The Ultimate Video Game and System Buyer's Guide: Games

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It's doesn't matter whether you spend $5,000 on a lightning-fast gaming computer or a couple of hundred on a new video game console -- it's all about the games.

While Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft have released some pretty impressive video game consoles, it's the great games that make these machines successes or failures.

But navigating the video game section at a major retailer can be intimidating if you're one of the uninitiated -- it's like walking into a library when you don't know how to read.

To make things easier, we've got the top picks for the season from gaming Web site, one of the Web's premier destinations for all things gaming.

Also, there is the National Institute on Media and the Family's annual Video Game Report Card, which tells you what games to stay away from and what games to grab.

Refer to our explanation of the ESRB video games rating system to know which games are appropriate for the gamer in your life by clicking here.

Kotaku's Favorite Games for the 2006 Holiday Season

Gears of War (Xbox 360): Epic Game's take on console first-person shooters may not reinvent the wheel, but it puts a spiffy hub on it.

The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess (Wii): The plot may be pure Nintendo mysticism, but this latest rehash lets you fish, swing a sword and generally carry on with the help of the Wii's motion-sensitive controller.

Madden (Wii): There are times when it feels like Electronic Arts has been making Madden since before the birth of football, but this isn't one of those times. Adding the ability to go through the motions of hiking, passing, kicking and crazy-leg dancing after a touchdown breaths life into this game.

Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3): Amazing detail combines with massive 40-player online matches to make this first PS3 first-person shooter a pleasure to play.

Guitar Hero 2 (PS2): The next-gen may be in full swing, but Guitar Hero 2 proves you don't need to spend $600 to have fun. This Playstation 2 game is even more fun than last year's game-of-the-year title.

Rayman: Raving Rabbids (Wii): Combining fun, short games with rabbits and motion controls is pure genius. Rayman's Wii title has you hunting angry bunnies with plungers and tossing cows.

Lumines 2 (PSP): Slightly tweaked version of the Playstation Portable's highly addictive launch game puzzler.

Rainbow Six Vegas (Xbox 360): This title is sure to become a popular shooter for competitions, with a wide selection of weapons and well crafted play mechanics. You can also map your real face into the game with the use of the 360's Vision Camera.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance (PS3, Wii, Xbox 360): This action game lets you play as or take on just about anyone who's graced the cover of a Marvel comic book. The plot's a little wobbly, but the ability to hot swap between Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel make it worth the price of admission.

Okami (PS2): Visually stunning, oddly inspired action game that has you controlling the sun god as he takes on the form of a wolf in this game inspired by Japanese lore.

Dead Rising (Xbox 360): Zombies in a mall, what's not to love?

National Institute on Media and the Family: Video Game Report Card

Every year the National Institute on Media and the Family releases a list of video games that it says contain excessive violence, aggression and/or sexual content and should therefore be avoided by parents.

This year's Video Game Report Card includes some of the most popular games of the season, but the Institute says that while they may be fun for a mature adult, they're not appropriate for younger players.

Parent Alert! Games to Avoid for your Children and Teens

Gangs of London

The Sopranos

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Reservoir Dogs

Mortal Kombat: Unchained

Scarface: The World is Yours

The Godfather: Mob Wars

Saints Row

Dead Rising

Just Cause

But just because the Institute thinks there are some games kids shouldn't play, doesn't mean there aren't games that are great for your young gamers.

MediaWise Recommended Games for Children and Teens

LEGO Star Wars II : The Original Trilogy -- Rated E 10+

Mario Hoops 3 on 3 -- Rated E

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz -- Rated E

Roboblitz -- Rated E 10+

Madden Football '07 -- Rated E

LocoRoco -- Rated E

Dance Factory -- Rated E

Brain Age -- E

Nancy Drew: Danger by Design -- Rated E

Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: The March of the Minis -- Rated E

The Ultimate Video Game and System Buyer's Guide

Wii, PS3, Xbox 360: Video Game Consoles and Handhelds

Games, Games Games: Top Picks for the Holidays

Understanding the ESRB Video Game Ratings System

Talk the Talk: Gaming Lingo