-- Fantasy role-playing, action-heavy adventures and deep sports simulations are just three of the popular video game genres to pick from this holiday season.
In fact, with so many titles released throughout the year, choosing the right disc or download for the game-lover on your gift list might be as challenging as these games themselves.
If you're shopping for a teen or adult gamer, here is a look at some of the most sought-after offerings for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. A handful of games are available for multiple platforms and are noted accordingly.
Action fans will enjoy running and gunning through Sony's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (rated Teen; $59.99), as fortune hunter Nathan Drake takes on his most daring mission to date. Taking part in diverse locations around the world — and jumping around to different time periods — Drake's quests also touch on a historical conspiracy that includes his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. Along with great writing and memorable characters, this cinematic third-person adventure features an epic solo campaign along with head-to-head and cooperative multiplayer modes.
Also available for Xbox 360 and Windows PCs, Bethesda Softworks' The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (rated Mature; $59.99) is a highly engrossing open-world role-playing game (RPG) with seemingly limitless character customization, weapons and items, quest choices, and characters and villains. In other words, tell the person you're giving this to not to make any plans until, say, March. Level up your hero as you explore new towns and dungeons, tackle ancient dragons and unravel an epic mystery in this latest adventure in the coveted Elder Scrolls franchise.
Sports fans will likely love kicking around a copy of EA Sports' FIFA Soccer 12 (rated Everyone; $59.99), also playable on Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. The game boasts near-photorealistic graphics and broadcast-style cameras. But it's not just a pretty face. This soccer sim also offers authentic physics — including ball dribbling, passing and scoring, and how the players react to one another — and more than 500 officially licensed clubs, totaling roughly 15,000 players. Play a quick match, managerial-focused career mode or many side-by-side or online matches.
Also check out Sony's Resistance 3, Valve Software's Portal 2 (also for Xbox 360 and PC) and Rockstar Games' L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition (also for Xbox 360).
The third and final game in the sci-fi trilogy, Microsoft Game Studios' Gears of War 3 (rated Mature; $59.99) is once again an intense game of survival. You play as Marcus Fenix, a beefy squad leader and humankind's last hope against being annihilated by vicious aliens named Locusts. As with its predecessors, this "stop and pop" action romp has you taking cover behind objects while peeking around to take down numerous enemies with plenty of firepower. Along with the lengthy single-player game are many cooperative and competitive game modes and maps that deliver a lot of content for fans of the franchise.
Another stellar sequel is Warner Bros. Interactive's Batman: Arkham City (rated Teen; $59.99), which is also playable on PlayStation 3 and PCs. As the dark Caped Crusader, you'll fuse multiple play mechanics — stealth, combat, gadgets, exploration and puzzle-solving — while venturing out in an open-ended city to foil the scheming plots of supervillains and protect the innocent. Expect to see many familiar baddies from the vast DC universe, including The Joker, The Riddler, Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze and Catwoman (who is also a playable character via a download code in the box).
If first-person military shooters are more your pace, the third installment in the best-selling Modern Warfare series is an explosive pick. Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (rated Mature; $59.99) for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PCs once again drops players in a number of the world's hotspots to take on daring missions against deadly organizations. Consider the diverse solo campaign a training ground to the multiple online modes, which include new weapons, equipment and perks. Fans of this genre should also check out Electronic Arts' awesome Battlefield 3 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
Other teen or adult games that shine on Xbox 360: Square Enix's Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Microsoft Game Studios' Forza Motorsport 4, Bethesda Softworks' Rage, EA Sports' NHL 12 and Electronic Arts' Dead Space 2.
Easily the finest offering on the Wii platform this year is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (rated Everyone 10+; $49.99), the latest in the 25-year-old The Legend of Zelda series. This deep and immersive single-player adventure once again stars Link as a heroic young boy who travels from a utopian cloud city to the dangerous surface world to rescue Zelda from an ominous force. New to this version is the ability to fly the unfriendly skies on the back of a Loftwing (giant bird). The game supports the Wii MotionPlus controller that synchronizes your real movements in front of the television with Link's actions, such as precise swordplay.
Dancing games not only get you active but they're great fun around the holidays when you have company over. Ubisoft's Just Dance 3 (rated Everyone 10+; $49.99) challenges players to mimic moves by professional dancers. With the Nintendo Wii version you'll hold the motion-sensing Wii Remote in your hands as you perform the dance moves to rack up points in songs like LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem, Katy Perry's California Gurls and older tunes like Kiss's I Was Made For Lovin' You. Xbox 360 gamers can also get in on the fun by using the hands-free Kinect for Xbox 360 peripheral, while PlayStation 3 requires the use of the PlayStation Move peripheral and PlayStation Eye camera.
Other great picks for Nintendo Wii include Ubisoft's Rayman Origins (also for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3), THQ's de Blob 2, EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters and THQ's You Don't Know Jack.
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