2011 Xbox 360 Holiday Gift Guide

2011 draws to a close and we move on to the far-off, possibly apocalyptic year of 2012, but it’s been a smash hit year for games on the Xbox 360, Kinect, downloadable and plain retail alike. With the 2011 Christmas Release Glut being the gluttiest it’s been in a long time. With release after release, what’s on the market that would make a great gift for your loved ones or even yourself? (We won’t tell).

Here are thirteen games that run the gamut perfectly between gift, guilty pleasure and art all for the children, young and old, the enthusiasts, the hardcores, the casuals and even the gaming newbies that you care for in your life!

Enjoy JustPushStart’s Xbox 360 Holiday Gift Guide!

BASTION

For: The Game Connoisseur, The Story Enthusiast, The Action Lover
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($14.99)

A young, white-haired boy wakes up to find his bed on a floating patch of land in the middle of nowhere and discovers the ruined architecture and stiff corpses of the ended world around him. From there is a fantastically told story of injustice, humanity and the meaning of loneliness when survival is the last thing that still matters.

With the Active Narration mechanic that means you never hear the same dialog twice unless you want to, the player learns the secrets of the world through the narrator Rucks, an old man who survived the calamity that brought the world to its knees so the player learns the lore of the world while playing through some of gaming’s most addictive and well balanced combat ever from a beautiful, if not sometimes confusing isometric viewpoint.

Available on the Xbox Live Arcade, it follows in the footsteps of other artful, beautiful games on the network released in past years such as Braid or Limbo. For the connoisseur in your life who loves games as more than just games, this game is a must play, must own.

BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY

For: The Comic Book Geek, The Sandbox Fan, People Who Miss The Hitman Franchise
Price: $59.99

Arkham Asylum was a reviewer darling when it came out, masterfully combining stealthy takedowns, impish shadow-lingering and brutal beat’em up action. Set down mostly linear environments, Arkham City opened up significantly in the quarantined Arkham City, as beautiful to look at as it is dangerous and exceedingly dark.

With tight gameplay, atmospheric settings and a city you could linger and lurk in for hours at a time, brutal, visceral combat and a stealth focus that too few games these days seem to embrace, Arkham City brings out a lot of good things that the modern industry seems to have forgotten to be incredibly fun. The Arkham series of Batman games seemingly doing to the franchise in video games what The Dark Knight did to Batman in the theaters.

It’s a fantastic time sink for those looking to explore the sights of a city gone off the deep end and a return to form for the iconic superhero, a great buy for those willing to put their gaming time some place dark for a while.

CATHERINE

Price: $39.99
For: The Manga Nerd, The Story Enthusiast, The Puzzle Geek, The Horror Fan, ADULTS ONLY

Are you ready to mature? Ready to take life on as an adult? Or are you just not quite sure you’re done with youth, yet? Catherine, from the creators of the Persona series, asks you to decide between the soft, lively, uneasy and possibly psychotic touch of Catherine (with a C), or the stable, well-meaning, frumpy and possibly pregnant clutch of Katherine (with a K).

A strange and unholy mixture of puzzle games, horror games and dating sims, Catherine was by far one of the most interesting titles released this year. Due to risque themes and scenes, also the inherit horror of getting chased up a staircase by a giant, angry, fork wielding bride, this is certainly not a game for children.

It is, however, a game for people who want to see what Eraserhead may have been like if it was splashed with pink and co-directed by Tetsuya Nomura and a sliding puzzle.

Okay that may have been a stretch.

But Catherine is a must-look-in-to for any anime fans or anyone who just wants something different to play around with.

Child of Eden

Price: $39.99
For: Rez Fans, Rail Shooter Fans, People Looking To Get Some Use Out Of The Kinect

We here at Just Push Start like to say that the Kinect isn’t going through a really rough spot and is a perfectly well-rounded gaming system with appeal to all generations of gamer. We like to, but we’re only deluding ourselves.

Enter: Child of Eden

From the creator of Rez, a trippy, audio focused shoot ’em up with enough color to turn a rainbow pale with envy, Child of Eden takes place in it’s wake as a precursor to Rez. It can be played with a regular controller, a nice addition, but is touted as a Kinect title. With the signature “synesthesia” quality, it’s a game meant to be experienced, and it’s one of the more interesting experiences we’ve seen this year.

Essentially a rail shooter you play with your hands, this ethereal shooter may just be what every Kinect owner needs to cool off from the thousands of other dance and party games. If you own a Kinect and need some one-on-one time with your console, immerse yourself in the digital color river that is Child of Eden.

Dark Souls

Price: $59.99
For: Hardcore Gamers, No One Else

Dark Souls is a game where you die many many times.

Sequel to the brutally difficult Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls ramps up the difficulty to frankly sadistic levels and turns the hopelessness dial up to 11.

None of these are complaints however. Believe it or not, Dark Souls uses brutal difficulty and nihilistic hopelessness to its advantage. Creating a dark tapestry of dread and loneliness in a world that could help or turn against you at any moment is an absolutely unforgettable experience. Any and all help you receive is temporary and you’re a fateful death or sword in the gut away from complete loneliness at any moment.

And as difficult as it is, this combat oriented dungeon crawler never feels unfair. A perfectly balanced game which will make you prove yourself to see its ending. Casual gamers beware, but for your masochistic son or cocky gamer roommate, this game will provide an extremely poignant experience.

Driver: San Fransisco

Price: $39.99
For: Driving Gamers, Fans of Starsky and Hutch, Eccentrics

Driver: San Fransisco is a perfect example of a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and benefits for it.

