Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
It’s the start of the holiday season. Time to plan trips home, study for finals, and most importantly: figure out what awesome video games you’re going to ask to receive as gifts.
This is made increasingly difficult by the fact that more games were released in the past couple of months than Santa could possibly fit in his sleigh – and December promises at least a few more.
But never fear! With this guide, it is my intention to at least help get your greedy gaming hands started.
Ignoring most games that came out much earlier in the year – really, people, you should have bought “Grand Theft Auto 4” and “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” already – here are some of the biggest and best games this holiday season, separated by categories better to suit your playing style.
The Action Gamer
“Call of Duty: World at War”: Unlike “Call of Duty 4,” which brought the series into modern warfare, “Call of Duty: World at War” goes back to the battles of World War II. However, it uses the same engine that made “CoD4” immensely fun and popular, delivering great gameplay and a fantastic online experience. For the 360, PS3, Wii and PC.
“Far Cry 2”: Set in Africa, this open-world first-person shooter is packed with action, mercenaries, guns and wildfires. While the plot may be lacking, players have a lot of choices as to which directions they will take in any given scenario. For the 360, PS3 and PC.
“Gears of War 2”: “Bigger, better, and more badass” than the original, “Gears of War 2” combines adrenaline laced gameplay with excellent graphics, a great story, and outstanding multiplayer modes. For the Xbox 360.
“Prince of Persia”: Coming in early December, “Prince of Persia” promises to build on everything that made the “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” trilogy on the last generation of consoles such a success. With a new, cel-shaded art style, insane acrobatic feats have never looked this good. For 360 and PS3.
“Resistance 2”: The alternate-history war with the monstrous Chimera isn’t over. This sequel to the best-selling first-person shooter is more hectic than ever, with 60 player online deathmatch eight player online cooperative play.
The Horror Fan
“Dead Space”: Taking the best aspects of classics like “Bioshock” and “Resident Evil 4,” “Dead Space” is an extremely good – and immensely terrifying – survival horror game in which you have to cut off the limbs of undead aliens and discover the shocking fate of the Planet Cracker class ship USG Ishimura. For the 360, PS3 and PC.
“Left 4 Dead”: It’s zombies vs. humans in this multiplayer gore fest. A band of four human players must work together to survive hordes of human-controlled undead with explosive results. The game is a blast when played with others, but avoid it if you never intend to play online with others. For the 360 and PC.
The Sports Enthusiast
“Motorstorm: Pacific Rift”: Continuing in the tradition of the gorgeous visuals of the PlayStation 3’s launch title original, “Pacific Rift” takes things out of the desert and somewhat more lush scenery. With twice as many tracks as the original and great multiplayer, off-road racing fans should enjoy this one. For the PS3.
“Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff”: Remember “Tecmo Bowl” back from your old Nintendo days? It’s back, and provides the beloved over-the-top, all-American football experience you would want. Easy to pick up and play – both alone and with friends, online and off – it’s a football title that can be enjoyed by more than just “Madden” fans. For the DS.
“Chrono Trigger”: On the downside, this is the same adventure that you enjoyed on the SNES 13 years ago. On the upside, this is the same adventure you enjoyed on the SNES 13 years ago. It’s got the same amazing plot and timeless gameplay that fans remember and love. Tons of extras and refinements make this the definitive version of the classic. For the DS.
“Fable 2”: This fantasy epic lets you become the world of Albion’s greatest savior … or its most feared villain. In addition to a main story featuring open-world gameplay and 3rd person combat, you’re given a large variety of side activities and choices. You can hang out at the pup, buy houses, slaughter villagers, get married (to more than one woman, if you so choose) and even choose whether to have protected or unprotected sex. The world is yours to play in. For the 360.
“Fallout 3”: In this post-apocalyptic open-world RPG, players are given absolute freedom to do whatever they want – even if they never want to follow the game’s main storyline. Impactful decisions between good and evil are present, giving you choices that not only affect the story or individual lives, but even whether or not an entire town will be saved or nuked. A rich story and potentially over 100 hours of gameplay await. For 360, PS3 and PC.
“The Witcher: Enhanced Edition”: When “The Witcher” was released last year, it was welcomed with high acclaim and was heralded as one of the best PC RPGs in years. But a lot of people ignored the experience. Now, “The Witcher: Enhanced Edition” is the definitive “Witcher” experience, with a rewritten script and rerecorded voice acting, as well as upgraded visuals and fewer bugs. If you missed out on this dark fantasy epic before, don’t make that mistake again. For the PC.
“World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King”: If you’re already a “World of Warcraft” addict, then you probably already have its second expansion pack, “Wrath of the Lich King.” But if you’ve been holding back, don’t miss out on the chance to explore the icy realm of Northrend, or explore the intricacies of the new Death Knight class. For the PC.
The Strategists and Puzzle Solvers
“Professor Layton and the Curious Village”: Exercising your brain is rarely as fun as it is when solving mysterious with Professor Layton. In a great, stylish murder mystery in which players have to solve over 100 touch-screen puzzles, this game should be on the wish list of anybody who likes to use their brain. For the DS.
“Spore:” From the creator of “The Sims,” “Spore” gives you the task of creating a creature and guiding it through all the stages of evolution – from simple organism to space-faring powerhouse. The creature creator alone will be enough to satisfy some people, as it allows for near-limitless creativity. For the PC.
“World of Goo”: As a $10 downloadable title, there’s an outstanding value in “World of Goo,” which has players using their Wii remotes to build crazy goo structures in order to help goo blobs reach their goal and escape imprisonment from an evil corporation. For the Wii.
The Toe Tappers
“Guitar Hero World Tour”: The “Guitar Hero” name is a little less appropriate now, as “World Tour” follows in “Rock Band’s” footprints and adds drums and vocals to the mix. Along with a song creator, fans of the series will find a lot to love with this new addition. For PS2, PS3, 360 and Wii.
“Lips”: If you’re a karaoke fan, this is the game for you. With a variety of songs out of the box as well as the ability to add songs from your own music library off of your MP3 player or Xbox hard drive, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had here. Wireless microphones included. For the 360.
“Rock Band 2”: More than just a song pack, “Rock Band 2” addresses a lot of the problems that fans had with the original, making it even more of an absolute blast to play both alone and with friends. For the PS2, PS3, 360, and Wii.
Fun for All Ages
“Animal Crossing: City Folk”: While the newest game in the “Animal Crossing” series doesn’t change much and adds little, it’s still just as addictive as ever. Players live in a town full of animal residents where they catch bugs, fish, interact with neighbors, decorate a house and try to escape a never-ending debt to Tom Nook. Perfect for today’s economy. For the Wii.
“Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts”: Gaming’s most popular bird and bear duo are back in a new adventure that has them jumping less and building more. Players complete a vast and varied number of challenges by building different vehicles in order to drive, fly, and float your way to collecting puzzle pieces. The results are an absolute blast. For the 360.
“de Blob”: Paint the town. Literally. “de Blob” puts you in the role of a blob of pain that has to bring color back to a colorless world in this stylized platformer. For the Wii.
“LittleBigPlanet”: Play. Create. Share. In this cutesy side-scrolling platformer, players can play alone or with up to three friends to work their way through innovative levels – or make some of their own to share online. For the PS3.