Let's just get right to it - my 10th annual holiday gift guide for video games.
WANT THE NEWEST THING?
Nintendo's new high-definition game system, the Wii U ($300-$350), is family friendly, since kids can play "New Super Mario Bros. U," as well as many old Wii games. But Wii U is powerful akin to Xbox 360 and PS 3, so hard-core gamers should enjoy such launch titles as "Call of Duty: Black Ops II," "Mass Effect 3" and "NBA 2K13." But heed my warning: If your gamer is screaming bloody murder for an Xbox 360 ($200-$300) or a PS 3 ($250-$300), then buy them one. Gamers know which system they prefer.
RAISING A YOUNG CHILD?
The Nintendo 3DS hand-held system ($160) offers a world of acclaimed series fit for young kids, such as the $40 games "Super Mario 3D Land," "Paper Mario: Sticker Star," "Mario Kart 7," "New Super Mario Bros. 2," "Professor Layton and the MiracleMask," "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - 3DS," "Cooking Mama 4," "Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes," "Lego Lord of the Rings" and the $15 "My Pet Puppy 3D." But if you need to buy a console game for a child, try "Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two" ($55 for Xbox 360, PS 3 and Wii U; or $49 for Wii). In it, you portray Disney characters, using a paintbrush to befriend and dispose of enemies in cinematic, cutesy adventures.
BEST HOLIDAY GAME FOR ADULTS?
"Hitman: Absolution" ($60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for PC) - The artistic beauty and cinematic game play are splendorous. You portray fierce assassin Agent 47, infiltrating and sneaking around opulent mansions and public squares, avoiding nasty henchmen, and eliminate bad guys using your guns, fists and makeshift weapons, such as a coffee cup.
BUT WHAT ABOUT 'BLACK OPS II' AND 'HALO 4'?
They're very good war games, and they are the two best online multiplayers of 2012. "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" ($60 for Xbox 360, PS 3, Wii U and PC) is contemporary war. "Halo 4" ($60 for Xbox 360) is sci-fi war. Both play precisely as fun as their previous titles.
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS GIVING?
GameFly subscription ($16-$23 per month): I rent dozens of games a year for $16 a month, which amounts to $192 per year - equivalent to the cost of buying three new $60 games a year. For $23 a month, you can rent two games at a time.
LOW ON CASH?
There is no shame in buying previously owned games and systems. GameStop/EB Games sells refurbished Xbox 360s (roughly $130), refurbished PS 3s ($200-$260), and refurbished old Nintendo DS hand-held systems for as low as $40. Used guaranteed games at GameStop and GameFly.com are often priced from $5 to $20. Avoid Craigslist, because Craigslist's used goods are often more expensive, not guaranteed and invite trouble.
(Nintendo Wii U retails for $300-$350 - Plays like an Xbox 360 or PS 3, but with a tablet-esque GamePad hand controller; looks high-def. Easy to challenging games; rated "E" to "M," depending on the game. Four out of four stars.)
Contact Doug Elfman at email@example.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.