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Best games for Christmas: Which single game should you buy?

Which are the games to look out for this year? And which is the best game on which to blow your Christmas cash?

Games! I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna to learn how to fly! Ahem. With Christmas right around the corner, you're doubtless wondering which electronic entertainments are most deserving of your festive time and present money.

This time of the year is unusually abundant in terms of videogames, with the most exciting titles clustered around the next month or so. So join us as we round up the most exciting games out there right now, and choose the single game you need to be playing through your Christmas holidays.

Batman: Arkham City (PS3, PC, Xbox 360)

Heard of this Batman chap? He's a bloke who deals with bereavement very poorly, choosing to don a cape and beat up gangs of thugs, staying on the right side of the ethical divide by always leaving his victims technically alive. The caped crusader starred in 2009's brilliant Arkham Asylum on the Xbox 360, PC, Mac and PS3, and this year he's back, in a much larger institution.

Arkham City sees you battling the usual assortment of ne'er-do-well eccentrics in Arkham City, a super prison that (for some reason) has been built slap-bang in the middle of Gotham. There's a story, but for the most part you'll be enjoying the fluid combat system, vast array of side missions and Mark Hamill's brilliant voice acting, making the Joker creepier than ever.

Yeah yeah, sounds great, but is this the one game I should buy for Christmas?
Not really. This game is absolutely ace, and well worth picking up at some point, but if you've already played the first game, you've already experienced the best part of what this game has to offer -- that brilliant feeling of being Batman. As such, it won't kill you to let the price drop a bit before diving into Brucie's latest adventure.

Uncharted 3 (PS3)

Cut from the same cloth as Indiana Jones, the globetrotting adventures of Nathan Drake and his permanent stubble have already wowed us for two years. This third outing ups the ante significantly, throwing Drake into more insane situations and out of more moving vehicles than ever before. This game is a PS3 exclusive, meaning Xbox owners must look on enviously for a change.

Cinematic, beautifully scripted and eye-bleedingly gorgeous, Uncharted 3 is a right rollicking adventure that will have you grinning like an idiot throughout. As a bonus to Brits, some of the earliest bits of the game are set in London, complete with flat-capped cockneys and ancient underground caverns intertwined with Tube tunnels.

So I should buy it for Christmas?
If you own a PS3, it's time to blow the dust off Sony's console and get stuck into Uncharted 3. You probably don't own a PS3 though, so maybe settle for watching a playthrough video on YouTube. The game's basically a movie anyway.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)

No games list would be complete without mentioning Modern Warfare 3, the combat simulator that puts you behind the business end of an assault rifle with a complicated name. Smooth, satisfying combat is complemented by a plot that's somehow both thoroughly ludicrous and insanely hard to follow.

The multiplayer is always the best feature of the Modern Warfare titles, and will make your 40 quid stretch significantly further than most games -- you could be playing this game for months and months, improving your skill level to the point where you can't walk down the street without compulsively dropping to your stomach, throwing your phone out in front of you like it's a grenade.

Marvellous! But is this the one game I should be playing this yuletide?
If you're a huge Modern Warfare fan, you've probably already bought this game, seeing as this article was published shortly after the game's official release. If you're not already hooked on the Modern Warfare series, the thought of more-of-the-same-but-bigger won't appeal to you. Warfare is best confined to the chess board, and passive aggressive post-it notes left on the fridge for your flatmates. Can't we all just get along?

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

If you've never fallen head over heels in love with a Zelda game, there's a hole in your heart that needs filling. Skyward Sword is the latest adventure for green-capped hero Link, one of gaming's most enigmatic silent protagonists.

Skyward Sword messes with the formula slightly -- attacks are no longer a case of mashing the 'sword' button, but swinging your Wii Remote in a precise arc, using the Wii MotionPlus controller add-on to increase the accuracy of Nintendo's hilarious control wand. We've been waiting five years for a decent swordplay game that takes advantage of the Wii's unique controller, and now it seems we finally have it.

The graphics are a blend of the pseudo-realism you'll find in 2006's Twilight Princess and the adorable cel-shading from 2003's (goodness that makes us feel old) Wind Waker, and early reviews for the game have been overwhelmingly positive.

