Do you have a loved one who’s into video games? Are you yourself into video games? Did you forget that Christmas is fast approaching? Yikes, looks like you could use a helping hand when it comes to what games to shop for. Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a handy little list here of some of the best games from 2009. I don’t have them all, mind you, but I have a good selection to choose from. So get those pens and papers ready and your wallets out and let’s go over my Holiday Game Guide.
Nintendo Wii Games:
The Nintendo Wii is always a good choice for the casual video game player. You’ll find a lot of family and kid friendly games on the Wii, as well as a very low failure rate for hardware or controllers (which is very nice). Also, the interface is about as simple as they come.
New Super Mario Bros Wii:
By now you’ve seen both my preview and review for New Super Mario Bros Wii, so you already know everything I could say about this one. This is the best title for the system at this point in time, either for one player or multiple players, though it will take some getting used to when you have two or more characters vying for limited platforming space. Basically though, this one is sure not to disappoint.
Rabbids Go Home:
Ubisoft has been pumping out these Rabbids games for the past few years and unfortunately they come with the connotation of “Shovelware titles” since they’ve previously only been a collection of minigames. Well, Rabbids Go Home is an actual adventure game with a real plot, and the game handles itself really well to diversify the gameplay into great bursts of hilarious antics spliced with good fun. Kids will love this one.
For those on your list with a Wii but an unquenchable thirst for punishment, Punch-Out!! Wii is probably one of the best titles you could get for them. I have a review article on Punch Out wii from a few months back that goes into my thoughts on the game, but I really can’t emphasize enough how brutally difficult the game is. But don’t misunderstand, that difficulty is a good thing. You want a challenge? A FAIR challenge? Punch-Out!! Wii is that challenge.
A Boy and His Blob:
Slightly less of a challenge is A Boy and His Blob (Hey, I wrote a review of that, too!), a game with hand-drawn artwork and just the right amount of difficulty for midcore gamers (which is somewhere in between casual and hardcore). Also, you might notice that A Boy and His Blob is slightly cheaper than some other titles on this list. Good for the more value-minded among us.
Metroid Prime Trilogy:
You want value? How about three games in one? Metroid Prime is a trilogy that I place great stock in as one of the best video game trilogies to date. Now that it’s been packed into one case, there is no better time to give the gift of Metroid. If you’ve heard a guy complain about the lack of “non-kiddie” games on the Wii, see if he’s played the Metroid Prime Trilogy, and if he hasn’t, bam- you win Christmas.
Muramasa The Demon Blade:
Please don’t pass this one up because you haven’t heard of it. Muramasa The Demon Blade is another game with hand-drawn artwork in it and even though it pains me to say this, “It is important to support hand-drawn art in video games so that we get more of it.” Hacking and slashing your way through this game looks better than some 360 games, purely because of the amount of detail done with the art. Also, the game is great. It’s a bit on the short side, but it’s also not overly expensive, either.
Xbox 360 Games:
Most of you probably have an Xbox 360. The 360 has the best online system for play at the moment and the best exclusive DLC, usually getting things long before the PS3 does. If you’re looking for a good gift for a 360 owner, Xbox Live Arcade Points is always a good idea, as well as a Gold Subscription for Xbox Live.
Assassin’s Creed 2:
One of the newest games on this list, Assassin’s Creed 2 is a game for the murderous hitman in all of us (or at least every college male). The game sets about correcting most of the faults people had with the first game and does a rather good job of improving as a franchise. Stealthy kills and parkour over rooftops just makes for a great gift, wouldn’t you say? Also on the PS3.
Modern Warfare 2:
Assassin’s Creed 2 is a single player title, but Modern Warfare 2 is a game almost best played online. The only thing I can fault this gift idea with is the fact that most people already probably have it. If you have a gamer on your list that loves First Person Shooters, ask if they already have Modern Warfare 2. If they don’t then they’re just hoping to get it for Christmas, so make sure to right that wrong. Also on the PS3.
