One of the most exciting things to receive as a gift on Christmas is video games. For me personally, nothing beats the morning I was given the Sega Genesis system I never thought I would possibly get, and playing Sonic’s elusive blue hide right into the ground. And even though that childlike joy will never be experienced again for me, and video game systems are a whole lot different and more expensive these days, it’s still exciting to open up a new video game you haven’t played yet.
To try and help some of you create this joy for your video game playing loved ones, we wanted to create a list of 2009’s best and most-desired game titles. These are the games that most people are going to want if they don’t have them yet, and these are the games that have made the most impact. Obviously you’ll want to make sure they don’t have specific titles in mind, but for the most part, this is where to start reading up on and shopping for video game gift ideas.
Click on over to the other side to check out our very own Holiday Gift Guide: Video Game Edition ’09 for selections to play on Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 game consoles, as well as on your PC.
And don’t procrastinate! No one enjoys last second shopping or the hell that is your local mall a few days before Christmas!
Halo 3: ODST — Xbox 360
It doesn’t take much more than the mere mention of the Halo title to obtain a large amount of attention. Aside from the Halo trilogy, only Halo Wars had been produced, and that game didn’t appeal to nearly as many gamers. So when a spinoff game called Halo 3: ODST was announced, you can bet that folks were buzzing.
ODST takes place a few weeks before the events of Halo 3 and lets you play as a pretty regular soldier who has to find out what happened to missing soldiers in New Mombasa after the Covenant attacks Earth. You will move through the game trying to solve this mystery through a lot of familiar Halo combat gameplay, but also through the discovery of various hints that will flash you back to different soldiers. When you find these hints, it will allow you to play through what happened to the soldiers in order to find the truth to the missing team.
Because you do not play as the legendary Master Chief in this game, you’re much more vulnerable to damage and dangerous missions will not be easy. The original Halo games were fun, but they didn’t have much story to support them, so having that solid story mixed in with puzzles and a more grounded character puts Halo 3: ODST in this elite group of best video game gift ideas (for others or yourself). Some may even consider it the best in the series.
Scribblenauts — Nintendo DS
I’m not someone who owns a Nintendo DS or has interest in getting one, but one game that came out this past year gained way too much praise to ignore. That game is called Scribblenauts, and it pretty much allows you to use any word you want to solve a puzzle.
When they say you can use any word, it’s pretty accurate. It’s said that over 10,000 possibilities exist in the database. Basically, you get a situation or problem that needs solving, so you type in any word and that word shows up on your screen. If a cat is stealing your potatoes, you might simply type in “Dog,” and the canine will chase the cat off. Or, you might type in “Dinosaur” and have the prehistoric carnivore eat the kitty. Stuck in a deep well? Enter in “Ladder” and climb your way out. It’s all about figuring out the words that work and also having fun finding creative solutions.
If you know anyone with a Nintendo DS, Scribblenauts would be the top game prospect to pick up and it will likely keep the recipient occupied for hours and days and weeks.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves — PS3
Much like Modern Warfare 2, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the highly-anticipated follow-up to another hugely popular original game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.
Drake’s Fortune came at a time when the PS3 didn’t have many games that made it worth purchasing an entire system, so it can be considered a savior of sorts. With the release of Among Thieves, the system now has many more appealing titles in its library, and is really starting to shine with the most recent price-drop.
These developments have lead myself to make the jump and finally pick a system up, and one of the reasons was because of how amazing Uncharted 2 looked. I can happily say that I have the first game in-hand and look forward to finally playing this sequel. If you’re looking for a gift idea for PS3 gamers, these games are fantastic options.
Prototype — Xbox 360, PS3, PC
It may not have been the hands down favorite game of the year overall, but Prototype is one that was enjoyed greatly by gamers. Specifically, it is one of those games in which you wreak constant havoc, giving the player a sense of immortality. Always a good time.
