Holiday Gift Guide #4: Video Games and Apps

Gift Guide Videogames

Games made of pixels have been a favorite of mine since the Atari 2600 hit the streets. Today’s games are barely recognizable by those standards, with more realistic graphics, multi-player modes, and advanced stories. In this guide we take a look at some of our favorite games. Some of these are rated Teen, or Mature, so be sure to check the ratings before buying them for your younger kids.


Destiny is Bungie’s latest blockbuster hit. I like to think of it as a cross between Borderlands and Halo. Despite some glaring omissions in the online experience, Destiny is still fun to play and interesting as a story. It is also getting better with the latest patch solving a few of the shortcomings of the original release. I’ve been playing a few nights per week since it released and don’t expect to put it down anytime soon. (AO)

You can pick up Destiny at Amazon.

STT_Blue_WithGlow._SL1000_Skylanders Trap Team

Skylanders is back this season with the fourth installment into their popular Skylanders franchise. They’ve expanded the game from not only taking the toys into the virtual realms, now you can take a virtual character, trap them in a new Traptanium crystal and use them as playable characters. Skylanders is fun for all ages and is one of the few kids games that I would continue playing long after the kids went to bed. (AO)

Get it at Amazon.

BlackFlagAssassin’s Creed IV Black Flag

I am a huge Assassin’s Creed fan and, while I am enjoying exploring revolutionary Paris, Unity has some significant issues. Not so with Black Flag, which came out late last year. This game features a lot of the series parkour and combat gameplay, but also features a nearly perfect pirate experience with lots of tall ship battles. I often took circuitous routes to my destinations, just so I could enjoy the sea shanties. Pirate radio ftw! Black Flag was my best video game experience this year. (This title does include profanity and bloody sword violence.)

Buy it at Amazon. (DB)

SouthParkSouth Park: The Stick of Truth

I want to be very clear about this game — it is absolutely, positively not for kids. It is incredibly foul and offensive. That said, as a fan of the television series, the game is great. In fact, I can’t remember ever laughing so much while playing a video game. Yes, some of the laughs were because very outrageous moments, but the situational humor is great too. On top of that, it’s a fun game with strong RPG roots.

Buy it at Amazon. (DB)

MordorMiddle-earth: Shadows of Mordor

Want to kill some orcs? I know you do. This open world game takes place in the space between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. You play Talion, a Ranger whose family has been killed by Sauron’s armies. Time for revenge. The game has a couple of unique features: enemies remember their prior interactions with Talion and killing a high ranking orc creates a power vacuum that moves lesser orcs up the ladder. It’s a brutal game, rife with bloodlust, but it is very satisfying.

Buy it at Amazon. (DB)

SunsetOverdriveSunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive is an open world third-person shooter comedy video game that is so fast paced you need an energy drink just to play it. You play as a survivor of a mutant apocalypse in which humans transformed into mutants after consuming an energy drink. The player then uses acrobatic stylings and parkour to keep moving while shooting mutants and other bad guys. The game is rated “M” for Mature, but it does have a vulgarity filter setting and a gore adjustment, so it won’t traumatize those geeklets in the room. If you have a gamer on your list that gets bored easily, this is the game you will want to pick up for the holidays!

It is only available for the Xbox One. (TS)

alpha-omegaPokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire

The latest Pokémon games take trainers back to the Hoenn region to do battle with Teams Magma and Aqua, but this time the adventure has been gussied up for the modern gamer. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire for the Nintendo 3DS come complete with features like discoverable (and decorate-able) Super-Secret Bases, Mega Evolutions galore and even your own Cosplay Pikachu! Sure to please young fans as well older Pokémaniacs, these latest iterations are available now at Amazon and on retailers’ shelves nationwide.

[Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America] (Z.)

ssb-wii-uSuper Smash Bros. for Wii U

Celebrate the triumphant return of Nintendo’s massive first-party fighting title to consoles with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Boasting a dizzying array of characters and a myriad of modes – including the new 8-fighter multiplayer match – not to mention collectable Trophies, expanded music selections, unlockable Challenge art and a Stage Builder, SSB Wii U offers an amazing amount of content for the asking price. And with support for controller types ranging from GamePad and Wii Remote Plus to GameCube controller (which requires an external adapter), it makes it easier than ever to play Smash Bros. just the way you want to.

[Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America] (Z.)


Educational games that are actually engaging enough for adult learners are practically unheard-of; that’s exactly what makes Stratolab’s Electropocalypse such an amazing app. Electropocalypse teaches the fundamentals of circuit design and electricity without boring tutorials or walls of impenetrable text. Instead it blends lighthearted comic book-inspired storytelling with approachable puzzle-based gameplay to instruct users of all ages in the finer points of current, voltage, resistors, series vs. parallel circuits, polarity and much more. Best of all, it’s available iPad, Windows and Mac OS, so it’ll likely work wonderfully on that new device you’re planning to surprise your loved one with.

[Review materials provided by: Stratolab] (Z.)

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