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Video Games for 2015 Holidays

Super Mario Maker

The holiday season is one of the busiest periods for video games each year. Dozens of games release, all clamoring for the attention of consumers. For people looking to buy video games for kids, the sheer number of options can be overwhelming; but that’s where this guide comes in. I’ve chosen three games that would make great gifts, and I’ll explain what makes these three such good choices.

Disney Infinity 3.0

Disney Infinity is one of three high profile “toys-to-life” games on the market that require special action figures and play sets to experience all the content.

Disney Infinity offers sets based on iconic franchises like Toy Story and Marvel Comics, as well as the Toy Box mode, where imaginative players can create almost anything they want and populate their worlds with their favorite characters. Similar to last year’s addition of Marvel Superheroes, Disney Infinity 3.0’s main attractions this year are the two new Star Wars play sets: Twilight of the Republic and Rise Against the Empire.

Twilight of the Republic tells a new story set during the Clone Wars and includes many familiar faces from the animated series, while Rise Against the Empire presents a condensed version of the events of the original trilogy.

Both play sets offer a 3-5 hour main story and a wealth of side content — ranging from freeing a Jawa Sandcrawler to Podracing — that will keep players invested long after the credits role. Both sets include several sizeable planets to explore, and the space surrounding them. The space sections contain their own collectibles and challenges, as well as several large scale space battles for players to enjoy.

While young fans of the Clone Wars cartoon will likely gravitate towards Twilight of the Republic because of the familiar characters, Rise Against the Empire offers more gameplay variety straight out of the box.

Republic comes bundled with Anakin and Ahsoka figures, the two stars of the show, both of whom are Jedi wielding lightsabers and using the Force. Meanwhile the Empire play set comes bundled with Luke, equipped with both a lightsaber and blaster, and Leia, wielding her blaster pistol and some nifty hand-to-hand fighting skills. Twilight of the Republic requires an additional figure for both the fun third-person shooting and stellar lightsaber combat, while both gameplay styles come bundled with Rise Against the Empire.

That being said, both play sets are very enjoyable and can be appreciated by fans of all ages. Play sets are sold for $34.99 and additional figures $13.99-$14.99 each. Disney Infinity 3.0 is available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, PC, and iOS and Android devices.

Rocket League

The concept behind Rocket League is a simple one: car soccer. Matches are quick, chaotic, and exciting as teams of up to four players battle for the ball and attempt to score as many points as possible.

Adding to the chaos are pickups littering the fields that fill a car’s boost meter, and a jumping ability that can send vehicles careening wildly across the arena. Experience points are awarded to players for taking shots on the opponent’s goal, scoring points, and guarding their net. This experience is used to level up and unlock new cars, silly hats, and alternate antenna designs. A great selection of arenas keep locations fresh, and the cheering of an invisible crowd adds to the excitement.

Rocket League offers several modes to play, both online against other players or offline against bots, plus split screen, meaning there’s no shortage of excitement for players to enjoy. The combination of great gameplay and wealth of game modes makes this a fantastic option for families looking to play together.

Rocket League is sold digitally for $19.99 and is available on PlayStation 4 and Windows, Linux, and Mac through Steam.

Super Mario Maker

On first glance Super Mario Maker might seem a bit of an odd release. It appears to be more of a level editor than an actual game.

In fact, the first thing the game will have you do is complete your own level through a simple tutorial that walks players through everything from block placement to swapping between green and red Koopa Troopas, all of which is done through a clean and organized interface on the Wii U gamepad. Once players complete this tutorial the other major features of the game will unlock.

While many players will be content to create and share their own unique Mario stages, Super Mario Maker also offers several ways to experience the thousands of levels that the online community has produced since the game’s release. Levels are sorted by creators, the highest graded levels, and difficulty.

My favorite mode in the game is the 100 Mario Challenge where players are given 100 lives and tasked to complete 8 or 16 of the hardest user created levels. This is especially enjoyable when played with others, passing the gamepad every couple lives so everyone can share in the challenge. While there are poorly made levels, Nintendo requires that users be able to complete their levels before publishing them online. This ingenious feature ensures that the game isn’t flooded with total garbage to frustrate players.

The only issue I have with Super Mario Maker is the amount of time required to unlock additional pieces and styles for your levels. You’ll start with only a handful of blocks, items, and enemies, and the styles of Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. U. The unlockables include enemies like Chain Chomps and Bowser, and the styles of other Mario games, like Mario 3. I’d prefer to have all the tools available from the start, rather than drip feeding them to the player over time.

That being said, Super Mario Maker is a fantastic package; one of the best level creation tools I’ve ever used, and includes thousands of new levels created by the community. Super Mario Maker is available on the Wii U for $59.99.

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Disney Infinity 3.0


Rocket League


Super Mario Maker


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