Nintendo has a long, proud history of providing top-quality video game consoles for adults and kids of all ages, dating back to the 1985 release of its defining Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The device wasn’t just the first such machine to command a millions-strong global following in the post-Atari 2600 world. It also helped save the industry from a crippling 1983 crash, single-handedly proved that video games weren’t a fad (actually a cultural question mark at the time), and came to define home gaming for an entire generation. Dozens of popular franchises established during this era – including Super Mario Bros., Metroid and The Legend of Zelda – are still going strong today. Poised at the launch of its latest console, the Wii U (powered by a tablet PC-like touchscreen controller, fully online-/media-enabled, and the first Nintendo system to support high-definition graphics), the company’s legacy bears remembering.
Case in point: Over the past two decades, the much-beloved Japanese giant has brought players a wealth of technological advancements, proving that both innovation and imagination is in its DNA. Granted, not all have been successful: Anyone remember migraine-inducing semi-portable the Virtual Boy or two-hit wonder R.O.B. the robot (essentially included with the NES to con retailers burned by the ’83 crash into thinking it was more high-tech novelty item than game)? But from the original Game Boy tagalong to the 3D graphics-enabled Nintendo 3DS handheld, seminal 16-bit system the Super Nintendo to groundbreaking motion-controlled outing the Wii, you have to applaud the manufacturer. While it’s been prone to both wildly successful and wildly bizarre experiments, its many phenomenal successes have helped drive the industry forward, and the company has never been shy about its commitment to raising the bar. Say what you will about the house that brought us Mario, Donkey Kong and the rest of the supporting cast of Super Smash Bros.: It’s seldom one to follow in the footsteps of competitors.
All of which, of course, brings us to the dawn of the Wii U – the first of the next round of next-generation consoles to arrive, and among its most promising and original. Aimed at taking gamers beyond what they can currently get from rivals the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, it’s also the first shot fired in what promises to be a long and lasting battle for living room domination. Designed to deliver eye-popping 1080p HD graphics; facilitate digital downloads of music, movies, games and more; and allow for differing play experiences on TV vs. tablet controller, hopes for the system currently run high. As the first new set-top video game system in six years, and the long-awaited sequel to the Wii – the bestselling console of its generation, and first to both offer gesture controls and reach near-ubiquitous mainstream awareness – it’s hard not to be excited. But the sweetest news of all surrounding the system may also be a point that many have missed. As the below games illustrate, despite Nintendo’s storied and proud history to date, for both the manufacturer and fans alike, the best may be very well yet to come.
WII U SYSTEMS
The Wii U is available in two configurations: Basic (includes 8GB internal storage) and Deluxe (offers 32GB internal storage + Nintendo Land video game, console stand and a cradle/stand for your GamePad). Systems are defined by a custom 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen-powered tablet GamePad controller which offers secondary perspectives on on-screen action, and lets you view videos separately from the TV. Features allow for gameplay viewing on both your television and the GamePad, and support for controlling your set using the tablet, with benefits also extending to wireless Internet connectivity, online multiplayer and multimedia downloads, and video chat or second-screen viewing experiences. Needless to say, it crams a lot of performance into one small package.
BEST WII U GAMES
Note that you can click the below links to learn more about all Wii U game options, and for online shopping deals.
Classic arcade fun for all ages: Run, jump and stomp on enemies’ heads while collecting coins, nabbing ability-enhancing power-ups and exploring the Mushroom Kingdom’s candy-colored cartoon world. Featuring favorite characters such as Mario, Toad and Luigi, it offers familiar fast-paced thrills that players of every skill level can enjoy, plus a new twist: The ability for GamePad users to try and assist or antagonize others enjoying simultaneous multiplayer challenges. Besides a raft of sweet features – e.g. bonuses like the Flying Squirrel suit, options to import your Mii virtual avatar into various challenges, and more – it’s also the first must-have title for the system. Blending nostalgia with new high-tech tricks, we’d be amazed if it also wasn’t the first bestseller.
