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Holiday Video Game Guide: Super Mario 3D World, Killzone, and More

We’re in a golden age of gaming. From the visual marvels of 'Killzone' to an instantly classic Mario title, see what games you should buy this holiday season.

2K Games/Irrational Games via AP

We’re in a golden age of gaming. With the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One just released, the recent spate of quality titles for the Wii U, and the continued support of the 3DS and PS Vita handhelds (as well as the Xbox 360 and PS3, and the PC too), there are a lot of great platforms out there, and a lot of great games for them. Here, we’ve pulled together 20 titles from across these platforms that anybody who is interested in games of any sort should seriously consider purchasing for themselves, or anybody looking for a good gift for their game playing friends. Some of them are great for all ages, others are very explicitly mature; all of them are worth checking out.

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Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Console: Xbox 360/Xbox One/PS3/PS4/Wii U/PC

 

Take the Assassin’s Creed that you have known and loved for the past six years and bring it into a truly open world, add some naval ship battles, and you’ve got yourself Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. The series has been in decline ever since Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, but it seems that Ubisoft Montreal has figured out the secret ingredient: pirates. Pirates make everything better. Not only that, but they’ve finally figured how to make the metanarrative that ties the franchise together interesting. Took ‘em long enough.

Nintendo/AP

Super Mario 3D World

Developer: Nintendo
Console: Wii U

 

When Nintendo announced that it was producing Super Mario 3D World, a follow-up to the acclaimed 3DS title Super Mario 3D Land, as opposed to a wholly new platforming experience, there were a lot of groans. Each title in the company’s recent spate of New Super Mario Bros. titles has been enjoyable—some more than others—but after the first one hit the DS there hasn’t been much to shake that series up. Fortunately, Super Mario 3D World brings the creativity we all know and love back to the forefront. Plus, it’s absolutely beautiful. The Wii U may not be able to match either of its competitors on specs, but SM3DW puts most of its opposition to shame.

Jae C. Hong/AP

Battlefield 4

Developer: DICE
Console: Xbox 360/Xbox One/PS3/PS4/PC

 

Many people just want one game that they can play for a year or two until the next iteration, and Battlefield 4 will scratch that itch. With massive 64-player multiplayer arenas (on next-gen systems and PC, at least), destructible environments, lots of vehicles, and “levelutions” that change the layout of the map mid-session, there’s nothing else out there with the same scope. Unfortunately, some serious technical issues have plagued it since launch, but patches keep coming and they seem to be mostly hammered out by now. Which a good thing, because when it works, it’s awesome.

2K Games/Irrational Games via AP

BioShock Infinite

Developer: Irrational Games
Console: Xbox 360/PS3/PC/Mac

 

The original Bioshock changed videogame narratives forever with its big twist, and while Infinite likely won’t have the same long-term impact, it’s an excellent addition to the franchise. Back under the helm of Irrational, which made the original but did not work on Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite is its own entity, set in a city in the sky (as opposed to the previous titles’ underwater setting) and featuring, among other things, one of the best AI sidekicks gaming has ever seen. It’s everything a sequel could and should be, and another example of how first person shooters can be more than just mindless kill-a-thons.

Jae C. Hong/AP

Dead Rising 3

Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Console: Xbox One

 

Dead Rising 3 is one of the most fun games released in a while. It’s basically a playground for the depraved, where anything can be used as a weapon in order to massacre tens of thousands of zombies. There’s a painfully awkward attempt at a serious story amidst all the carnage, and it takes away from what really makes the game worthwhile, but much of it can be skipped, and it’s hard to fault any game that lets you kill zombies with a dildo-flinging leafblower.

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Forza Motorsport 5

Developer: Turn 10
Console: Xbox One

 

Forza Motorsport 5 is basically car-porn. Every one of its cars has been meticulously detailed and modeled and can be viewed up-close in a special mode specifically designed to satiate any lustful desires. For the rest of us, the game features fun driving gameplay that on lower difficulties is suitably arcade-y and sim-like at the higher end, and the new artificial intelligence, which is based on data culled from actual players around the world, is excellent. It’s going to be hard to go back to solely computer-controlled enemies in the future.

Gone Home

Developer: The Fullbright Company
Console: PC

 

The less said about Gone Home, the better. It’s a first person exploration game with excellent writing, and you should play it. That’s all you need to know.

AP

Grand Theft Auto V

Developer: Rockstar Games
Console: Xbox 360, PS3

 

When Grand Theft Auto V released, it broke all kinds of records (biggest entertainment launch ever) and even spawned a special concert at the New York Film Festival. It’s a phenomenon, and with good reason: There’s nothing quite like it. Ever since Grand Theft Auto III ushered in the open-world action game, it has reigned supreme in that genre, and while there are other excellent games in the genre, GTA is still king, and GTA V shows why that is.

Jason DeCrow/AP

Killzone: Shadow Fall

Developer: Guerilla Games
Console: PS4

 

The most technically impressive console game ever made, bar none. Killzone: Shadow Fall is a visual marvel, and the spectacle is unmatched. Fortunately, it’s not just a show of great tech, because the gameplay (helped along by an adorable little drone called OWL) is rock solid and great fun. Unfortunately, the narrative is subpar at best, but it does little to get in the way of an otherwise excellent product.

