Best cross-platform video games

While the PS3 and the Xbox 360 both have their share of exclusive titles, the majority of the big games on the market are meant to be played on either system. After all, games these days cost a lot of money to make, and unlike a Hollywood movie, where inspiration and dedication can elevate a low-budget film into the same ballpark as the big releases, in video games, there is always a minimum amount of cash that needs to be spent to produce a playable game. It is much harder to cut corners with video games and still have them impress people. So to recoup the costs of the top games, most developers stay out of the battle between consoles and develop for everyone.

Below is our list of the top 10 games on the market for both Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. If you are considering purchasing a system for yourself, here is a starter guide for games you should check out.

Also check out our picks for the best exclusive titles for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Assassin’s Creed II(Rated M; $29.98)

Assassin’s Creed II is one of the most ambitious titles ever created. Rather than set the story in the future, a fantasy reality, or yet another World War II setting, the Assassin’s Creed series thrives on using historical settings to integrate fact and fiction. The first game in the series was set during the 1191 AD, during the time of the third crusade, and despite a compelling story and phenomenal gameplay, a repetitive series of missions doomed it to average. Assassin’s Creed II not only fixed the problems of the original, it excelled far beyond expectations and offered gamers a masterpiece.

Set in Renaissance Italy at the end of the 15th century, you play Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a young nobleman of Florence. Ezio’s family is killed, beginning a decade long search for revenge, which intertwines with several historical figures. Watching Ezio go from a carefree boy to a weary and isolated assassin is compelling enough to make it worth the purchase, but mix in the open world of multiple Italian cities, the huge number of side quests, and some of the best gameplay around, and Assassin’s Creed II is one of the best games to be released on this generation of consoles. The first game is not necessary to complete in order to follow the story, and the recently released sequel, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, requires you to play ACII first, so this is the Assassin’s Creed title to buy.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition 3D(Rated T; $29.98)

For some odd reason, video game adaptations of comic book heroes rarely seem to live up to their potential. Many of the games out there that are based on comic books are good, but few are ever anything more than that. Batman: Arkham Asylum is an exception to that rule, and one of the best games currently out right now.

A must-have for fans of Batman, Arkaham Asylum offers a solid third-person action game for everyone, but the Game of the Year Edition pushes it over the edge and makes for a title that would be a good gift for anyone. The special edition comes with a handful of additional challenges to test your skill with, but more importantly, both the 360 version and the PS3 version are in 3D. Not 3D that requires you to own a 3D TV, but good ole’ fashioned 3D that comes with a pair of goofy glasses. On another game it would be a gimmick, and it still is on Arkham Asylum, but since the game is amazing anyway, the 3D is a welcome addition.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 Ultimate Edition(Rated M; $59.99)

While the single-player campaign for this game is solid, albeit unremarkable, the multiplayer online side offers a welcome respite for players that enjoy first-person shooters, but are either sick of the more aggressive titles like Call of Duty and Halo, or are just looking for something fresh and original. BFBC2 offers a military shooter, set in the current day. The graphics look solid, and the destructible environments make the technical features of the game top notch.

If you are looking for a gift to give a gamer that does not enjoy playing online, there are other options better suited for that player. If online gaming is an important feature to them, then the mission-based objectives, huge online maps and downloadable packs – including a brand new one on the way called Vietnam – should be enough to keep them happy for a long, long time.

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.

NBA2K11(Rated E; $59.99)

While this might be the only sports title on the list, it is probably the best sports game on the market. For the most part you can’t go wrong with many of the sports games out there (with some notable exceptions), but they are difficult to include on lists like this because each year brings a new game that is inherently similar to the previous entry with a few new tweaks. The franchises like Madden and FIFA are both stellar, but they all tend to remain at a constant level, which makes them tough to grade against games that bring innovation to the industry. NBA2K11 is an exception.

NBA2K11 is mainly known for bringing back Michael Jordan to video games, but there are changes to the series that go deeper than that. The Jordan Challenges allow players to live through their nostalgic memories and relive some of the greatest moments in Jordan’s career, which is incredible for fans of Jordan, but more importantly, the gameplay mechanics have been updated to make it a great basketball game in general. If you are looking for a sports game, you can’t go wrong with NBA2K11.

Red Dead Redemption(Rated M; $59.99)

Several years from now, when people are looking back on the games released for the current generation of consoles, Red Dead Redemption is certain to be among the majority of people’s best games list. It is a game that will stick with gamers, and one that will help define the generation. Red Dead Redemption takes the engine that built the Grand Theft Auto series, but then manages to create a story that is original and fresh while improving on the gameplay in several minor, but critical ways.

Set in 1911 as the Old West begins to give way to the modern age, Red Dead combines elements of an action adventure with the stories of spaghetti westerns. As you roam through the world loosely based on Texas and Mexico, you cross paths with characters that will help you or hinder you in your quest to bring your former outlaw partner to justice and return to your family. Along with the missions and side quests, this game is so packed full things to do that the world feels alive. Although an argument awaits this statement, Red Dead is probably the best game of the year, and one of the best games ever made. If you are looking for one game to buy, you cannot go wrong with Red Dead Redemption.

Rock Band 3 with Wireless Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar(Rated E; $209.99)

While this might be stretching the budget of most people, this Rock Band 3 bundle is different than most of the games on this list. The Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises are both solid on their own, and can each stand on their own merits as games worth owning. They are party games that can be fun for everyone — even people that have never played games — and the selection of songs available is massive. But Rock Band 3 has one thing going for it that the others don’t: It can actually teach people how to play guitar.

Rock Band 3 is worth owning on its own, but this bundle (there are a few made by different companies, but $209.99 seems to be the average for the game and the guitar) comes with a replica guitar that teach you to play a real guitar. Sure, $209.99 will price this bundle off of most Christmas lists, but when you consider that you are getting a mock guitar and the software that will help teach you how to play it, the price seems to be more reasonable. There is also a keyboard sold separately that you can use to learn a few rudimentary piano tracks. But if learning the guitar is not your thing, then you should still consider Rock Band 3 with the game instruments and controllers (that now includes a keyboard) because it is a fun game.

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