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Activision Publishing
Skylanders are action adventurers with unique abilities who were banished to Earth by an evil tyrant while their world is in danger.

SALT LAKE CITY — Santa's greasing the sled runners and double-checking himself to be sure nothing is forgotten. That's not a bad idea for the rest of us, either.

If you're stumped about what to give someone, think video game. There's one (or probably more like 40) out there for every age and every taste. To make it simple, the Deseret News has put together a list of some of the season's most in-demand titles.

We didn't play them all — so many games, so little time. But we played a lot of them. And we scoured the store shelves and online reviews to help complete our list. It's arranged alphabetically within each rating category, not by preference.

We've included a bit from all categories, so there are mature offerings on this list to help parents make informed decisions. These games include an explanation of why they earned their ratings.

So flex those thumbs and enjoy!

FIFA Soccer 12 (360, PS3, PS2, 3DS, Mac, PC, Wii, PSP, iPad, iPod, phone), rated E for Everyone, published by Electronic Arts.

It doesn't matter what gaming system you have, if you like soccer/football simulation, this one's a keeper. Career mode means you have more on the line as you play, building toward lifetime success. It features more than 500 licensed clubs, 15,000 players and a "Player Impact Engine," which EA describes as a physics engine to deliver real-world physicality. EA also brags about having the "next generation of player intelligence." We just think the graphics and action are great!

Forza Motorsport 4 (360), E for Everyone, Turn10 Studios for Microsoft.

The fourth entry in this racing series, it's the first to support the Kinect sensor, expanding the driving options from solely the traditional game controller. If you use Kinect, you get other benefits, too, like the ability to eyeball the car's interior better. This critically acclaimed racing simulator lets fans who had Motorsport 3 build on their success there by importing their profile, which carries some nice perks. Vroom.

Just Dance 3 (Wii, PS3, 360), rated E for Everyone, Ubisoft.

Up to four players can dance together and there are a LOT of tracks from which to choose. Queen, Katy Perry, Danny Elfman, Gwen Stefani and the Buggles. Something for everyone, with Kinect enhancements.

Madden NFL 12 (360, Wii, PS2, PS3, PSP, 3DS, iOS, Android), E for Everyone, EA Sports.

If you haven't played one or more of the Madden football simulations, you're probably not a sports-genre video game fan. Reviewers say the play is more realistic than ever before in this new rendition, which combines the best of the old with some new features and added realism. Be careful, though. If you get a concussion, you're out of the game.

Rayman Origins (360, PS3, Wii), E for Everyone, Ubisoft.

One of the most original — and peculiar — video games, Rayman Origins lets players (up to 4) cooperate their way through platforms and levels to collect "electoons" in a quest to cure Bubble Dreamer of his scary dreams. It's built to entice players to replay levels because the more "lums" you collect, the more goodies and maps you can unlock. Graphically, it's both surprising and delightful. You can play alone or with friends. If four play at once, it gets a little hectic, but it's always fun.

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS), rated E (mild cartoon violence), Nintendo.

Uh-oh. Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser. The latest Mario for 3DS is a nice mix of the old and new Mario, a celebration of a very popular franchise. It's a happy marriage of 2D and 3D gameplay with familiar characters but some new skills, lots of bounce and great rewards.

Tetris Axis (3DS), rated E for Everyone, Hudson Soft for Nintendo.

This puzzle brings 3D imaging to one of the most enduring and familiar puzzle games. With 20 modes, some traditional, some decidedly different, you can go it alone in the marathon mode you've been raised on, try Fever or do local multiplayer. It's a new take on an old favorite.

Disney Universe (360, Wii, PS3), E10+ (crude humor, cartoon violence), Disney Interactive Studios.

It's a mixed-up world of colorful Disney characters as players (from one to four of them) suit up in costumes of their favorites and battle mischief makers, collect coins and conquer challenges. This game has had very good reviews. There are 45 costumes from WALL-E and Monsters, Inc., Pirates of the Caribbean and more. And now you can download the villain costume pack, as well. Cruella, anyone?

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii), E10+ (animated blood, comic mischief, fantasy violence), Nintendo.

In the most recent of the 16-game series, the player goes back before Ocarina of Time. It's enhanced by new MotionPlus technology that makes the game feel like you're actually wielding the sword. Some subtle tweaks have improved game play, the maps are easier to follow and restoring strength is simpler, too. It's a series that has not just held up, but has kept getting better.

Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 (360, PS3, PSP, Wii, DS, 3DS, PC), rated E10+ (comic violence and mischief), Warner Bro. Interactive Entertainment.

Collecting and exploring are central to this second part of this charming (pun intended) series. Covering the story of the Hogwarts crew from the last half of the epic series, it features a wide cast of characters, an array of castable spells that can most definitely backfire and fun for multiple generations. Enchanting.

Skylanders Spyro Adventure (PS3, 360, 3DS, Wii, WinMac), rated E10+ (cartoon violence), Activision.

At home, the Skylanders are action adventurers who each possess unique capabilities. But an evil tyrant has banished them to Earth where they are frozen while their world is in danger. Your job, playing alone or with or against your friends, is to get the Skylanders to a portal so they can go home and wake up for the battle of their lives, to save their world. Colorful, engaging, imaginative.

Batman: Arkham City (360, PS3, PC), rated T for teen (alcohol reference, blood, mild language, suggestive theme, tobacco, violence), Warner Brothers.

Arkham City is a maximum-security area in the heart of Gotham where the worst thugs are confined. And you can choose to be Batman, Catwoman or Robin in this challenging adventure. It's been broadly hailed as an engrossing adventure; IGN says it might actually be the best superhero game of all time.

Spider-Man: Edge of Time (360, PS3, Wii, DS, 3DS), rated T for teens (mild language, mild suggestive themes, violence) Activision.

Time is warped and there are two versions of Spider-Man — the "amazing" one and the 2099 version. The player has to be both Spideys in this quest to save the superhero, working fast in two different timelines against incredible challenges. It's both captivating and tricky.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PS3), T for teens (blood, language, violence), Sony Computer Entertainment.

This action-adventure game pits adventurer Nathan Drake in a desert quest to find the "Atlantis of the Sands." But he's up against a shadowy organization whose leader is pretty vicious. It won't be easy. IGN said the beta of this game was the most trafficked in PS3 history.

Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC, Wii, PSP) rated T-M for teen to mature (blood, violence, strong language), EA.

This highly anticipated video game has astonishingly realistic — almost photo quality — graphics, which makes a player feel like he's dropped into a movie where he controls the action. It's a tactical shooter game that a number of reviews online call the "best online experience" in video gaming. But it's not for faint hearts.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, PC, Wii), M17+ for mature older players (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, strong language), Activision.

This game is part of a massive franchise and includes a single-player campaign that keeps building on the storyline of previous versions or special ops co-op play, with 16 multiplayer maps. Don't forget to check out the survival mode. It's also the game that made the most wish lists for the holidays in Nielsen's Top 20 Game survey.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3, 360, PC), M17+ for mature older players (blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, use of alcohol), Bethesda.

One of the most acclaimed video games, this fifth installment centers on the player's efforts to best Alduin, who it has been said will destroy the world. Skyrim is in the middle of a civil war, its high king murdered. The game is set up so you can follow the quest or meander off and see what you can find. Along the way, battle dragons and experience the mythology, but be prepared for some pretty gory moments.

Gears of War 3, (360), M17+ for mature older players (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language), Microsoft Studios.

This sci-fi shooter has a decent plot and a lot of violence. It was also one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year and scored No. 2 on the Nielsen "I want it" list. Players will enjoy the four-player story mode cooperative features (online, up to five can cooperate). It's dark, intense and engrossing.

Nielsen's top 20 in-demand games

Ranked by percentage of respondents who put it in their top 5 they were thinking about buying

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (M17+)27 percent

Gears of War 3 (M17+)19 percent

Madden NFL 12 (E)19 percent

Assassin's Creed: Revelations (M17+)17 percent

Batman: Arkham City (T)15 percent

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (E10+)14 percent

Battlefield 3 (T-M)12 percent

Just Dance 3 (E)12 percent

NBA 2K12 (E)9 percent

Need for Speed: The Run (T)9 percent

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (T)9 percent

Mario & Sonic at London 2012 Olympic Games (E)8 percent

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (E10+)8 percent

FIFA Soccer 12 (E)8 percent

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (M17+)8 percent

Dead Island (M17+)7 percent

Kinect Sports: Season 2 (E)6 percent

Resistance 3 (M17+)4 percent

Dance Central 2 (T)4 percent

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (M17+)3 percent

The survey considered titles released for one of the big three consoles — Wii, PS3 and Xbox — from August through November.

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