Sony/AP

The Last of Us

Developer: Naughty Dog
Console: PS3

 

One of the last big games of the 7th console generation is also one of its greatest achievements. Naughty Dog has been tied up with the critically acclaimed Uncharted series for a while, and many were seriously anticipating their turn with a new IP. And that anticipation paid off. The Last of Us is masterful, and has one of the best stories put in a game in an extremely long time (perhaps ever). Usually serious discussion about narrative is left to independent games like Gone Home, but a lot of fascinating criticism came out in the wake of The Last of Us (and Bioshock Infinite as well, for that matter). As the industry moves forward, it will be games like The Last of Us that pave the way.

Outlast

Developer: Red Barrels
Console: PC

 

While it’s unfortunate that Outlast follows the unfortunate “asylums are inherently evil/scary” trope, the game has to be given credit for being really freaking scary. There’s no combat, so players survive by fleeing or hiding from the asylum inmates. It’s not for the weak-willed (like me), but anyone who believes that horror games have lost their edge should give it a whirl.

Jamie O'Connell

Peggle 2

Developer: PopCap Games
Console: Xbox One

 

You know the scene in Being John Malkovich where everyone is just saying “Malkovich”? That’s what Peggle makes me do, and its sequel as well. “Peggle? Peggle peggle. Peggle!” Few games are so infectious and addictive, and while the Xbox One is an odd choice of platform, it’ll sink its peg-shaped teeth into you and never let go. Ever.

Nintendo/AP

Pikmin 3

Developer: Nintendo
Console: Wii U

 

First announced for the Wii back in 2008, Pikmin 3 missed that console entirely and ended up on its successor, but it was worth the wait, if only because of the added visual fidelity that the Wii U offers (it is very pretty). The core gameplay is as great as ever, and the new types of the adorable little creatures known as Pikmin add some great variety. It may not have been the Wii U killer app some were expecting/hoping for, but anyone who owns a Wii U owes it to themselves to buy it. (Pro tip: Play it with the Wii remote and nunchuck, though; it will vastly improve the experience.)

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Pokemon X & Y

Developer: Game Freak
Console: 3DS

 

The newest entry in the Pokemon franchise is the best in a long time. By bringing the series into the third dimension, developer Game Freak made a big shift in the visual style of the game, and it makes what is old feel new again. The gameplay has been refined and refined over the years, and many players have lapsed at one point or another; this is the time to get back into the Pokemon fever. And for those who missed it the first half dozen times, now’s a great time to start.

Casey Rodgers/Invision for Ubisoft via AP

Rayman Legends

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Console: Wii U/Xbox 360/PS3/PS Vita/PC

 

Rayman Legends was originally planned to be one of the big Wii U exclusives, but soon before its release, it was delayed (despite being done) and announced as a multiplatform title. A sequel to the amazing Rayman Origins, Legends is pure 2D platforming greatness, and even the great minds at Nintendo could learn a thing or two from what Ubisoft Montreal has put out.  The Wii U version is still the best, with a portion of the game having been created with the GamePad’s touchscreen in mind, but if you don’t have one, it’s a fantastic game anywhere.

Boston Globe/Getty

Zoo Tycoon

Developer: Frontier Developments
Console: Xbox 360/Xbox One

 

For all the creepy things that the Kinect does, it also allows you to make faces at animals in Zoo Tycoon. What’s the benefit of that, you might ask? Well, they makes faces right back at you. This is definitely one of the more family-friendly games on this list, but it’s not just a game for kids. Anybody who enjoys animals can get into it and enjoy building up and managing their zoos. Really, that should be everyone.

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Saints Row IV

Developer: Volition, Inc.
Consoles: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

 

Saints Row is the anti-Grand Theft Auto. While the first game didn’t do much to differentiate itself, the sequels have all gotten increasingly ludicrous while the GTA games have gotten more and more serious. And Saints Row IV is the craziest yet. The player takes on the role of the President of the United States, a gang leader who can upgrade his body with superhuman abilities and has to battle aliens. Check reality at the door, and you’ll have a blast.

Tearaway

Developer: Media Molecule
Console: PS Vita

 

Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series was never the game-changer that Sony wanted it to be, but Tearway proves that the company isn’t a one hit wonder. The PlayStation Vita has all kinds of sensors and features that rarely get any use outside of dumb gimmickry, but Tearaway justifies all of them. In that way, Tearaway is the Vita’s killer app, a title that truly shows what the handheld is capable of and why Sony’s kitchen sink approach isn’t as silly as it may seem.

Wonderful 101

Developer: Platinum Games
Console: Wii U

 

Platinum Games has had it rough, putting out games that its core fanbase loves but the broader market has trouble getting into. Despite the colorful exterior and the silly concept (the player controls an entire group of superheroes simultaneously), it was hard to believe that The Wonderful 101 would be the thing to change their luck. But for anybody looking for a mechanically dense, rewarding action game would do themselves a disservice to overlook the game. Those without a Wii U might want to check out Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, another great Platinum action game.

Jason DeCrow/AP

Resogun

Developer: Housemarque
Consoles: PlayStation 4

 

Resogun may actually be the best game in the PS4’s launch lineup. It’s a reasonably simple game, an arcade-style sidescrolling shooter where rapidly increasing numbers of enemies need to be shot with increasingly powerful and crazy weapons. It’s hard but fair and has a lot of interesting mechanics beyond “move and shoot.” Plus, it’s gorgeous. Everything is made of little blocks called voxels, and when something explodes, it burst apart and litter the level. It’s amazing to watch, and amazing to play.