The holidays are here once again, and you know what that means—time to hunker down on the couch in your jammies with a cup of hot chocolate and play video games all day. To ensure that you make the best of this prime loafing time, here's a list of games you shouldn't miss this holiday break.
10. Super Meat Boy - XBLA/PC
This year's platforming sleeper hit Super Meat Boy is not for the faint of heart or the slow of reflex. You take on the role of a plucky little globule of red meat, bent on saving his best girl from the evil, and unfortunately-named, Dr. Fetus. The game is about split-second timing as you sprint and wall jump your way through over 300 levels-worth of spinning sawblades and molten lava pits. Granted, impatient gamers may end up smashing the controller with the nearest yule log, but those of you who don't mind taking the time to hone your skills will dig the game's creative design, catchy 8-bit style soundtrack, and goofy sense of humor. The most dedicated players will be rewarded with loads of unlockables not to mention the privilege of sipping nog while admiring their standing on the Meat Boy leaderboards.
9. Donkey Kong Country Returns - Wii
The holidays are a time for all of us to be kids again and for some of us older kids, nothing's more fun than a trip back to our misspent, arcade-obsessed youth. Donkey Kong Country Returns lets us relive our favorite elements of the Donkey Kong franchise including platforming, vine-swinging, and banana collecting. Pitting Donkey Kong against the evil Tiki Tak Tribe, it also adds some cool new things like massive explosions and level hazards as well as some wacky new boss monsters. Retro gamers will enjoy the game's fairly high difficulty while newer (or less skilled) gamers will enjoy the game's Super Guide technology that gets you through the particularly challenging levels. However you do it, you and your little buddy Diddy Kong (which can be played co-op with a second player) will have a blast platforming your way to jungle-themed victory.
8. Pinball FX 2 - XBLA
If competition is in your blood, few titles this season will satisfy that killer instinct like Pinball FX 2. With the most dynamic digital pinball since Pinball Dreams for the Amiga, the game expertly recreates the analog experience of old school pinball. Aside from the fact that the original XBLA download is free, Pinball FX 2 features backwards compatibility that allows you to use tables from the original Pinball FX as well as achievements, local splitscreen multiplayer, online competitions, and live video chat via Xbox 360 Live Vision Camera. Additional tables with cool themes like Nightmare Mansion and Streetfighter II can be bought for 200 Xbox Live points and just released for 800 points—the Marvel Pinball pack which contains incredible new tables featuring Marvel heroes Spiderman, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Blade.
7. Castlevania Lords of Shadow – Xbox 360/PS3
If you've yet to play this spectacular reboot of the Castlevania franchise, then now's the time. Going back to the year 1047, you play holy knight Gabriel Belmont, bent on restoring your murdered bride to life. Using your chain whip and handy Light and Shadow magic, you battle, jump, and rappel your way across the land, looking for pieces of the mythical God Mask. Along the way, you use a slew of impressively powerful combos to take on epic-scale bosses as well as your garden variety vampires and werewolves. The game features the voice talents of acting luminaries Robert Carlysle (Trainspotting) and Patrick Stewart and some of the spookiest graphics around, not to mention some of the most inventive puzzle design seen in recent memory. This holiday, take a break from the cheer and merriment and kick some evil ass.
6. Dance Central – Xbox 360
Of course if you want to get out of bed, then few games will get you moving like Dance Central, the best release title for Microsoft's Kinect. Getting rid of the whole controller mat thing, Kinect lets you bust a completely unfettered move and Dance Central's engagingly colorful interface and infectious track list (which includes artists like No Doubt, Young MC, and Snoop Dogg) will pry even the most sedentary player out of his or her gaming chair. The title scratches that party game itch but what it has over other dance games is freedom. As long as you have enough space in your living room, you and your friends and relatives can spend hours challenging each other to full-on dance battles without fear that Aunt Jeanne will slide sock-footed off the mat and plunge through the coffee table.