A video game store can be daunting if you don't know what you're looking
for. It's not easy to tell the winners from the losers, and sales
clerks typically make the same salary whether they sell you a gem or a
stinker. ("Farming Simulator," anyone?)
So when you head to the mall,
take this list. These are some of the best games of 2013, and any gamer
on your holiday shopping list will be thrilled to see one of them under
Two important things to keep in mind
1. Know what
kind of game console the gift recipient owns. Maybe Santa's delivering a
PlayStation 4? Make sure the game you buy says "PS4" on the box. Sony's PlayStation 4 won't play PlayStation 3 games, and if you stick an Xbox
or Wii disc into it, you're just asking for trouble. Likewise, the newXbox One (Review) from Microsoft won't play games for the older Xbox
However, last year's Wii U from Nintendo can play games made for its
predecessor, the Wii.
2. Games that have an "M" rating (for Mature)
are not appropriate for kids. They are violent, probably include some
rough language and may flash some bare skin every now and then. Games
labeled "E" (Everyone) and "E10+" (Everyone 10 and older) are fun for
the whole family - even the grown-ups.
1. "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag" (Ubisoft, for the PS4, PS3, Xbox One,
Xbox 360, PC, $59.99)
Jack Sparrow's got nothing on Edward Kenway, the
swashbuckling hero of this pirate romp. There are treasures buried
everywhere in this version of the 18th century New World, but the real
prize is the rousing ship-to-ship combat across a churning Caribbean.
2. "Need for Speed: Rivals" (Electronic Arts, for the PS4, PS3, Xbox One,
Xbox 360, PC, $59.99)
The latest edition of EA's street-racing
franchise is packed with enough high-octane challenges to satisfy the
most demanding speed freak. But the chases really get chaotic once the
police get involved. And because even the cops drive Ferraris, they're
thrilling no matter which side of the law you're on.
Theft Auto V" (Rockstar, for the PS3, Xbox 360, $59.99)
A gangbanger, a
former bank robber and a psychopath cross paths in the new chapter of
the blockbuster crime series. It's vicious, profane and thoroughly
entertaining, as the three hoodlums bounce from one ridiculous situation
to another in a stylized, ultraviolent nightmare version of Los
Angeles. (GTA V review: New Grand Theft Auto triples the intensity)
4. "The Last of Us" (Sony, for the PS3, $59.99)
years after an infection decimated American society, a jaded survivor
and a teenage girl set out on a cross-country journey. Their battles
against mutants and other humans are nerve-racking, but the most
memorable element of "The Last of Us" is the growing affection between
5. "BioShock Infinite" (2K Games, for the PS3,
Xbox 360, PC, $39.99)
A detective explores a city floating high above
the clouds in this dark satire of American "exceptionalism," the idea
that the United States is inherently superior to other countries. Months
after its release, players are still arguing over the meaning of its
time-bending, brain-twisting plot - and marveling over its gorgeous
setting and unforgettable monsters.
6. "Skylanders Swap Force" (Activision, for the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox
360, Wii U, $74.99)
The Skylanders franchise, which combines
collectible figurines with video games, is satisfying on both fronts.
The toys are durable and attractive, while the games are clever and
packed with a wide variety of activity. Bonus: A kid who already owns
"Swap Force" will be just as thrilled to receive some new characters,
which cost $10 to $15 each. (Skylanders: Swap Force review)
7. "Rayman Legends" (Ubisoft, PS3, Xbox
360, Wii U, PC, $59.99)
This utterly beguiling cartoon adventure from
France takes Rayman - an armless, legless creature who can nonetheless
punch and kick with the best of them - across a hallucinatory landscape
filled with tricks and traps. It has more than 100 levels to explore.
Each one feels fresh and inventive.
8. "Super Mario 3D World"
(Nintendo, for the Wii U, $59.99)
The beloved plumber and his pals
Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad explore a sprawling environment jammed
with running and jumping challenges. The major upgrade, a cat suit that
lets characters crawl up walls, is essential to finding all the secret
goodies hidden in the world's nooks and crannies.
9. "The Legend of
Zelda: A Link Between Worlds" (Nintendo, for the Nintendo 3DS, $39.99)
Link, the hero of the long-running "Zelda" series, can now flatten
himself down to two dimensions. Sounds useless, but it opens up a whole
range of clever spatial puzzles and elevates the 3D capabilities of
Nintendo's handheld beyond mere gimmickry.
10. "Tearaway" (Sony, for
the PlayStation Vita, $39.99)
The new game from the studio behind
"LittleBigPlanet" takes full advantage of the hand-held Vita. You can
help characters by drawing objects on the front screen. You can tap on
the back of the Vita to poke holes in the papercraft settings. You can
use the Vita's camera to put your own face in the sun. It's the best
game yet for Sony's portable device.