Early adopter gamers should have a merry holiday season, thanks to the new PlayStation 4 and Xbox One console releases. But most of this year’s console games were developed for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and new titles will continue to be released on the older platforms for a while. Below is a selection of the year’s best games and retail bundles across a variety of genres. All of the titles below are available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and a few have already been ported to PS4 and Xbox One. The prices listed are average holiday retail prices; some of these games cost half as much as they did upon release. Correspondent Glenn McDonald
‘The Last of Us’
(Rated M / $35-$45)
My vote for the single best game of 2013, “The Last of Us” is a sophisticated take on the zombie apocalypse story, with a spooky atmosphere, great characters and a challenging combat system. It’s too heavy for kids, but fine for older teenagers – at least, there’s nothing here they haven’t seen and heard before. Except for maybe the giant fungal zombies hurling globs of poisonous spores. “The Last of Us” is one of the best holiday deals out there, and word is some new downloadable content is coming after the holidays.
(Rated T / $50-$60)
‘Bandfuse: Rock Legends’
(Rated T / $60-$70)
For those who want to go beyond the fake musicianship of “Guitar Hero” and its imitators, “Rocksmith” and “BandFuse” let players plug their instrument directly into the game system. The included adapters work with virtually any electric guitar or bass (or acoustic pickup) that uses a 1/4-inch output jack. Improved technology has solved the lag issue in previous editions, and both titles offer a wealth of tutorial and game play options. “Rocksmith” is designed as more of a learning tool; “BandFuse” leans toward the rhythm game end of things.
‘Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag’
(Rated M / $45-$55)
The “Assassin’s Creed” games are always top-notch in terms of quality and visuals, and this is a can’t-miss for any gamer on your list that likes open-world adventures – or in this case, open seas. “Black Flag” takes the popular pirate elements from the previous game and moves the action to the 18th-century Caribbean Sea. Players can pilot historically accurate ships around the islands or get involved in landlubber intrigues in the ports of Kingston and Havana. There’s a lot of actual history here, too, and kids who aren’t careful just might learn something. (Also available on PS4 and Xbox.)
‘MLB 13: The Show’
(Rated E /$30-$40)
‘Major League Baseball 2K13’
(Rated E /$30-$40)
If you have a baseball fan on your list, “MLB 13: The Show” is state-of-the-art sports simulated gaming, with graphics so realistic that – from across the room, anyway – the game literally looks like a live broadcast. The game’s million or so customization options allow for a range of difficulty settings, so this is a good gift for veterans or rookies. If you’re shopping for an Xbox gamer, the competing “2K13” is a solid alternative.
‘Disney Infinity Starter Pack’
(Rated E-10+ /$35-$45)
Disney’s answer to the popular “Skylanders” franchise, “Infinity” is designed to bring all of the studio’s major characters under one expandable roof. Kid-friendly and very fun, “Infinity” has both individual adventures and an open-world play area, making it feel like several games in one. The Starter Kit includes figurines of Mr. Incredible, Captain Jack Sparrow and Sulley from “Monsters, Inc.” Those figurines, when placed atop the included docking platform, unlock new worlds in the game. The catch? You’ll need to buy more of these little guys down the line at $12 apiece if you want to open up additional content. The good news is that the starter kit has dropped way down in price for the holidays.
‘Tomb Raider’ (Rated M / $25-$35): Lara Croft returns in an entirely successful reboot of the venerable action franchise. The M rating is largely for language and a little gore, but most kids should be able to handle this one.
‘Lego Marvel Super Heroes’ (Rated E-10+ / $50-$60): Another bonkers entry in the popular line of Lego adventure games, “Marvel” features more than 100 playable super heroes and is good for all ages.
‘Remember Me’ (Rated M / $30-$40): The sci-fi gem “Remember Me” has an intriguing future-noir story and introduces some brand-new game mechanics based on memory and recall.
‘Need for Speed Rivals’ (Rated E-10+ / $50-$60): Driving game fans can’t lose with the “Need for Speed” titles, which are built around vast open-world racing arenas. Also available on PS4 and Xbox One.
‘Grand Theft Auto V’ (Rated M / $50-$60): The latest entry in the hugely popular life-of-crime series, “GTAV” is strictly for older gamers and is on track to be the best-selling game of 2013.