Whether you’re prowling around rooftops in Renaissance-era Italy, leaping from one burning Jeep to the next, fighting off blood-thirsty zombies, or platforming with your favorite plumber, we’ve got you covered. So, without further ado (and in no particular order), here we go…
Assassin’s Creed 2 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
This open-world jaunt through the Italian Renaissance features a new hero: Ezio, who expertly prowls dark alleys and rooftops as he seeks revenge for … well, you don’t want me to spoil the plot, do you? Revamped gameplay, eye-popping renderings of Florence and Venice, a new arsenal of weapons, and the addition of an RPG-like economy have this sequel to 2007’s original earning raves from critics. (I haven’t played it yet, but it’s at the top of my GameFly queue.)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
Take “Tomb Raider,” add a healthy portion of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and you’ll get “Uncharted 2,” a rollicking thrill-ride that’s easily one of the best games of the year. Expect blazing gun battles, intricate puzzles, lots of climbing, spectacular graphics, a refreshing sense of humor, and yes, even a little romance. A series of multiplayer maps is icing on the cake.
Dragon Age: Origins (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
This new, buzzy role-playing game from the developers behind “Baldur’s Gate” and “Mass Effect” throws you into the mythical world of Ferelden, where you’ll gather a tight-knit band of companions, hone their skills, and lead them in an epic battle against the marauding Darkspan. The graphics for the console versions of “Dragon Age” reportedly aren’t the greatest, but gamers are saying that the absorbing story and fast, furious combat make up for the so-so visuals.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
It’s the blockbuster of the year, by far, and believe me, with its nerve-jangling set-pieces, jaw-dropping graphics, and robust multiplayer mode, “Modern Warfare 2” more than lives up to the hype. Keep in mind, though, that this M-rated title (complete with a controversial scene—spoiler ahead—in which scores of civilians are mowed down in an airport terminal) is not for the faint of heart, and it’s definitely not for kids.
Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox 360/PC)
What’s the only thing better than zombies? More zombies, of course, and this sequel to last year’s “Left 4 Dead” happily obliges, setting the mayhem in New Orleans this time and delivering a new quartet of stressed-out survivors.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition (Wii)
The original—and classic—Modern Warfare finally arrives on the Wii, albeit with somewhat downgraded graphics compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
Nintendo’s tireless, side-scrolling plumber is back, this time with an all-new multiplayer mode that lets you play along with three other pals at the same time.
GTA IV: Ballad of Gay Tony (Xbox 360)
The second of two “Grand Theft Auto IV” expansion packs for the Xbox 360, “Ballad of Gay Tony” wrings several more hours of gameplay out of the characters in Liberty City, this time focusing on nightclub owner Tony and his right-hand man, Luis Lopez, who spend much of his time bailing Tony out of trouble. Expect a cameo from Niko Bellic, a run-in or two with the Lost and Damned biker gang, and plenty of new multiplayer action.
Tekken 6 (PS3/Xbox 360/PSP)
Get ready for the next battle … fight! Admittedly, Tekken 6’s graphics might not be quite up to par with other modern fighting games, but the classic moves, over-the-top characters and venues (who wouldn’t want to do battle with a couple of hovering Harrier jets in the background, I ask you?), and a new campaign mode kick this fighter up a notch.
Halo 3: ODST (Xbox 360)
More of an expansion pack than a stand-alone adventure, “Halo 3: ODST” is basically more of the same—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re a die-hard Halo fan. At the time of its release, I felt that “ODST”‘s truncated story and repetitive gameplay weren’t worth the $59 price tag; luckily, though, you’ll be able to find this still-hot title for about $49 online, which is more like it.