Holiday Gift Guide 2008

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The (drunken) festivities have come around once more, and while we would like to recommend sending packages of alcohol to random people in Belgium before we destroy it, we shall instead recommend that you spend your holiday bonus on the nominees for the GR's Best of the Year some very good video games.

Because even if the economy is in a recession and President-Elect Obama is calling for "cuts and sacrifices", you can't really let your video game entertainment go, can you?

Frugal shoppers who are trying to (finally) enter the next-gen scene will eye the Xbox 360's new price point. Though the $199.99 Xbox 360 Arcade model lacks storage, Microsoft at its main website is handing out free 512MB memory sticks as well as refurbished 20MB hard drives for $20. But even if you're not gung-ho about the Xbox 360, and are just family-friendly Wii goers, PS3 fans, or handheld junkies, what should you buy?

So in our 12th annual Holiday Gift Guide, we make your life a little easier. Similar to before, you can purchase most of our recommendations by clicking on the links: Amazon.com, Ebay.com, and Pricegrabber.com. All the games and tchotchkes that made it into the gift guide are affordable, have been released within the last year (hopefully, in the last few months), and are availaible at retail. All of our highest-rated titles, as well as a few others we felt were cool enough to include, are on the list. 

This guide will be continually updated until December 22nd, so be sure to check back often as new games are added. So you won't have to hear your lover complain about how that stripper was not a gift and… whatever, it's not a true story.

 

 

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So nearly everyone says that PC gaming is dying, but that's only because they're mad about being fragged by masters of the mouse and keyboard. "Oh, no, we can't possibly use two hands on two separate devices, ah, brain, melting…" PC gaming, whether its numbers are boosted by casual games or not, is here to stay. Prehaps the hardcore PC titles are riding off into the sunset of the 360 and the PS3, but there's still some titles showing their love and tenderness for you QWERTY pushers.

Fallout 3

Publisher: Bethesda
Genre: First-Person RPG
MSRP: $59.99

 
You or someone you know is probably a vault dweller. People who get home, march into their room, lock the door, live off the one-year emergency supply of Brondo and Chef Boyardee stocked underneath their bed, and only come out because they have an urge to pee. Well, then, this game is probably for them. Just make sure their karma is high before seeing them ever again.
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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: MMORPG
MSRP: $49.99

 
Are you tired of your WOW crack? Do you have no soul left for grinding? Have you already pwned the Lich King and put his crown on your spiffy Level 80 character? Well, cut your WOW back and trade it in for some WO. It may feel the same, but it's just as addicting and actually better.
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Sins of a Solar Empire

Publisher: Stardock
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
MSRP: $39.99

 
"Real-time strategy?", they once said. "Empire-building? How will that ever be fun?" They were wrong. And now they say, "A sci-fi real-time strategy empire-building…. what?! Now that won't ever work!" Wrong again.
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Left 4 Dead

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: First-Person Shooter
MSRP: $49.99

 
You. Shoot. Zombies. Or. You. Die. In. Boomer. Slime.

Do we really need to explain how awesome this is?

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Okay, okay, so we told you to bid farewell to the PS2 in last year's gift guide, but we mean it this time. Unless some PS2-exclusive wonder makes us glug down enough alcohol to type another page, you won't see a PS2 section in next year's guide. So take one last gander at the black box (you may have to go to your attic) and remember how well it has served you for so many years. May it rise into console heaven and be sent off with these last few remaining titles.

Rock Band 2

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Rhythm
MSRP: $99.99 (Special Edition Bundle)

 
Yes, we know that the link goes to the Xbox 360 version of Rock Band 2, but this doesn't mean the PS2 version should be neglected if it's your console of choice. Even without online play, downloadable songs, character customization, and co-op career, this is still perfect for parties. Many of the downloadable songs come in PS2-specific track packs, and none of the basic four-player quickplay is tarnished.
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Lego Batman

Publisher: Warner Bros.
Genre: Action
MSRP: $29.99

 
Move aside Two-Face, or Batman will fling Batarangs at you. Even if they explode into little tiny blocks, they still hurt just as much, and I would hate to see you die in a splattering of shiny, shiny coins. Hmm… you know what?, never mind, just stay put.
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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action
MSRP: $29.99

 
Oh no, you didn't

Sucker tried to play me

But you never paid me, Neva…

Oh no, you didn't

I'm a mercenary

You ain't got a prayer, you owe MEEEEE
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PS3 owners had much to shout about this year, and we had to turn our heads away from our 360s to hear all the commotion. What we found were two extraordinary PS3 exclusives and one little, big reason to smile again. In fact, the PS3 is the only console to have all three "A" games that GR has given this year in its catalog. We're not sure whether this is enough for people to shelve out 400 smackaroons (the same price as an Xbox 360 Elite) to buy a PS3, but these are all console-sellers if there ever were one.

