Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Gamer’s Edition

Temperatures are slowly creeping towards sub-zero. Radio stations and malls everywhere are switching on the holiday music. Pine trees and other decorations are going up all over the world. And once again millions of people are procrastinating on their holiday shopping.

Lucky for you, gamers are an easy bunch to buy gifts for. Skip the throngs of mad shoppers and harried store clerks and order everything online!

While buying the games themselves may be simple, deciding which ones specifically can be a bit trickier. To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of recently released, universally acclaimed games which almost anyone should be able to find some joy in.

Let’s get started!

PC: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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Dragons. A word that evokes images of majestic, fearsome, flying creatures. And in Skyrim you get to stab them in the face.

Skyrim is the fifth installment in the incredibly popular Elder Scrolls series. The Elder Scrolls games are all about freedom, and Skyrim proves to be no exception. Once past the relatively brief introductory quest you’re free to roam the province of Skyrim’s roughly 16 square miles of digital land mass. Exploration is encouraged, with dungeons littering the landscape and NPCs just aching to hand out quests. It’s pretty much expected that on your way to finish one quest your journal will fill up with five new ones.

Five years have passed since the release of the last game in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion, and it shows. Skyrim is packed with tons of little details that will continue to surprise you. Not to mention it looks gorgeous. With high-end hardware and a bit of tweaking you can capture some pretty amazing looking screenshots, but even on default settings with middling hardware you’ll often catch yourself staring in awe at Skyrim’s beautiful landscapes.

Skyrim is without a doubt one of the best games released this year, and pretty much anyone will be able to find dozens of hours of entertainment within its wintry borders.

Note: While the PC is probably the premiere platform to own Skyrim on, it is also available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. If your giftee’s PC isn’t powerful enough to play Skyrim, or if you aren’t sure, it’s still certainly worth playing on either of the other two platforms.

Alternate suggestions:

Minecraft (again)
Bastion (also available on Xbox 360)
Battlefield 3 (also available on Xbox 360 and PS3)

Xbox 360: Forza Motorsport 4

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Like last year’s Gran Turismo 5, Forza Motorsport 4 attempts to bring the expensive and dangerous sport of car racing into your living room in as realistic a fashion as possible, and for the most part it succeeds.

Similar to its predecessors, most of your time in Forza 4 will be spent in its extensive career mode, traveling the globe, winning races, and building up your impressive stable of cars. Forza 4 boasts an impressive roster of more than 500 fully modeled cars, so you’ll have your hands full trying to collect them all.

If you happen to own the Kinect add-on you’ll see some integration with that as well. Ditch the controller completely and steer with just your hands (I’m guessing it’s just as uncomfortable as it sounds), or use it to augment your existing experience and let it translate your head movements while still using traditional controls.

Forza 4 also features an in-depth paint job editor. Now you can finally own that My Little Pony themed Lamborghini Gallardo you’ve always wanted!

Alternate suggestions:

Batman: Arkham City (also available on PC and PS3)
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition
Saints Row: The Third (also available on PC and PS3)

Playstation 3: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

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Drake’s Deception has you once again stepping into the shoes of Indiana Jon… I mean, Nathan Drake, as he circles the globe searching for some lost treasure or other. Along the way you’ll encounter the usual baddies out to kill you, scale crumbling walls, and generally experience the action and explosions of a standard Michael Bay film. The Uncharted series might be getting a bit formulaic at this point, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.

At its core the Uncharted series is a cover-based third person shooter, but there are some other gameplay elements like hand-to-hand combat and stealth sections that help to break up the monotony of shooting people in the face. While I may a joke about Uncharted’s striking similarities to Indiana Jones, there really isn’t anything wrong with that. Drake’s Deception perfectly captures that wonderful Indiana Jones-y feeling of adventure and intrigue.

Alternate suggestions:

Resistance 3
Dark Souls (also available on Xbox 360)
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (also available on Xbox 360)

Wii: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

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The Legend of Zelda is one the longest running currently active video game series, and holds a special place in many gamer’s hearts. Skyward Sword manages to shake up the traditional Zelda formula a bit, but many people are calling it the best game in the series since Ocarina of Time.

The biggest departure from previous Legend of Zelda games is how Skyward Sword controls. It requires the Wii MotionPlus controller add-on, and instead of just wildly flailing your arms to swing Link’s sword like you might have done in Twilight Princess, in Skyward Sword your arm movements are mapped directly to Link’s movements on-screen. Enemies in Skyward Sword are designed in such a way that you usually have hit them in a certain manner to do damage.

With its charming art style and top-notch gameplay, Skyward Sword makes an excellent gift for anyone on your list, regardless of their age.

