Family-friendly video game gift guide

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

"New Super Mario Bros. 2," "Paper Mario: Sticker Star," "Pokemon Black Version 2," "Pokemon White Version 2" (Nintendo), 3DS. These newer releases — two each from the Super Mario and Pokemon franchises — combine to comprise some of the fastest-selling titles for Nintendo’s portable 3DS system. The entire quartet was produced in-house by Nintendo; the Pokemon games are also available for older DS devices.

Everyone 10 plus

"Just Dance 4" (Ubisoft), Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU, Wii. Think 40 songs, from classic to funky. Players can compete in a dance off, dance as a “crew” with individual choreography spotlighting each of them or just work out for the joy of a hard-pumping heart. There are also quests to earn rewards.

"LEGO Lord of the Rings" (Warner Bros. Games), Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS, 3DS, PS Vita. Play this one alone or with a pal as you venture into Hobbit territory. It’s a funny, clever continuation of a series that has previously included Star Wars and Harry Potter, among others.

"Nintendo Land" (Nintendo), WiiU. It’s a game within a game as this “theme park” takes the best of some of Nintendo’s favorites and turns them each into theme park attractions. Zelda, Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing and Mario are just some of the choices. Nintendo built it so the adventure varies, depending on methodology: a Wii control yields a different experience than the Wii U gamepad.

"Scribblenauts Unlimited" (Warner Bros), WiiU, 3DS, PC. A game full of puzzle solving that builds on previous Scribblenauts releases and projects the franchise onto the newest gaming technologies. Gaming website GamesRadar gushed, “Scribblenauts Unlimited is easily the best entry in the series to date, thanks to its family-friendly nature coupled with creative, wide-open gameplay. A clever toy or a focused open world adventure depending on how you want to enjoy the game.”

"Skylanders Giants Starter Kit" (Activision), Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU, Wii, 3DS. Video game meets character figurine. In this sequel to last year’s dynamo, parents and kids can share not only the joy of the gaming adventure, but the hunt for the characters that are not sold with the game. It doesn’t take different toys for different consoles. Action and adventure.

"Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed" (SEGA), Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU, 3DS, PS Vita. Favorite characters are back and you get to choose. Each comes with a unique vehicle that can change to handle air, land or sea travel in this race around the world, complete with Grand Prix and arena battle. You earn the power-ups and fight for honor. Online, up to eight can race.

"Transformers Prime" (Activision), WiiU, Wii, DS, 3DS. You can play as your favorite Autobot as you figure out how to best the Decepticons using what its creators and marketers call "brawler-style combat and diverse driving sequences." You have human help in the form of Jack, Miko and Raf, but you'll need it because Megatron is a nasty foe.

T for Teens

"Batman: Arkham City" (Warner Bros), Xbox 360, PSP3, Wii U. Arkham City’s the place where bad guys are exiled, captive in a walled, heavily controlled area that still teems with plots and traps. Various iterations have emerged across the gaming consoles, which is why it still made this year’s list, though it’s been around in some form for a bit. A mix of new and old characters, good and evil, battling for control.

"PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale" (Sony), PS3, PS Vita. This one also hearkens back to previous popular PS characters, including "God of War’s Kratos" and "Parappa the Rappa," among others. And though it’s a battle, you can play alone or with up to three friends, on the console or online. Popular with reviewers is the fact that you can take your gains with you between consoles, PS3 to Vita.

"Sound Shapes" (Queasy Games), PS3, PS Vita. Straight-forward action, a simple, almost minimalist look that varies greatly because each level was designed by someone different. IGN’s Colin Moriarity gave it a 9 out of 10 with this praise: “Connection problems and online funkiness aside, Sound Shapes absolutely floored me. Just about everything it does — and with its grand aesthetic taken as a whole — will blow you away.” “New and different” was his conclusion.

"WWE ’13" (THQ), Xbox 360, PS3, Wii. Builds off of the sweeping changes designer THQ implemented last year with "WWE ’12." Regarding this newest edition, IGN Entertainment wrote, “Of particular note is the game’s superb single-player experience, which should serve as the foundation for all future endeavors.”

Why an M rating?

"Assassins Creed III" (Ubisoft), Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU, PC, PS Vita. M for blood, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language. "Borderlands 2" (2K Games/Gearbox), M for blood and gore, intense violence, language, sexual themes, use of alcohol. "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" (Activision), Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU, PC. M for blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, suggestive themes, use of drugs. "Halo 4," (Microsoft), Xbox 360. Blood and violence. "Hitman: Absolution" (Square Enix), Xbox 360, PS3, PC. Blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs. "Mass Effect 3" (Electronic Arts), Xbox 360, PSP3, WiiU, PC, download. Blood, partial nudity, sexual content, strong language, violence. "Walking Dead" (Telltale Games), Xbox 360, PS3, PC. Blood and gore, intense violence, strong language. "ZombiU" (Ubisoft), WiiU. M for blood and gore, intense violence, strong language.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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