LOS ANGELES (CNN/Money) -
It's easy to hear about the gaming frenzy that is E3 and assume that all the titles on display are imminent. Most are playable either on the show floor on in private meeting rooms and run fairly smooth.
The truth is a sizable percentage of the games here won't be out for a year or more.
That makes naming one -- or several -- titles as "the best" a fool's mission. What looks good here can be a muddled mess when it finally ships.
Still, there are games that rise above the rest among show-goers. What we've done here is listen to that buzz, combine it with our own experiences with the games and offered our best guess on which of these will be in demand this holiday season.
A standard disclaimer: Delays are more the rule than the exception in the gaming world. As such, there's no guarantee these titles will ship this year (though it's our best guess they will). In order to qualify for our list, the game also had to be on display at the show though not necessarily on the show floor.
And though the Xbox 360 is bound to top most gamers' wish lists, we're sticking strictly with software here.
"The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" -- Fans of the Nintendo franchise got goosebumps when the company put out a trailer for this game a year ago. Now, after having had the chance to play it, they're building shrines. The new Zelda game takes Link in new directions while retaining the charm that has made the series such a success. Nintendo has obviously been polishing this game for some time. And that loving care, along with the series' ardent fans, guarantee its success -- and give the GameCube a nice boost.
"Madden 2006" -- It's the only NFL game out there this year, making it the default winner in its category. While there's some lingering resentment about the lack of competition, that won't hurt sales and the latest Madden sticks with what has made it the sales leader among football games for years. And, in addition to being on all platforms, the game will also be a launch day title for the Xbox 360.
"Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories" -- Full disclosure: We didn't get to see the PSP version of GTA at E3. Take Two Interactive's Rockstar Games division was keeping it tightly locked away, only showing it to a few people. But when you've got a new GTA title for a hot new system, it's kind of a no-brainer to expect it to be a hot holiday seller. Expect more of what you've seen in the series' previous installments -- which should let you know right away if this is an appropriate gift for the recipient.
"Nintendogs" -- Truth be told, it's questionable whether U.S. audiences will embrace this pet simulator for the Nintendo DS but it's a certifiable craze in Japan. Calling it a game is kind of a stretch, but giving players the ability to train and care for a puppy that never grows up and never sheds on your black pants seems to have an undeniable appeal -- especially to women and children. Using the DS' touch screen and microphone, you can talk to and pet your new dog. And in an inventive twist, you can send messages and get an alert when another Nintendog owner is in the area -- letting your virtual pets play together. Strange? Perhaps. But the line to play the game stretched down the hall.
"F.E.A.R." Psychological action/horror games are very hard to pull off. But F.E.A.R. gets it right. The action is well-paced with a nice variety of weapons, but the game's real standout element is its creepy encounters with evil in the shadowy form of a giggling little girl, who likes to walk on ceilings and tends to bring out the worst in people whose path she crosses. In a 20 minute demo, I jumped out of my seat three times. This will be the game the PC action crowd cheers this year.
"Civilization IV" -- The "Civilization" series pretty much set the standard for strategy games. The latest installment in the series will take it into the world of 3D. The first new "Civ" game in four years will also bring new civilizations and leaders to the mix and will offer online team play for the first time. It won't be the sexiest game on the market, but it could have some of the deepest and most enjoyable gameplay.
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