Welcome once again to our annual Holiday Geek Gift Guide bonanza. Hopefully we’ve been and will continue to point you to some of the more entertaining and popular gift ideas for your friends and family this holiday season!
Here we have the always-exciting video game gift guide, where you can read our suggestions for some of the best video games of the past year and immediate future, and figure out which of them will be the best to give as a gift. This year we have some of the biggest and best titles to be released on all platforms, including Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 game consoles, and even downloadable titles and add-ons.
Nothing quite brings a smile to the face of someone as getting a good video game for Christmas, and few gifts give you your money’s worth quite like some of these titles, which are very likely to consume much of whomever you present them to’s time.
All that needs to be done now is click away to continue on to our Holiday Geek Gift Guide 2010 and find the games you’re looking for! You can also click the link with each game to go check out its trailer, in case you’ve never seen what it looks like.
Red Dead Redemption
Xbox 360, PS3
Westerns have never been explored as much as they deserved to be in games. Most of them, from Wild Gunman and Gun Smoke to Gun and the Call of Juarez games can be listed off the top of one’s head. But any gamer who’s a fan of westerns has only ever wanted one thing: a massive open-world campaign to swallow us whole.
Enter Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption, a somewhat-but-not-really sequel to another not-so-memorable old west game, Red Dead Revolver. The game follows John Marston, a former outlaw whose family is taken from him, only to be returned when he wipes out the leaders of the gang he used to run with.
Red Dead Redemption offers an incredible open old west world, where in addition to progressing the story, allows you to ride freely on your horse, visit various towns and locations, meet a multitude of unique characters, play many different games like horseshoes or a round of poker, and pretty much anything else you want to do. The game itself is worth giving as a gift, but it’s being able to live in this world that makes it worth hours and hours and hours of your life.
If you know someone who already owns Red Dead, the new DLC, Undead Nightmare, brings zombies into the mix and is getting a lot of positive feedback. Also a great gift idea!
Xbox 360, PC
The first two installments in the Fable series of games were wonderful, magical adventures, making Fable III one of the more anticipated games of the past year.
Fifty years after Fable II, you play the son of your character from the second game, and your brother is current ruler of all of Albion. Despite being of the same blood, your older brother rules only for himself, and his tyranny is not very popular with the people…or yourself. Eventually you’re forced to get away from the kingdom, so that you may put together a strategy with which you can overthrow your brother’s rule and take over as the new king.
As with all Fable games, choice is a major component. Once you find yourself in power, will you rule fairly and strongly, winning the people’s trust back? Or will you take over only to embrace your brother’s harsh and selfish ways?
Mass Effect 2
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
BioWare’s mega-sequel in their epic trilogy, Mass Effect 2 was one of the biggest and most anticipated sequels of recent memory.
The sequel picks up with Commander Shepherd and his crew going about their business when an all-out attack is unleashed. It takes impossible measures to save Shepherd after the attacks, but once he’s back he must find and stop this seemingly unstoppable force, which has begun harvesting planets of their human beings.
If you know someone who’s into action RPGs and science fiction, these games are about as good as it gets. And with choices made in games affecting how the sequels play out, we all can’t wait to see what happens in the third and final game! After that, we’ll all be able to start over again and make the decisions we want to based on what we know.
The Mass Effect games are the gifts that keep on giving!
Fallout: New Vegas
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
The follow-up to 2008 game of the year, Fallout 3, this is easily one of the most anticipated titles of the year, and a top gift choice.
Fallout: New Vegas takes place a few years after the events of the last game, and is set in and around Las Vegas, known as the Mojave Wasteland. The game begins with you being left for dead, but fate has other plans. You survive and set off to find who tried to kill you and why. As you investigate, a lot more unfolds and you find yourself in the middle of a war between many factions, all hoping to take control of the Hoover Dam, which still has the ability to provide power.
Unlike the locations of the Capital Wasteland, Vegas was actually able to avoid much of the devastation of the apocalypse, and is still mostly functional and thriving. The vintage ’50s feel all but cements this as a world any and all gamers will want to explore.
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
A lot of people felt that BioShock was simply too perfect a game to even bother with a sequel, but the truth is that video games are made for sequels. When we love a game, we NEED to spend more time in that world, and thus sequels are necessary and not just money-grabbing as we often see in movies. We hope that in the very least these sequels will be on par with their predecessors, if not in the general ballpark.