Alternate suggestion:

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Conclusion

There you have it, four games that any gamer would be happy to find under the Christmas tree. If you have any additional suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Image credit: tsmall

  • http://profiles.google.com/jonathonwisnoski jonathon wisnoski

    Just seems like a generic list of the biggest mainstream video games of 2011.

    “almost anyone should be able to find some joy in.”

    And I disagree with that, there are some pretty hardcore FPS and even some sports games that really only appeal to people interested in them.
    Also Skyrim is huge right now, and very critically acclaimed but you cannot just throw anyone into a game like Skyrim and expect them to enjoy it. Take Minecraft for example, even people that are not interested in gaming but are computer literate enough to use a computer get hooked on that game and enjoy it and are able to play it. I would not say the same thing about Skyrim at all.

    • http://yonbeastie.com Brian Nelson

      These games are mainstream for a reason — because they are very good. This has been a pretty insane season for great titles, and the ones that are getting a lot of fanfare are enjoying their popularity for good reason. It’s hard not to be “generic” when you’re listing the most recent hits.

      Also, this is a Gamer’s Edition gift guide, and I think there are very, very few gamers that wouldn’t have a great time with Skyrim.

      • http://twitter.com/0odin Jonathan Paul

        My thoughts exactly Brian.

        Also, which sports games were listed?

        Jon

        • http://profiles.google.com/jonathonwisnoski jonathon wisnoski

          After looking over the list again I guess it is just a single title.
          Forza Motorsport 4, which even has “sport” in the title.

        • http://profiles.google.com/jonathonwisnoski jonathon wisnoski

          After looking over the list again I guess it is just a single title.
          Forza Motorsport 4, which even has “sport” in the title.

      • http://twitter.com/0odin Jonathan Paul

        My thoughts exactly Brian.

        Also, which sports games were listed?

        Jon

      • http://profiles.google.com/jonathonwisnoski jonathon wisnoski

        They are all really good, but they are mainstream because of all of their advertising and their big PR budget.

        I disagree completely on the Skyrim issue. You simply should not give that game to none hardcore gamers, and also multiplayer FPS players as a group would not necessarily enjoy it either. Also those gamers whose entire collection goes something like hockey manager 2009, 2010, 2011, Madden 20XX, etc would not enjoy it either.As a whole Skyrim would appeal to the gamers gamer, the quintessential I just enjoy gaming in general gamer, but a whole lot of gamers stick to single genres very stringently.
        And Skyrim is make more or less for fans of Oblivion and action RPGs in general. It is not genre defining, generic enough, nor does throw out the idiosyncrasies of its genre. It is like Star Trek, for the casual audient the makers of the last film had to 

        • http://twitter.com/Chronofied Devon Waldron

          Sorry, but PR doesn’t get you 9 PERFECT SCORES from separate publications (Skyward Sword).  Yonbeastie is correct, it has been an insane season for the gaming community.

          October 18th through Novermber 20th saw four games that were awarded perfect scores; that’s like five years of gaming excellence in one month.  Granted, you may not agree with the critics or the reviewers, but undeniably there is a predominantly positive buzz in the gaming community surrounding those four games.

          Only one of them was not listed here; was Batman: Arkham City not included in the list because it is cross-console?  But no, so is Skyrim…  I’d have put that in the 360 spot myself, hands down.

          • http://www.techerator.com Evan Wondrasek

            Batman: Arkham City is listed under “Alternate Suggestions” for Xbox 360.

          • http://twitter.com/Chronofied Devon Waldron

            Granted it was an alternate suggestion (and I didn’t see it; the onus is on me, there), I still think it tops any of the other 360 titles.  Personal preference, I guess.
            Also, my count was off; there were *FIVE* games that were awarded perfect scores by valid publications, not four.  Just an insane season for gamers.

          • http://profiles.google.com/jonathonwisnoski jonathon wisnoski

            And I am not disagreeing with you, but that does not make this list even somewhat different from a best mainstream games of 2011 list (in fact if anything it helps my initial argument).

            Nor does it make some of these games more appealing to people that they were neven designed to appeal to.

          • http://twitter.com/0odin Jonathan Paul

            So you are arguing that the article is mildly mis-titled?

            I do agree that Skyrim is a rather genre specific title, but I’m not aware of a better PC game with wider appeal that has come out recently.

            The article did ask for suggestions…

    • http://yonbeastie.com Brian Nelson

      These games are mainstream for a reason — because they are very good. This has been a pretty insane season for great titles, and the ones that are getting a lot of fanfare are enjoying their popularity for good reason. It’s hard not to be “generic” when you’re listing the most recent hits.

      Also, this is a Gamer’s Edition gift guide, and I think there are very, very few gamers that wouldn’t have a great time with Skyrim.