(Matt Makes Games)

This year was another great one for video games. Not only are games better looking than ever but also offer better player experiences. Game publishers realize that consumers can’t buy every new game, so they’ve been forced to become innovative. Sometimes players want games that make them think as well as challenge their gamepad fingers. So with that in mind, we think this year’s list is one of our best. Our picks span all platforms (including PC) and cover a breadth of genres. Whether you’re looking for a super-hard challenge or lighthearted fun, we know you’ll enjoy these games throughout the holidays and well after.


(Nintendo of America)
Mario Tennis Aces

Publisher: Nintendo of America

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Price: $59.99

Rating: Everyone

Details: Video-game tennis has always been a game in which anyone could pick up a controller and jump in. Mario Tennis Aces is a perfect example, and it delivers for all levels of play. Most of your time will be spent in adventure mode — complete with mission-based levels and boss fights. Seasoned players can use the motion controls of the Joy-Cons and execute special “zone shots,” which are hard to handle on the receiving end. There are also a bunch of trick shots to master. After completing adventure mode, players can test their skills against real players online. Watch out, however. Human players are a lot more ruthless than CPU players. Be prepared to lose a few games at the start.


(Team 17)
Overcooked 2

Publisher: Team 17

P latform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Windows

Price: $29.99 on Xbox One and PS4, $24.99 on Switch and Windows

Rating: E for Everyone

Details: The original Overcooked was one of our favorite games for 2016, and Overcooked 2 is everything we could ask for in a sequel. As many as four players work together to prepare and cook orders in several restaurant settings. This edition adds new themes, interactive levels, costumes and recipes, and it offers online multiplayer games and the ability to toss raw ingredients to other players (this is key when it starts to get crazy in the kitchen). Overcooked 2 assumes that players are familiar with the game. So chefs, get ready, because things gets cooking fast.


(Motion Twin)
Dead Cells

Publisher: Motion Twin

Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Windows

Price: $24.99 Xbox One and Windows; $29.99 PS4 and Switch.

Rating: T for Teen

Details: Players looking for an addictive challenge should dive into Dead Cells, a Metroid-esque, side-scrolling, action-adventure game in which you play the role of an immortal prisoner who is magically brought to life by a mass of glowing “cells.”

The “prisoner” explores dungeons where he’ll encounter undead creatures and epic bosses. Along the way, players can pick up weapons, armor, abilities and power-ups, which can make the prisoner more powerful. Some enemies will drop glowing cells when you defeat them. Collect enough of them and you’ll be able to unlock permanent upgrades for the prisoner. If you die before the end of a dungeon section, you lose all your collected cells. What makes Dead Cells unique is that each time you die the game completely changes. Dungeon layouts change, and weapons, enemies and armor will be in different locations (and randomized). The player will need to defeat four epic bosses or “keepers” to complete the game. This game came out in August, and we still can’t put it down.


(Nintendo of America)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Publisher: Nintendo of America

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Price: $59.99 (Available December 7)

Rating: Everyone 10+

Details: This fifth installment in this series is going to sport the biggest roster of fighters in a Super Smash Bros. game. Every character from previous Super Smash Bros. games is here, as well as new ones from Switch games such as Splatoon. In addition to fighters’ usual moves and special attacks, Ultimate has new attacks to master along with faster combat, giving experienced fighters a challenge. Up to eight players can fight against one another either online or on the same console.


(Capcom)
Mega Man 11

Publisher: Capcom

Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Windows PC

Price: $29.99

Rating: Everyone 10+

Details: Celebrating his 30-year anniversary is Mega Man. In Mega Man 11, players take control of the cute android as he attempts to stop Dr. Wily from causing chaos with his collection of Robot Masters. As in previous Mega Man games, the platforming is solid. Players will be jumping, sliding and shooting enemies from every angle. New to Mega Man 11 is the Double Gear system. This system adds enhancements to Mega Man that increase his speed and power. Mega Man can execute special attacks that can slow down time and even kill everything on-screen when he’s about to die. Whether you’re new to the series or a longtime fan, Mega Man 11 is worth checking out.


