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Even if you're rocking a relic, there's a holiday video game to keep you fat and happy

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Right now, gaming fans are enjoying the industry's Renaissance, Industrial Revolution and Blue Period all at once. Not only are the games better than ever, but gaming is a business big enough to rival music, TV and movies, as $1.1 billion in October sales will attest.

Chances are, you either are a gamer or know someone who is. And now that we bring it up, why wouldn't you be one yourself?

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As the holidays approach, companies flood the market with their best titles. Let us help guide you through. The handy-dandy guide below features the must-haves for every noteworthy platform. For your convenience, we've categorized games by system, age level and ESRB rating. Game on!

Xbox 360

Mass Effect If you have a television, you probably couldn't help but notice that a little game called Halo 3 came out in September. It was sold everywhere (even at 7-Eleven!) and had almost as much hype surrounding it as Bee Movie. Halo 3 certainly qualifies as must-have, but don't ignore Mass Effect, the incredible role-playing game that's an Xbox 360 exclusive.

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You create your own human character and explore the universe as a soldier commanding the crew of the SSV Normandy. An engrossing plot, beautiful graphics, deep game play, an open-ended environment and the chance to make critical choices that affect the story arc make Mass Effect a sci-fi, choose-your-own-adventure classic. You need this game, you want this game, and your life will be shallow and meaningless without it.

Other age-specific options

For kids: Viva Piata: Party Animals This is a great game for kids to play together, with a wide variety of mini-games and races.

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For family: Rock Band If you ever wanted to start your own version of the Partridge Family with plastic musical instruments, this is your chance. The full edition comes with a drum kit, guitar and mic.

For adults: Halo 3 There are plenty of other quality candidates on the 360 (BioShock, Call of Duty 4, The Orange Box, Assassin's Creed) but if you're an adult owning a 360, you absolutely have to have Halo 3. Kind of like Frampton Comes Alive! in the 1970s.

Nintendo Wii

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Super Mario Galaxy One of the most recognizable and beloved characters in video game history is Mario, the plumber with the embarrassingly clichd Italian accent. Even a beauty-pageant contestant would recognize him. Mario has carried Nintendo for ages and does it again this year with Super Mario Galaxy. In a 3-D space universe, Mario chases Bowser down in order to save his dear Princess Peach. Stunning environments, cool new power-ups and a fun two-player co-op join the always-guaranteed-to-be-addictive game play.

Other age-specific options

For kids: Mario Party 8 Nobody does games for kids like Nintendo, and this party game (with Mario of course) can be enjoyed by up to four people.

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For family: Smarty Pants A fun trivia game with 20,000 questions for the whole family.

For adults: Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles The great survival-horror franchise has a different look on the cute, little Wii, but it's just as creepy.

PlayStation 3

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Uncharted: Drake's Fortune The PS3 has taken even more of a public beating than Britney Spears. Both deserve it. The PS3 has few console exclusives (of the games below, only Ratchet and Clank is PS3-only), its online service pales in comparison to the Xbox 360s, and, just like Britney, it isn't kid-friendly. Despite all that, the PS3 just needs a few games to call its own, and it's back in business. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a step in the right direction. This stunning title, in which gamers control Nathan Drake, a descendant of Sir Francis Drake, plays like an up-to-date version of Tomb Raider minus the busty brunette.

Other age-specific options

For kids: Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction This humorous game is the fifth in the franchise and still going strong.

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For family: The Simpsons Game Quite simple. Funniest. Game. Ever.

For adults: Assassin's Creed (M) A refreshingly different take on a common gaming theme killing people.

Other systems

Still haven't chosen a side in the console war? No problem, there are still some sweet options for you, too. If you're a PC, PS2, DS or PSP owner, the industry still cares about you. Everybody else? You're screwed.

PC: Crysis There are plenty of great options for PC gamers (Tabula Rasa, World in Conflict) but this alien invasion game set in 2020 is the best.

PlayStation 2: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock If you don't have a next-gen console don't worry. You can still play this great game on the PS2.

Nintendo DS: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Grab your tights and play the first Zelda game on the DS.

PlayStation Portable: Manhunt 2 If you're looking for a hand-held game where you can kick guys in the groin (and who isn't?), this controversial title is for you.


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