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Family-friendly video game gift guide

Published: Monday, Dec. 3 2012 11:45 a.m. MST

"Transformers Prime"

Activision

SALT LAKE CITY — Video games have long been a hot item for holiday gift giving. But the recent debut of Nintendo’s new Wii U console — combined with new releases from popular game franchises such as "Call of Duty," "FIFA Soccer," "Halo," "Just Dance" and "Madden NFL" — have collectively injected new enthusiasm into an already-popular medium.

We’ve been thinking about gift giving and what might be a hit on your list, from the just-introduced Wii U to new titles on the other gaming consoles. This year, we’re focusing our video game gift guide on family-friendly titles, rated E (for everyone), E+ (10 and up) and T, for teens.

We didn't play all the consoles and games, but we played a lot of them. And we scoured the store shelves and online reviews to help round out our list — a grouping that’s arranged alphabetically within each rating category, not by preference.

We’re not recommending the games for mature audiences in this list, but at the end of our guide, we will include a little guidance on how some of the most popular M titles earned that rating, to help parents decide whether they want to put one in a Christmas stocking. “Mature” could mean blood, violence, sex or combinations of the above.

The hardware

Wii U by Nintendo: The Nov. 18 release of the Wii U precipitated a rare phenomenon indeed. Despite being a Sunday morning in the middle of winter, zealous gamers waited in line at Walmarts and outside Targets to get their hands on Nintendo’s long-awaited new gaming platform.

Nintendo launched a 23-title lineup for the Wii U, which features a touch-screen GamePad controller and high-definition graphics. Some of those titles are already available and others will come out between now and the end of March. Besides regular video gaming, the system can download video games if it’s connected to the Internet or players can join Miiverse and interact with other gamers online.

For those who wonder what’s being said about Wii U, here’s the Washington Post take: “The new console — Nintendo’s first in six years — has … potential,” the newspaper said. “But it’s not living up to it quite yet. … Some of the console’s most compelling features — letting users access streaming video services, comment on television programs and see supplementary information while watching TV — have yet to see the light of day. In some ways, any review of the console now is premature.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog reported, “The reaction so far among reviewers for the Wii U seems positive, but has a bit of a ‘wait and see’ vibe. The software isn’t fully baked yet and while there’s a decent line-up of games, all the pieces aren’t quite there, according to some reviewers.”

Expect to pay a premium price in order to obtain a Wii U console this holiday season. Most major retailers can’t keep the Wii U basic console (MSRP: $299) or deluxe console (MSRP: $399) in stock, so you can anticipate paying a 15-20 percent premium above the retail price to obtain a Wii U from a third-party seller.

If you already own the older Wii, hold onto your controllers, accessories and games, as they are compatible with the new Wii U.

Xbox Kinect: The obsolescence of the old Wii console, limited supply of newer Wii U systems and lower prices for the Microsoft Xbox 360 console combine to anoint XBox’s Kinect motion-sensing technology as the best value for get-out-of-your-chair gaming. Depending on the day, a Kinect bundle (including an Xbox 360 console and a couple games) can be purchased for as low as $249 on the Amazon or Microsoft websites.

As you make your list and check it twice, here are some games to consider.

E for everyone

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