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GameZone's 2012 Holiday Gift Guide: Must-have Games

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No one wants to give or receive a dud of a game for the holidays. It's been an exciting last couple of months as far as game releases are concerned, so there's quite a few options in every genre and for every system. You can't go wrong with any of the games from this list. As the holiday season progresses, some of these titles are bound to see pretty sweet deals, so keep an eye out online and in stores. Places to look for these games are Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy, and Steam, as well as the Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Network Store and Nintendo eShop.

Action-Adventure/Stealth

assassin's creed 3

  • Assassin's Creed 3 (PC/PS3/360/WiiU) - One of the most hyped games of the year, Assassin's Creed III brings an ending to the Desmond storyline. Taking place during the American Revolution, the Templars and Assassin's struggle impacts the war, and Desmond inches closer toward learning how to prevent a world-ending catastrophe. It's as good as any game in the series, and some of the battles and tomahawk kills will leave you speechless.
  • Dishonored (PC/PS3/360) - Dishonored is a first-person action-adventure stealth game (which doesn't have to be played stealthy at all). It has a steampunk theme and features insanely creative ways to dispose of or escape your enemies. With role-playing elements, it has a little something for fans of multiple genres to enjoy. It has a decent story, but the gameplay is the real star here.
  • Hitman: Absolution (PC/PS3/360) - Agent 47 is back and hasn't lost a step. Hitman: Absolution is the fifth entry in the series. Developers have said that it will be easier to play and more accessible, but will retain hardcore aspects. Using "instinct mode" to predict enemy patrol routes, Agent 47 utilizes amazing stealth gameplay, but he can shoot it out with the best of them.

Adventure

the walking dead video game

  • The Walking Dead (Mac/PC/PS3/360/iOS) - The Walking Dead is a point-and-click adventure game taking place across five episodes. It is based on Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic book series, so fans of the show will love it, as well. You interact with characters and items, and the choices you make change the course of the game. Seriously. You come across choice like who you will let live or die, and that will change events in the next episode for you. The dialogue you choose also affects your relationship with the characters. Consensus across the gaming world is that this game is a brilliant success.

Family

disney epic mickey 2: the power of two

  • Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (Mac/Windows/PS3/Wii/360/WiiU) - First of all, it's Disney, and who doesn't love a good Disney game? Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Two has one player as Mickey and the other as Oswald as they take on this fun action-adventure-platformer in a world inspired by the very rides and characters you see in Disney parks.
  • Just Dance 4 (360/PS3/Wii/WiiU) - With colors that pop like a Katy Perry music video, great songs and catchy dance moves, Just Dance 4 is one of the best dance games you can purchase. It's on all four consoles, including the Wii U. From "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen to "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley, four players can sweat it out at the same time. It's the perfect catalyst for parties and families can have a great time poppin' and lockin' together.
  • Kinect Sesame Street TV (360 w/Kinect) - Kevin Clash problems aside, Kinect Sesame Street TV is exactly what it says it is -- a 2-way TV experience. Using the Kinect, your child will interact with and take part in actual Sesame Street episodes. It's a fun and educational interactive experience that preschoolers will enjoy.
  • Skylanders Giants (3DS/PS3/Wii/WiiU/360) - Coming off of its successful predecessor, Skylanders Giants introduces new characters -- including special Giants -- into the game. With new toys that light up when connected to the Portal of Power, Skylanders Giants will keep kids addicted, offering a fun, appropriate action/platformer for gamers of all ages. And those toy figurines are cool, even if just for collectible reasons.

Fighting

playstation allstars battle royale

  • PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3/Vita) - Sony brings an "all-star" cast of characters to battle it out with Super Smash Bros.-style fighting. With Nathan Drake, Sackboy, Kratos and Sweet Tooth, four players (either online or same console) utilize over-the-top specials to win matches. It's a fun brawl for PlayStation 3 and Vita owners.
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PS3/360/WiiU) - Easily one of the best fighting games of the year. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 keeps Tekken's classic fighting style and improves it with the tag gameplay. With over 50 playable characters, it is one of the best choices for competitive fighting games, as well as being friendly towards newcomers of the series.