Detective John Tanner has fallen into a coma and is living through a coma dream to catch the drug lord Jericho. But instead of doing nothing but driving in San Fransisco (as the title would have you believe), Detective Tanner can quantum leap into any driver on the road and commandeer their vehicle.

An absolute joy to behold, as well as a fantastic mechanic to inject strategy into an otherwise straight driving game, Driver: San Fransisco is well written, colorful, well realized, fun and chaotic, all a worthy sacrifice for a small amount of realism.

If your gift receiver has had love affairs with driving games in the past, then Driver: San Fransisco will rekindle that torrid pile of emotions into a simmering boil once again, and if you or your loved ones haven’t particularly enjoyed them in the past, then let John Tanner show you how much fun a piece of metal on four wheels can really be when you’re a comatose ghost.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Price: $59.99
For: Dungeons and Dragon Nerds, Value Gamers, Hardcore Gamers, Dragon Slayers

Skyrim, having recently just been released, is probably a game you’ve already heard about. Aside from another recent game on this list, one breaking more sales records than it knows how to count, Skyrim is one of the big releases this year.

There’s a reason. Skyrim is an absolutely massive game. And as big as it is immersive, this is the single-player RPG of the year. Starting out from fairly humble beginnings, on the way to be sentenced to death to taking your rightful place as the last dragonborn, this is a game that could last you hundreds of hours while remaining fresh and beautiful the entire time.

From hardcore roleplayers to even the new blood who may have expressed more than a little interest in the Lord of the Rings mythos, this is a fantastic game to understand exactly what role-playing is all about.

L.A. Noire

Price: $39.99
For: Cinemaphiles, Mystery Fanatics, Clue Players, ADULTS ONLY

L.A. Noire is a reviewer darling and a game people play whenever they want to feel smart for a little while between shooting segments.

But beyond a brain aid, L.A. Noire is quite the work. An immersive sandbox game with intuitive, yet still mind bending murder mystery solving, Noire is a radical departure from Rockstar’s other games such as Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. With an old school detective vibe that will have you unironically jotting down notes and speaking in a tough, hard-boiled 1940’s accent, this is a game that sticks with you.

Well written, well told, long enough to make a big enough bang for your purchase and surprisingly colorful for a genre usually depicted in monochrome, for anyone who’s ever read a Marlowe mystery novel or just likes the look of fedoras and trenchcoats, this game is a post-depression era smorgasbord.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Price: $59.99
For: First person shooter fans, Modern Warfare fanboys

This thing has been selling like wish granting twinkies and has crushed all competitors under its massive weight. It is the modern shooter.

And like Elder Scrolls: Skyrim above, there’s actually a reason behind its popularity, unlike the inexplicable popularity of terrible children singers on the internet.

With a surprisingly solid single-player campaign and a massive multiplayer system set to hook you for months at a time, unlike some on this list, this is a game meant to be taken little at a time, between work and dinner, when you get home to relax and blast some guys online.

It manages, however, to please on all counts by also having a fairly compelling single-player mode.

But according to sales statistics, you probably already bought it.

Portal 2

Price: $34.99
For: Nerds, Puzzle Solvers

Portal was considered one of the greatest games of its generation, used as a teaching tool for game developers and is a short but outlandishly compelling trip through dark comedy, tight structure and great characters, or rather, great character.

Portal 2 is the sequel. Being a sequel to what many consider one of the greatest games of the generation and not being a complete disappointment is a big thing, undeniably. With a longer campaign, more characters and an extremely well realized co-op multiplayer feature, this is more than most sequels can manage to squeeze out.

This is a must buy for anyone looking for more than just time, value or graphics out of their gaming experience, also, special mention should be afforded for the game’s ending, easily one of the best and most satisfying endings in video game history, leaving no loose ends and creating a symphony of satisfaction.

Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster

Price: $49.99
For: Your Kids, Anyone Who Wants To Be Led Back To The Magical World Of Sesame Street By The Caring And Creative Hand Of Tim Schafer

Who doesn’t love Sesame Street? No one. There is not a person left on this earth who can hate Sesame Street while retaining at least half a human heart.

Who doesn’t love Tim Schafer? Creator of Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and Brütal Legend, he is a creative mind in an ocean of gray-brown shooter developers, he is a man absolutely incapable of bland thought.

Who better to bring back the magic of Sesame Street in video game form? Utilizing the Microsoft Kinect, this is an absolute must buy for anyone with a child and a Kinect. With easy and rewarding motion controls and the familiar faces of Cookie Monster and Elmo, it’s a game structured around moving children through a beautifully realized storybook world. Perhaps the Kinect has found its true purpose in Double Fine.

Sonic Generations

Price: $49.99
For: Sega Fanboys, Old School Gamers, Kids Not Too Jaded To Play Something Without Gore Or Guns

Sonic may not have made it into top ten lists or buyers guides in the last five years, and it’s a shame. Sonic’s had a bad couple of years, releasing terrible game after terrible game at a frankly embarrassing rate (Note: It took a team of six frightening men to stop the writer from using the pun “at Sonic Speed”). Sonic Team seemed to finally get their act together in time for Christmas, because Sonic Generations is a short but overwhelmingly giddy new iteration to the Sonic franchise.

Switching from old-school two dimensional gameplay to modernized three dimensional gameplay to keep the game constantly fresh, the game acts as a playthrough of Sonic’s 20 year history, garnished with bright colors, great visuals, smooth gameplay and Sonic’s greatest soundtrack to date, it’s only setback being its disappointing length. But if you or any of your recipients have ever had any sort of affection for Sonic The Hedgehog, this game simply can’t be passed up.