Video Game Holiday Guide 2012: Six must-haves for the Family Gamer

Some of the best games are a family affair, and this year's crop gives you plenty ways to involve gamers of every age and skill level. Here are our selections for the best holiday games to get this year for your family.

wonderbook: book of spells
Wonderbook: Book of Spells (PlayStation 3)

If there's a Harry Potter fan in your clan, Wonderbook: Book of Spells is the perfect video game this holiday season. The game utilizes the PlayStation Move controller and PlayStation Eye camera, both of which are included in the Wonderbook: Book of Spells Move bundle.

Sony uses augmented reality technology to allow the book to come to life on your television screen, and the J.K. Rowling-written story gives players more insight into the popular literary series. Using the camera, your living room is instantly transformed into the library at Hogwarts, and the included Wonderbook (which can be used for other Wonderbook-branded games that will come out in the future) becomes the Book of Spells.

As you go through the chapters of the Book of Spells, you use the PlayStation Move controller to cast twenty spells while telling a story all its own. If you're a Harry Potter fan, Wonderbook: Book of Spells is probably the only game you'll need this year. How else do you suggest we cast Incendio without racking up a huge cleaning bill?

Sony Wonderbook: Buy it now >

New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

What's a new Nintendo console without a Mario game? Thankfully, Nintendo isn't making us wait, giving the famed plumber a day one-launch with New Super Mario Bros. U. If you aren't familiar with the New Super Mario Bros. series, think about it like the old school Super Mario games that launched on the original NES. Move from left to right, stomp some goombas, collect some coins, and repeat until you defeat the evil Bowser. Simple but awesome.

US Gamer logoIn New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo takes that classic gameplay and gives it a beautiful visual makeover thanks to colorful high-definition graphics. We also love the feature that allows you to play the game on the GamePad controller without having to turn on the television. We found ourselves picking up the controller just to play a few levels while watching some TV in the background.

New Super Mario Bros. U also has a bunch of multiplayer modes allowing you and three other friends to pick up Wii remotes and join the action. You can work together to complete the level, or sabotage each other with well-timed jumps. Add a fifth person with the tablet and they can create platforms to help (or harm) everyone's goal to get to the end of the level in one piece. This is a must-have game for any Wii U household, and a great way to involve the entire family at once.

New Super Mario U: Buy it now >

skylanders giants
Skylanders Giants (Wii U, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Skylanders was one of the biggest games to come out last year, bringing real-world toys to life with a portal that connected to your video game system. Place the figure on the portal and it's instantaneously sent into your video game, where you can buff up its stats and unlock new levels.

Skylanders Giants provides you with a brand new adventure and the ability to use different enhanced toys (like the new Giants or level 2 versions of the original game's toys), and the game has restricted areas that are accessed only by specific types of Skylanders. You'll be surprised at how many characters you'll want to add to your collection.

Thankfully, while the new game also brings with it new kinds of toys, the old Skylanders figures are also usable through the portal. Skylanders Giants continues the tradition of connecting real world figures with video games in a compelling way for gamers of all ages. Now if we can only control our addiction to buying all of the toys we can find...

Skylanders Giants: Buy it now >

dance central 3
Dance Central 3 (Xbox 360 with Kinect)

If you have an Xbox 360 and Kinect, you're probably familiar with the Dance Central series. Using the Kinect motion sensor, Dance Central 3 is created by the same developers behind the popular Rock Band series, but instead of judging your singing, it's all about the moves you're able to pull off.

With each game in the series, it feels like your dance moves are under more scrutiny. It still amazes us that we can cabbage patch and Dance Central will accurately judge how well you pull it off. Higher difficulties bring more advanced dance moves, and the game even keeps track of the calories you end up burning during your session.

Recent hits by LMFAO, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber are coupled with classics such as The Village People with "Y.M.C.A.," and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Owners of the previous two Dance Central games will also have the ability to import all of the songs from the first two games, potentially giving you over 100 games to dance to. This is a great way to keep everyone active during the cold holiday season.

Dance Central 3: Buy it now >

Nintendo Land (Wii U)

Nintendo Land, sold separately and also included in the Nintendo Wii U Deluxe Set, is a collection of twelve mini-games starring some of your favorite Nintendo characters. The game uses the Wii U GamePad plus your television to create a "two-screen experience," allowing the action on your GamePad to correspond with what's occurring on the larger TV.

For example, in Mario Chase the person with the GamePad plays as Mario, and they have the advantage of seeing the entire level and everyone's location on the map. Mario's goal is to run away from up to four other players who have a more limited view of the action on the television. It's an experience we've rarely had before in any video game, but it is some of the most fun we've had in a long time, conjuring up memories of the pure fun you'd have playing tag as a kid.

Games like The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest have you don a bow and arrow, lifting your GamePad in front of you to aim arrows at oncoming bad guys. Captain Falcon's Twister Race thrusts you into the fast-paced racing world of F-Zero, making you tilt the GamePad to avoid hazards that litter the futuristic track. We could go on describing these games, but this is truly a case of having to experience it to really appreciate it. Nintendo Land is an easy must-have for anyone with a Nintendo Wii U, and one of the top reasons to pick up the system.

Nintendo Land: Buy it now >

just dance 4
Just Dance 4 (Wii U, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Another dance game tearing up the charts is Just Dance 4, available on all major platforms. We checked this out for the Nintendo Wii U but it should be familiar to anyone who's ever picked up a controller and danced around their living room (hopefully while playing a Just Dance game and not because you were just bored one day).

Fifty songs are included in the initial package, and they really run the gamut, taking you from the 50s with Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock" through to the 70s with Stevie Wonder and "Superstition" and finally to today's music like... "Call Me Maybe." (You have to admit, that's a catchy song.)

The Wii U version adds a twist by giving the person holding the GamePad the power to change up dance moves on the fly, throwing a wrench into the best laid routines. Lastly, and most importantly, both this and Dance Central 3 now have PSY's "Gangnam Style" available as an extra download. Now sing along... ehhhhh, sexy lady!

Just Dance 4: Buy it now >

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