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Halo 4Master Chief is back. After spending the last five years sitting dormant, the most iconic character in the shooter genre has resurfaced and the results are nothing short of incredible. A new storyline has the green-clad super soldier rushing to save Cortana from herself in a race against time.
We could talk about the stunning visuals, gripping storyline and incredible music score, but let's be serious: what most gamers really care about here is the multiplayer and it delivers in spades. Balanced weaponry, awesome maps, the same beloved game modes and the ability to get creative in the Forge make going another few rounds with Master Chief incredibly worthwhile.
Available on: Xbox 360
New Super Mario Bros. ULet's cut right to the chase – people are excited for the new Nintendo console and nothing quite says "Nintendo" like a new Mario release, especially one in HD! Bowser has stormed Princess Peach's castle and flung Mario and his crew far, far away, so it's time for your favorite plumber to suit up and womp some baddies. It's multiplayer, turtle-stompin', goomba-leapin', old-fashioned fun for all ages like you remember with some exciting new twists and challenging game modes you won't forget.
Available on: Wii U»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
LittleBigPlanet PS VitaThere's a whole lot of awesome wrapped in a small package here. Sackboy (Sony's hilariously deranged answer to Mario) returns with a massively customizable platformer that offers players endless ways to create, tweak and explore the LittleBigPlanet world. With the PS Vita's touchscreen technology, you'll bounce, slide and jump your way through a dizzying array of story levels, multiplayer battles, multiple game modes and a huge online supply of user-created levels. This title will keep gamers busy (and smiling) for hours.
Available on: Playstation Vita»Buy it now at GameStop for $39.99
Borderlands 2A massive world full of millions of guns, shields, grenades and pieces of loot to discover awaits gamers in this hugely anticipated sequel. The second installment of this action/shooter turned RPG brings a stronger storyline to the table, an expanded cast of strange characters, more customizable characters and hours upon hours of missions and side quests to explore. There are dozens of ways to dispatch enemies, from catapulting exploding barrels to shooting them with a screaming gun (you read that correctly). The quirky, hilarious and huge world of Pandora is still as fun as gamers might remember, but for those new to the series the learning curve is short and the fun is piled on heavy and hard from the very start. Even hours into the game, the thrill of finding that just-slightly-better weapon or item keeps things fresh and exciting.
Kyle Bennet, one of the gurus over at HardOCP has this to say about Borderlands,
"Borderlands 2 if you have not already picked it up, and if you have not, you might as well go with Borderlands: Game of the Year Addition (was less than 10 bucks on Steam the other day). BL1 makes for a great lead up to BL2 but it is not a must play to understand the show. Both titles bring co-op play, rather than team play, to the forefront which is so often overlooked and was the lifeblood of first person shooters so long ago. If you would have told me I would log enough BL2 hours before next summer to have a level 50 character, I would have told you that was nuts, but it seems to be happening. It has been great co-oping with my 12 year old! Also, both titles are very forgiving to older hardware as well, so you don't need a mega-box to get some headshots in. This article will fill in your readers on what hardware it takes to run Borderlands 2 with all the eyecandy turned on."
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PS3»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
FIFA 13Time to dig out the ol' soccer cleats. FIFA 13 ups the challenge factor in a big way, adding new elements of realism to the game that make it tough, but balanced and never rob any of the fun. New game mechanics have improved your ability to dribble past opponents, smartened up your teammates and given you entirely new ways to score. Game modes ranging from online tournaments to "Be a Pro" are all still there, while exciting new innovations, leagues and skill challenges to keep you on your toes. It's a well-rounded game that will appease even the most die-hard Football fan.
Available on:Xbox 360, PS2, PS3, PC, Mac, PS Vita, Playstation Portable, Wii, Wii U»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
DishonoredOne of the most anticipated games of the year, Dishonored has released to rave reviews and incredibly flattering accolades. Step into the role of the wrongly-imprisoned Corvo Attano and descend into a gorgeous steampunk universe where a plague rages and evil abounds. It's a part shooter, part strategy, part role-playing game where your choices matter, you can choose your own perks and the number of ways to achieve your objective are as varied as the players behind the controller. Will you hack and slash your way to the finish, or finesse your way through with cat-burglar-like grace? Will you storm the gates of the palace, or morph into a rat and crawl your way in? With so many ways to play through the game and so many endings to experience, you'll take joy in running across rooftops and creatively silencing foes over and over again.
Available on: Xbox 360, PC, PS3»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2The Call of Duty series is one of the most beloved in the shooter genre over the past decade. That said, recent entries left gamers feeling a sense of déjà vu, and the series was due for a facelift.
Enter Black Ops 2. For the first time, the solo missions give you a choice as to how you want to complete them, allowing you to shape the outcome. The stunning visuals, gratuitous explosions and high-octane cut scenes remain, of course, as do the tried and tested multiplayer modes. There's a fresh face here too: A new "Pick 10" system gives players the power to truly customize their multiplayer battles, new multiplayer modes are available and best of all, passing a prestige won't reset your stats, Oh – and zombies are back, in a big way. How could you go wrong?
According to Kyle Bennet, this game is bargain bin, go play Battlefield 3.
Available on: Xbox 360, PC, PS3, Wii U»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
Playstation All-Stars Battle RoyaleTaking a page from Nintendo's wildly successful "Smash Brothers" series, Playstation Allstars gives players the chance to duke it out with their favorite characters from Playstation games past and present.
