FIFA 13 (Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
FIFA racks up annual sales that rival games like Call of Duty and Mario, with over 100 million copies sold since it hit the scene way back on the Sega Genesis. FIFA also delivers a quality soccer game that improves with every iteration, and FIFA 13 is no exception.
If you're a soccer newcomer or a veteran of "the beautiful game," FIFA 13 adapts to your skill level from the start. Simple controls allow you to get a handle on the basics of passing, shooting and lobbing, while experienced gamers can quickly move onto using the analog sticks to perform moves that include juking defenders and dishing out one-touch passes to a rushing striker.
It also doesn't matter if you're a fan of the Premiere League, MLS, or just International play, because FIFA will have the team for you. Visually, the game is represented as if you're watching the game on TV, and audio is one of FIFA's strength (yes, those are team-specific chants just for your team). If you're a soccer fan or not, FIFA 13 is a worthy addition to your gaming library.
NBA 2K13 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U)
Basketball season is now ramping up and NBA 2K13 is the only game in town. Thankfully, it's also a fan's dream to play, with tight controls that do a great job of bringing you onto the middle of the court.
Executive produced this year by Jay-Z, NBA 2K13 has a style that shows how the hip-hop impresario made his mark on the series. Each game is presented as if you were watching it on TV, and the games begin with a music video showcasing the teams and their high-flying superstars. Nice touches in the commentary like acknowledging the time of day and special holidays show some nice attention to detail.
The ability to create your own star and battle other rookies for a spot on an NBA roster makes a return in The Association, and we always get a kick out of the post-game press conferences where your responses matter. Those diversions don't take away from the overall game, though, allowing us to enjoy NBA 2K13 as a must-have game for any sports fan.
NHL 13 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Hockey fans, we feel for you. The lockout is still going strong and there's no end in sight, but this is where video games can come to the rescue. In the world of video games, hockey is always on.
NHL 13 is the very popular hockey video game series that, like FIFA 13, started way back on the Sega Genesis. Gamers who aren't into hockey have fond memories of skating like the wind and having the hats fly after scoring a few goals, and NHL 13 continues that tradition. The control is as smooth as silk, allowing you to control your skater with ease while giving more experienced players the chance to control the stick independently so you can line up the perfect shot.
Like all of the games on our holiday list, NHL 13 is a game anyone can enjoy, but it's particularly valuable to our hockey brethren as they await the first puck. Stay strong.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
We don't condone real-world racing, and we definitely don't condone running away from the cops, but that's why we live vicariously through video games! For example, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is a great way to fight the power without actually, you know, fighting the power.
In Most Wanted, you're given the ability to hop into any car you see and hit the open road (and we do mean open). The game features a large world where you can tackle any number of challenges whenever you want to. Just drive up to the right intersection or bust through a billboard or get your vehicle onto two wheels (you get the picture), and Most Wanted begins a challenge for you.
The game is connected to an online feature called Autolog which automatically records your achievements and fastest times to compare them to those of your friends. You can always race those friends in real-time, but if you're a night owl, Autolog provides a really convenient way to challenge your friends no matter your schedule. Need for Speed: Most Wanted is perfect for the speed freak on your list.
Forza Horizon (Xbox 360)
It's not every day we have two great racing games to deal with, but Forza Horizon easily makes our list. The game, exclusive to the Xbox 360, was developed in conjunction with the same folks behind Forza, but Horizon takes the series on an arcade-friendly detour.
Instead of staying hyper-realistic, Forza Horizon takes some elements from its predecessors but places them into a world full of jumps, drifts, and demolishing property. Horizon keeps the cars and realistic physics intact, but your abilities and the controls when handling cars of all types gives you a more exciting ride, even if you're not a speed demon like the rest of us.
As with other entries in the series, Forza Horizon has a number of downloadable cars designed to keep things fresh, but there's plenty to do with the core game. We're happy to say Forza Horizon stands out as one of the top games we'd get this holiday season.
Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 (Wii U)
Now we go from virtual sports to actual activity thanks to Your Shape Fitness 2013 on Wii U. The game is designed to provide users with a workout based on a number of different techniques. If you're into yoga or prefer to break a sweat with cardio or kickboxing, there's something for everyone.
You're first introduced to a personal trainer who will create a program made just for you. The system will detect all of your relevant measurements and will ask you for others, all to get you more active and working towards specific goals. Among the new features we noticed was a collection of fitness-related recipes, and you can track everything, including your calories, through the game's website.
The activities are the star of Your Shape, and we had a lot of fun with them. Trying to hit the right yoga poses or stretching yourself in the right ways become educational experiences that will result in you feeling better about yourself, and we'd be surprised if you don't see progress after a few of these programs. You will break a sweat, but it'll be worth it.