Halo 3: ODST:
The Halo franchise is still going strong this year with Halo Wars and Halo 3: ODST. The star of the franchise, Master Chief, is gone from ODST, but surprisingly that doesn’t turn out to be a terrible thing. ODST is a good gift for anyone you know that can’t get enough Halo, but hasn’t been given enough Halo recently. Also, it makes for a good alternative to online play if you’re tired of Modern Warfare 2 kicking your butt.
First Person Shooters and Role Playing Games don’t typically sound like things that go well together, but Borderlands proves the theory spectacularly incorrect. The art style (man am I talking about art styles a lot lately), is pretty fluid and the controls work as good as you could hope, but the selling point here is the sheer amount of guns you can collect. All the weapons in the game are randomized, making for constant switching and swapping to take place to find the gun that works best for you. Also available on the PS3.
Guitar Hero: Metallica:
Hardcore Guitar Hero fans, this is the game you wanted to play since Guitar Hero first came out. The entire tracklist consists of Metallica songs (gee, didn’t expect that), as well as a few selected songs from bands that toured with Metallica. The basic Guitar Hero format doesn’t change, but Metallica is the perfect band for causing yourself endless strife attempting some truly epic guitar parts. Also on the PS3.
Batman: Arkham Asylum:
I played through Arkham Asylum twice in one week. I don’t do that very often, but in this case I made an exception. In fact, I have nothing left to do in the game since I did everything possible. That’s how addicted I was to Arkham Asylum. It has the best combat system in any game I’ve played in recent years and excellent pacing to go along with it. Any Batman fans, this is the best gift out there. Actually, anyone with an Xbox 360 should have this one. Also available on the PS3.
The PS3 has recently dropped its price down to a reasonable $299.99, making it a decent option as a video gaming platform at last. And to go with that, it started getting some excellent games this year. But keep in mind that it’s still one of the best Blueray players currently on the market, so anyone you know with a PS3 is fair game for Blueray movies as well.
The best exclusive Sony got on the PS3 this year was without question Uncharted 2. I gave my review already, so you’re well aware of its system-selling qualities. It’s a game that plays like a movie, and a fun movie at that. It improved over the first game, making sure to fix everything fans disliked about the previous installment. Support companies that do this. It’s hard to find a video game developer that actually listens to its fans.
Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time:
While Uncharted 2 may be a bit violent for the younger crowd, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get an equally amazing game as well. The Ratchet & Clank series is solid all the way through, and A Crack in Time only continues this trend with great platforming and fun characters. Basically, Ratchet & Clank is the Mario for Sony consoles.
The Beatles Rock Band:
Oh The Beatles, how more iconic can you get than the band that just about everyone respects? Somehow through some deal with demonic forces, Rock Band was able to make a version filled out entirely with Beatles songs (a feat I find difficult to imagine considering how tough it can be to get those rights). You can even buy instruments that look like replicas of The Beatles’ actual instruments. And the game adds harmonizing to the vocalists among us, a welcome new feature that should have been in Rock Band from the start. Perfect for Beatles fans, obviously. Also available on the Xbox 360 and Wii.
Sony’s been looking for a worthy combatant to Halo’s crown, and Killzone 2 does a fine job of letting PS3 fanboys know that they have an awesome First Person Shooter as well. Killzone 2 was a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait. Don’t listen to any hype surrounding the game. Just be aware that the game is good and needs to be played should you own a PS3.
While it sounds a lot like Prototype, InFamous did its own thing with a sandbox-style game involving a character with crazy electrical superpowers that let him shock people, heal people, and even fly. That makes sense, right? Ah who cares? InFamous is a great gift for fans of super heroes that have to make many moral decisions between helping people and shocking people. The correct answer? Always shocking people.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2:
I was pretty bothered when I saw the ads for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 since Ninja Gaiden 2 was SUPPOSED to be a 360 exclusive and I just can’t stand lies such as that. But then I found out that Ninja Gainden Sigma 2 isn’t just a port to the PS3. It’s actually a completely retooled game with extra characters and features. The game even got a little easier, which makes it accessible to a whole wider audience than the 360 version. They also scaled back the blood a little bit, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t still meant for mature audiences only, since it absolutely is.
