‘Tis the season to be jolly — and what better way to keep the kids (and kids at heart) happy and entertained than with a brand-new video game?
This year saw no shortage of explosive action titles, fantasy role-playing games and near-photorealistic sports simulations.
Here are my recommended discs (or downloads) to make someone’s holiday break a merrier one. Note: if you’re buying a gaming gift for someone, be sure to check the recommended age rating in the corner of the box (such as “T” for Teen).
Most of the following games cost $59 apiece but may be sold for less leading up to the holidays.
“Super Mario Odyssey”
Available exclusively for Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s “Super Mario Odyssey” is an open-ended “sandbox” game that folds in action, platforming, puzzle-solving and exploration. Mario travels to various kingdoms to perform tasks for familiar characters, and will flick his hat (“Cappy”) to defeat enemies, flip switches, possess objects and more. Each of these environments have plenty of verticality, too, so you’ll spend time climbing, scaling, teleporting and blasting up to high areas. Look for secret items and minigames.
Konami’s “Pro Evolution Soccer 2018”
This is an extraordinarily fun soccer simulation, with multiple solo and multiplayer modes to choose from, improved graphics and more realistic animation and greater control over the ball and the players compared to previous games in the series. Along with a revamped 2 vs. 2 mode, PES 2018 offers a 3-on-3 cooperative mode — a first for a soccer game. PES 2018 is available for multiple consoles and Windows PC.
“Legend of Zelda”
Available for both Nintendo Switch and the Wii U, Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” gives players the freedom to explore the expansive land of Hyrule and tackle various missions in a non-linear order. Through melee and range combat (swords and bow-and-arrow, mostly), item collection and puzzle-solving, you’ll help to unravel more of the story in the latest (and best-looking) Zelda adventure to date — and one that’s easy to pick up but impossible to put down.
“Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle”
What do you get when you combine Nintendo’s mustachioed plumber with zany rabbit-like creatures? The answer is “Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle” (Nintendo Switch), a tactical turn-based role-playing game by UbiSoft. This cartoon crossover has players control Mario, his loyal friends (Luigi, Princess Peach, and Yoshi) and a group of Rabbids dressed as these iconic Nintendo mascots. Played on various maps — against the game’s artificial intelligence (A.I.) or via two-player local cooperative play — you’ll take turns moving about the maps, choosing the right character to attack and the ideal weapon to inflict the most damage. Great, family-friendly fun.
Also check out: Cuphead, Splatoon 2, NHL 18, and Yooka-Laylee.
“Horizon: Zero Dawn”
Debuting in February, Sony Interactive’ Entertainment’s “Horizon: Zero Dawn” is simply one of the best video games of the year. This action-heavy role-playing game — a PS4 exclusive — stars Aloy, a brave female hunter trying to stay alive in a world overrun by mechanized beasts. Using stealth and weapons, Aloy ventures across dangerous environments, solving missions, interacting with tribal societies and unraveling an epic story.
“Forza Motorsport 7”
Climb behind the wheel of Microsoft Game Studios’ “Forza Motorsport 7” (Xbox One, PC) and its more than 700 authentically recreated vehicles — including the largest collection of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches ever compiled in a game. You’ll scream around the tracks of 30 different real-world locations, competing against smart A.I. or online friends. This time around, the game’s “ForzaTech” engine delivers up to 60 frames-per-second action (for smooth performance) and support for the latest 4K TVs.
Whether you’ve played the original action game or not, Bungie’s “Destiny 2” is a blockbuster sequel that drops players into a futuristic universe, with many worlds to explore and battles to be fought. Along with the deep story campaign, this sci-fi adventure features cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes, and for the first time in a game, an integrated voice companion via Amazon Alexa-devices, with the free Destiny 2 Ghost Skill. The game is for PS4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.
“Star Wars Battlefront II”
Star Wars geeks, rejoice! Despite some balancing issues at launch, Electronic Arts’ “Star Wars Battlefront II” (PS4, Xbox One, PC) is a great ride — especially for Star Wars fans. Experience the untold story of Iden Versio, an Imperial elite special forces soldier, in a solo campaign, or partake in nail-biting multiplayer battles and tournaments, whether you choose to play as a ground trooper, TIE Fighter pilot or as iconic heroes and villains from Star Wars lore.
Also check out: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Injustice 2, and NBA 2K18.
“Call of Duty: WWII”
Rather than fighting in the future (and even in outer space), the best-selling series is returning to its roots in Activision’s “Call of Duty: WWII” (PS4, Xbox One, PC). As the name suggests, you’ll climb into the boots of a soldier in World War II and during the mission-based solo campaign or in multiplayer matches, your goal is to stay alive long enough to help win the war. Along with iconic WWII locations in the European theatre of war, players will enlist in various divisions — including airborne, armored, infantry and so on — each with different weapons and skills.
“Assassin’s Creed: Origins”
Ubisoft Montreal’s next installment in the Assassin’s Creed franchise — which has sold more than 100 million copies over the past decade — transports players into ancient Egypt, where you’re tasked with discovering secrets behind the Great Pyramids, the last Pharaohs and other mysteries. In Assassin’s Creed: Origins (PS4, Xbox One, PC), you’ll take on various missions, fight nemeses, engage with characters and stealthily move around long-lost cities, coastal towns and deserts.
“Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus”
In Bethesda’s “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus” (PS4, Xbox One, PC), BJ Blazkowicz is back to take on the evil Nazi war machine — but this time, the fight is on American soil. Upon awakening from a five-month coma, BJ starts this first-person adventure in a wheelchair, and with the help of a scientist, a map, some weapons and a will to survive —in part, to be reunited with his partner, Anya, who’s pregnant with twins — BJ fights the good fight until he can rid the Nazis from the United States.
Also check out: The Evil Within 2, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, and Persona 5.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at [email protected]
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