Whether you're a casual or core gamer, 2013 proved to be a banner year for interactive entertainment thanks to dozens of extraordinary games for all platforms, genres and skill levels.
What's more, two new video game consoles have debuted — PlayStation 4 ($399) and Xbox One ($499) — both of which are likely to be unwrapped under the tree this holiday season.
If you're not sure what to buy a gamer on your gift list, the following is a look at a few recommended console and PC titles for teens and adults.
GIFT GUIDE: The 12 Games of Christmas
Games cost $59.99 apiece unless otherwise specified.
A screenshot from "Just Dance 2014"(Photo: © 2013 Ubisoft Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.)
- Racing enthusiasts should climb behind the wheel of Microsoft Game Studios' Forza Motorsport 5 (Xbox One). The latest in the best-selling franchise lets you drive hundreds of bleeding-edge vehicles — including the 2013 McLaren P1, 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4, and for the first time, open-wheel Formula One and Indy cars. Sharpen your skills while racing through the meaty Career mode. Or better yet, challenge your online friends to see who can reach the finish line first in exotic locations around the globe. Taking advantage of Xbox One's power, this next-generation driving simulation delivers stunning graphics, smooth animation and fast frame rates. Seatbelt not included.
A screenshot from "Gone Home"(Photo: © The Fullbright Company LLC, 2012-2013)
- Pop music fans will appreciate receiving Ubisoft's Just Dance 2014 (from $39.99), a game especially fun for when you have company over for the holidays. The rhythm-based dancing game challenges up to four players to dance in front of the television. Their movements are picked up by the Kinect sensor (Xbox 360/One), PlayStation Move controller and camera (PlayStation 3/4) or wireless Wii Remote (Nintendo Wii/Wii U). While sweating it out to more than 50 songs — plus downloadable tracks including Katy Perry's Roar — your moves are graded in real time. The game offers multiple modes, varied skill levels and depending on the console, the ability to shoot video and upload it for friends to see.
A screenshot from FIFA 14(Photo: © 2013 Electronic Arts Inc.)
- In Fullbright Company's Gone Home — a $20 indie game for Windows PC, Mac and Linux — you arrive at your Portland home after spending a year away in Europe. Problem is, your family isn't there to welcome you. While roaming the rooms of the empty Greenbriar mansion — reading notes on crumpled pieces of paper, listening to cassette recordings and bypassing environmental obstacles — you'll eventually piece together the mystery of what happened here and why. Without spoiling anything, the story gets increasingly interesting the more you unravel it. This slower-paced "interactive exploration simulator" borrows elements from the once-popular point-and-click adventure game genre.
- EA Sports' FIFA 14 (for all major consoles) is a pro soccer sim in which you can play as or against your favorite teams, in a number of international leagues, and take control over the various players on the "pitch." Using the analog sticks, you'll dribble, deke, pass and shoot to put a point on the scoreboard. The game includes a number of solo and multiplayer modes (including side-by-side and online play), realistic ball and player physics, plus there's some new features like Pure Shot (adjust your stride, approach and angle while shooting on the net), social features (EA Sports Football Club) and more emotion added to the game with its broadcast-style cameras, color commentary and team chants.
Other excellent games for teens include Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Pikmin 3 (Wii U), 2K Sports' NBA 2K14 (PlayStation 3/4, Xbox 360/One) and Ubisoft's Rayman Legends (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U).
A screenshot from "The Last of Us"(Photo: ©2013 Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC.)
A screenshot from "Assassin's Creed IV"(Photo: : © 2007–2012 Ubisoft Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.)
- One of the top games of the year, Sony's The Last of Us (PlayStation 3) takes place in the near future, after most of the Earth's population has been wiped out by a deadly viral outbreak. Mother Earth has now reclaimed the planet, growing over much of the streets and buildings. You play as a hardened middle-aged man, Joel, who vows to protect a 14 year-old girl, Ellie, from a number of threats as they make their way across the country. Between its emotionally-driven solo campaign and multiplayer modes, excellent writing and voice acting, this third-person thriller is one not to miss.
A screenshot from "Grand Theft Auto V"(Photo: ©2009 Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
- One of the top games of the year, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Xbox 360/One, PlayStation 3/4, Nintendo Wii U and Windows PC) lets you sail the Seven Seas during the early 18th century as Edward Kenway, a resourceful pirate who finds himself caught between two warring secret societies: the Assassins and Templars. Ubisoft's ambitious open-ended adventure lets you engage in epic swashbuckling, treasure-seeking, ship pillaging and exploring new islands. Along with the lengthy solo campaign, it also supports multiplayer matches over the Internet.
A screenshot from "BioShock Infinite"(Photo: © 2002-2013 Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc)
- The "bad boy" of video games is back, and it's bigger and better than ever. Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto V (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) takes place in the fictional city of Los Santos — the Los Angeles-like urban playground first introduced in 2004's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas — as well as surrounding suburbs, beaches and the countryside. Jump in and out of the lives of three simultaneously playable lead characters, to experience all sides of an interconnected story. As with previous games, you can plan and execute a series of heists, "borrow" all kinds of automobiles and take part in various mini-games. The game also includes access to Grand Theft Auto Online, an open-world multiplayer game.
- Unlike previous BioShock games, you're not trapped in the underwater city of Rapture. Instead, the wildly imaginative BioShock Infinite from 2K Games takes place on a floating air city in an alternate 1912, as you attempt to rescue a mysterious young woman with uncontrollable powers. The stunningly detailed world, memorable characters and cinematic action sequences — including the ability to engage in first-person firefights and hop on a rollercoaster-like rail system to get around (often at the same time) — all add to the unique and immersive gaming experience. The single-player adventure is available on Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows PC.
Other worthy "Mature"-rated game gifts include: Deep Silver's Metro: Last Light ( Xbox 360, PS3 and PC), Sony's Beyond: Two Souls (PlayStation 3), Electronic Arts' Battlefield 4 (Xbox 360/One, PlayStation 3/4 and Windows PC), Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist (Xbox 360, PS3 and PC), Activision's Call of Duty: Ghosts (Xbox 360/One, PlayStation 3/4, Nintendo Wii U, Windows PC) and Ubisoft's Crysis 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC),
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