This time of year is packed with new video game releases, because what says "Happy Holidays" better than catching Pokemon, killing demons, or hacking into the phones of random people on the street?
Since there are probably too many choices out there, here are GuideLive's recommendations for what to buy the video game lover in your life -- or, y'know, yourself.
NES Classic Edition
Easily one of the hottest gifts this holiday season, Nintendo's NES Classic Edition has been as hard to find in stores as Furby toys and Tickle Me Elmo dolls before it. It's a $60 miniature Nintendo Entertainment System (the one you might have owned in the '80s) packed with 30 classic games, including The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Punch-Out!! and more. If you can find one and you have any nostalgia for Nintendo's past (but don't want to invest in the original system and games), this is an easy purchase -- provided you can find one.
If you have a PS4 and are interested in virtual reality, this is easily the cheapest way to hop on board that train. It's not quite as impressive as the much more expensive PC offerings from Oculus and HTC, but PSVR allows you to play a lot of awesome, immersive games like Batman Arkham VR, Rez Infinite and Job Simulator.
If you want more information, you can check out our full review.
For all ages
Lego Dimensions sets
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is one of the biggest (and best) movies of the season, and thankfully there's a great way to experience it again: in digital Lego form. The latest story expansion for Lego Dimensions lets you relive the movie's best scenes, and it lets you do it alongside characters from other beloved series like Doctor Who and Adventure Time. You can even throw Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort into the mix if you don't mind creating a time paradox.
Other new toys include a great Mission: Impossible adventure, a lengthy journey through the latest Ghostbusters film and everybody's favorite fast animal Sonic the Hedgehog.
Pokemon Sun and Moon
The latest games in the Pokemon series were worth the wait. With an exciting Hawaii-esque setting, new Pokemon to catch and a streamlined gameplay experience, Pokemon Sun and Moon are great for both longtime fans and players who have never tried the games before. Even if Pokemon Go was your first time learning what a Pikachu is, you can easily enjoy one of these new games.
The Skylanders series can be credited with really kicking off the "toys to life" craze, allowing players to place real, physical toys onto a "portal" to play as those characters inside of a video game. The latest game in the series, Imaginators, has the fun hook of allowing you to create your own Skylander heroes, choosing how they look, how they sound and what moves they can use.
Skylanders Imaginators works with all of the previous Skylanders toys you've purchased over the years, and as a culmination of the series so far, it might be the best Skylanders game yet. That said, it's also "another one of those," so there's a chance your child will have burned out on the games at this point -- and you might have burned out on buying them. If not, though, the Imaginators is quite enjoyable, both alone and with a friend.
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice
While nowhere near the best Sonic game in history, Fire & Ice is also far from the worst game in Sonic's recent history. Based on the Sonic Boom animated series that's currently airing on TV, this 3DS sidescroller will appeal more to younger audiences than Sonic fans from the '90s. Kids, though, will get to play as a variety of their favorite Sonic characters and explore levels using new fire and ice abilities.
Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS
Super Mario Maker allows you to design your on Super Mario Bros. levels and share them with friends, making it one of the greatest video games ever. But let's say this up front: If the person you're buying for has a Wii U, that's the version of Super Mario Maker you want. This portable adaptation for the 3DS is missing several features, including a huge one: The ability to upload levels online and search for specific levels that other players have created.
If you missed out on the Wii U version of the game, though, and just have a desperate 2D Mario hole in your heart to fill, this game is still a great way to play a seemingly limitless supply of retro-style Mario goodness. And if you're the creative type, spending hours and hours creating your own levels can be a blast.
For older players
It's difficult to make a video game about World War I (for many reasons, which would deserve an article on their own), but EA succeeds with their latest Battlefield game by setting it in an alternate history.
The single-player campaign is surprisingly engaging, telling interesting vignettes about different soldiers across the world fighting in this horrific conflict. But it's the multiplayer that will likely keep your attention longest, blending the tried-and-true Battlefield formula with interesting weaponry (which despite being inspired by very old guns feel fresh compared to the modern weapons games are currently overusing), solid maps and tons of high-octane moments that make for perfect GIFs.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
This blockbuster first-person shooter series is on a bit of a decline, and frankly, we can only play these games every year for so long before getting tired of the formula.
But the latest Call of Duty does have great stuff going for it. It takes us further into the future than the series has ever been, opening the door to some cool in-space dogfights and tons of robot enemies that you can hack and use against the opposing forces. And as you would expect, the online multiplayer is chaotic and lively.
Dead Rising 4
Not only is Dead Rising 4 a great new game about mowing down zombies with all sorts of wacky weapons -- including a literal lawnmower -- it's also a game set during the Christmas season. After a zombie outbreak takes over the town of Willamette on Black Friday, you need to both photograph the truth behind the incident and survive by creating weapons like an electrified go kart, an ice sword and a candy cane crossbow. Given the holiday setting, it's like Die Hard if John McClane slaughtered thousands of zombies in a shopping mall... Which I guess means it's not much like Die Hard at all.
One things that's very different from earlier Dead Rising games: There is almost no importance placed on the clock, and you don't have a strict three day (in-game) time limit to adhere to. This makes DR4 a much more accessible game that can be enjoyed by more people, but it may turn off some who relished the weird mechanics of the Xbox 360 original.
To some extent, Dishonored 2 is just "more Dishonored," and that's totally fine. Dishonored was a fantastic stealth game set in a fascinating Victorian/steampunk-esque work of magic and assassination.
But Dishonored 2 ups the ante with a better chaos system (making your "moral choices" more than just a sum total of how many people you kill), more supernatural powers, a second playable protagonist and more ways to get through the interesting environments you'll find yourself in.
Also, Dishonored 2 features one of the most clever level designs in recent gaming history. You'll know it when you see it.
Final Fantasy XV
The latest Final Fantasy game might be the weirdest in the series' 29-year history, to the extent that some longtime fans might feel out of place in its world of cars, campsites and cell phones (as opposed to a simpler tale of magic, crystals and swords). But after 10 long years in development, Final Fantasy XV is finally out, and for the most part it is an epic roleplaying game that was worth waiting for. If you loved one has any love for Japanese RPGs, this will probably be on their wish list.
Forza Horizon 3
There are two types of racing game fans: Those who care very deeply about realism, car customization and accurate simulations and those who mostly just want to drive ridiculously fast and perhaps more than a little recklessly. Forza Horizon 3 is perfect for the latter group, presenting drivers with a large, open Australian environment in which to race and explore.
Gears of War 4
The original Gears of War trilogy on the Xbox 360 wrapped up pretty neatly, leaving many to conclude that there was no need for more sequels in that universe. But Gears 4 justifies its existence with stellar gameplay, tried-and-true multiplayer modes and a plot that lays the groundwork for a potentially interesting new story. If you had any fondness for the original games, it's worth coming back to see how the world has changed in the years since you defeated the Horde.
Watch Dogs 2
Boiled down, you could say Watch Dogs 2 is sort of like Grand Theft Auto, but with hacking. It goes deeper than that, though, and it might be more accurate to describe the experience as something like "Mr. Robot, the game." Instead of shooting your way through every situation, most problems can be solved by hacking into a computer and causing a distraction (or electrocuting a guard to knock them out. You know, like hackers do).
In a way, Watch Dogs 2 is almost too real. Its plot centers around very modern concerns such as data mining, online privacy, systematic racism, nefarious advertisements, government hacking and more. Some of it is on the nose (like stealing a rap song from a young, total jerk of a pharmaceutical CEO) while some of it might have accidentally been more relevant than the developers intended (like the idea of hacking voting booths to rig an election).