock and hip-hop tracks, too.
Dishonored (PC, PS3, X360/Rated M/$59.99)
A unique and ambitious first-person stealth game, Dishonored takes place in a beautifully detailed 19th century European city in which magic and technology coexist. What makes the game special is the tremendous freedom of choice it affords you can spend weeks (literally) exploring the tortuous city, and even play through the entire game without killing anyone. A good gift idea for hardcore first-person gamers looking for a change of pace.
Midway Arcade Origins (PS3, X360/Rated T/$29.99)
For the older video game lover on your list veteran gamer is the polite term Midway Arcade Origins collects 30 games from the 1980s heyday of the video arcade. Highlights include the monster movie smash-em-up Rampage, the insanely hectic Robotron 2084, the hall-of-fame classic Defender and the ostrich-riding curiosity that was Joust. All games are presented in high definition, with multiplayer options on select games and online leaderboards.
Hip Hop Dance Experience (Wii, X360/Rated T/$39.99)
There are roughly 13 billion dance games on the market now, but The Hip Hop Dance Experience earns points by narrowing the focus to one genre and featuring tracks both old (Sugarhill Gang, Run-DMC, Snoop Dogg) and new (Amerie, Flo Rida, Lil Wayne). Theres nothing groundbreaking here, but the interface is friendly (the Kinect version add voice commands) and the Dance Battle and Dance Marathon modes are interesting twists. Its a good workout, too.
Mass Effect 3 (PC, PS3, X360/Rated M; $59.99)
When it comes to sci-fi RPG gaming, you cant go wrong with the Mass Effect franchise, which combines state-of-the-art gameplay mechanics with rich, deep storytelling. In this third installment, that tenacious race of sentient machines known as the Reapers has finally begun its invasion of Earth. The cover-based firefights and enemy AI strategies have been improved, and the Story mode accommodates players more interested in narrative than frantic combat. This is a good pick for older teenage gamers; theres nothing here they havent heard and seen before.
• Brave: The Video Game (Multiple Formats/Rated E10+/$29.99): An easy-to-learn action-adventure game, Brave should appeal to little girl gamers in particular, thanks to feisty heroine Princess Merida.
• SSX (PS3, X360/Rated E/$59.99): Visually dazzling and surprisingly addictive, this snowboarding game is as close as you can get to the real thing, minus the sprains and bone fractures.
• Sleeping Dogs (PC, PS3, X360/Rated M/$59.99): This one is way too violent for kids, but grown-up gamers will dig the Asian crime movie tropes and ultra-detailed environments.
• Spy Hunter (Vita, 3DS/Rated E10+/$39.99): The venerable arcade classic gets a reboot for handheld systems, with machine guns, oil slicks and smokescreens still intact.
• Diablo III (PC, Mac/Rated M/$59.99): Old-school PC gamers will appreciate the return of Diablo, the legendary hack-n-slash RPG that ruled the 1990s.
• Hitman: Absolution (PC, PS3, X360/Rated M/$59.99): Another adults-only title, Hitman features violent gun play and gruesome assassinations, but also top-shelf visuals and thrilling superspy scenarios.
• MLB 12: The Show (PS3, Vita/Rated E/$59.99): A great gift for the baseball fan suffering through the cruel winter months, MLB 12 is impossibly detailed and endlessly re-playable.