Whether you're into shooters, role-playing games, sports simulations or head-scratching puzzlers, 2011 served up a ton of selection and quality for the discerning gamer.
In fact, therein lies the problem. With thousands of video games released each year -- for consoles, computers and handheld devices -- buying a gift for yourself or a video game fan can be a daunting task.
If you need some suggestions, the following are a few of the highlights from the year, divided into specific genres. If you're buying a game gift at retail, remember to check the recommended age rating in the corner of the box (such as "T" for teens).
For the adventurous type
The action continues with Sony's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception ($59.99) on the PlayStation 3 (PS3), as fortune hunter Nathan Drake ventures into the heart of the Arabian Desert to find the fabled "Atlantis of the Sands." This cinematic third-person adventure features an epic solo campaign — even playable in 3D on supported televisions — along with head-to-head and cooperative (co-op) multiplayer modes.
If you're a Nintendo Wii gamer, however, Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword ($49.99) is a thrilling single-player romp across dank dungeons and dangerous towns -- and for the first time in a Zelda game, you can soar through the skies, too. Also new is support for Wii MotionPlus that synchronizes your wireless remote's movements with Link's actions, such as swordplay.
Also be sure to check out Warner's Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360, PS3, PC), Namco Bandai's Dark Souls (Xbox 360, PS3) and Rockstar Games' L.A. Noire (Xbox 360, PS3).
For the shooter fan
In this third explosive installment in the best-selling military shooter series, Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 ($59.99; Xbox 360, PS3, PC) once again drops players in the world's hotspots to take on various missions against deadly organizations. As with past games, expect a thrilling single-player campaign and heated multiplayer modes (including the new Survival co-op mode).
If you'd rather fight against aliens than terrorists, Microsoft Game Studios' Gears of War 3 ($59.99; Xbox 360) has you defending your squad — and all of humankind, for that matter — from the vicious Locusts creatures. The third and final game wraps up the story arc, offers huge set pieces, memorable boss characters and exhaustive "stop and pop" action as you fire at the enemy from behind walls, columns and cars.
Also check out Electronic Arts' Battlefield 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC), Bethesda Softworks' Rage (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) and Sony's Resistance 3 (PS3).
For the sports nut
Footy fans who receive a copy of EA Sports' FIFA Soccer 12 ($59.99; Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) will no doubt love the game's near photorealistic graphics and broadcast-style cameras, authentic physics (including how the players react to one another and ball dribbling, passing and scoring) and more than 500 officially licensed clubs (totaling roughly 15,000 players). Along with quick matches, you can indulge in a managerial-focused career mode and many online head-to-head matches.
Hockey fans, however, should hit the ice with EA Sports' NHL 12 ($59.99; Xbox 360, PS3) and play as or against their favorite NHL team to lead them to the coveted Stanley Cup. You can also create a player from scratch (to master skating, passing, shooting to deking and hitting), choose one of hockey's greats (Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux, etc.) and tackle many solo and multiplayer modes including the new NHL Winter Classic outdoor hockey game.
For fantasy, role-players
If it's depth you want, Bethesda Softworks' The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim ($59.99; Xbox 360, PS3, PC) is an open-world role-playing game (RPG) with seemingly limitless character customization, weapons and items, quest choices, and characters and villains. Level up your hero as you explore new towns and dungeons, tackle ancient dragons and unravel an epic mystery in this latest Elder Scrolls adventure.
Part RPG and part shooter — but all fun -- Square Enix's Deus Ex: Human Revolution ($59.99; Xbox 360, PS3, PC) from Eidos Montreal is a cyberpunk-infused thriller. You play as Adam Jensen, a mechanically augmented secret agent in the near future, who must figure out why someone is trying to ensure mankind's evolution follows a particular path — and stop them in their tracks.
For puzzle gamers
Fusing puzzles with action, Valve Software's Portal 2 ($49.99; Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac) challenges you to navigate through a trap-laden laboratory using a portal gun that can blow an interdimensional hole onto virtual any surface. Using logic and physics, you'll jump in and out and utilize various objects in the environment to accomplish your increasingly challenging goals.
There's no shortage of awesome and inexpensive puzzle games for Apple's iOS devices — namely, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad — that might just prompt you to put Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies down for a while. This includes all of these for $0.99 cents apiece: Disney Mobile's Where's My Water?, Chillingo's Contre Jour, Amanita Design's Machinarium and Mediocre AB's Sprinkle.