An original adventure pairing Mr. M-O-U-S-E himself with less well-known predecessor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, this gorgeously-appointed action-adventure sends you wandering through a world of forgotten Disney characters and backdrops. Wielding a magical paint brush and high-powered remote control, players must help the twin heroes solve tricky puzzles, overcome fiendish foes and explore an evolving storyline that changes based on your choices. Support for two-man cooperative (co-op) play lets friends and family get in on the excitement, and Wii U owners benefit especially, with the GamePad offering a second view on the action. As much a love letter to Disney’s creations as first-rate gaming experience, its rich storyline, engaging suite of challenges and atmospheric environs make the title a top draw this holiday season.
Rewinding the clock to the Revolutionary War, the latest in the multimillion-selling action-adventure series – wherein discerning adults play a historical hitman – puts you in the shoes of a lethal assassin. From the Battle of Bunker Hill to raging shipboard engagements and the streets of New York, you get a chance to rewrite history by cleverly stalking and eliminating targets, then making daring acrobatic escapes. Set in a living, breathing 3D world of haunting characters and locales, it’s designed to test both your wits and reflexes. The Wii U edition provides added benefits by putting a map of targets’ locations right at-hand, and offers touch commands for easy weapon switching when it’s time to do your patriotic duty.
Among the most original puzzle games of the past decade, Scribblenauts Unlimited provides a clever approach to tackling challenges: With a touch of your finger, you can create objects and summon them on-screen to help hero Maxwell. Literally thousands of combinations are possible as you mix and match parts while moving through a seemingly hand-drawn, open-ended world designed to be traveled at your leisure. Inventions can also be shared online for friends to remix and pass along, making the title among the more creative options out there for kids and adults alike. Anyone who’s ever spent hours idly doodling in a notepad will understand its promise immediately.
EA Sports’ line of popular athletic simulations – other options include FIFA Soccer 13, NHL 13, etc. – has been a longstanding hit with gamers of all ages. But even though, similar to its siblings, Madden NFL 13 is available (and highly recommended) on other systems, you haven’t seen virtual football like this before. Letting you take on the role of player or coach, and play in dazzling HD, the key upside here are touchscreen commands – you can use the GamePad to call plays, make substitutions and more in the most intuitive format yet seen on a gaming console. Backed by online connectivity, authentic game day presentation and commentary, and the same pigskin action millions know and love, it’s clearly among the year’s hottest new MVPs for sporting fans.
Enjoy 3D fighting games? Check out the latest in the long-running martial arts series, which amps up the action with a huge roster of brawlers who can kick, punch and flying uppercut their way through one-on-one, one-on-two, or two-on-two tag team battles. Over 50 bruisers to pick from, extensive multiplayer support (up to four can get in on the action) and loads of extra features – i.e. killer replay videos, numerous game modes, extensive practice options, and an arresting range of international stages to scrap on – add ample replay value. If you’re looking for head-to-head action with a bit of nuance, you’ll find its strategic showdowns demand approaching with a sense of gravity, even as a range of kooky costumes and gonzo characters reflect the title’s unwillingness to take itself too seriously.
Outside of the Resident Evil series, horror-themed games typically aren’t the first thing you’d associate with Nintendo’s traditionally family-friendly systems. But UbiSoft hopes to challenge players’ thinking in this promising new survival horror outing custom-designed for the Wii U that pits you against legions of walking dead. Set in a London overrun by walking cadavers, your goal is simple: Stay alive. But that’s easier said than done when you have to keep glancing between your GamePad controller and the TV, or dealing with competing players in multiplayer modes that let evil-minded pals try and plague friends by becoming an adversarial Zombie Master.
Yes, the critically-acclaimed run-n-gun franchise is available on other systems such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; an obvious choice for first-person shooter fans; and for Mature audiences only. But if you’re a discerning adult looking for a Hollywood-style gun battle experience that’s sure to make the neighbors’ jaws drop, then pop this neo-futuristic firefight in and watch their eyes bug out of their head. Boasting branching storylines, multiplayer standoffs so immersive you’ll enjoy weeks’ worth of excitement from just these modes alone, and support for second-screen play (i.e. touchscreen controls for picking maps or loadouts), rest assured. For pure, white-knuckle thrills, they don’t make ‘em better than this – or more capable of keeping you glued to the screen, whichever (TV or GamePad) you prefer.
