The Best Video Games of 2014 for the Gamer on Your Holiday Shopping List

From soda-drinking mutants to space civilizations, these 11 offerings will entertain n00bs and pros alike
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Whether you thrive off the manic energy of holiday shopping or avoid it entirely, this time of year finds video game releases in full swing. If you don’t know much about gaming except that you have an avid player to shop for, we have a few ideas.

For the Control Freak
The Sims 4
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Platform: PC
The latest Sims release expands on what the famous franchise does best: letting users control fictional humans in worlds that can be built with outrageous detail. Now you can give your Sims emotions, dreams, and butt implants. Don’t forget about build mode, which allows you to spend hours creating and landscaping dream homes.

For the Stargazer
Civilization: Beyond Earth
Release Date: Oct 24, 2014
Platform: PC
Is your gamer a benevolent ruler rather than a micro-manager? Civilization: Beyond Earth offers the addictive, strategic gameplay that Civilization is known for—on another planet. To rebuild the human race after “The Great Mistake,”you’ll have to defend your settlements from hostile aliens, explore the resources of your new world, and research technologies.

For the Speed Demon
Forza Horizon 2
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360
Race through the gorgeously realistic Mediterranean in an open world setting (weather and night driving included). Choose among more than 200 immaculately detailed cars, from high octane sports cars to enormous SUVs; you can even create your own paint job and add decals to make the ride truly your own.

For the Purist
LittleBigPlanet 3
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Platform: PS4, PS3
Remember the days of Super Mario when hopping between platforms, dodging shells, and collecting coins was all you had to worry about? Platforming games have come a long way, and none more successfully than LittleBigPlanet. When it debuted in 2008 most gamers had never seen a world so whimsical, heard a soundtrack so impressive, or played a game where user creativity was so integral. (Players could build and share their own levels, making the game virtually endless). The third installment, LittleBigPlanet 3, offers some notable improvements; you can still jump, grab, fly, and collect bubbles in a mini-fabric world as the cute burlap Sackboy, but you also have three new playable characters and tons of new fabric textures.

For the Storyteller
Ori and the Blind Forest
Release Date: TBA, late 2014 to early 2015
Platform: Xbox One
Xbox is known more for its combat than its platforming games, but Ori and the Blind Forest blurs those boundaries with what looks to be one of the most visually stunning and narratively driven games of the year. With a dark storyline this game aims to provide challenging platforming-style gameplay while embarking on one of the most beautiful adventures in recent memory.

For the Socially Conscious Gamer
Humble Bundle
Release Date: Rotating
Platform: PC/MAC
Never heard of HumbleBundle.com? You’re not alone but you should pay attention. HumbleBundle.com offers collections of games and audiobooks and allows users to pay whatever they want (the average is around $7). You can decide whether your money goes to the site’s developers or to a few pre-picked organizations such as Child’s Play and charity: water. The bundles change every two weeks or so and typically come in groups of three to ten games. Some of the most popular titles include The Hunger Games audio series and the adorably gross Super Meat Boy.

For the Comedian
Sunset Overdrive
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Platform: Xbox One
This third person shooter is set in an absurd future where a popular FizzCo soft drink turns your fellow Sunset City dwellers into angry mutants who terrorize the city. You play as a teen employee of FizzCo (in the sanitation division, no less) who has found your life’s calling taking out the mutant population in comically outrageous killing sprees, and saving Sunset City in the process. Featuring parkour abilities and unorthodox weapons like a teddy bear-launching bazooka, it’s equal parts genius and mayhem.

For the Shooting Enthusiast
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Platform: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
If your gamer is a realist who prefers military scenarios, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is worth a look. It’s a tried-and-true first person shooter except for one thing: you get to destroy everything with bigger, more fantastical sci-fi guns. Did we mention Kevin Spacey’s in it?

For the Halo Obsessive
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Platform: Xbox One
This collection of the first four Halo games has been remastered with snazzier graphics. It also includes access to Halo: 5 beta testing and the Halo: Nightfall live action series for the Xbox One. It’s the perfect way to prepare for Halo 5, which comes out some time in 2015, without revisiting the horror of decade-old graphics or dusting off your original Xbox.

For the Button Masher
Super Smash Bros 4
Release Date: November 21, 2014
Platform: Wii U
We know Super Smash Bros isn’t just about button mashing, but that’s what most of us end up doing. Pick your favorite character, then punch and combo your way through tons of new stages with new and classic characters. The souped up multiplayer division allows eight players for ultimate chaos and hilarity, both of which are inherent to this Nintendo franchise.

For the Horror Fiend
Alien: Isolation
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Platform: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Cliché-riddled story lines, enemies that aren’t scary enough, and predictable battles; too many horror games have become dull and repetitive. Alien: Isolation doesn’t have that problem. The game channels the horror, suspense, and style that made the original Alien movie so great. No wonder the game was dubbed the scariest title at this year’s E3 trade show. Play as the woefully underprepared Amanda Ripley (Ellen Ripley’s daughter) who must scavenge through an alien-infested spaceship for clues about her mother. Perhaps the game’s best feature is that the AI alien has been programmed with countless killing and stalking tactics, making attacks unpredictable and surprising. Warning: do not play in the dark.

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