The first-person shooter “Gears of War” is the must-have title for Xbox 360 players this season. On the other end of the spectrum is the fun-for-all-ages “Viva Pinata.”
Otherwise, try the fantasy adventure “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion,” the zombie shooter “Dead Rising,” the violent “The Godfather” or the adrenaline-pumping racer “Burnout Revenge.”
Also, consider giving a subscription to the Xbox Live online service for a month to a year ($8 to $50) with a gift card available in many stores.PLAYSTATION 3
The shooter “Resistance: Fall of Man” is like a cross between “Halo” and “Resident Evil,” and your gamer will be dying to play it. The tried-and-true racing game “Ridge Racer 7” or the fantasy adventure “Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom” are fine, too.
Really, though, if your gamer has a hard-to-find PS3, he or she could probably use a gift card to buy accessories, such as better video cables and an extra controller, or to pick out a game.WII
The essential game for Nintendo's new system is the adventurous “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” – you won't see your gamer for hours, maybe days, with that gift.
Also, try the racer “Excite Truck” or the goofy “Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz” or “Rayman: Raving Rabbids.” For the same reasons as the PS3, a gift card would be a good option.NINTENDO DS
A few decades later, and Mario still rules at Nintendo, with “New Super Mario Bros.” being a sure bet for the portable DS. Also try some highly addictive titles, such as the grooves of “Elite Beat Squad,” the classic puzzler “Tetris DS,” the thinker “Brain Age” and this year's “Nintendogs”-like entry, “Dalmatian & Friends.”PLAYSTATION PORTABLE
“Tekken: Dark Resurrection” has been called the game of the year for the handheld PSP, so it recommends itself for fighting-game fans. Mature gamers will go for “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories,” while all will like the wacky musical action of “Gitaroo Man Lives!” and the throwback “EA Replay,” with 14 EA games big in the early '90s, such as “Desert Strike” and “Road Rash” – a steal at $20.
The biggest game system isn't going anywhere thanks to a bevy of great new games. The music-driven “Guitar Hero II” and “Dance Dance Revolution Supernova” will keep the whole family moving to the beat.
Older gamers will adore “Final Fantasy XII,” “Okami,” “SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs – Combined Assault” and “Bully.” There's also a slimmed-down version of the system, in black or silver, for $130.XBOX
The fun “Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 4” will find its groove with Xbox fans, as will the theme-park simulator “Thrillville.” Mature players will go for “Scarface: The World Is Yours” and the B-movie-inspired “Destroy All Humans 2.”GAMECUBE
This season represents the last gasp for Nintendo's old console, but it's going out with a blast: its version of “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.” Also try “Happy Feet,” based on the hit movie, and “Bionicle Heroes.”FOR ALL (OR MOST) SYSTEMS
For sports fans, your best bets are “Madden NFL 07” or “NCAA Football 07,” “NBA 2K7,” “NHL 2K7,” “Major League Baseball 2K6,” “FIFA Soccer 07,” “NASCAR 07” and “Fight Night: Round 3.”
Other good games available for most systems include the racer “Need for Speed: Carbon,” the superheroic “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance,” the popular “LEGO Star Wars II” and the shooter “Call of Duty 3.”
©2006 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services