Mass Effect 3 (Role-Playing)
SiNG Party (Music)
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (Action-Adventure)
Pikmin 3 (Strategy)
Ben 10: Omniverse (Action)
Sonic & All-Stars Racing (Racing)
007 Legends (Shooter)
Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 (Simulation)
Darksiders II (Action-Adventure)
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It’s the holiday season once again, and perhaps you’re stuck for a good gift idea. Video games are a good option: Almost everyone loves receiving them, which makes them successful gifts in the short term. On the other hand, you don’t have to play a game for long in order to know it’s rotten. That’s why it’s a good idea to grab hold of some suggestions before you shop.
Getting a game for an adult is a bit different from getting one for a kid. Games for grown-ups tend to contain mature content and/or gameplay mechanics that are difficult to grasp. That said, they also offer some remarkably deep experiences that can last for hours. Here are 2012’s best games for adults.
Halo 4 (Xbox 360) – Microsoft’s latest entry in its popular first-person shooter series features an extremely detailed story and campaign, not to mention killer multiplayer features (literally). Its presentation is top-notch, and should be a hit with any fan of shooting games.
Dishonored (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows) – Dishonored is a first-person stealth action adventure title. Seems like a mouthful, but what it basically means is that you play as an assassin who’s out for revenge against his betrayers—and we all know that assassins work best undetected. However, it’s actually possible to play through Dishonored without using lethal force. The story alters depending on how violent you are, or aren’t.
FIFA Soccer 13 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita) – Soccer may not be America’s favorite sport, but don’t let that drive you away from EA’s FIFA Soccer 13. It’s loaded with features. If you never got a chance to pick up FIFA 12, that’s all the more reason to jump right in with lucky 13. Also note: If you’re a hockey fan, don’t miss out on NHL 13 either – it’s a great choice for winter sports fans.
WWE ’13 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii) – Similarly, THQ’s latest large-budget WWE game might be familiar for anyone who played WWE ’12, but wrestling fans will love the game’s story, which takes place across the industry’s Attitude Era.
Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, Wii U) – This role-playing /adventure game from BioWare received massive critical acclaim thanks to its epic story, interesting cast of characters, multi-tiered choice system, and stunning graphics. There was some controversy over the game’s supposedly lame ending, but the quality of the game’s finale ultimately lies in the eye of the beholder. It’s the whole experience that counts.
Journey (PlayStation 3, via the PlayStation Network) – Journey is a downloadable game that takes the player on a trip through the desert and towards a distant mountain. You meet other players as you travel, and you can help one another—but your communications are restricted to wordless “singing.” How will you cooperate—if you choose to cooperate at all? Journey has received critical acclaim for its originality and beauty.
Dragon’s Dogma (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows) – And sometimes, you just gotta bash things. Dragon’s Dogma is an action role-playing game by Capcom that takes place in an open world. There’s tons of hacking and slashing to be had, but the game’s real strength is its gigantic boss battles, which encourage you to search for unorthodox ways to bring down your prey.
Tokyo Jungle (PlayStation 3) – Tokyo Jungle is a survival/action game that takes place in the deserted streets of Tokyo. It’s initially not clear what’s happened to humanity, but what’s important is that wildlife has reclaimed the region and you need to survive. You play through the game as a deer, a hyena, a couple of lions, and (prepare yourself) a Pomeranian.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows) – The must-have game of the holiday season. Dig first-person shooters? Then check out this home theater showpiece, which doubles down on pyrotechnics, Hollywood-style set pieces and online action galore – its Internet multiplayer mode alone will keep you busy for months.
Xenoblade (Wii) – This action/role-playing hybrid is the best role-playing game for the Wii, and one of the best RPGs ever released, period. You travel through large, open worlds and fight through swarms of enemies via a complex but compelling battle system. There’s a main story to follow, but you can do so at your own leisure while you pursue hundreds of side-quests.
Max Payne 3 (Xbox, PlayStation 3, Windows) – In this third-person action/shooting game, you accompany a slightly older, slightly more cynical Max Payne as he works through Sao Paulo, Brazil. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for you, the player), he’s caught up in a conspiracy and is pulled into trouble. Max Payne 3 features some of the best graphics seen in any console title.
