The 2013 holiday season is an especially challenging one to shop for gamers. The eighth generation of consoles has finally been released, and handheld systems are more powerful than ever. PC gaming is going strong thanks to on-demand services like Steam, while mobile phone and tablet gaming is at an all-time high. On top of that, we are firmly in a golden age of tabletop games. It’s a fun problem to have.
The latest batch of high-octane consoles, the Play Station 4 and Xbox One, offer glimpses at the future of video games; unfortunately the lineup for both is lackluster. You are far better off selecting from the trove of great titles that hit shelves for the current generation.
Nintendo’s Wii U finally gained some notable games with the recent release of Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD and Super Mario 3D World, both of which belong in the collection of any Wii U owner. For the 3DS handheld, the throwback sequel Zelda: Link Between Worlds also represents a high-water mark for the system.
While the Sony has a few quality console exclusives, namely The Last of Us, for the most part the solid games of 2013 appear on both Xbox 360 and PS3. 3-D action gamers can find solace in solid sequel outings in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Batman: Arkham Origins. Strategy fans deserve the upgraded alien invasion simulation XCOM: Enemy Within, and classic platform simply cannot do better than Rayman Legends. And for the much-maligned PS Vita it is worth picking up a copy of Tearaway, the papercraft-inspired puzzle platformer from the creators of LittleBigPlanet.
If you prefer playing games face to face, you’re in luck as well. Many of the latest analog games are available from your friendly local gaming store as well as online via Amazon, or better yet, directly from the designer! Risk: Legacy is an innovative upgrade of the classic world domination game. The game evolves as you add attributes, name locations and unlock mysterious effects over multiple plays. Resistance: Avalon takes the hidden role game Werewolf (a.k.a. Mafia) and spins it into a quest-driven party of betrayal and villainy in Arthurian legend.
Card gamers will appreciate the updated version of the mid-1990s Netrunner in Android: Netrunner. This asymmetrical dueling game pits players against each other, one as a computer hacking Runner and the other as a nefarious future megacorporation.
Roleplayers are having a banner year as well. Indie titles like Our Last Best Hope (magpiegames.com) and Monsterhearts (buriedwithoutceremony.com) are creating mature and exciting new ways to play, refocusing the genre on shared experience and storytelling and away from dice and combat mechanics.
Give the gift of games this season, but more importantly, share those games with your friends and family. Taking an evening to learn and play the game you’ve given with its recipient will multiply its value immeasurably.
Glenn is a writer, designer and game maker. You can find more of his work at gamesbyplaydate.com.