BioShock(Rated M; $19.99)
A thinking man’s first-person shooter, BioShock takes place during 1960 in the underwater city of Rapture. Rapture is a city built on the ideals of Andrew Ryan, who takes his philosophy from the likes of Ayn Rand. Praising innovation over regulation, the city of Rapture soon falls into civil war following the introduction of Adam, a substance that gives the user special abilities. Bad for the citizens of Rapture, who are warped physically and mentally by the drug, but good for the gamers who are granted a wide range of incredible powers.
Rapture is a beautifully rendered art deco city that challenges what a video game should be. The game also features a series of choices that question your morality. Do you kill to strengthen yourself, or save others and hope for the best? The gameplay is also among the best around, but the story is what really shines. BioShock essentially redefined what a first-person shooter could be, and is still a high water mark for the genre. A sequel has since been released, and it is also a great game, but BioShock is a title that will live on for years as one of the best games of this generation. If you are buying this for the 360, do yourself a favor any purchase the bundle that includes BioShock and the award-winning Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for $39.99 – it is well worth it. Oblivion is a game that would have made this list on its own, but Fallout: New Vegas fills that gap.
Call of Duty Black Ops(Rated M; $59.99)
Although it was just released on November 9, Black Ops is already on the list of best-selling games of all time, and it will continue to shatter sales records over the next year. Activision is even predicting that it will reach $1 billion by the end of 2011. So odds are you have heard of this game. You also can’t go wrong with 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 either, and you can expect gamers to debate which title is better for the next year, until the next game in the franchise comes out.
Black Ops offers a campaign that takes place through the 1960s, during the most intense days of the Cold War, but the real appeal of the Call of Duty series is the multiplayer, which is played by several million people. Call of Duty is something of a phenomenon, and if you are buying this game for someone that has friends that also play video games, at least one of those friends probably already has this game and can join them online. An easy pick for this list, Black Ops looks to be the best selling game of the year.
Fallout: New Vegas(Rated M; $59.99)
Fallout: New Vegas is a game built using the same tools as the award winning Fallout 3, which in itself uses the same engine as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. That might not mean much to people that don’t play games, but it does mean that Fallout: New Vegas comes from an impressive pedigree. Set in a post-apocalyptic world that ended in the 1950s after a nuclear war, the Fallout series takes place in an amazing environment that is fully realized. While Fallout 3 is set in the Washington D.C. wastelands, the new game is set in what is left of Las Vegas, as well as a huge expanse of area surrounding the city. You can’t go wrong with either title, and the Fallout 3 Game of the Year Edition includes so many expansion packs that you might not see the gamer for a long time, but New Vegas is only a few weeks old, so the shine is still on it.
Set in the bleak and bizarre future setting of a retro Las Vegas after the end of the world, this title offers a new type of game that combines first-person or third-person action (you decide as you play) with the leveling system and open world of a role playing game. With dozens of quests and missions, plus a system that allows you to be good or evil based on the choices you make, Fallout: New Vegas offers one of the deepest and most immersive gaming experiences on the market.
Grand Theft Auto IV Complete Edition(Rated M; $39.99)
It is hard to have a best of list that does not include a Grand Theft Auto title, and deservedly so. If you put aside the shock value that the GTA series has become infamous for, in the most recent entry you are left with a technical marvel that opens up an entire city for you to play in. Many people focus on the adult themes of violence in the game — GTA is definitely not a game for kids — but the story is mostly told in a tongue-and-cheek style that keeps you just removed enough from reality to let you enjoy it.
The Complete Edition takes what was already considered one of the best games of this generation of consoles, and adds two massive expansion packs that create two entire new story lines, each of which could be worthy games on their own rights. Assuming the violence doesn’t turn you off, this game is arguably the best value on the list.