If you are the type that still actually reads for fun, then you might need some help finding a video game for the gamer on your list. Here is a brief guide to help you out:
For the console completist
There is no hotter video game gift this season than Nintendo’s Wii U ($300 or $350, see below). The new console is Nintendo’s attempt to inject some life into a stagnant video game market. The current generation of consoles (Xbox 360, Playstation 3 [PS3], Nintendo Wii) has been around for six or seven years now, and no other company seems to have anything new lined up.
However, the Wii U isn’t so much two steps ahead as it is one to the side and one forward. The Wii U finally outputs images in HD, a feature that the 360 and PS3 have boasted since their inceptions, and the hardware isn’t much of a technological leap forward. The big new feature with all the buzz, though, is the GamePad, a tablet with a 854×480-pixel resolution that is used to control the game onscreen. Some games can even be played on just the tablet alone, which might appeal to those with limited TVs in the house.
Nintendo’s gamble here seems to be that consumers will leap at the novelty of playing a game on two screens at once, and that developers will invent creative ways to make the second screen entertaining, not just distracting. We’ll see if it pays off. The Wii U is available in both a regular ($300) edition with white components and a deluxe edition ($350) with black ones. The deluxe edition includes more flash memory on the console, a game and a stand for the GamePad and seems to be more than worth the extra $50.
For the sports fan
Not only do sports games offer amazingly true-to-life gameplay and depth of controls for those with the patience to learn it, they are also a great way to learn about the sports you enjoy watching on TV. For hockey fans suffering from lockout-induced withdrawal, NHL 13 ($59.99, Xbox 360 and PS3) might be the only way you’ll be see pro hockey this season. Madden NFL 13 ($59.99, Xbox 360, Wii U, Wii, PS3) offers much for football fans. Are you a frustrated Browns fan? Turn the difficulty down and guide rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden to a season that makes 2007 Tom Brady look like 2012 Brandon Weeden. FIFA Soccer 13 ($59.99, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, Wii) is the latest installment in the surprisingly addictive franchise that has converted many skeptical U.S. gamers into soccer fans. And NBA 2K13 ($59.99, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, Wii), with a killer soundtrack curated by Jay Z, offers you the only chance you’ll ever have to pit the 1992 Dream Team against 2012 Team USA. What more could you want?
For the kiddos
Want a digital babysitter? Get your young ones a copy of LEGO Lord of the Rings ($49.99, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360) and go rediscover your youth. LEGO games have a surprisingly high reputation among video game enthusiasts, and they are safe enough that you won’t have to worry about destroying your little ones’ innocence. For the Harry Potter fans, Wonderbook: Book of Spells ($39.99 for the game and book, $99.99 for a package including all the necessary peripherals, PS3) offers kids the chance to learn the spells taught to wizards at Hogwarts. Using the Playstation EyeMove camera and a Playstation Move controller, kids can tap into their inner wizard and transform their living room into a magical classroom. The game includes a magic book that kids set in front of them, and with a wave of their wand (the Move controller), the camera projects their living room onto the screen and overlays cartoon graphics. With spells and a story written by J.K. Rowling, the story offers an immersive experience, and it just might make you wish you were a kid again.
For fans of the single-player experience
Three well-reviewed first-person shooter (FPS) games just came out, and they each have a unique twist. Halo 4 ($59.99, Xbox 360) is the latest installment in the legendary sci-fi shooter. Call of Duty: Black Ops II ($59.99, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U) is the hyper-realistic war simulator, featuring an involved campaign, online play and zombies. Yes, zombies.
Borderlands 2 is an amusing, post-apocalyptic hybrid of a FPS and a role-playing game (RPG), and it offers a pleasant change of pace from the usual fare. The sci-fi epic Mass Effect 3 ($39.99, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U) offers a more traditional RPG, and in Dishonored ($59.99, Xbox 360, PS3) the player plays a stealth assassin murdering his way to his ultimate revenge in a fictional industrial whaling city.