The best games to buy for Christmas 2013

The release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One officially kicked off the next-generation console wars. But for at least one more Christmas season, the current-gen systems and games should not be forgotten. The seventh console generation will be remembered for many things – the rise of digital distribution, high-definition gaming, and motion controls, to name a few – but there is one aspect that most directly impacts gamers' pockets: The Xmas games deluge.

This console generation saw gamers dub the months between September and November as the annual "Gamepocalypse" or "Gameageddon," the time frame when game publishers drop their high-profile titles to coincide with the Christmas shopping season. The gaming populace has witnessed a huge influx of video games, a deluge that will only continue with the arrival of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

This crush has hammered gamers' pockets over the last few years, and it's likely to do so again as 2013 draws to a close. There are lots of games to be played (perhaps too many), but don't worry – we're here to help you separate the wheat from the chaff, whether you're buying a present for friends, family, or just yourself.

We've considered a variety of games in order to help you decide which titles deserve to be gifted to friends and family (or yourself!) this Xmas.

Our guide includes fighting, role-playing, world building, action, and shooting games across a variety of consoles and portables.

So get those credit and debit cards ready as you check out the best gamer-worthy titles that will be on sale this Christmas.

Anarchy Reigns (£10)

Platinum Games, the action kings behind Mad World, Vanquish, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, delivers another high-octane gem. Anarchy Reigns is a 16-person multiplayer brawler that pits a wacky cast of characters (who possess even wackier move sets) against one another in unpredictable stages that can contain mutant rampages and nose-diving 747s.

  • Available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (£30-£48)

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag puts the annualised franchise back on track with a gorgeous, huge, pirate-themed open world that's ripe for exploration. Not only is Ubisoft's latest stealth-action game available on current-gen systems, but it's available on next-gen consoles, too. Indeed, PlayStation 4 owners receive a special treat – bonus levels featuring Aveline, the heroine of the PlayStation Vita's Assassin's Creed: Liberation.

  • Available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Bioshock Infinite (£20-£25)

Shattered dreams form the foundation of BioShock Infinite, the third instalment in Irrational Games' impressive saga exploring the devastating effects of isolation (and isolationism) on the human psyche. Wedding familiar gameplay elements from the preceding titles with exciting new mechanics, an engrossing story, and stunning visual design, BioShock Infinite is the culmination of the series' promise to turn a mirror on humanity by probing as deeply into the self as possible.

  • Available on Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (£30)

Tecmo Koei's Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is a polygonal fighter that adds bug fixes and new modes to Dead or Alive 5's rock-paper-scissors style combat. Featuring intricate mechanics, several beautiful interactive environments, and characters from Sega's Virtua Fighter series, Dead or Alive is a fun fighter, but the awful story mode is best steered clear of.

  • Available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Dead Space 3 (£13)

Electronic Arts' sci-fi shooter has a clichéd storyline that ends on a cliff-hanger, but it will please series fans who love Dead Space's special brand of action. Co-op mode serves up more side missions and action sequences than the solo campaign, so it's worth replaying with a buddy who's also eager to blast space zombies into pulpy bits.

  • Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

Divekick (£8)

Divekick is the most hipster video game ever created. It's a product of the indie scene, and it mercilessly parodies fighting games and its diehard community, yet demands that you be part of the underground circle to fully get all of the references and in-jokes. It's also a lot of fun if you open your mind to the insane concept of a two-button fighter that only lets your character dive and kick.

  • Available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita.

The Elder Scrolls Anthology (£29)

The Elder Scrolls Anthology puts the entire Elder Scrolls series (Elder Scrolls Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, and all of the downloadable content) in one convenient and beautiful package. This gorgeous collection will appeal to nostalgic long-time fans of the series who want to relive their greatest fantasy moments, and to newcomers who want to explore the series' origin.

  • Available on PC.

FarCry 3: Blood Dragon (£12-£15)

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon takes 2012's popular Far Cry 3 and filters it through an eighties vision of the future, complete with neon, nukes, cybernetic warriors, dark synth music, and exciting gunplay. Pseudo action star and number-one James Cameron go-to guy Michael Biehn (Aliens, Terminator, The Abyss) lends his gruff voice to Sergeant Rex "Power" Colt, a cyber-commando who battles the evil Omega Force army in a post-apocalyptic world.

  • Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

Fire Emblem: Awakening (£32)

Fire Emblem: Awakening emphasises strategy over obsessive grinding. It uses an Advance Wars-like grid, with the player moving units across maps to beat enemies and accomplish objectives. Different units have different classes, and almost everyone in your army is a named character with a unique art style, voice, personality, and story. One wrong move can lead to disaster, and like every other game in the series this is because when your units die, they die for good. Fight bravely and carefully!

  • Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS.

