Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
It’s that magical time of year when we all get – I mean, ahem, give – gifts to others. Considering that a video game release (“Call of Duty: Black Ops”) outperformed “Avatar” in terms of entertainment dollars this year, I’d say that games are going to be big ticket items yet again.
If you’ve got a special gamer in your life and don’t have a clue what to get them (or you, as a gamer, don’t know what to ask for), then maybe this guide can at least point you in the right direction.
The War Hero:
“Call of Duty: Black Ops” – The game adored by shooter fans and frat guys everywhere, “Black Ops” is a solid entry into the “Call of Duty” series, with an engaging single-player story and more of the multiplayer action that fans have come to love.
“Halo: Reach” – The final “Halo” game from the series creators at Bungie Studios is in many ways the best yet. The story, a prequel to the original “Halo” stories, is very compelling, and the multiplayer has never offered more options or variety.
“Medal of Honor” – While not the most critically acclaimed of action games this year, “Medal of Honor” might be a good choice for the gamer who’s anxious for more modern day military action.
The Role Player:
“Fallout: New Vegas” – 2008’s “Fallout 3” was a smash hit with many gamers, and “New Vegas” continues the tradition with the same addictive gameplay, but even better story and writing.
“Golden Sun: Dark Dawn” – The widely acclaimed “Golden Sun” series returns at last in this new Nintendo DS entry to the series. Fans of fantasy RPGs in need of a portable adventure for any impending travel should keep this one in mind.
“Mass Effect 2” – A blockbuster sci-fi epic in more ways than one, “Mass Effect 2” combines solid gameplay with an extremely good storyline that you as the player really have an effect on. Be the galaxy’s savior or its anti-hero in a cinematic experience that will leave you anxious for the next piece of the story.
“Dragon Quest IX” – While it doesn’t sport the most earth-shattering plot, “Dragon Quest IX” easily packs over 100 hours into a solid portable experience for the Nintendo DS. If you need a game to keep you busy on a plane trip to Japan and back, this one certainly has enough content to fulfill that goal.
“Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood” – Easily one of the greatest action/adventure games of the year, “Brotherhood” takes the “Assassin’s Creed” series higher than it’s ever been before, with an outstanding single-player experience in addition to the series’ first crack at a highly addictive multiplayer mode. This is one that I personally recommend quite highly.
“Red Dead Redemption” – Up there with “Brotherhood” on the list of games that might be the best of the year, “Red Dead” takes everything that makes the “Grand Theft Auto” series great and places it in a compelling Wild West narrative. It’s a game that succeeds in making you care about the fate of its characters, not just how many cougars you can kill with a knife … although that’s there too.
“Dead Rising 2” – Zombies are still “in,” right? If the on-campus game of “Humans vs. Zombies” wasn’t enough for you, and you’re already lamenting the end of the first season of “The Walking Dead,” “Dead Rising 2” might be just what you need to quell your undead bloodlust. Kill thousands upon thousands of the zombies in multitudes of creative and entertaining ways.
The Nostalgia Stricken:
“Donkey Kong Country Returns” – Retro Studios, the people behind the award-winning “Metroid Prime” games, has given Donkey Kong the glorious return he deserves in a great – and often very challenging – 2D platformer that will definitely remind you of the days playing the old “Donkey Kong Country” games on the SNES.
“Goldeneye 007” – Rather than bust out your horrible N64 controllers, you can now play a complete remake of “Goldeneye” on the Wii, complete with an updated story featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond. In addition to online play, there’s enough split-screen nostalgia here to make this revisiting of the first-person classic worthwhile.
“Kirby’s Epic Yarn” – It’s easy for the tough, hardcore gamers of today to look at Kirby’s new game and pretend not to care. Indeed, with its storybook-esque plot and the fact that you can’t actually die or lose, “Kirby’s Epic Yarn” is a perfect game for children or non-gaming girlfriends. At the same time, however, it’s so unbelievably charming and fun to play that if you don’t find at least some enjoyment in it, you probably have a heart smaller than that of The Grinch.
“Disney’s Epic Mickey” – Mickey Mouse returns to the world of video games with a game that’s surprisingly dark at times, where your choices to use either paint or thinner to affect the magical game world have an effect on the overall story. It’s not the most polished game this year, but it’s got a lot of heart.
“LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4” – Didn’t get enough “Harry Potter” from “The Deathly Hallows Part I”? Me either. While simple and not super challenging, “LEGO Harry Potter” can do at least a little bit to help fill your wizardry gap until the final film rolls around.
The Sports Fanatic:
“NBA Jam” – It’s been too long since we’ve heard copious amounts of the word “Boomshakalaka!” This arcade-style basketball game is perfect for those who loved the original “NBA Jam” and its sequels, or for the people who, like me, just aren’t that into realistic sports games.
“Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” – You’ve probably got that need; that need to go really fast. “Hot Pursuit” satisfies the need for speed with some great “cops vs. racers” action, both offline and on.
“Grand Turismo 5” – If what you want in a racing game is painstaking simulation, then “Grand Turismo” is probably up your alley. It’s not for me, personally, but the amount of customizability and variety in the cars and racing modes in this package is pretty staggering.
The Party Animal:
“Dance Central” – This one requires Microsoft’s new “Kinect” camera for the Xbox 360, but it’s probably the best use of the hardware yet. From the creators of “Rock Band,” “Dance Central” actually got me to get up and dance (badly, I’m sure) in front of a group of strangers, and for that it deserves a lot of credit.
“Rock Band 3” – We may be coming to the end of the modern rhythm game era, as games like “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” fade into obscurity. But “Rock Band 3” sure makes the case for keeping the genre around for a bit longer. By adding a new instrument – the keyboard – and more importantly, “pro” instruments that are amazingly close to playing a real guitar, “Rock Band 3” is easily the king of music games for the foreseeable future.