Nice one! So I should buy it, right?
If you're looking for a game to buy for a youngster, almost certainly, because Zelda games have a well-earned reputation for being tooth-dissolvingly charming. But try as we might, after so many Zelda adventures it's just a little tough to get very excited about another one. Stick Skyward Sword on your to-do list -- it'll be ages before there's a new Zelda game, so there's no rush to complete this one.

Skyrim (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)

Or to give it its full title, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim -- this title is a little out of left field, and while it's a new game in an established series, unlike almost everything else on this list it's not a direct sequel.

Skyrim is set several hundred years after Oblivion, a hugely popular RPG from 2006. This time it's a gorgeous open world filled with festive snows and fantasy clothing like leather jerkins and roughspun woolens. If that doesn't get your blood pumping, perhaps it's time to re-read Lord of the Rings.

Many gamers are seriously excited about this title -- it looks like a game you could sink some serious time into. The ability to smack a dragon with a sword is the icing on the cake. A must for RPG fans and fantasy enthusiasts.

Ooh dragons! Sounds like my cup of tea. Best game for Christmas?
Quite possibly! But the caveat is this brilliant game will may put off anyone who's not used to things like progressive leveling and inventory management. But even if Skyrim isn't your normal cup of tea, it might well be worth a look. It features a lot of snow, so y'know -- it could be perfect for Christmas.

Sonic Generations (PC, Xbox 360, PS3, 3DS)

Oh Sonic, how we've come to loathe you. Sega's once-radical blue hedgehog's reputation has been dragged through the mud in a series of increasingly dire games, each one attempting desperately to convert the old-school Sega magic into a fully fledged 3D adventure, and each one belly-flopping gracelessly into the bargain bin.

Sonic Generations is a huge surprise then, receiving broadly positive reviews. This game is an existential nightmare in which Sonic goes back in time to meet his younger self and -- presumably -- falls to the floor weeping and clawing desperately at his younger, fresher-faced counterpart. Or they team up to play through both 2D and 3D Sonic levels in a fast-paced adventure. One of the two.

The game celebrates 20 years of Sonic, an achievement that becomes less impressive the more you think about it.

So I buy this one?
We've had our hearts broken too many times to recommend Sonic Generations as the single game you should be playing this holiday season. Jog on, Sonic. Or run, or ball-up and roll away, or whatever the hell it is you do now.

Jetpack Joyride (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad)

Jetpack Joyride isn't a sequel, it isn't available on PC, Xbox or PS3 and it doesn't cost the best part of fifty quid. And for all those things, we love it. Download Jetpack Joyride for the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and prepare to lose hours of your life.

Blissfully simple to learn and agonisingly tough to master, this gorgeous little game puts you in the beautifully pixellated side-scrolling shoes of Barry Steakfries, a chap who's using a jetpack to escape from some kind of scary facility.

Tap the screen to fire your jetpack, propelling you towards the top of the screen, and release to drift downwards -- your job is to navigate Barry through fields of lasers, missiles and other lethal obstacles that will cut your adventure short.

There are power-ups, of course, plus catchy music and tonnes of unlockable goodies you can attain by spending the coins you gather in-game. Power-ups come in the form of enormous dragon robots or gravity-defying suits, and the chance to win big at a slot-machine once Barry has fatally collided with an obstacle.

Play for a few hours and the game quickly turns into a score-grab -- you'll be trying to fly further than your previous best before it's game over, comparing your scores against global leaderboards and your friends' top scores on Game Centre.

The best part? It'll set you back a grand total of 69p, making it far and away the best value game in this list, and a win for developer Halfbrick, the bods behind the similarly excellent Fruit Ninja.

So wait, this is the single game I should buy for Christmas?
We were sorely tempted to declare Jetpack Joyride the only game you need to buy for Christmas, because it's brilliant, dirt cheap and -- unlike just about every other game in this list -- not a sequel. But while it's fun and original, for now it's reserved for people who own an iOS device. Games industry take note: some of the most exciting titles out there are cropping up on Apple's platform.


So if you're looking for a single game to while away your holiday season, you should buy Skyrim. Why? Because it looks like ace fantasy fun, and will probably consume many hours of your life. If you don't buy games very often, you'll want one that lasts for as long as possible, as we suspect Skyrim is the best option out there for longevity. It's also out on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, so loads of people can enjoy it.