Holiday Gaming Buyer's Guide

Here's Tom's Holiday Gaming Buyer's Guide
How do you shop for a gamer without spoiling the surprise for them? There are still 10 different consoles being sold at most stores, and thousands of games to choose from for all of them. If you want to get something for a gamer without asking them "Hey, what the hell do you want for Christmas?", this is the guide for you. 

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Kids are actually the easiest group of gamers to shop for. My first recommendation is any game title that starts with "Lego."  Lego Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, and Marvel Super Heroes are all brilliant combinations of action, mini-puzzles, and fan service. Ask the parents what console(s) they own, and pick up a game based on which movie franchise the kids like best.  They will not be disappointed!
You can't go wrong with Nintendo games, either. Super Mario 3D was just released for the Wii U, and would make any kid go mental upon unwrapping it. If the kid you're shopping for has a 3DS portable system (most kids do, it's that little thing they're holding while using what looks like a small pen to tap the screen,) Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds will have them bouncing off the walls with glee.  There's also Paper Mario: Sticker Star and New Super Mario Brothers 2, plus the new Pokemon games, X & Y.
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If they don't own Nintendo consoles, then Rayman: Legends is a great choice. They might not know what it is right out of the wrapping paper, but they'll love it.  There's a new trend in gaming where you can buy action figures that affect the video game that's being played. Skylanders Giants and Disney Infinity toys can be found everywhere, but be sure to get a gift receipt with it. There are loads of these things and the kid might already have the one you pick up, so it's smart to play it safe. One other thing: For god's sake DO NOT buy them any game that has an "M" in the small box in the corner of the cover. That means "Rated M for Mature." It'd be like giving the kid a copy of Django Unchained. 
You know those people who own a video game console, but "really only use it once in a while?"  Here are some ideas to get him or her more use out of the expensive piece of technology that's just gathering dust. 
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Bulletstorm, Borderlands, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 are all very affordable choices that can be jumped right into without a lot of heavy narrative or complicated control schemes. Before you know it, your friend or relative will be squeezing off headshots like a boss.
If they're not the violent type, you're still in luck. Portal 2 is a brilliant action/puzzle game that's almost univerally praised. The Sims 3 lets players be as nasty or as nice as they want to be toward the character they've created.  L.A. Noire is a very good choice for fans of old detective movies and TV shows, where the emphasis is on collecting evidence and interrogating witnesses rather than shooting everything in sight, although there are a few places where you're forced to use your gun.
If the gamer on your list has bad skin, is overweight, and likes to talk down to people about their choices in video games, movies, and music, then you have a hardcore on your hands.  They probably have the new systems (Playstation 4 and Xbox1), and already have the games that are worth owning, so you can skip that.  I'm going to list some hardcore games they might have missed in the last seven years.  They will probably scoff at ANYTHING you give them that's media related, but I guarantee they'll be playing any one of these once you're gone and they feel alone and safe again.
Dark Souls, The Last of Us (PS3 only), Skyrim: Game of the Year Edition, Far Cry 3, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dishonored, The Witcher 2:  Assassins of Kings (Xbox 360 only), Dragon's Dogma, Metro: Last Light, Hitman: Absolution, Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Just Cause 2, and Grand Theft Auto V were all great fun for this hardest of the hardcore gamers.  Of course, there's always a chance that your hardcore gamer could own the title you pick, so get that gift receipt.
The best thing about hardcore gamers is that they'll NEVER take a gift card as an insult. They might even say something along the lines of "Good move, you wouldn't know what I like anyway." Honestly, how do you people put up with us!? Happy holidays, I hope this  guide helps.

-Tom McDaniel