Left 4 Dead 2
The follow-up to one of the best zombie shooters ever is the most cathartic game you'll play this season (not much beats blasting the heads off the flesh-hungry undead). There's an arsenal of chainsaws, axes, grenade launchers and gas cans to play around with on the Xbox 360. It's especially fun tearing through co-op mode with a friend who has your back.
Assassin's Creed II
The first game in this action series (for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) was exciting and enticing. This one's even better. As a Renaissance-era assassin with a sword, poison and other deadly items at your disposal, you stroll around Italy kicking ass and hanging out with Leonardo da Vinci. There's literally a new adventure down every path and around every corner.
Think of this Top 40-embracing game (for all consoles) as Guitar Hero for people who find Metallica a tad too threatening. The pop songs — including hits by Duran Duran, Fall Out Boy and No Doubt — span decades, making it the most tuneful music videogame out there. Plus, it's loads of fun if you're a Taylor Swift fan: Three of her songs are here.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The sequel to one of the greatest videogames of all time is set in war-torn Afghanistan. The single-person campaign is every bit as thrilling as its predecessor, but Modern Warfare became one of the most popular games ever because of its online multiplayer action, and 2 (available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) delivers tons of new maps, perks and weapons.
There's only so much you can do with a plastic guitar. This great new music game for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii comes with a turntable controller and more than 100 songs to mash-up. You scratch, fade and remix tracks by Eminem, Gwen Stefani, Queen and dozens of others. If that wasn't enough, Grandmaster Flash is your teacher through the whole game.
Dragon Age: Origins
RPGs are total time-suckers. They can also be a total waste of time. But this medieval fantasy (for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) comes complete with knights, demons and winged dragons to keep things interesting. There are dozens of ways to play the game, so every decision you make counts. Plus, the sword-rattling battles look great in HD.
God of War Collection
I usually stay away from repackagings like this, but we're talking two of the greatest PlayStation 2 games gathered on a single PlayStation 3 disc. Hard to beat that deal. Best of all, your ass-kicking Spartan warrior now slays foes, demolishes cities and gets busy with the ladies (two at a time!) in glorious HD. You'll feel like you're playing the games for the first time.
Hasbro Family Game Night 2
Grandma will no doubt approve of this series, which turns old-school board games into new-school Wii workouts. But it's still a lotta fun. Last year's outing included the addictive Yahtzee; 2 contains faves like Jenga and Connect 4x4. Best: Operation, which you really should play sober and with a steady hand. Bonus points: Mr. Potato Head hosts the whole thing.
Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues
The Lego series (Star Wars, Batman) is one of my favorites, and this sequel to last year's trilogy-based outing is one of the best. There are Crystal Skull levels this time around, and they're way more fun than the movie. Best of all, the tiny weapons pack a surprising amount of power, turning baddies into blocky bits. It's for all consoles, but play it on HD for full effect.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
The basic gameplay of this old-school classic doesn't change much; it's just way more interactive (and fun) with the Wii Remote. There's also a new multiplayer mode that makes rescuing Peach seem like a real quest rather than an afterthought. Be sure to test out the new propeller suit — it ranks right up there with Mario's coolest accessories. One of the best games of the year.