Every member of the family can dance, dunk and dragon-slay with this season’s best video games.Video games celebrated some huge silver anniversaries this year, particularly The Legend of Zelda. Twenty-five years later, those games’ childhood fans are now buying games for their own kids — and joining the fun. Bridge the generation gap with this season’s best digital fare.
Call of Duty will resume its annual holiday blitz with its latest sequel, Modern Warfare 3, which easily compares to Jerry Bruckheimer films. That’s not a good thing; the series that once pushed the military-gaming envelope has turned rote, using overblown cinematic moments to make up for ho-hum action. Couch recruits will find a better thrill in the recently released Battlefield 3 , whose souped-up vehicles and class-based warfare make this the season’s thriller to beat.
Don’t expect as many innovative, arm-waving games this year, as developers have cooled on the fad — with one exception. New versions of Just Dance and Dance Central face off for 2011’s booty-shaking crown, and while they’ll both set your living-room parties on fire, Dance Central 2 takes the cake with cooler art design, more involved dance battles, better tutorials and a hip set list that favors old-school hip-hop (“The Humpty Dance,” “My Prerogative”). DC2’s only catch: It only plays on Xbox 360 Kinect, while Just Dance 3 plays nice with all major home systems.
Some of the best online PC games now follow a microtransaction model. These games are free to play, and players who really enjoy themselves can buy upgrades like new weapons or cooler in-game costumes for $2 to $10 each. The current microtransaction titan is League of Legends, an addictive battle game that sells cards of Riot Points at most major stores, but its online community can get a bit, er, colorful. For younger players, consider stuffing their stockings with Station Cash, the currency for Sony’s kid-friendly online game Free Realms.
Holy Pleasant Surprise!
Video games based on comic books tend to disappoint, but 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum pleased the fanboy nation with stealthy action and top-notch writing. This year’s follow-up, Batman: Arkham City, aims higher with more famed villains (Penguin, Two-Face), more puzzles and a lot more Gotham to explore. Other fantasy delights this season include Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (a massive swords-and-dragons quest), Resistance 3 (think Halo’s aliens and Duke Nukem’s crazy guns) and family-friendly Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (the classic series finally makes the most of the Wii’s motion controls).
Gamers of the ’80s fondly recall the Jordan vs. Bird series, and this year’s NBA 2K12 reignites that feud with pristine, HD versions of the duo — and Magic Johnson to boot. Relive classic ’80s and ’90s moments or take a modern team all the way to the NBA Finals in the industry’s most fluid re-creation of basketball to date.