The game tells the story of a man who is genetically enhanced in many ways as a hopeful new military super-weapon. He has the ability to shapeshift himself or his appendages into many different weapons that enhance his devastation; these are upgraded as you move through the game. He also has the ability to absorb enemies and other things. As you move through the game, you’ll find yourself fighting a massive amount of civilians who have been infected with a strange disease, as well as the military who is trying to stop them.
Prototype is the kind of game you want to get for people who aren’t too concerned with depth, but for those who love to jump in and go nuts. Even if the story isn’t enjoyed at all, the fun players have destroying any who challenge you is entertaining enough to score a win.
Dragon Age: Origins — PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Decent RPG’s have been few and far between on this generation of consoles, but fortunately Bioware is around to give us some of the best. BioWare is best known for their writing and for bringing us the wonderful Mass Effect and soon-coming Mass Effect 2 — both of which are expected to go down as some of the best action RPG content ever created. The company also has their new Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic MMO on the way, which is expected to steal a chunk of World of Warcraft’s users. In between all of this, they constructed a little game called Dragon Age: Origins, and with a story that is very similar to George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice, it is custom-made for us fantasy geeks.
It’s difficult to share the story of the game, because it differs from player to player. As the title explains: this is a game of origins, and who you decide to be is what dictates your character’s past and where your game begins in that world. There is a time when the stories will begin playing out the same no matter who you choose, but that’s all for you to discover on your own.
The real selling point to Dragon Age: Origins, is that it’s open for you to create your own world and your own life within the game. As with other RPGs like it, the choices and actions that you take and make will affect your character in the game and how he or she is treated and respected. You choose the path you want to take and where you want to go in your fantasy video game life. The action is fun, and while the graphics are not the best, the story will keep you entertained for hours.
The game is available on multiple platforms, but it plays differently on each. All of them received very impressive ratings from critics with each having its own pros and cons, but the PC version seems to be the most-liked of them all.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 — Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Not too much needs to be said about this one, and more than likely you’ve already bought this; but if you haven’t, you are in for a treat. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the highly-anticipated sequel to quite possibly the most popular war game ever created in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. And much like its predecessor, Modern Warfare 2 is being bathed in positive reviews and showing off big numbers after selling almost 5 Million copies in just the first day.
Couple a thrilling single player story, with some very fine cooperative segments, and one of the best multiplayer games ever, and you’ll get a game that is worth every penny. The sequel takes place five years after the original Modern Warfare (all other Call of Duty games take place in a World War II setting), and sees you filling the shoes of multiple different characters as they fight in battles all over the world.
Even though the single player campaign was a little short, you’ll be playing the Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer mode well into the next decade. In fact, the game and its original may just be even more popular in the online arena where players enter into battles with other players all over the world. Think of it like a giant, violent chat room, where even the little kids can ruin your day and your character’s life.
Wii Sports Resort — Nintendo Wii
Wii Sports Resort was the big Wii release this past year, especially since it came with the new Wii Motion Plus: a new attachment that helped your motion sensor to be more smooth and accurate.
Wii owners and fans are typically of the social gaming variety who don’t play constantly but love turning the system on when company is over. As with the original Wii Sports, this new game offers a ton of new events to partake in on a your own personal island paradise. Sports like bowling, table tennis, and golf are returning to the game, and they are joined by many new events like basketball, archery, frisbee, sword fighting, and others.
This is a must own for anyone who loves Wii games and especially the original Wii Sports experience.
Batman: Arkham Asylum — PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Ah, yes…the game that Batman fans have been waiting for all of their next-generation video gaming lives. The Batman game that gets it right and is a ton of fun to play.
Batman: Arkham Asylum picks up with the Dark Knight bringing the Joker into Arkham Asylum to be locked up for a long, long time. Of course, capturing that rascally Joker (voiced once again by Luke Skywalker and fan-favorite Mark Hamill) is never an easy task, and he springs a meticulously planned trap that turns the tides completely, gives the Joker control over Arkham, unleashes all of the evil faces of Gotham City that Batman has put away in the past, and forces the Caped Crusader to put an end to the madness — especially after finding out that Joker has a plan to unleash an army of Bane-like beings on Gotham.
