A Gamer’s Guide to the Holidays


“Mario Galaxy”: You’ll never get bored, we promise. Fire-breathing Bowser is just one of many perils that will keep you on your toes. (Courtesy of Nintendo)

Published: December 13, 2007

It’s that time of year again for all you fellow gamers out there, time to catch up on this fall’s hottest video games that you couldn’t afford to buy until the Christmas season.  While many high-profile games, such as “Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots,” “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” and “Grand Theft Auto IV” have been delayed until 2008, there are still many great games out there for those of you who have finally gotten tired of playing “Halo 3” on Xbox Live. Here’s a system-by-system breakdown of what you should be playing this holiday season.

Two years after its release, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is still going strong in terms of games and sales.  First off, if you haven’t picked up a copy of “Halo 3,” go buy one now.  Right now.  Stop what you’re doing, cancel your plans, and go buy this game.  The conclusion of the story that started with “Halo: Combat Evolved” and continued with “Halo 2” is a masterful perfection in virtually every respect.  It improves greatly on its predecessors in every single way and is a must-have for any fan of first-person shooters or just fans of great games in general.  Another highly recommended game is “Mass Effect.”  This incredible action role-playing game is not only an amazing graphical achievement—realistic expressions appear on the character’s immensely detailed faces—it also offers the player several responses when in conversation with a non-playable character.  This creates a new level of cinematic interaction not yet seen in any video game.

In the year that’s passed since it launched, the Nintendo Wii has jumped to the front of the pack in the console wars.  It looks like that lead will only grow with the great releases this fall.  Our first recommendation revolves around a famous video game plumber.  That’s right.  Mario returns in “Super Mario Galaxy,” his first 3D platformer since “Super Mario Sunshine” was released in 2002.  “Super Mario Galaxy” offers incredible level design and creative platforming abilities that will remind fans everywhere of why Mario is one of the greatest video game mascots of all time.  If you’re looking for something a little heavier than Mario’s latest adventure but still want an intense amount of action, pick up “Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles.”  This arcade-style, pick-up-and-play shooter offers fast-paced action in the Resident Evil universe, and the Wii remote and nunchuck makes the ideal light gun.  So no matter your interest, be it survival horror or a platformer, you’ll find something to enjoy on the Wii this holiday season.

While there haven’t been many large hits for it since its launch in November 2006, Sony’s Playstation 3 is hoping to turn the tide this holiday season with many exceptional releases.  First up is “Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.”  This first installment on the PS3 is one of the best in the series and possibly the best game currently out for the system.  Its large cast of wacky characters and innovative weapons (such as the Groovitron that causes all foes to dance for a short period) return better and crazier than ever.  If you’re looking for something a little more serious and a lot more ancient, go with “Heavenly Sword.”  This action-adventure game really shows off the power of the PS3 with its remarkable graphics and physics engine.  The combat system, while similar to “God of War,” feels very fresh and works really well.  When the only complaint about a game is that it’s too short, you know it’s worth playing.

Of course, let’s not forget multi-platform games.  While the choices in this category are nearly endless, the following three outstanding games should have your attention this year.

First up is “Rock Band” for the Xbox 360, PS3 and Playstation 2.  One of the most innovative and most expensive games this year (the special edition with all the peripherals costs about $170), “Rock Band” takes the concept of “Guitar Hero III” to the next level.  With the ability to take over guitar, bass, drums or vocals along with up to three of your friends and a diverse set list, this is the best multi-platform game this season.  For those who enjoy first-person shooters, “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” for PS3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows is a must-have.  The first non-WWII game of the series, “Call of Duty 4” offers magnificent online play, a campaign that offers some truly outstanding moments and vastly improved graphics that have completely renovated and revived the series. “Call of Duty 4” is an amazing game that comes the closest to achieving the status of a “Halo-killer.”

Finally, we come to the bargain of the year for video games, “The Orange Box.”  For the Xbox 360, Windows and PS3, “The Orange Box” offers five stellar games for only $60, the average price of a next-gen game.  The five games, “Half-Life 2,” “Half-Life Episode One,” “Half-Life Episode Two,” “Team Fortress 2” and “Portal,” are incredible technological feats in terms of structure, gameplay and physics.  The three “Half-Life” games are FPS that continue Gordon Freeman’s adventures in a dystopian future.  “Team Fortress 2” is a multiplayer team-based shooter with a cartoon-ish style and “Portal” is a first-person puzzle game that focuses on puzzles being solved by transporting through portals.

All together, while it looks like many big games have been delayed until next year, there are more than enough great games to keep you busy for the next few months.  Here’s to having a great holiday filled with Halo, Mario and rocking out with your friends.