(Sony PlayStation)
Shadow of the Colossus

Publisher: Sony PlayStation

Platform: PlayStation 4

Price: $29.99

Rating: T for Teen

Details: The original Shadow of the Colossus was released in 2005 on PlayStation 2, and it has always been one of the most highly regarded games. Now, thanks to Sony, the game has been rebuilt from the ground up using ultra-high-definition artwork. The result is extraordinary. Players take on the role of Wander, who is on an epic quest to resurrect his beloved. A mysterious voice tells him to roam the Forgotten Lands in search of Colossi. When Wander defeats all 16 Colossi, his love will live again. What makes the game amazing to play is the sheer size of the Colossi. They tower over our hero. One misstep and you’re dead. Each Colossi has a unique weak point, and it’s up to the player to figure out where it is and how to defeat it. Playing more like a movie than a video game, Shadow of the Colossus should be experienced by everyone.


(Activision)
Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Publisher: Activision

Platform: Xbox One and PlayStation 4

Price: $39.99 (Available November 13)

Rating: Everyone 10+

Details: Spyro came out 20 years ago, and this is the HD remastered collection of Spyro’s first three games: “Spyro the Dragon,” “Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!” and “Spyro: Year of the Dragon.” At its heart, Spyro games are platformers. As a cute dragon, players will need to perfectly time their jumps and glides to get through levels. To defeat enemies, Spyro can breathe fire as well as charge at them with his horns. Everything players loved from the original series has found its way into the Reignited Trilogy — all of the colorful worlds, zany characters and challenging bosses.


(Nintendo of America)
Super Mario Party

Publisher: Nintendo of America

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Price: $59.99

Rating: E for Everyone

Details: With 80 new minigames, new ways to play and online multiplayer, Super Mario Party is the party game Switch players have been waiting for. Whether playing a rhythm-based minigame or skill based, Switch’s Joy-Con controllers give players a new way to play these games that is both fun and challenging. The game also lets players pair up two Switch consoles to make for unusual puzzle challenges that incorporate both screens at the same time. Other key features include online multiplayer — so you can play with folks around the world, a revamped Mario Party mode, partner party and various challenge modes.


(Matt Makes Games)
Celeste

Publisher: Matt Makes Games

Platform: Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC, MacOS and Linux

Price: $19.99

Rating: Everyone 10+

Details: On the surface, Celeste may look like your typical eight-bit platformer from back in the day, but once you play through it, you realize how special it is. Players follow a young woman named Madeline as she sets out on a journey to climb Celeste Mountain. Climbing the mountain is incredibly tough and at times unrelenting. Your platforming skills have to be perfect. Jumping has to be timed with pinpoint accuracy, and most of the time you have to do it while you’re moving quickly.

We could continually praise the game for its skillful level design and challenge, but the true star of Celeste is the underlying message within the game. Celeste Mountain has a unique ability. It is able to manifest one’s inner turmoil into reality. In the game, Madeline has bouts of anxiety and depression. Eventually, the mountain creates Badeline, which is all the ugliness inside of her that she tries to keep hidden away. Madeline is then forced to face this inner demon, overcome her to become a better person (which gives her new moves). Very rarely do video games take on subjects of mental illness, but Celeste does in a way that is not only touching but very insightful.


(Nintendo of America)
"Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu!" and "Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!"

Publisher: Nintendo of America

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Price: $59.99 (Available November 16)

Rating: Everyone 10+

Details: The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a new Pokémon game, and Nintendo’s latest doesn’t disappoint. Fans of Pokémon will be familiar with this new Switch edition. The game takes place in the Kanto region (which is the area of the original Blue and Red games), so most players will recognize the majority of the Pokémon roaming around in it. The gameplay is similar to previous Pokémon games — you explore the world, you capture Pokémon and fight other trainers in turn-based combat. Capturing Pokémon is what’s cool and new. You can either use the motion of your Joy-Con or with an optional new peripheral, the Poke Ball Plus. The Poke Ball Plus is a rubber-coated poke ball with a built-in joystick that lets you control your character and do other actions. Players can now physically throw the ball at the Pokémon and capture it. Don’t worry, it has a strap, so you don’t go flinging it at your television. The Poke Ball Plus is also compatible with the Pokémon GO app on your phone.