Six games to watch this holiday season
Here's an early look at the video games players will be asking for come December.
LOS ANGELES (CNNMoney.com) – While many of the games at E3 seem ready to be released within weeks, it's mostly an elaborate illusion. Demos specifically created for the show are fairly polished, but most of the games on display won't hit store shelves until the holidays – if not another year or two.
So while it's easy to point to the titles that get your blood pumping the fastest, it's safer to keep your eyes focused on what's imminent. That's what we're trying to do here.
Listed below are the games we expect will be the hot sellers of holiday 2006. Based on what was shown at E3, they seem to be on the right path. And more importantly, they're likely to be on store shelves this year.
Keep in mind that schedules and deadlines often slip in the gaming world – and there's no guarantee these games will make it out this year. But if they do – and you have a gamer on your holiday shopping list – there's a good chance you'll be hearing about these again.
"The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" – Nintendo fans have been waiting a long time for this game. Originally scheduled for last holiday, the latest in the popular "Zelda" franchise will be released for both the GameCube and the Wii. Link's older in this version – and the game has some darker elements (though it will still likely earn an "E" for everyone rating). The charm the series is known for is firmly intact, though, which should delight its ardent fan base.
"Gears of War" – This is the big bang of the Xbox 360's holiday lineup – and it's not likely to disappoint. This third-person shooter/horror title is one of the most impressive-looking games the system has seen – and is certain to appeal to fans of the "Halo" style of play. The action is nonstop. The mood is dark. And the game certainly isn't for children. But it could be a good antidote to keep the 360 top of mind as the PlayStation 3 hits the market. Oh, and the multiplayer action is some of the best fun to be had on the 360.
"Heavenly Sword" – You could just as easily call this "Goddess of War" for its similarities to last year's hit "God of War." In addition to swords attached to the lead character's wrists via chain, there are the button pressing mini-games that were one of the "GoW's" signatures. Despite its familiarity, it's shaping up as a fun game – and may turn out to be a good alternative for people who were upset that the new "God of War" will not make the transition to next generation this time around.
"Super Mario Galaxy" – The Wii may not launch with this Mario title, but Nintendo's hoping to get it out before the holidays. Let's hope the company succeeds because this is one of the better Wii games. The joy that seemed lacking in "Super Mario Sunshine" is back – and subtle visual elements (such as a lingering train of where your controller has been pointing on screen) make it easier to keep up with what's happening. Like with any Mario game, the story's not the issue – the jumping, leaping and fun are.
"Guitar Hero 2" – The follow-up to last year's sleeper hit, "Guitar Hero 2" gives wannabe rock stars more of what they crave. Using guitar controllers, you'll match your licks with the pros on 55 new songs. If you're one of the many who bought the original "Guitar Hero," you won't need to buy the controllers again. If you didn't, the game will cost you a good bit more, but it's worth it, if only for the party value. The learning curve is easy – and even if you lack any sort of musical talent, you'll find yourself drawn in by the game.
"World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade" – With 6 million-plus active players, this is kind of a gimme. The add-on for the PC's "World of Warcraft" will add two new races – Blood Elves and Draenei – flying mounts and a new profession: jewelcrafting. Players will also be able to advance their characters another 10 levels, taking them to level 70. If you're not a "WoW" fan, none of the above probably made very much sense to you, but trust me, it's music to player's ears – and they'll be craving a copy when it releases later this year.