When BioShock 2 was revealed, it was widely assumed that there was no way it could even touch the first. And while that’s somewhat true, it is still a game that fans should play.
The game picks up eight years after the events of the first story when you, the original Big Daddy, wake up from an incident that left you silent and dormant for a decade. Your Little Sister from the past, Eleanor, has grown up and brings you back to help her deal with her mother, Sofia Lamb. Lamb is a psychologist who didn’t get along with creator of the city of Rapture, Andrew Ryan, and she’s taken over since his death. Your mission becomes to find and save Eleanor, and stop Lamb from using the deadly Big Sisters to kidnapped girls from the coastlines to convert into new Little Sisters.
While it’s true that overall, the original BioShock is still better, the sequel was surprisingly fantastic, and definitely does not disappoint as a follow-up. It’s an exceptional second story in the underwater city of Rapture, and it’s an equally exceptional gift idea. And with the glimpse of a third game on the way, BioShock Infinite, this mythology isn’t slowing down any time soon.
You can read my full review of BioShock 2 HERE.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Xbox 360, PS3
The underdog title of the year is one that should be known and should be played.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West has received much critical praise, but for some reason remains relatively unknown. The game takes place in a futuristic post-apocalyptic world where you play as Monkey, a slave who pulls of a daring escape, only to find himself enslaved once more by a young girl and fellow escapee named Trip. The girl doesn’t wish harm on Monkey, but needs his help in order to get home.
The game is a re-imagining of the ancient Chinese story, The Journey to the West. It mixes a third-person platforming adventure with beautiful environments, music, and impressive performance capture characters, including Lord of the Rings and King Kong star Andy Serkis!
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Xbox 360, PS3
Another trilogy-making title, this time in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood picks up where the last game left off, with Ezio trying to figure out what just happened at the end of the last game. Not much time passes before a devastating attack is unleashed on Monteriggioni, the home of your uncle that you moved to with your family in Assassin’s Creed II, forcing you to run off to Rome.
The massive city that was only teased to us last time, but this time we’ll be free to explore it relentlessly, making new allies and preparing to find the man who attacked and uncover more answers to the mysteries of the Apple of Eden.
The game also introduces its own online multiplayer option, allowing players to run around these beautiful cities of old, trying to assassinate each other. This is a welcome change from the popular run and gun multiplayer games.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, DS
The latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops looks to continue the success of the series.
This time around, you’ll play as Alex Mason, an operative who’s being interrogated for vital information regarding the devastating chemical weapon, Nova 6. You’ll play through various crucial missions throughout the ’60s during the Cold War as Mason recounts his efforts to stop a dangerous Russian General named Dragovich and his associates.
With a compelling story and a solid mixture of fiction and history (not to mention a few familiar political figures), Black Ops is definitely a must-own for first-person shooter fanatics. And that’s not even counting the endless hours of online multiplayer battles you’ll no doubt want to take part in.
You can read my full review of Call of Duty: Black Ops HERE.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
If you know someone into the massively multiplayer online role-playing game scene, they’ll surely be wide-eyed with excitement over the release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the latest expansion pack being released.
The new add-on returns the evil Deathwing the Destroyer, a dragon who’s back to reign terror on Azeroth and its inhabitants. Upon the arrival of the beast, a dimensional rip causes a devastating cataclysm, reshaping the world as we know it and leading to a hotter-than-ever feud between bitter rivals the Alliance and the Horde. Thriving jungles will burn to the ground, deserts will grow vegetation, and most of the places you’re familiar with will change significantly.
In addition to increasing the level cap for players and adding a ton of new features, this “cataclysm” makes for an interesting and exciting new aspect to World of Warcraft. No matter how familiar you are with the game and how many days you’ve spent running around and exploring the various locations, it’s all going to change now, opening up new undiscovered secrets and offering up an experience unique to even the most seasoned of players.
Dead Rising 2
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Few things are more entertaining than zombies, but it’s hard to find video games for those who have an insatiable craving for more walking dead horrors. There’s Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, and now, Dead Rising 2. Both offer zombie madness, but when we think of an army of undead taking over, we think of swarms of bodies wandering around, waiting for you to either kill them or offer yourself up as brunch.
The Dead Rising games place you in just this situation, with a shocking amount of zombies to navigate through. This best sells the concept as the Left 4 Dead games are more about a mad dash first person shooting experience where these evil creatures sprint at you from all angles.
