Video games to add to your holiday wish list
By Hayley Tsukayama
Here's a look at some of the best titles in the market.
For younger gamers
Super Mario 3D Land
This $39.99 platformer from Nintendo brings Mario fully into the third dimension, finally taking advantage of the depth capabilities of Nintendo's latest handheld, the 3DS. Some areas of the game are almost impossible to complete without switching on the 3-D, which has certainly not been the case in the past. With good replay value and engaging levels, this is a must-have for 3DS owners. Just be sure to take breaks to rest your eyes.
- Pros: Makes great use of 3-D
- Cons: Requires the 3-D capability to play some levels, can cause eye strain
- Ideal for: Bundling with the 3DS
- Buy it
Kirby Mass Attack
One of the simpler titles coming out of Nintendo this holiday season, Kirby Mass Attack is surprisingly fun nevertheless. It has a somewhat off-the-wall concept: Kirby, the pink marshmallowy protagonist, has been split into 10, smaller versions of himself. Players need to command the smaller versions with the DS/3DS stylus to solve puzzles in this $29.99 title. Depending on the stylus for game control is not as annoying as it could be, though players may run into problems if they have problems holding onto their peripherals.
- Pros: Interesting concept, easy to grasp
- Cons: Depends on the stylus for control
- Ideal for: Younger children who can handle a little bit of a challenge
- Buy it
Dance Central 2
Dance Central 2 builds upon a tried-and-true formula that worked for Microsoft the first time it released this $49.99 Kinect title. Popular upbeat dance hits from Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" to Britney Spears' "Toxic," have earned this Kinect title a "T" rating for lyrics, but don't let that deter you from picking it up for older children. The way the game breaks down the dance routines and encourages cooperation will appeal to all players whether they're centerstage divas or wallflowers waiting to shine.
- Pros: Great for groups
- Cons: Takes up a lot of room
- Ideal for: Tricking kids into exercising
- Buy it
Kirby's Return to DreamLand
A follow-up to the title that made Kirby famous, Kirby's Return to DreamLand is a simple game, but its strength lies in its multiplayer capabilities. The puffy protagonist teams up (somewhat inexplicably) with the villains from past games on a quest to reassemble a spaceship that's crashed to Earth — each character has his or her own unique ability. The levels in this $49.99 game don't offer much a challenge for seasoned gamers, making it a good option to offer up at a sleepover or after-school hangout session.
- Pros: Engaging multiplayer
- Cons: Can be a little simplistic
- Ideal for: Gamers who like to work together
- Buy it
One of the best new games out there for kids toting Sony's PlayStation Portables, Patapon 3 is the latest installment of the music-based series that's earned high praise in the past. The story in Patapon 3 differs slightly from its predecessors, but the basics remain intact. Players command the characters using rhythmic drum beats that signal orders to attack, defend, and more. This is a great title for kids who have a good sense of rhythm and overtime is less annoying — if only slightly — than a full drum kit. Parents may want to throw in a set of headphones with this game, which isn't such a bad deal at $19.99.
- Pros: Great outside-the-box concept
- Cons: Audio could annoy parents after a while
- Ideal for: Musically inclined gamers
- Buy it
For older gamers
expands the setting offered up in Rocksteady's hit "Arkham Asylum," giving players nearly full run of Gotham City and the chance to really step into Batman's boots. The new game takes place in a Gotham City where the mayor has decided to cede the slums over to criminals and wall off several city blocks as a high-security prison. There are enough sidequests, antagonists and hidden features to keep you busy long after you're first run of the game, though all the extras can feel a bit tacked on.
This title from Naughty Dog takes players into the thrilling life of explorer Nathan Drake, as he searches for lost treasure in the middle of the desert. The highlight of this game is its engaging story, which makes players feel like they are the protagonists of a Hollywood blockbuster. The game also has some puzzles — more brain ticklers than brain teasers — and, of course, plenty of shooting. There have been some complaints about the targeting system in the game being a little too sensitive. Since ammo's at a premium in the game, you may occasionally find yourself having to ease up on that trigger finger in the middle of its fast-paced combat.
- Pros: Fantastic story
- Cons: Has had some targeting problems
- Ideal for: Anyone with an inner Indiana Jones
- Buy it
The ultimate game for those who like to explore, Skyrim lets players interact with almost every part of the world from far-off mountains to the books on the shelves in their local shop. Players have the chance to choose from a large variety of attributes for their characters, which scale up depending on how often you use them. Though the game has been a bit glitchy, Bethesda's managed to create yet another complete world in which players can get themselves happily lost.
- Pros: Expansive and gorgeous
- Cons: Can be a little glitchy
- Ideal for: TThose who like to blaze their own trails
- Buy it
One would be remiss to talk about Battlefield 3 without also talking about its arch-rival, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Both games are solid shooters with different aims, making it almost completely a matter of preference. Battlefield 3 has more expansive maps and driveable vehicles, which I find preferable to Call of Duty despite its more varied options online and faster-paced play.
In reality, though, multiplayer is the name of both of these games and players should get whatever their friends have for the best experience.
- Pros: Rich gameplay, including driveable vehicles
- Cons: Not as fast-paced as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
- Ideal for: Players whose friends play Battlefield 3
- Buy it
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword," is a visually stunning and comfortingly familiar game for those who grew up with the series. The game has many classic elements — you get to play, again, as the stalwart Link — but avoids the trap of feeling like warmed-over nostalgia. Swordplay in this game depends on the Wii remote and its probably the best sword-fighting the console has seen yet. While it's not an exact representation of your real-life movement, the game does reproduce vertical, horizontal, diagonal and thrusting strikes as well as the turn of a player's wrist. Strikes require a bit of strategy as well, making this game more challenging than you may expect. Nintendo has streamlined the Zelda world for this game, making players travel repeatedly over the same ground to find new elements. It's not a perfect game, but Skyward Sword probably the best the Wii has to offer this season for those who really love gaming.
- Pros: A great follow-up to the series
- Cons: Can be a bit repetitive
- Ideal for: Light-hearted adventurers
- Buy it
GRAPHIC: Wilson Andrews and Michelle Williams - The Washington Post. Published Nov. 22, 2011.