Gamers can choose to brawl with beloved characters that run the gamut from the pulsating drill of BioShock's Big Daddy to the.. err.. sheer, powerful girth of Fat Princess. If the thought of the cute and loveable PaRappa the Rapper going toe to toe with the psychotic antics of Sweet Tooth the clown doesn't get you at least a little excited, you just must not be much of a gamer.
Available on: PS3, PS Vita»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
Kirby's Dream CollectionFor 20 years, the loveable pink fluff-ball known as Kirby has been inhaling bad guys and floating to new heights to the delight of platform gamers of all ages. With Kirby's Dream Collection, you can relive those memories and bask in the nostalgia of 6 classic Kirby games wrapped into one package. Kirby's Dream Land 1 - 3, Kirby's Adventure, Kirby Super Star and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards are all present and accounted for. It's a huge amount of content that will challenge and entertain for quite some time.
While the Wii console might be on its way out, this is a fitting tribute to one of gaming's most colorful characters and belongs in any Nintendo fanboy's collection.
Available on: Wii»Buy it now at GameStop for $39.99
XCOM: Enemy UnknownPC gamers rejoice! We haven't forgotten you. While there were a number of great games slated to come out this season (Torchlight 2, anyone?), the strategy-based XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the one many gamers are itching to get their hands on.
In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the world is in crisis and you're the one everyone is looking towards to handle the situation. Choose which technologies to investigate, plan for future attacks and decide where to devote the precious limited resources at your disposal. Oh, and lead a team of beefy soldiers in turn-based combat through destructible environments against ever-more-challenging enemies in between bouts of wracking your brain to save humanity.
Available on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
Pokémon White & Black Version 2The Pokémon faithful have reason to be thankful this holiday season. The latest additions to the Pokémon
franchise have all but refined the predictable-but-great series and raised the bar to the next level. The gyms are grander, the Pokémon are more fun to catch than ever (nearly 300 monsters from all 5 generations) and with multiplayer capabilities for up to 100 of your best friends, the experience is one that is worth sharing. New additions like medals for achievements, a "Habitat List" for tracking whether you've caught ‘em all from a particular area and the Pokémon World Tour bring a feeling of freshness to the genre. The storyline is arguably the most captivating yet, a direct sequel to the previous version.
It's the Pokémon you remember, but even better than before.
Available on: Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS»Buy it now at GameStop for $34.99 (Black 2)
»Buy it now at GameStop for $34.99 (White 2)
Lego Lord of the RingsJourney through a slightly-more-blocky version of Middle Earth and relive the adventure of Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn and all the characters you love on this multi-platform action adventure. With over 80 playable characters, challenging puzzles, the ability to free-roam and surprisingly well done scenes recreated from the films, this game isn't just for kids. Gamers of all ages will find themselves wrapped up in their quest to destroy the ring in the same way they loved the books and films.
Available on: PC, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintedo DS»Buy it now at GameStop for $49.99
Need For Speed Most WantedThe battle for best racing game was neck-and-neck with Forza: Horizon, but while both games could have made this list (and Forza is fantastic in its own right), Need for Speed Most Wanted won by a nose. Here, deviance is encouraged and speeding is, well, all but mandatory. Handling is precise, attention to detail is intense and the ways to keep yourself busy are many, though all of them involve insane speeds and gutsy maneuvers. Enter street races, hunt down new cars, upgrade your favorite cars and leave the police in your wake in a sandbox environment that leaves the plot for adventure in your hands. Your only objective is to become the most infamous racer in the city; the how is up to you.
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
Assassin's Creed 3Don't be fooled by the title – this is actually the fifth installment of the Assassin's Creed story and it certainly hasn't lost any of the momentum built by the past games. With a storyline set in 1700's New England, players are thrown right into the thick of an adventure that will have them swinging tomahawks, scaling rooftops, hunting for pelts, disposing of pirates on the high seas and piercing through the veil of an enormous global conspiracy. The repetitive missions of the past are long-gone, replaced with tons of ways to spend your time that don't feel like they're half-baked "add-ons".
Brutal weapons, swift kills, unraveling mysteries and believable locales mean that taking control of an elite assassin is more fun than ever.
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PS3. Wii U»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
Skylanders GiantsDon't know what Skylanders is? The younger members of your shopping list probably do. The toy/video game franchise sparked an unexpected flurry of sales as gamers scrambled to collect all of the figurines that expand the video game play. Players drop these figurines onto a "portal" connected to the console and are able to play as that character on-screen, saving their stats and adventuring in new areas. In the new title, all of their favorite characters return, with new and enormous "Giants" to take control of and an entirely new world to explore. All of the player's progress is saved right to the figurine, so taking your favorite character's to a friends' house to play won't mean losing any of your "hard work" collecting loot, soul gems and hats.
It's a winning combination that has kids over the moon – and parents won't mind venturing through the Skylanders' world either.
Available on: Nintendo 3DS, Playstation 3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360»Buy it now at GameStop for $59.99
Whew! We made it – 15 of the best video games for the holidays. There were many honorable mentions (Far Cry 3, Guild Wars 2, Hitman Absolution and Paper Mario Sticker Star to name just a few), but one thing's for certain: this is a great time of year to dust off that controller, fire up your console of choice and whisk yourself away to another time, place or adventure.
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