Handicapping the Holidays

We narrow the field for the gamer on your gift list

Handicapping the Holidays

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Wii
Nintendo
$50

Super Mario 3D Land

3DS
Nintendo
$49

You might want to sit your children down and tell them which one you love more; it might be easier than picking a favorite between Mario vs. Zelda. Both games have grown up together from their genre-defining Nintendo days, with each series consistently producing innovative and uniquely playful games. The last time we saw Zelda's Link grab his sword was in Twilight Princess, which, while far from a dud, wasn't designed with the Wii's unique interface in mind. Not so with Skyward Sword, which utilizes the Wiimote's every capability, tossing players into a world populated by the trademark oddball characters and design that you could easily take for granted. Given the dearth of truly great games for the Wii and that this will likely be the last Zelda game before the Wii U is unleashed on the public in the coming year, every Wii owner should have this game. Meanwhile, Mario comes to save the handheld Nintendo 3DS from becoming a forgotten novelty. As with the majority of games featuring the mustachioed plumber, the level design is what makes the game more fun than your average platforming game – a genre the Mario makers pretty much invented back in the Eighties. The Tanooki Suit is back, letting players jump farther and pummel opponents with the raccoon tail, but this time around, all your favorite bad guys also have the deadly tail. Most games on the 3DS quickly lose their third-dimensional charm, causing players to turn off the 3D effect and opt for the standard flat presentation. Super Mario 3D Land finds a new way to repeatedly exploit the technology's dizzying effect to spectacular ends, even if the screen is only 3 inches wide.

The winner: It breaks my heart to do this, but Zelda wins this round, if only because people probably already have the Wii. However, if you have a Nintendo 3DS or need a gift for someone who does, Super Mario 3D Land is a must-have.

Other contenders: Mario Kart 7, Cave Story 3D

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