First-person Shooters

borderlands 2

  • Borderlands 2 (PC/Mac/360/PS3) - Borderlands 2 is everything that fans of the first Borderlands wanted it to be. There's even more (and better) weapons than before, and this time, the story is pretty good. If you're seeking another one-to-four player co-op first-person shooter with RPG elements, where you can shoot baddies and cause chaos, then this is your game.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (PS3/360/PC/WiiU) - Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, once again, brings the finest multiplayer to the table. Taking place in the near future with all-new weaponry, technology, perks and killstreaks, Black Ops 2 is one of the hottest shooters right now. The campaign now has choices that the player makes that affects characters and the outcome -- a first for a Call of Duty game. If you're looking for a competitve online FPS, look no further than Black Ops 2.
  • Halo 4 (360) - 343 Industries have brought Master Chief back and better than ever. Halo 4 is revamped with a new enemy that threatens humanity. The story is the best in the Halo franchise, with an emphasis on Cortana's and Master Chief's relationship. It's a very emotional story. The visuals are the best on the Xbox 360, and the action is pure Halo at its core.

Sports/Racing

forza horizon

  • Forza Horizon (360) - Forza Horizon is an open-world racing game based around a fictitious festival called the Horizon Festival. It is set in Colorado, USA, using real locations and roads. It's one of the most visually impressive racing games, and you have a ton of freedom over how, where, and when you want to race. It's probably the best racing game that you can find on the 360, with a large variety of cars, realistic physics and outstanding graphics.
  • NBA 2K13 (360/WiiU/PS3/PC) - While there's still room for a little improvement, NBA 2K13 is one of the most impressive basketball games to date. It's more simulation and less arcade, but it's a ton of fun and the most realistic basketball game you could own. With Jay-Z as a producer, the presentation is top-notch and the controls (and shot stick) make pulling off your favorite moves easier than ever. Perfect for fans of NBA basketball. Go Heat.
  • WWE '13 (PS3/360) - Your favorite WWE wrestlers -- from The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, to Brock Lesnar and Triple H -- come together in WWE '13. With its new Attitude Era mode, players play through the Attitude Era in six different storylines. Experience the Rise of DX, Austin 3:16, The Brothers of Destruction, Mankind and Wrestlemania XV. With a new engine allowing fluid animations, this wrestling game will throw you out of a cage and through a table.

Strategy

XCOM Enemy Unknown

  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PC/PS3/360) - XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based tactical role-playing strategy game. If you're wondering, that means it's awesome. The player controls a multinational elite military organization called XCOM. Tasked with defending Earth against alien forces, the player commands troops in turn-based tactical missions, and in between missions, the player directs research and development, expands the HQ, manages finances, upgrades soldiers in an RPG-like manner, and responds to alien activity. Tons of strategy go into everything you do, and the game can get pretty tense. Just remember: build satellites.

Downloadable Games

dollar dash

  • Dollar Dash (PC/PS3/360) - Dollar Dash was probably the most fun I had at E3 earlier this year. It is a top-down multiplayer action game with a cartoon look to it. Think of it as a party game, where four players play against each other, trying to grab more cash around the map and make it to a get-away van. You use power-ups and weapons -- which are really fun -- to attack, defend and outrun your opponents. This is one game that a group of friends will be able to play all night, laughing and having a good time, all on one console.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light (PC/Mac/Linux) - With elements of roguelike games, FTL is a space flight simulator where you control a single spaceship as you try to deliver critical information to your allies on the other side of the galaxy. The whole time, a fleet of enemy ships is chasing you. In battles, you control the crew, offense, defense, sub-systems, upgrade your ship, perform combat and repair in real-time -- let's just say there's a ton to do, and it's very unforgiving. Even though it's difficult, it's a phenomenal game with quite a bit of replay value.
  • Guardians of Middle-earth (PS3/360) - The MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) scene is coming to PS3 and Xbox 360. Monolith and Warner Bros. are using iconic characters from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to bring a unique console spin to the genre. The controls work perfect for the game, and it's different enough from League of Legends to get a good following. The battles are fast-paced and has more of an emphasis on action that LoL. They even brought in some of the best MOBA players (Dan Dinh and HotshotGG) to play-test it and offer advice for changes. If you're into MOBAs and own a PS3 or 360, definitely purchase this game.
  • Retro City Rampage (PS3/Vita/360/PC) - So it's a little violent, but this is easily one of the funniest games of the year. Retro City Rampage is a parody of retro games and pop culture. All of the dialogue and missions you'll recognize from popular movies and games -- like Back to the Future and Grand Theft Auto. It actually plays a lot like the old GTA games, and it is totally retro in look. 16-bit graphics and audio with tons of weapons, violence and destruction -- what more could you ask for?

Nintendo 3DS

adventure time: hey ice king! why'd you steal our garbage?!

  • Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?! - As much as Adventure Time gets watched by kids, let's be honest: it's not for kids. I mean, it is, but it isn't. So the 3DS game Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! (I'm not going to write out the whole title) can be enjoyed by fans of the show of all ages, but it can get a little difficult. You play as Finn and Jake in The Land of Ooo. It switches between top-down exploration 2D sidescroller when you enter a dungeon. It is a lot like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, so oldschool gamers will really like it. All of your Adventure Time humor is there, so fans of the show will love this.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance - Fans of the Kingdom Hearts series get more of Sora and Riku as they star in this action-RPG that takes place across multiple Disney locales with numerous Disney characters making an appearance. It's a direct continuation of Kingdom Hearts 2 and serves as a prequel to the next console Kingdom Hearts game.
  • Pokemon Black and White Version 2 (DS/3DS) - It's the first direct sequel to a core handheld Pokemon game and continues the story a few years after the first Black and White ended. Both the Black and White versions have the same story, just with different Pokemon. It's a regular DS game, so there's no 3D, but it's more classic Pokemon goodness that fans will love.
  • Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask - If you're into puzzle games, look no further than Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. It's a prequel game that has a young Professor Layton solving the mystery of the Miracle Mask, The Masked Gentleman, and the city of Monte d'Or. There's over 150 puzzles that can be replayed at any time, with seven new puzzles being released for free via download every week. That's a free puzzle a day for a whole year. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion - If you owned a Sega Genesis console in the 90s, odds are you owned a copy of Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse. Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a part of the Epic Mickey series, but it's also a tribute to Castle of Illusion. It takes place a bit after the events of Epic Mickey, and you'll see some favorite Disney characters and settings, like Rapunzel from Tangled, Jafar from Aladdin, and Peter Pan, as well as visiting Agrabah and King Triton's undersea kingdom. It mixes side-scrolling gameplay from Castle of Illusion with the paint and thinner mechanics from Epic Mickey.

Nintendo Wii U

new super mario bros. u

  • New Super Mario Bros. U - With a new Nintendo system comes a new Mario game, and New Super Mario Bros. U is that game. Four players can play simultaneously, and with the GamePad, an additional player can use the touchscreen to place blocks on the screen or stun enemies to aid the other players. It's a great game that families can gather around the TV and enjoy together. Hey, it's Mario in HD! What more is there to say?!
  • Nintendo Land - After getting some hands-on time with Nintendo Land, I can easily say that it's got some great multiplayer games (some supporting up to five players) that make some great use of the GamePad. With a theme park atmosphere, this party game is fun for gamers of all ages. From Luigi's Ghost Mansion to The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, it's impossible to not find enjoyment from Nintendo Land. While it comes with the Deluxe Wii U system, owners of the 8GB Wii U console will have to purchase this on its own.
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited - Like other games in the series, Scribblenauts Unlimited makes its Wii U debut with core fundamentals and gameplay that made the series popular. Now with an open world for exploration, players can travel to different themed areas and accept challenges from NPCs. Scribble out a word and it will appear to solve puzzles. It's such a clever, sophisticated game that is a strong purchase this holiday season.
  • ZombiU - Nintendo's new console is getting an edgy game right off the bat with ZombiU. This FPS takes place in London, and you'll be facing... wait for it... zombies! This game will have action, tension, gore and scares. Also, the multiplayer is a ton of fun and has a cool zombie placer (with the gamepad) vs survivor mode. If you or the person you're buying for own a Wii U, this is the number one title.

PlayStation Vita

gravity rush

  • Gravity Rush - The first big non-launch title for the Vita, Gravity Rush is an action role-playing game where you manipulate gravity, allowing some really cool and unique movements and navigation. With some impressive cel-shaded graphics and really great gameplay, Gravity Rush is a bright spot in the Vita library of games.
  • LittleBigPlanet Vita - Take the puzzle platforming genius of LittleBigPlanet and put it on the Vita -- that's what this game is. All of the content creation that have made this series so popular is there, with players able to create their own levels and share them using the PlayStation Network. And using the touchscreen display of the Vita allows for drawing objects and platfroms in the game world. It's everything from LBP and more.
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted - It's the console experience for NFS: Most Wanted on the go. Take down the top 10 most wanted racers and collect over 40 cars in this handheld experience. With near-console quality graphics and perfect controls, it's a great racing game to own on the Vita.
  • Persona 4 Golden - The cult PS2 hit remade for the PlayStation Vita brings a great Japanese RPG experience to the handheld. Games like this is what the Vita needs more of. The Vita version brings new features and story elements to the game, as well as a new character, and with the wireless networking of the Vita, you can call in help from other players to help in dungeon battles.

You can follow Movies and Culture Editor Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ. He likes talking sports, video games, and the stupidity of celebrities. Email at LLiebl@GameZone.com

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Lance Liebl Gamer, Disney enthusiast, opinionated sports fan, movie buff, and a father of two. You can follow Lance on Twitter @Lance_GZ.
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