I personally am still waiting for a zombie game along the lines of say a Fallout 3. Put me in a world overrun with them, but not only about fighting them; where the zombies are a secondary element everyone is used to. Give me a massive open-world with small towns and cities that are quarantined and safe from the zombie threat, where I can go and meet and interact with survivors. Give me a great story about how it happened and how it can be fixed, forcing me to wander out into danger many times to help solve the problem.
That’s the zombie game I’m dying for, but for now, these other ones should sate your need for reanimated corpse madness!
Halo is one of those titles that most people know, whether you’ve played the games or not. That’s saying something. That also sets new installments in the series up for ridiculous success when they hit stores, and this was no different for the latest release, Halo: Reach.
Said to be the fifth and final (including Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3 and ODST) game developed by Bungie, Reach tells a story set before all the rest. It begins a couple of weeks before the events of the very first game, when the Covenant are first invading the planet of Reach. You play as Noble Six, a Spartan super soldier just like Master Chief who’s part of Noble team along with five others. You’re replacing a fallen teammate of theirs, so you have to prove your worth, and it’s not long at all before you’re given that very opportunity over and over again.
Not counting ODST, the Halo games were always more about action than story. But with ODST and here with Reach, a lot more care was put into the what’s actually going on and developing some characters. This adds a lot of heart to the game and has you feeling like part of the team. It also sets up some insanely cinematic moments that make it a memorable game experience well worth playing.
You can read my full review of Halo: Reach HERE.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
To be perfectly honest, I’m not all that familiar with Wii games, but wanted to show the lesser system some love. Many folks are content with casual gaming, and for them, what better gift than Mario?
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the latest Mario adventure, and there’s not much more needed to know than that. Much like the first game, you’ll play a platform-style game as both Mario and sometimes his brother, Luigi, running around different worlds and galaxies completing tasks and collecting items you’ll need to unlock later levels.
Even for those of us who have evolved to more complex video games, Mario will always hold a special place in our hearts. And if you have access to a Wii system, it’s never a bad decision to spend a little time with the old man.
God of War III
As part of one of the most epic video game series of all time, it goes without saying that God of War III is a major gift option. The first two games left us in awe and begging for more…and more was given indeed.
In the third chapter (not counting PSP sequels), we pick up right where the second game left us: on the ultimate cliffhanger, storming Mount Olympus with the Titans to battle with the mighty gods of Greek mythology. Of course that end is just the beginning, and you’re in for an incredible and deadly journey to the inevitably brutal climax.
The God of War games have always had something of an old school style, leaving little to explore and keeping it all straight forward. In fact, not being able to look around and really appreciate the unbelievable scale to all three games has always been something of a flaw. Even so, these games are so visually stunning and delivered with such incomparable storylines, all three are must-own.
Speaking of, you can also now pick up God of War 1 & 2 remastered for the PS3, which also makes a great gift! Give someone the trilogy; they’ll praise you if they’ve never experienced it before!
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Mafia II didn’t get quite the attention it was hoping for, but it really should of. If you played the original Mafia — painfully slow vehicles and all — you’ve been waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the sequel, and thankfully it finally arrived this year.
You play as Vito, a good kid who never really meshed well with society, leading to a childhood filled with small crimes. One day he and his best friend, Joey, are attempting a robbery when things go awry and Vito ends up being arrested. Instead of going to jail, he enlists in the Army and finds himself fighting in World War II. When he gets home, nothing much has changed and he’s quickly settled right back in to his life of crime with Joey.
As a sucker for mafia-related entertainment, I fell in love with this game. It’s really one of my favorite video game worlds. Unlike many open-world games where you can travel all over the map and do various things, Mafia II‘s massive map is really just the setting. The entire city is there because that’s where you live and that’s where you work. You’ll go to many locations in and around the map, but everything else is just for tone, and it does a wonderful job of helping players feel as if they’re living in this great city.
While the game is great, I couldn’t get enough of simple navigation; just driving around this beautiful video game city in the 1940s and ’50s, listening to authentic songs from those time periods on the radio. That’s the stuff I thrive on as a game fan, and Mafia II‘s is not to be missed.
This is the year that both Sony and Microsoft make their move into motion gaming, which was pretty much the only thing that Nintendo’s Wii had going for it over the other two. If one or both are successful, it will be interesting to see how Wii responds.
