The holiday season is the video game industry’s busiest time of year, with publishers saving many of their marquee titles to release on the public like an avalanche of digital goodness. It can actually be quite overwhelming with so many different options to choose from, so we’ve done our best to put together a collection of what we feel are some of the year’s best titles, and ones that the gamer on your list will love.
Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.
Star Wars: Battlefront
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would be like to be a part of the “Star Wars” universe, Electronic Arts’ “Star Wars: Battlefront” lets you live out your ultimate fantasy by dropping you into the middle of the action in some of the most famous locations from the original trilogy. Whether assuming the role of a Rebel soldier or Stormtrooper fighting on the ground, an X-Wing or TIE pilot engaged in a massive dogfight in the skies, or as one of the many legacy characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, this is “Star Wars” fan service at its very best. Boasting gorgeous, photorealistic visuals and addictive gameplay, “Battlefront” is the most enjoyable “Star Wars” game since “Knights of the Old Republic.” Though the single player/co-op modes aren’t very exciting (they’re mostly just a place to hone your skills and waste a few hours with a friend), the online multiplayer is where the game really shines. There are nine modes to choose from – including favorites like Fighter Squadron, Heroes vs. Villains and Supremacy – with each one delivering a unique experience from the others. “Battlefront” is the “Star Wars” game that fans have been waiting for, and with more content planned for the future, it can only get better.
How do you make a great game even better? That’s the challenge put forth each year to EA Sports and their “FIFA” franchise, and every time, they respond in brilliant fashion. Though there aren’t any major changes to the gameplay, “FIFA 16” has implemented some small but important refinements to deliver the most authentic soccer simulation yet. On the field, defending has been given a complete facelift, including the ability to defend better as a unit with enhanced AI awareness, goalkeepers who make less mistakes, and improved tackling mechanics. The EA Sports team has also added something called Passing with Purpose that allows you to ping driven ground passes to teammates in tight spaces, as well as No Touch Dribbling, which gives you more creativity on the ball. Off the field, the changes are even bigger, headlined by the announcement that you can now play as one of 12 Women’s National Teams in a variety of game modes. Career Mode has also received two of the most requested features – pre-season tournaments and player training to increase stats – while Ultimate Team has added a new mode called FUT Draft where you build a team by picking each position from a five-player draw and then compete in challenges to win rewards. This is the most definitive edition of “FIFA” yet, and it’s an absolute must-have for any soccer fan.
Disney Infinity 3.0
The Marvel Universe took center stage in last year’s edition of Disney’s toys-to-life video game franchise, so it only seemed natural that “Star Wars” would play a key role in “Disney Infinity 3.0,” especially with the new film due out in time for Christmas. But while George Lucas’ space adventure saga is undoubtedly the main draw, there’s a lot to love about the latest installment, which makes some big strides towards improving the game’s all-around experience. In addition to some updated Toy Box features, there are two expansion games – the top-down dungeon crawler “Toy Box Takeover” and the kart racer “Toy Box Speedway” – that add extra value to your Infinity collection, as well as three new Play Sets and more than 30 new figures, including your favorite “Star Wars” characters, the “Inside Out” gang, Disney classics like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Hulkbuster and Ultron from the latest “Avengers” movie. That’s a lot of content for one game (and with plenty more on the way), but it offers something for everyone, because while “Disney Infinity” has always been a surefire hit with kids, the addition of “Star Wars” suddenly makes it a lot more appealing to adults too.
Mortal Kombat X
After 2011’s “Mortal Kombat” brought the long-running fighting series back from the dead by basically hitting the reset button on the whole franchise, “Mortal Kombat X” makes some small adjustments to the gameplay while pushing the story into brave new territory. In addition to injecting some much-needed vitality into the series with several new characters that effortlessly blend into the universe alongside veterans like Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero and Scorpion, “Mortal Kombat X” features one of the best story modes that we’ve ever seen in a fighting game. Though it’s very cinematic in nature, incorporating fights throughout each character’s section of the overarching story, it feels a lot more immersive compared to other titles that rely heavily on cutscenes, like you’re actually part of the action. The only other notable change is the ability to choose between three different fighting styles for every character, granting players greater control over how they strategize against certain opponents. Of course, it wouldn’t be “Mortal Kombat” without some gruesome and inventive combat, and “Mortal Kombat X” delivers that in spades. In fact, it relishes those gloriously over-the-top moments a little too much, which is exactly what fans have come to expect from the ultraviolent series.
Guitar Hero Live
Just when it looked like “Guitar Hero” had strummed its last note, the stagnant series has come roaring back to life with this latest edition, which reinvents the popular rhythm game from the ground up. For starters, the guitar has been completely redesigned – replacing the colored, five-button layout with six fret buttons in two adjacent rows at the top of the neck – and though there’s a bigger learning curve involved, it simulates playing a real guitar better. The game itself is divided into two modes: Live and TV. The former places you in the role of a guitarist in various fictional bands performing at a music festival, and it’s all presented in full-motion video from your perspective, capturing the energy of a live show. However, while Live provides a fun but cheesy introduction to the game’s new mechanics, Guitar Hero TV is where it really shines, particularly the 24/7 music channels, which are divided into themed programming blocks that you can jump in and out of on a whim, all while competing against other players to unlock new Hero Powers and more. Though the song collection isn’t as strong as past installments, there’s so much potential within TV mode that the experience will improve as the catalog grows.