LittleBigPlanet

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Adventure
MSRP: $59.99

 
You can speculate all you want as to whether LittleBigPlanet is really a game or just a box of crayons, but who cares? What I really want to know is which guy was so into himself that he named his pride and joy Sackboy. Really?
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Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Publisher: Konami
Genre: Action
MSRP: $59.99

 
We were going to tell a joke that revolved around how old Snake is, but it can just be condensed to something like…

!

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Fallout 3

Publisher: Bethesda
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $59.99

 
The world has gone mad today,

And good's bad today,

And black's white today,

When most guys today

That women prize today

Are just silly gigolos.

– Fallout 3 Soundtrack
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Far Cry 2

Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: First-Person Shooter
MSRP: $59.99

 
Aww… is that some pretty grass behind your wooden shack? Aww… is the grass burning? Aww… do you have to get out of your little chair and come outside? Aww… are you going to find me with a flamethrower? Aww… 
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Saints Row 2

Publisher: THQ
Genre: Adventure
MSRP: $59.99

 
Just to let you know, you can play this game as an barely dressed Asian chick with naughty tattoos and nude-colored panties. Err… so why are you still here?
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Rock Band 2

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Rhythm
MSRP: $189.99 (Bundle)

 

Though it is difficult for us to remember when we have played the PS3 version of Rock Band 2, it doesn't make it any less impressive as the Xbox 360 version. If you're one of the few people who own both a 360 and PS3, pick the one that most of your friends own, if just to keep your living room from becoming a wasteland of drum sets.

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Dead Space

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Horror Action
MSRP: $59.99

 
"Holy crap! What was that?!"

"Shoot for the head!"

"You nuts?! Shoot the legs first!"

"Haha! You dead, son of a… what??!!"

"I told ya! Now it's got two heads! Move back!"

"What?! You piece of…" – Dead Guy
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Resistance 2: Fall of Man

Publisher: 2K Boston
Genre: First-Person Shooter
MSRP: $59.99

 
Yes, man has fallen so far that you only get to wear a sturdy piece of armor, carry an assault rifle that blasts enemies into smithereens, and pretty much p'wn every zombie-mutant-alien that comes your way. Oh, yes, poor, poor man…
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Bioshock

Publisher: 2K Boston
Genre: First-Person Shooter
MSRP: $59.99

 
Oh, cool, I picked up a new plasmid. It's the "kill people who haven't played Bioshock yet" plasmid. Hmm… well, that's not really useful. Everyone has played Bioshock, right? Right???!!!
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Have you made your Mii avatar yet? Whether or not you're thrilled with the New Xbox Experience, it's hard to be disappointed with the Xbox 360 lineup this year, especially for first-person shooter fans. And if you're a hero of Albion. *turns around* Okay, okay, and if you're just a zombie. *turns around* There I said it. Just don't eat the staff, Duke. Duke? Duke!!!! *graarhrahrah*

Gears of War 2

Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Shooter
MSRP: $59.99

 
Grimier? Check.

Grittier? Check.

Locust that aren't baffoons? Check.

Squadmates that aren't baffoons? Double check.

Horde mode? Check.

Flamethrower? Check.

Chainsaw? Check, check, check, check, check.
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Left 4 Dead

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: First-Person Shooter
MSRP: $59.99

 
We know we've complained about how Left 4 Dead doesn't really have much of a story? But it's got zombies. What kind of story do you need? Okay, fine, in an alternate universe where Sarah Palin becomes president, all the Democrats begin mutating into fast zombies that vomit green filth and chase the Republicans… yeah, see?, you don't need one.
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Fallout 3

Publisher: Bethesda
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $59.99

 
I took a taste of reality, and I found it sweet and bitter and salty and everything I have ever wanted. Maybe it's because I feel nothing or that I feel so much that I have become numb, a modern Sisyphus who has left the rock behind and picked up a gun instead. I suppose you could call it love, but I would just call it fallout.
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Fable II

Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Adventure
MSRP: $59.99

 
Do you have awesome Hero powers? Woof!

Will you find ancient treasures? *dig, dig*

Can you marry nearly anyone? Woof!

Are threesomes possible? *rolls over*

Can you buy nearly every house? Woof!