Grand Theft Auto V (£35)

Rockstar's crime franchise returns with even more gratuitous violence and grimy perversions of the American dream. The gripping narrative will keep you on the edge of your seat as you smash, steal, and kill your way to success in what is the largest GTA to date. A new online mode pushes the gangster scenarios into multiplayer gang versus gang scuffles. You can check out our full GTA V review here.

  • Available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Injustice: Gods Among Us (£18-£40)

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a polygonal 2D fighter set in the DC Comics universe that spins an action-packed tale of Superman establishing a fascist regime after the Joker goes too far. It's a fast-paced cinematic fighter with enough meat to appease the casual fighting game fan. Core players who live on deep control schemes, evasions, side-steps, and other more advanced techniques may find Injustice: Gods Among Us a bit thinner than your average Capcom, SNK, or Arc System Works fighter, but the environmental interactions (you can slam Batman with a motorcycle!) are loads of fun.

  • Available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, and Xbox 360.

Killer Instinct (free, but £4 for extra characters)

Killer Instinct is the rare fighting game that successfully caters to both casual and hardcore audiences. Low skill players can bust out impressive moves, while fighting game masters can work the meters, linkers, enders, and other techniques to dominate opponents. There's most definitely a deep combat system here, and one that will keep gamers busy despite the small roster of fighters. If you're an old-school Killer Instinct fan, the new edition satisfies. If you haven't dipped your toe into the combo-heavy waters, you can download the game for free and sample the madness. Note that while the game itself is free, you only get the one character, Jago. If you want to play as other fighters, you need to purchase them at £4 a pop – or you can make a one-off payment of £16 for all eight characters (note that the current roster is only six, with two fighters still to be released at a later date).

  • Available exclusively on Xbox One.

The Last of Us (£28)

The Last of Us combines action and survival gameplay to tell a character-driven tale about a man and young girl who are survivors in a world destroyed by the Cordyceps fungus, a growth that transforms humanity into zombie-like monsters (the fungus, in fact, is one that appears in the real world and has unusual effects on its hosts). The PlayStation 3 will soon begin to fade into the background, but The Last of Us will be remembered as one of the best offerings that the video game medium has ever produced.

  • Available exclusively on PlayStation 3.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Super NES was arguably the greatest Zelda game ever. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS taps into everything that gamers loved about A Link to the Past, and includes an incredibly creative feature that lets gamers transform the protagonist into a 2D painting that can scale walls. It's classic Nintendo fun and one of the best games of the year.

  • Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (£40)

It's strange to think that a remake of a game from two console generations ago is one of the best titles available on the Wii U, but The Wind Waker HD is just that. That isn't a condemnation of the Wii U's library, but a testament to how some Zelda titles truly stand up to the test of time.

  • Available exclusively on Wii U.

LEGO City Undercover (£40)

LEGO City Undercover recalls the Beastie Boys music video Sabotage – it features fictional cops with over-the-top car chases, disguises, and ridiculous hair. This game is packed full of ridiculous, funky (and blocky!) family-friendly police action, and it stands out as one of the best Wii U games.

  • Available exclusively on Wii U.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (£13-£50)

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is a near-perfect blend of three wonderful childhood staples: Comic books, video games, and, well, LEGO. Steeped in Marvel Comics goodness, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes puts players in the role of a superhero team (a wonderful mish-mash of over 100 comic book characters) tasked with recovering all-powerful Cosmic Bricks that are scattered around the globe before top-tier baddies such as Loki, Dr. Doom, and Magneto get their hands on the cubes. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is one of the most smiling-inducing games of the year, and should be on the want-list of every comic book or LEGO fan.

  • Available on Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (£32)

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is an entertaining adventure game and a long-awaited sequel to a game (Luigi's Mansion) that few even thought would see a sequel. It isn't very deep, but the puzzles, action, and multiplayer modes make it a worthwhile package for any 3DS owner looking for something slightly different.

  • Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS.

Madden NFL 25 (£45)

The venerable Madden monolith returns for a 25th season, and it's quite possibly the most realistic Madden to date thanks to a new collision engine. Deep franchise and career modes and online gameplay options round out this excellent pigskin offering.

  • Available on iOS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (£28)

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team isn't an epic saga of danger, drama, and siblings finally being torn apart after decades of tension – rather, it's a fun little Nintendo 3DS role-playing game. Dream Team doesn't have the genuinely unique and fresh feel of Paper Mario's various games, and it doesn't bring much new to the table besides the puzzle-solving dream mechanic, but it's enjoyable and cheerful nonetheless.

  • Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (£15)

Despite starring a sword-carrying Raiden, Revengeance's GI Joe-like sci-fi tech, codec calls, cardboard boxes, unnecessary cleavage, and military themes give the game the Metal Gear touch. There's far less stealth than in a traditional Metal Gear game, but when you can slice a robotic dinosaur into bits, why sneak about?

