Make that video game gift decision a little easier with our guide to the best of 2014's releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, 3DS and more.
The PlayStation 4 may have struggled for truly great exclusives this term, save for PlayStation 3 upgrade "The Last of Us Remastered," baseball sim "MLB 14: The Show," the generally well-received "Infamous: Second Son" and PS3/PS4 crossover "Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign-," but it does offer access to a good number of top titles available across PS4, Xbox One, PC and beyond.
Among them stand "Grand Theft Auto V," which was overhauled and rereleased this year for PS4 and XBO, fairytale adventure "Child of Light," mining mission "SteamWorld Dig," the simultaneously brutal and innovative "Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor" and "Wolfenstein: The New Order," tense survival quest "Alien: Isolation," episodic graphic novel adaptation "The Wolf Among Us," Himalayan action-adventure "Far Cry 4," fantasy epic "Dragon Age: Inquisition" and annual sports franchises "NBA 2K15," "FIFA 15," "PES 2015" and "Madden 15."
Similarly, "Assassin's Creed Rogue" picked up better scores on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 than the bigger budget "Assassin's Creed Unity" on the newer consoles and PC.
Console sci-fi shooter "Destiny" remains one of the biggest launches of the year, even if it didn't receive the rapturous critical reception that many expected, while "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare" improved upon its predecessors.
On Xbox One, acclaimed retrospective "Halo: The Master Chief Collection," exuberant driving game "Forza Horizon 2" and the nimble athletics of city-saving parkour title "Sunset Overdrive" are particularly good choices, in addition to the multiplatform selection above -- the "Halo" collection especially, as it grants exclusive access to an early round of "Halo 5" testing starting in January.
"Titanfall," too, was a significant coup for Microsoft's platforms (Xbox One, 360, and Windows PC), attempting to remould the first person shooter genre once again.
On Nintendo's Wii U, arcade racer "Mario Kart 8" and party pummeler "Super Smash Bros." became instant must-haves, "Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker" provided adorable 3D puzzle-solving, "Bayonetta 2" remains one of the console's best-rated exclusives and "Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze" continued a tradition of exacting platforming action, vibrant visuals and tremendous soundtracks.
Top tip for givers of "Mario Kart 8": couple it with an eShop voucher so the recipient can purchase the game's $12 bundle of extra tracks, characters and vehicles.
The PC was privy to many of the Xbox and PlayStation console hits, with a number of its own notable exclusives. Among them, "Divinity: Original Sin" provided a detailed and innovative twist on fantasy adventuring, the breathtaking "Endless Legend" came astonishingly close to usurping empire-building franchise regent "Civilization," both "Legend of Grimrock II" and "The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth" proved immensely satisfying, brain-teasing puzzler "The Talos Principle" was an acclaimed volte-face from the team behind satirical shooter franchise "Serious Sam," and the Visual Novel style of "Steins;Gate" championed the power of a story well-told.
This year's two "Pokémon" games, "Omega Ruby" and "Alpha Sapphire," rejig their ten-year-old ancestors and are in serious demand, adding elements and making online play a cinch.
On the roleplaying front, "Persona Q: Shadow of the Labrynth" marked a rare and warmly received excursion on Nintendo for the long-running series, with two main characters (and their differing viewpoints) to experience, while "Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call" again leveraged the beloved soundtracks of its parent franchise, but as a music game rather than a fantasy adventure.
Talking of the fanciful, "Fantasy Life" was released internationally after becoming a cult sensation thanks to positive reviews following its 2012 Japanese release; meanwhile, coveted eShop download "Shantae and the Pirate's Curse" awaits release outside North America but is already one of the best jump'n'run platform games on 3DS and Wii U.