Can you have sex with the dog? *whimper*
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Far Cry 2

Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: First-Person Shooter
MSRP: $59.99

 
You push aside the thick tropical leaves that block your view, their shadow covering your map like darkened blades, as your shotgun dangles on your back. But then you stop. You step back slowly, letting the leaves droop and rest. You steady your shotgun and aim at the skulking figure patrolling the lakeside. You envision the headshot and with a careful wink, you smile.
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Tales of Vesperia

Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $59.99

 
They say that JRPGs are a dying breed. They are lying. Yes, the genre is getting smaller and smaller, but there's still nothing like running beneath the blue sky, facing nature in its beauty and mercilessness. This is a classically light-hearted JRPG with a humorous story that's sure to please anyone who wishes for a brisk adventure.
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Rock Band 2

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Rhythm
MSRP: $189.99 (Bundle)

 
Rock Band 2 may not be as visible as Guitar Hero as a brand, but it is definitely the rhythm title of choice. It has a larger database of downloadable songs, better peripherals and gameplay mechanics for the drums and vocals, and plenty of easy-to-use online features.
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Saints Row 2

Publisher: EA
Genre: Sports
MSRP: $59.99

 
Saints Row 2 = Grand Theft Auto IV + All The Fun That Should Have Been In Grand Theft Auto IV
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Dead Space

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Horror Action
MSRP: $59.99

 
Note to self: Never go on a routine mission to fix a communications system in a deep space mining ship. Never step into a station that looks like Resident Evil X: Silent Hill Edition. Oh, and never become an engineer in deep space, no matter what your guidance counselor says.
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Soulcalibur IV

Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Fighting
MSRP: $59.99

 

If you're looking for a fighter with as much drama as possible, don't look much further than this. It's got ridiculous weapons, ridiculous settings, and riduculous stories. It's got pirates, knights, busty vixens, and demons. It's got Yoda and Darth and The Apprentice. Heck, it's even got a creator that can make you. It doesn't make any sense, but that's why It's crazy, crazy fun.

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The Wii presents plenty of dangers for buyers. Don't buy silly attachments that block the infrared sensor. Don't buy mini-game collections that look like Wii Sports because chances are they play like Wii Snorts. Don't buy the Wii Board unless you think you'll actually be using it for more than just Wii Fit. And on that note, don't buy any "lifestyle" games that aren't really games, and even if they are, don't buy them if they are simply not fun. And beware of WiiThrust… you know it's bound to happen. (As if that doesn't happen already.)

de Blob

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action
MSRP: $49.99

 
Remember when your kindergarten art teacher would give you a bunch of paint colors and then ask you to just splash it all over a white piece of paper? Yeah, this is just as fun, except without the mess.
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Boom Blox

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Puzzle
MSRP: $39.99

 
Jenga is just frustrating. The setup is tedious, tapping the blocks out and stacking them on top of the tower is irritating, and having to clean up the mess after the tower is knocked over is as fun as playing 52-card pick-up. Fortunately, Boom Blox is the exact opposite, rewarding you for using your anger against Jenga blocks and that, my friends, is what we call sweet revenge.
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LEGO Batman

Publisher: Warner Bros.
Genre: Action
MSRP: $49.99

LEGO Batman has family-friendly written all over it, and aside from LEGO Star Wars, there is hardly any other game that is as simply fun as this is. And trust me, you won't care that Bruce Wayne is a billionaire. You will wantz the coinz!
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Wario Land: Shake It!

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Adventure
MSRP: $49.99

 
Wario Land: Shake It! may not be as innovative or creative as its Gameboy progenitor, but it is one of the few Wii titles that actually make the console's motion-sensing system feel seamless. And if you're not worried for minor comparisons, Shake It! has all the hearty Wario flavor for a mighty earth-quaking punch.
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Rock Band 2

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Rhythm
MSRP: $189.99 (Bundle)

 
The Wii version is similar to the PS2 version in its lack of downloadable tracks and limited online features, but… okay, we're tired of writing blurbs for Rock Band 2. If you haven't gotten the idea yet, after the three other times it has appeared in the guide, then you're obviously not getting it. So instead, we're just going to stare at you from the shadows until you do. Don't try turning around, we'll already be gone. Whoosh!
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We're not really sure what happened to the PSP this year. Halfway through the summer, we flipped through book to see what the PSP had to offer for the holidays, and well, we flipped back and forth thinking that we were being Punk'd. Supposedly, third-party developers were surprised to see the PSP take off last year and didn't plan to complete any games by this year's end. We wish we had more recent titles to recommend, but hopefully, next year won't be as sparse.

