The holiday season brings with it family, fellowship, and a whole lot of shopping stress. Thankfully, if you have a gamer in the family–or you just want to spoil yourself–buying a wicked-cool present is as easy as picking a video game (or two, or three) from our 2011 Holiday Gaming Wish List.
Batman: Arkham City (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC) — Batman disapproves of all joy and color, so he’s not much of a Christmas guy. Nevertheless, Arkham City is an excellent action-adventure game to cap off your year. The game improves substantially on the excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum by opening up the environment and giving Batman a city-sized playground to swing around in. Problem is, said city is populated by Gotham’s most notorious criminals. Don’t visit the Starbucks; The Penguin puts rat poison in the cappuccino.
NBA 2K12 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP, iOS) — NBA 2K12 is a deep basketball game that lets players jump around as the NBA’s most celebrated players, including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Abdul-Jabbar (it’s okay to play as him in the game, but don’t mention his career if he winds up as a co-pilot on one of your flights). NBA 2K12 has been released across almost every console available in this generation, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a copy that suits your lifestyle.
Portal 2 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac OSX) — The sequel to one of the most celebrated puzzle games of all time. Needless to say, it’s excellent. The single-player puzzles are more challenging, and the addition of a two-player mode extends the game’s worth by quite a bit. The writing and humor are also top-notch, and there’s a joke about lemons in there somewhere.
The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection (PlayStation 3) — This magnificent collection presents the elusive adventure games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus in beautiful HD (and 3D, if you got it). Whenever the Internet begins rumbling over whether or not games are art, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus inevitably come up. Now you can find out why. You can also start training yourself for Team Ico’s next title, The Last Guardian, coming in 2012.
LittleBigPlanet 2 (PlayStation 3) — LittleBigPlanet 2 lets you befriend Sackboy one more time for platforming fun. Not just any ol’ platforming fun, though: LBP2 revolves around user-generated content, and supports PlayStation Move. A great gift for anyone who frequently mouths off about how it’s totally not that hard to make a good video game.
Bit Trip Saga/Bit Trip Complete (Wii, Nintendo 3DS) — Bit Trip Saga and Bit Trip Complete collects all six of the Bit.Trip games into one convenient disc or cartridge. Each Bit.Trip game is a love letter to the ’70s arcade era, when gameplay was simple but maddeningly addictive, and heroes were giant chunks of pixels. Bit.Trip is not entirely retro, however. The addition of rhythm-based mechanics gives the series a unique, modern spin.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) — Finally, the next major Zelda game descends from the heavens and into our living rooms. Skyward Sword stars Link (natch), who alternates between his home world in the sky and the troubled land below to fight a great evil and bring peace to both realms. The game’s combat and puzzle-solving mechanics require the Wii MotionPlus remote/accessory, as every movement your Wii remote makes will be matched by Link on-screen. Also, brace yourself for parachute pants, and some of the thickest, fullest lips to ever grace video games.
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland (Wii) — Kirby is back on the Wii, and he’s also back to his old tricks. Namely, inhaling enemies and stealing their powers. Up to four players can join in the fight for Dreamland simultaneously thanks to the inclusion of King Dedede, Waddle Dee, and Metaknight. Make sure you purchase some boxing gloves and brass knuckles when you pick up Dreamland, so you and your friends can sort out who gets to play as Metaknight.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac OSX) — Human Revolution is a detailed and deep action-RPG that’s canonically set before the events of the first game, Deus Ex. Players take on the role of Adam Jensen, a security guard who gets caught up in the politics surrounding the biotechnology industry (and he wasn’t even supposed to be there that day). After an attack forces Jensen to adopt some biomechanics of his own, he sets out to discover what’s going on.
Dark Souls (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) — Dark Souls has been labeled as a “spiritual successor” to the 2009 action-role playing game, Demon’s Souls, which was a critically-acclaimed game in itself. In Dark Souls, players slither through dungeons are packed with monsters that are just quivering for the opportunity to say howdy. Like its predecessor, players who died can leave behind messages of hope, or words of encouragement for the living, or they can just slap down a dirty limerick and call it a day.