Video Games: 2013 Holiday Buyers’ Guide

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I think Andy Williams might have been a little overly optimistic in his outlook on the holiday season, where Christmas, (C)han(n)uka(h), and Kwanzaa all descend upon us in a feeble attempt to recapture the splendor of the Roman festival of Saturnalia. Regardless, Christmas specifically is as rosy as Williams’ crooning suggests for at least one group of people: retailers. Games galore are published and packaged in time to arrive under the tree, and I suppose it’s only fair that I share my opinions on what we, as enlightened citizens of the digital era, should be consuming on this festive retail holiday. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2013 Holiday Buyers’ Guide!

First of all, don’t buy a PS4 or an Xbox One. I’m getting both, of course, but that’s a professional obligation. The launch lineup for these consoles is absolutely abysmal, with delays keeping many of the headliners from seeing the light of day until mid-2014. “Watch_Dogs” and “DriveClub” have both been sidelined, leaving only “Knack” and “Killzone: Shadowfall” for the PS4 and … what, “Forza Motorsport 5″and some sports games for the Xbox One? “Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag” probably merits a playthrough, but seeing as it is being released on PC and all previous generation consoles, there’s no special reason to buy the next generation of consoles to see what Pirates of the Assassin’s Creed Caribbean is capable of.

Do, however, buy a WiiU. Despite its more-than-rocky start, Nintendo’s latest is finally starting to come into its own with titles like “Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD” and “Super Mario 3D World” which are out now. With “Mario Kart 8,” “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze,” and the new Super Smash Bros. not far off, the console is becoming much more useful. More than a WiiU, though, you should definitely buy a 3DS. “Pokémon X” and “Y”, “Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds”, and “Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies” are the latest games to play on the console, all of which are shining beacons in this dark age of “Candy Crush” knockoffs. Notwithstanding the newest games, the 3DS still has an incredible lineup behind it, including games from the Kingdom Hearts, Kid Icarus, Mario Bros. and Luigi’s Mansion franchises. A decent used 3DS from eBay should fit nearly any budgetary constraints. If you’re strapped for cash, get a 2DS, although I can’t recommend sacrificing the 3D feature, especially when a used 3DS is already so affordable.

Other than that, there’s not a ton of new content in the gaming world. An Ouya might make an interesting stocking stuffer if you can get your hands on one. Same goes for the Nvidia SHIELD Android gaming tablet, but both are only for the curious, not for anyone seeking a really good gaming experience. If you’re in the market for a phone to meet your gaming needs, the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3, and HTC One/One Max still hold the torches for “arguably best smartphone/phablet,” and are likely to stay that way, for a little while at least.

Keep in mind as you shop for games this holiday season that we are likely entering the last generation of standalone consoles, so don’t expect to be buying your new games on the Xbox 1080 and PlayStation 5 in three years. It’s difficult to know what the future will bring (except change, of course), but one of the recommendations I can give right now is to buy a gaming PC instead of investing in a Sony or Microsoft console. Despite the slightly higher price tag, I can almost guarantee that your investment will last longer and have a larger software library than this current generation of consoles. Plus, you’ll hardly be missing any games, except for the very few console exclusives that exist in today’s gaming market. As usual, when buying a gaming PC, the most cost-effective way to go is building one yourself, but if you’re looking for a prebuilt option, Alienware is still the overpriced gold standard. In terms of laptops, the no-brainer is the Razer Blade, but the current generation of MacBook Pro laptops, as well as the Asus Republic of Gamers line, are also good contenders. Either way, Steam sales and better graphics are sure to please almost anyone, even previously hardcore console gamers. The time to jump the console ship is nigh.

So I’ll see you next semester with reviews of the PS4 and Xbone. Or, you could probably watch some footage of the Titanic sinking and get the gist of my likely opinion. May the calendar keep bringing, and happy holidays to you!

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