Arkham Asylum is mostly a stealth game where you will attempt to maneuver through the asylum and get things back to normal as quickly and quietly as possible, however, a very good combat system is used in order to take out as many baddies as need be.
One thing that angered many fans is good for you PS3 owners or gift-buyers. The PS3 version is the only version that allows the user to actual play as the Joker himself. One might think that it would be nice of them to include this cool feature for all to enjoy, but alas, they chose otherwise.
The Beatles Rock Band — Xbox 360, Wii, PS3
For you music-lovers out there, it’s hard to find anything bigger than the release of The Beatles Rock Band.
Giving Rock Band and Guitar Hero fanatics the opportunity to play along with a bunch of Beatles’ classics was pretty much an instant selling point, and the game has received nothing but high marks. The game/package is also a great gift for the social gamers who aren’t into video games much, but like to have fun at parties and gatherings.
Nothing else makes you feel better than drunkenly nailing out a Beatles tune — or any other popular song, for that matter — on a video game instrument simulator.
Assassin’s Creed II — Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Yet another popular sequel to be released this year, Assassin’s Creed II brings us back into the dreams of the Animus, where Desmond will now use what is called the Animus 2.0 to relive the actions of another assassin ancestor of his named Ezio. The exploration this time around takes place in 15th century Italy during the Renaissance, which is hundreds of years after the events of the first game.
The plan with this sequel was to pretty much improve upon the flaws of the original Assassin’s Creed, which suffered from repetition and some other minor blemishes on an otherwise fantastic game. The second game takes all that’s great in the original — such as the beautiful and mesmerizing historically accurate cities and locations and the perfect counter-friendly combat system — and added things like the ability to travel from place to place faster, the ability to swim, and the option to upgrade weapons and items.
These updates make promises for a fail proof adventure that any gamer would be thrilled to get on Christmas day.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 — Wii, PS3, Xbox 360
It’s been a rough year for Tiger Woods lately, but the Tiger Woods PGA Tour golf games have always been really popular over the years. In the same vein as the Madden football games, they always offer sports fans and golf fans the chance to feel like they’re on the coasts of Scotland or in the sun of Florida playing 18 holes.
While the game itself is no new mind-blower, Tiger Woods 10 makes the list due specifically to its Wii edition. Because of the ability to replicate your own golf swing, this game is now the gold standard golf simulation to own. And while Xbox 360 and PS3 fans will have plenty of fun playing and get much better graphics, sometimes you just want to swing away.
Infamous — PS3
Finally, our list concludes with Infamous.
This game is another in the previously mentioned few PS3 exclusive titles that can swing consumers into buying the system. it follows a bike messenger who is one of the millions affected by a massive explosion that devastates the fictional Empire City. In the chaos, he obtains some kind of electricity-based superpowers, which he ends up having to use in his quest to restore order to the city. This is another game that allows players to make choices that affect them positively or negatively, and gives them many big decisions to make in this capacity.
Infamous is a game that can be compared to Uncharted, and would be equally welcomed as a gift by PS3 owners. Hell, if you have large wallet, go ahead and combine some of these selections!
Game Console Spolight Pick
I may be partial to it because it is my game console of choice but there are many reasons to buy a PS3 this season. The recent price drop to $299 has finally put it into more people’s price range. You get the advantage of having built in wi-fi to connect to the internet, plus it remains to be a very affordable Blu-ray player that also plays games. And finally, PS3 is starting to get some top tier games that look great. Uncharted 2, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, and the upcoming Gran Turismo 5 are all great PS3 exclusives, and you still have great multi-platform games to choose from.
That does it for our video game holiday gift guide. We hope you’ve found the games that will bring some smiles to the faces you love.
A very Happy Holidays to you all!
Additional Contributions by Henchman 21.