  • Available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection (£39)

For more than 25 years, the Metal Gear series has been surprising gamers, redefining staid gaming clichés, and popularising the stealth genre. Now, Konami has gathered up the core games of the series, releasing all eight games for the PlayStation 3 under one title, Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection. Whether you're a Metal Gear veteran or just coming to the series for the first time, this collection of critically acclaimed fan favourites is highly recommended.

  • Available exclusively on PlayStation 3.

Minecraft (£5-£17)

Minecraft is your blocky, beautiful sandbox, to build in and play with as you please. The core of the game is exploring and surviving in a hostile world made from blocks that you can build with as you please. But as you play, you'll quickly see that this game has so much more to offer than just architecture.

  • Available on Android, iOS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360.

Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine (£12)

Monaco sees a ragtag group of criminals escape from the French Riviera prison and go on several heists to get money, documents, and eventually the chance to retire from the business once and for all. Monaco has the co-op stealth formula down pat: It's easy to jump in, and complex enough to provide some long hours of hugely enjoyable sneaking and thieving.

  • Available on Linux, Mac, PC, and Xbox 360.

NBA 2K14 (£20-£50)

The nascent stages of the 2013-2014 NBA season coincide with the inevitable 2K Sports video game tie-in NBA 2K14. Featuring outstanding ball-handling and shooting controls, excellent TV-quality presentation, Euroleague teams, and tons of modes, NBA 2K14 continues its reign as the premier basketball title – but the game will feel like an incremental upgrade to anyone who's played NBA 2K13.

  • Available on Android, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Papo & Yo (£12)

This South American puzzle-platformer about a boy and an unpredictable monster doesn't have stellar gameplay, but it plays well enough, and drives home heartfelt themes about alcoholism and abuse that are bound to evoke emotion and consequential thought.

  • Available on PC and PlayStation 3.

Payday 2 (£17)

Payday 2 is a satisfying and deep heist game that manages to overcome its disappointing graphics and brainless characters to offer dynamic movie-like missions where anything can happen if you can keep your wits about you.

  • Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

Pokemon X/Y (£35)

Every few years we see a new Pokemon generation that includes over a hundred new Pokemon, a handful of older ones, and the exact same formula of the previous games. This time the generation is Pokemon X and Y for the Nintendo 3DS. Yes, it's formulaic. Yes, it hits all the same notes as previous Pokemon games. Yes, it's barely changed mechanically. But you know what? A great series doesn't have to change much.

  • Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS.

The Wonderful 101 (£35)

The Wii U needs a hero and Platinum Games delivers capes and tights – a hundred of them, in fact. The Wonderful 101 is a quirky combo of Viewtiful Joe, Katamari Damacy, and Pikmin, that puts gamers in control of a Super Sentai-like team tasked with defending the fictional Blossom City from a monstrous alien invasion. The plot sounds standard fare, but director Hideki Kamiya's creative touch shines.

  • Available exclusively on Wii U.

Saints Row IV (£15-£40)

On paper, Saints Row IV sounds like something a fourteen-year-old would come up with after you gave the kid a case of Red Bull and a stack of the silliest movies from the nineties. The open-world action game sees the US president battling aliens while trapped in a Matrix-like simulation. You can fight alongside actor Keith David while dressed like Rowdy Roddy Piper, shoot aliens with Robocop's guns, and jump between buildings like The Tick. And really, you can't beat that.

  • Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (£14-£23)

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a mascot racing game designed to appeal to hedgehog fans as well as fans of Sega's old school franchises – and it does so for the most part. Pick your favourite character, hop into a multi-mode vehicle, and dash for the finish line. The air and water levels slow the game's speedy pace (to its detriment), but arcade racing fans should give it a whirl.

  • Available on 3DS, Android, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, and Xbox 360.

Super Mario 3D World (£40)

Just when the Wii U needed a hero, Mario has returned in Super Mario 3D World, the plumber's latest console outing. Don't confuse it with last year's 2D side-scroller New Super Mario Bros U, though. In Super Mario 3D World, Mario platforms in all directions throughout intricately designed 3D environments. While it may not be quite as radical and revelatory as its Super Mario Galaxy predecessors, Super Mario 3D World is still the best proof yet of how nothing can touch this series when it's at the top of its game.

  • Available exclusively on Wii U.

Tomb Raider (£11-£15)

Adventurer Lara Croft has encountered and defeated a variety of foes in her two decades of tomb raiding, but her biggest challenge yet is the dreaded reboot. It's a delicate undertaking, but developer Crystal Dynamics deftly navigates the reboot waters with Tomb Raider, a (mostly) refreshing take on the iconic Lara Croft character that leaves the cleavage behind in favour of solid storytelling and cinematic action.

  • Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.