The truth is, whereas Wii presents a more cartoony, family-friendly video game experience, motion being fused into real next-gen video game titles is quite intriguing. If done correctly, along with the 3D video game boom not too far off, games could be on the verge of becoming an experience unlike anything we’ve ever imagined.
Sony’s offering is called the PlayStation Move, and personally, I think it’s best set up to be the favorite. It takes the general Wii idea with specialty motion controllers, and uses them with top-level games like Killzone 3, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, and many more games that run graphics that are worlds better than anything you’ll find on Nintendo’s system. This is why it’s so appealing.
The setup will not come too cheap, but if you want to check out the next level of motion gaming, you can watch Sony’s presentation from E3 this past year before deciding if you want to make it a gift!
The other big motion gaming competitor comes from Microsoft and is called Kinect, or Project Natal for those of you who remember only the original name.
The big difference between this and the PlayStation Move and Wii, is that Microsoft is putting their chips in the “controller-less” gaming basket. They’re convinced that the future of gaming has no controller, and their system presents games where your body is all you need. It’s hard to say they’re making a good decision here, but if you’re into the idea of standing in front of your TV and going through the motions, this might be the way to go.
I can’t say I think this is the smartest route. As a video game lover, I don’t detest having a controller in my hands…I prefer it. I like the buttons I choose to push — especially the trigger in a shooting game — feeling like my own conscious decision, leading to whatever success or consequence it may lead to. With Kinect, it’s just air; there’s nothing there deliver the same type of satisfaction.
Still, you get the feeling that Microsoft will have their own controller for their system soon and it will be interesting to see what they do. To this day, the absolute coolest thing I’ve seen using these new recognition systems was the Milo video developed by Fable developer, Lionhead Studios. As I’ve said many times, give me a game I navigate/fight in using a controller, but interact with other characters using the Milo motion/recognition system, and you just might be creating the greatest interactive gaming experience we’ve ever seen.
As with Sony, Microsoft had a full presentation at E3 featuring Kinect. You can also watch that in-full here.
Playstation Network/Xbox Live Gift Card
Contributed by Henchman21
You don’t always need to run out and buy great new games; sometimes you can just jump on your favorite console, scan through their respected stores, and make a day of it.
There are a multitude of games, movies, and TV shows that can be bought on the PlayStation Network or the Xbox Live Marketplace, and what gamer doesn’t need a few extra dollars to buy the latest mini-game or map pack add-on.
If you’re looking for a good stocking stuffer for the gamer in your life, consider a gift card for their system of choice. I’m sure they can find something to spend it on.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game
Contributed by Henchman21
Speaking of downloading games from your system’s store, one of the top downloadable games out there is the video game version of Edgar Wright’s latest movie and graphic novel adaptation, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
For the old school gamer in your life, Scott Pilgrim Vs the World: The Game will seem like a blast from the past. The game is a fun beat-“˜em-up in the style of old school console classics like River City Ransom, Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, and even those awesome old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games. The player can take one of four characters through the world of Scott Pilgrim, or they can join with up to 3 other friends and take on the game in multiplayer.
Unlike most video game versions of a popular movie (which tend to suck), this Scott Pilgrim adventure is a fun pick up and play game that totally catches the style and fun of the books.
Since this is one you’d be downloading, if you’d like to get the Scott Pilgrim game for someone just click the links above to get them gift cards to whichever system they play on!
AMAZON SHIPPING INFORMATION
If you’re ordering through Amazon.com in the United States, here’s their ordering deadlines for delivery on or before Christmas Eve (12/24):
– December 16th – Last day for Free Super Saver Shipping*
– December 20th – Standard Shipping
– December 21st – Two-Day Shipping (Free with Prime), Last full day to order two-day
– December 22nd – Two-Day Shipping (Free with Prime), order as late as 7pm PST [varies by item]; One-Day Shipping ($3.99 per item with Prime) Last full day to order one-day
– December 23rd – One-Day Shipping ($3.99 per item with Prime), order as late as 3:30pm PST [varies by item]
For more details about local delivery, see the Christmas Ordering Deadlines For U.S. Shipments page.
*Super Saver Shipping is FREE on orders $25 and over.
Remember, if all else fails, there’s also the Amazon.com Gift Card, you can have emailed to the recipient (arrives immediately) or you can print out the gift card at home and give it to the intended that way. If you order in enough time, you can get the physical gift card sent to you.
See our other Holiday Guide Guides:
DVDs & Blu-rays
More Guides to come this week.