Borderlands 2 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) – Post-apocalyptic action role-playing in an animated, cel-shaded world: Where do we sign up? Letting you live out your every Mad Max fantasy, this sequel to the multiplatinum-selling megahit delivers more excitement, more gear, and more chances to collect loot while successfully straddling the line between run-n-gun thrills and detailed stat crunching.
Assassin’s Creed 3 (Xbox, PlayStation 3, Windows) – What can we say about the blockbuster franchise – in which you play a historical hitman, tasked with stalking and offing targets in a living, breathing 3D world – that hasn’t already been said in countless positive critical reviews? Rewinding the clock to the Revolutionary War, this latest installment blows the doors off the genre in the graphics, sound and gameplay departments, making it a must-play for mature audiences.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Medal of Honor Warfighter
And of course, don’t miss Nintendo’s Wii U – a revolutionary new video game system which adds a tablet-like touchscreen controller, extensive online connectivity and games in dozens of favorite franchises such as Super Mario Bros. and Pikmin. The first of the next-generation (next next-generation?) consoles, it’s sure to be a hit with family and core gaming audiences of all ages, given its HD action, backwards compatibility with Wii games and extensive media playback and streaming options.
Researchers have embraced the benefits of play as a key part of the development of the human mind, both for kids and adults. So it’s important to take a break and play some games sometimes, and here are ten of the best board and card games to help you relax, laugh and maybe even boost your brain power all at the same time. Note: If you’re a lover of more hardcore fantasy, strategy or war games, be sure to check out what top-ranked companies like Fantasy Flight Games, Rio Grande, Mayfair, Hasbro, AEG, Games Workshop, Avalon Hill and others have to offer as well.
Apples to Apples – It’s been around for years now, but Apples to Apples is a great way to bring families and friends closer together as they plead the case that their card is the best match for the judge’s category. Creative thinking, lobbying and even misdirection can be employed, but this game is completely wholesome. Unlike the next one…
Cards Against Humanity – This game’s designers call it “a party game for horrible people,” and it’s essentially Apples to Apples but with a bad attitude. One card is turned over, and all other players must play a card that they think will be chosen as the best match to the card, except the responses are usually anything but g-rated. This is definitely not one to be played with the kids.
Dweebies – This card game for kids has colorful characters, and when you place them next to other Dweebies, you collect points. Its simple gameplay consists of drawing and playing cards and is a great choice for families with kids.
Name 5 – This card-based party game asks you to name five specific things, which is actually a bit more difficult than it sounds. Whether it’s pizza toppings, things that make you sneeze, or movies starring Tom Hanks, you’ll need to think quickly under pressure to name five items before time runs out.
Qwirkle – This game is kind of like Scrabble, a little like Dominoes, and sort of like Rummikub. You get six tiles with a colorful shape on them, and you must make rows on the board that are either all of the same shape or color. Get points for each tile you play as you fill up the board in what ends up being a beautiful pattern.
Rory’s Story Cubes – A great game to be played with kids, Rory’s Story Cubes consists of nine six-sided dice, each with a different illustration on them. After rolling them, you must make up a story involving all the images that appear. It’s a great way to help encourage imagination and creativity.
Spot It – This fast-paced game uses 55 circular cards, each decorated with eights symbols. As two cards are turned over, it’s a race to see who can spot the images that match. And when there’s a tie, there’s even a way for two players to have a decisive head-to-head duel.
Telestrations – Telestrations is like a drawing version of the classic telephone game in which one player draws something for another, who must quickly replicate that drawing for another teammate. While the words may be simple, seeing the drawings quickly transform and change adds a fun wrinkle to this drawing-style game.
Ticket To Ride – This board game places in you on a circa-1900 train journey to collect cards and claim railway routes. There’s a little bit of history, a little bit of geography and a lot of fun in this highly detailed and charming offering.
7 Wonders – 7 Wonders is card game that lasts through three ancient ages, with players getting seven cards during each turn. It’s a strategy game with colorful illustrations and historical gameplay that requires careful thinking and paying attention to your opponents.