Video game ideas for the holidays, gifts for gamers, hottest games, Gears of War, Fifa, Zelda, Mario 3D
Stuff to Buy Channel / Bullz-Eye Home
The holiday season is the video game industry's busiest time of year, with publishers saving many of their marquee titles to release on the public like an avalanche of digital goodness. It can actually be quite overwhelming with so many different options to choose from (more on that later), so we've done our best to put together a list of what we feel are some the year's best titles in their respective categories. Game on.
As the final piece in the purported "Gears of War" trilogy, the third installment delivers one helluva farewell for Marcus Fenix and his COG buddies with more of the same white-knuckle intensity that made the first two games such an absolute blast to play. While it may not be as addictive as its predecessors, it's without a doubt the most wildly creative and cinematic installment yet, headlined by a deep campaign mode jam-packed with epic encounters, great storytelling, and a whole arsenal of new weapons designed to put a smile on your face. But the best thing about the "Gears of War" games has always been the online multiplayer experience, and that hasn't changed one bit. Though Versus is still a battlefield of frustration fit only for those who eat, drink and sleep "Gears of War," there are some awesome new multiplayer modes that are much more forgiving and sure to keep you busy until the inevitable release of "Gears of War 4." You don't get much better value than that these days.
It's hard to say whether "FIFA 12" is the best soccer game that Electronic Arts has ever released, but it's certainly one of the most well-rounded installments to date. Not only has the EA Sports team made some pretty big changes to the gameplay – including improved player physics and a completely redesigned defending system that places a bigger emphasis on positioning and timing – but the overall experience is more interactive as well. Career Mode is now filled with the same drama that fuels the real game as you're forced to deal with things like player morale and the excitement of Transfer Deadline Day, while the new Player Impact Engine also plays a part in creating more realistic injuries. And that's just the beginning. There are also weekly challenges that let you relive some of the latest real-world matches, increased stakes in ranked online games, the ability to compete in your own league with friends, and, for the first time ever, FIFA Ultimate Team loaded directly onto the disc. It's everything a soccer fan could want and more.
If there's one thing that Nintendo fans can always count on, it's that the latest Mario game is going to be awesome. Although the 3DS hasn't exactly enjoyed the best of starts due to a lackluster launch, "Super Mario 3D Land" quickly remedies that problem as the first must-have game for the system. Clearly designed with all the best bits and pieces from the previous Mario adventures in mind (and infused with a few new enemies and abilities as well), the game most closely resembles "Super Mario Bros. 3," albeit with a modern twist. What makes it so unique is that it's essentially a traditional side-scroller, but with the added depth of an open world game, and that extra dimension really improves the experience. It's also one of the few titles for the system that not only benefits from the addition of 3D, but is actually more fun to play because of it. And with a tiered difficulty setting that gradually becomes more challenging the further you go along, "Super Mario 3D Land" is great for newcomers and longtime Mario fans alike.
Nintendo is celebrating the 25th anniversary of "The Legend of Zelda" in style with a brand new (and surprisingly funny) adventure on the Wii that comes packaged in a pretty sweet bundle with a unique, gold-colored Wii MotionPlus Remote and a CD of orchestral music from the series. And then there's the game itself, a prequel to "Ocarina of Time" that finds Link embarking on yet another quest to rescue Zelda after she falls from the airborne island of Skyloft down onto the uncharted "surface" below. Though this isn't the first time that players have controlled Link using the Wii Remote, the MotionPlus technology accurately translates the angle of every sword slice, making combat more immersive. Granted, the foundation of "Skyward Sword" is admittedly a little too much
like "Ocarina of Time" (instead of a horse, you travel on a giant bird, and instead of an ocarina, the musical instrument of choice is a harp), but that's hardly a bad thing since it's often considered the best "Legend of Zelda" ever made.
We were pretty skeptical about Harmonix's "Dance Central" when the game was released alongside the Kinect during the last holiday season, but regardless of how silly or potentially embarrassing as it may seem, it's actually one of the more enjoyable games for the system, especially if you're having a bunch of friends over for a party. The second installment preserves everything that was great about the original – including a solid mix of dance tracks ranging from Donna Summer to Lady Gaga – and features several new enhancements as well, like the ability to jump in and out of the game at any time, and the addition of Voice Controls that are particularly useful while trying to learn moves. Harmonix has also added a new story-driven campaign mode where you compete for a chance to rep various dance crews, a Dance Battle mode that pits you head-to-head against a friend, and the option to import songs from the first game. Buy it for the dance reality show fanatic in your life and then invite yourself over for a night of fun and foolishness.
Nintendo's latest rendition of "Tetris" proves that the popular puzzle game is still one of the best ways to kill time, with a ton of new gameplay modes that put a fresh spin on things while still preserving the spirit of the original. Though one of the biggest selling points for some people will undoubtedly be the addition of 3D, it's really only practical in a handful of modes, like the Augmented Reality games. What makes "Tetris: Axis" really stand out, however, is the large variety of ways that you can play. There are over 20 different games to choose from, including classic Marathon, fast-paced Fever, fun minigames like Jigsaw and Tower Climber, and even the option to play friends online. Of course, that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what "Tetris: Axis" has to offer, and at the bargain price of $30, you'd be crazy not to put this on your own wish list. It's the perfect reason to get addicted to "Tetris" all over again.
There aren't very many games for Xbox 360 that parents can actually enjoy playing with their kids, but we were genuinely impressed with Ubisoft's "PowerUP Heroes," which literally puts you in control of a superhero using the power of Kinect. Though there's not a whole lot to the story, the interactive gameplay and easy-to-follow controls will win you over almost immediately. Every little kid pretends to have superpowers at some point in their lives, and "PowerUP Heroes" caters to that wish fulfillment as players must mimic the movements required to perform special abilities as well as basic combat moves like punching, kicking and dodging. (The Hadoken-like energy blast will fill adult gamers who grew up on a steady diet of "Street Fighter II" with glee.) Additionally, there's an assortment of other suits that can be unlocked, each with their own unique set of abilities, and after completing the short campaign mode, players can take the fight to their friends online or even challenge mom and dad at home to see who's the best superhero in the family.
We'd be lying if we said that the abovementioned games were the only ones worth considering when you head out to do your holiday shopping, but the truth of the matter is that there are so many titles released in such a short period that we simply didn't have the time to play each one. There are actually quite a few other games that we're dying to check out, including critical darlings like "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" and "L.A. Noire"; action-adventure games like "Batman: Arkham City," "Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception" and "Dead Island"; first-person shooters like "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" and "Battlefield 3"; and even some that have yet to be released, like Nintendo's new 3DS racer, "Mario Kart 7," and BioWare's action RPG, "Star Wars: The Old Republic."