Family-friendly video game gift guide

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

"E for Angry Birds Trilogy" (Activision), Xbox 360, PS3, 3DS. The three cellphone games that made the catapult-friendly fowl famous — "Angry Birds," "Angry Birds Seasons" and "Angry Birds Rio" — have been spruced up for gaming consoles with higher resolution and jazzier graphics. In the Star Wars version, you can even use a light saber. May the force be with you.

"Brave" (Disney Interactive), Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS. Scottish princess Merida is no swooning damsel. This heroine — Pixar’s first female lead — is spunky and confident as you battle her way to break a curse that has turned her mom into a bear. It’s third-person action with a chance to earn coins, acquire weapons and use your wits to put things right.

"Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of 2" (Disney Interactive), Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU, Wii, PC, PSP, 3DS. Whereas the 2010 hit “Epic Mickey” was released exclusively to the Nintendo Wii, this new sequel expands its reach to include other platforms such as Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3. The gameplay here is similar to that of “Epic Mickey” — you throw a lot of paint at an imaginary world full of Disney relics — except this time players can choose between controlling Mickey Mouse or Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first-ever star cartoon character.

"FIFA Soccer 13" (Electronic Arts) Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU, Wii, PSP, 3DS, PS Vita. Gone is the “FIFA 12” cover that featured three players, replaced instead by one man’s visage: diminutive Argentine striker Lionel Messi from the club team FC Barcelona. (In fact, this is the first time since 2003 that the North American cover of FIFA Soccer features only one player.) G4 TV’s Miguel Concepcion wrote, “By playing it safe, FIFA Soccer 13 lacks innovation but this latest installment has helped keep the series at the forefront of video realism that you’re pretty darn close to watching a live match, which is something you can’t say about other sporting video games.”

"Just Dance: Disney Party" (Ubisoft), Xbox 360, Wii. The backdrop is the sound of 25 popular Disney songs, from Mary Poppins’ "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" to A.N.T. Farm’s “Calling All the Monsters” and “Everything Is Not as It Seems” from Wizards of Waverly Place. As many as four players can dance while the lyrics work their way across the screen in a good time that’s aerobic and charming simultaneously.

"Madden NFL 13" (Electronic Arts) Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU, Wii, PS Vita. Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson graces the cover of the annual release from the Madden franchise, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2012. USA Today’s Brett Molina reported, “The biggest change on the field is with tackling, highlighted by new physics technology called the Infinity Engine, which is supposed to generate more realistic impacts between players when contact is made. For the most part, it works well.”

"NBA 2K13" (2K Sports), Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU, Wii, PC, PSP. On this latest edition of the NBA 2K series, the “classic teams” of yesteryear are automatically unlocked (past NBA 2K iterations required completion of historical challenges). So right out of the box, "NBA 2K13" allows players to (virtually) settle the debate over which U.S. men’s basketball Olympic squad is the best ever: the 1992 “Dream Team” featuring Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, or the 2012 squad led by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose are featured on the game’s cover.

"NCAA Football 13" (Electronic Arts), Xbox 360, PS3. The new Heisman Challenge feature allows players to try and re-create the glory seasons of 10 past Heisman winners — including Robert Griffin III (2011) and Barry Sanders (1988), the two players on the game’s cover.

"New Super Mario Bros. U" (Nintendo), WiiU. When Bowser interrupts dinner at Princess Peach’s castle, things are going to get tricky. This adventure can be played by a single player or in multiplayer mode. Familiar power-ups are back, but there’s something new, as well: “Super acorn” is a flying squirrel suit that enables gliding.This side-scrolling adventure has gotten some great reviews, especially for the graphics.

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