The PSP is a powerful little handheld system, but it does have trouble coming up with solid titles to call its own. This year, Sony released the PSP Go, a new version of the handheld that eliminated the UMD drive altogether and does everything based on an internal memory system. Beware of this new system as it is incredibly limited in what games are available to download for it. Rest assured though, these three games are among the downloadable titles.
Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny:
I reviewed Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny already and mentioned how it is a perfect transition of the Soul Calibur series from consoles to handhelds. The big selling point is the inclusion of God of War’s Kratos as a playable character, but beyond just that the game is an excellent choice for fans of Soul Calibur that own a PSP.
Little Big Planet PSP:
Little Big Planet is a strange game. It’s a platformer that relies entirely on the player to generate content, forcing you to create levels to play after you complete the single player mode. This is the strength of Little Big Planet. The content is endless and the amount of things you can create is staggering. If you know someone that wants to get into designing video games and has a PSP but not a PS3, then Little Big Planet PSP is the gift to get.
Final Fantasy: Dissidia:
Final Fantasy: Dissidia is a love letter to the fans of the long running series. It takes heroes and villains from every numbered Final Fantasy title and throws them into huge battles against each other. The gameplay is very similar to Kingdom Hearts and looks utterly confusing when viewed from the outside in, but once you get used to the mechanics of the game everything works great. This is a game that every Final Fantasy fan wants to have if they don’t already own it.
The DS is the cheaper of the two main handheld options, but it’s also the less powerful of the two. Typically that doesn’t stop it from pumping out some memorable titles as often as it possibly can and this year we got a nice selection. The DS in general is cheaper than the PSP or the three consoles mentioned earlier, games included, so it makes for good gift ideas such as cases or fancy styluses.
I gave a preview of Scribblenauts a while back (it should count as a review as well), in which I said you should buy Scribblenauts. I stand by that statement as the game came out and put me into shock with the kind of things I actually got to do. This game is for the creative puzzle solvers in your family and seeks to push them to think up new items to write in as much as possible. Yes, there are some control-based hiccups that can become downright infuriating, but overall the game is a great option for casual gamers looking for short play sessions.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars:
The Grand Theft Auto series is usually only console-based, but Chinatown Wars burst out on the DS and showed that it can be just as good on a handheld. The style harkens back to the pre-GTA III days when the perspective was top-down but the action remains fast-paced and fantastic. However, this is GTA, so it’s not for the young kids out there. There is violence and theft and drugs and all sorts of bad things, but if the gamer is old enough to play, they’ll enjoy themselves here. Also recently released on the PSP.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story:
I’m just a Mario fan, and I’m guilty of telling everyone to go play the Mario & Luigi games more than I probably should, but I haven’t overdone my telling of you to buy this game for people you know and love. Bowser’s Inside Story is an RPG with Mario and his crew. Battles are turn-based but you constantly have to press buttons at the right time to either increase your attack or dodge an enemy, which keeps things from getting boring. Plus, the writing is as funny as ever. Great for kids and people that enjoy having fun while playing games.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks:
On December 7th Nintendo will release The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks to a nation of people that so sorely need a new Zelda title. After giving a preview of the game, I got a chance to see a lot more in terms of what the game is about and how it’s played. At this point I’m happy to say that Spirit Track is infinitely better than Phantom Hourglass, making it a great experience for DS owners and Zelda fans. I want this game for Christmas, but I know I’m not the only one.
Obviously, this list isn’t entirely complete. My goal was to find a handful of good games for each system that show off the best the system has to offer in terms of everything. But I couldn’t include every single game that came out this year.
What games do you want for the holidays? What games are you buying for your loved ones? Do you have some suggestions or questions about any of these games or others? Post a comment and get the conversation going.