God of War: Chains of Olympus

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Action
MSRP: $19.99

 
I think Kratos can hear you thinking how any God of War title could be good on a checkbook-sized handheld. He can see you staring at the rectangular box, your doubts circling, your head tilted. And he's ready to chop it off.
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Wipeout Pulse

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Racing
MSRP: $29.99

 
Wipeout has consistently understood what racing is all about: speed. Neon signs whiz past you like liquid lightning. Almost never is there a moment when you're not going fast, and if you actually aren't going fast, you're doing it wrong.
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Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Sports
MSRP: $29.99

 
Since golf is really just a repetitive knee-jerk ball-smack reaction, golf titles usually have to exaggerate something: extremely cartoony graphics, ridiculously designed courses, and over-the-top characters. Open Tee 2 heads off into the latter of each category, but it's spectacular in nearly every way. Short, clean, polished fun.
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Just like the PSP, the Nintendo DS has eluded us as well. Aside from remakes of a few classic RPGs and action titles, this holiday season has been stripped of its handheld cheer, and we've had to flip through the front-of-the-year catalog for some worthy recommendations. Sorry, we just don't feel like singing carols when we've had to tolerate revamped Castlevania titles that are actually quite old, Sonic titles that aren't about speed, Guitar Hero titles advocating hand torture, and a dancing stylus-tapping game about Red Bull. But the DS shouldn't be ignored simply because it had a run of bad luck. Besides, it (actually) makes a wonderful stocking stuffer.

The World Ends With You

Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $39.99

 

As what may be one of the most player-pandering titles ever, The World Ends With You is actually worthy of such ego-boosting. Maybe it's the angsty anime characters. Maybe it's the furious action that actually occurs on both screens. Maybe it's that you can gain experience when you're not even playing. And maybe it's the… oh, crap, I've only got three hou… sorry, man, maybe next time. 

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Bangai-O Spirits

Publisher: D3
Genre: Shoot-Em-Up
MSRP: $39.99

 

Really, is there anything as nerdy-awesome-cool as being able to transmit user-created levels to another DS through sound? Yeah, that's right, beeps and boops. The only thing cooler is perhaps being in a deathmatch aboard an alien ship in a room filled with basketballs. Wait… no, that's in Bangai-O Spirits, too.

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Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

Publisher: D3
Genre: Strategy
MSRP: $29.99

 

Post-apocalyptica seems to be the breeding grounds for modern games, especially the good ones, though the theme is pretty hit or miss. Just because it's all Mad Max doesn't mean that it'll be good. But Advance Wars: Days of Ruin mixes the Orwellian setting with all the goodness of strategic bomb-throwing and ass-kickery. Why does the ruin of mankind lea to so much fun?

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Stockings are just boring, over-embellished socks. That is, of course, unless you stuff it with something that people actually want. Which, in that case, it's ours.

Xbox Live Marketplace Points

MSRP: 1600 Points Card for $19.99, 4000 Points Card for $49.99

The Awesome Games That Xbox Live Points Can Get You:

Braid

Castle Crashers

Geometry Wars 2


– Super Street Fighter Turbo HD Remix (duh)

– A mega-collection of Rock Band DLC

– Belgium (we're waiting for it)

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Rock Band 2 Extra Guitar

MSRP: $69.99 – $79.99

You're already getting Rock Band 2, so why not make sure the whole family can play? Pick up a second ax so little Timmy can rock out with his brother. Better yet, just man up and admit that you're getting it for yourself.

Complete my four-person band!

 

 

Solio Hybrid 1000 Solar Panel

MSRP: $79.95

Forget about having a white Christmas, go green with the Solio solar panel. And it's not just for your DS or PSP – with attachments for just about every electronic device on earth it can also recharge cellphones and GPS devices. A must for any backpackers or hippies in your life.

Where can I get that?

 

  

 

Heroes: Season 2

MSRP: $39.99 (DVD), $69.99 (Blu-ray)

Sure, it's a bit shorter because of the writers' strike, but how else are you going to get up to speed for season 3? Don't force Hiro to go back in time and make your parents split up.

Where to save the cheerleader?

 

  

 

Watchmen Graphic Novel

MSRP: $19.99

Read it before the movie comes out. Seriously. The movie might be good, or it might not, but either way the Watchmen graphic novel is one of the finest (if not the finest) examples of the artform. Don't let anyone tell you that comics are just for kids.

Watch the watchmen.

 

CORSAIR 32 GB Flash Drive

MSRP: $88.99

After the cellphone, the flash drive has become the latest must-have accessory (at least among the nerdy set). With 32GB (and a much easier price than the 64GB version) there's plenty of room for your movies and music. Heck, you could install an OS on there.

Need more storage!

 

Meatwad's "Bundle of Confusion"

MSRP: $5.00 – $20.00

Are you feeling the holiday stress? Maybe it's time you treated yourself or someone you love to an Adult Swim "Bundle of Confusion" Variety Pack. It comes with a Meatwad stress ball to squeeze while you down a shot of your favorite hooch in fancy [AS] shot glass, along with a stylish set of buttons for the discerning cartoon fan and a Squidbillies bottle opener to complete your alcoholic holiday ensemble. And the best part is you can pick and choose what you want in your variety pack.

Fudge you!

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