It's Christmas time, and we all know what that means — rapidly depleting bank accounts, lots of food and merriment, and plenty of video gaming. The Holiday season actually means different things depending on your own perspective, of course, but to many it's a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends and exchange some gifts. Of course there are lots of gifts screaming for your attention from store shelves, so we thought we'd do our part to guide you towards a merry Nintendo Christmas.
Mario's on his sleigh — with baby Yoshis doing the hard work to pull the rotund plumber along — and is ready to bring Nintendo happiness to us all. Sadly, he only visits good children who believe in him, so for the rest of us here are some gift ideas on which to spend some cold, hard cash.
Wii U is just days old, so wherever you go you're likely to be paying top-dollar, or close to it. Unlike with the launch of Wii you'll have two sets to choose from, the Basic or Deluxe/Premium models. While the Deluxe option comes in at an extra $50/£40-50, it does include extra on-board memory — 32GB instead of 8GB — as well as a copy of Nintendo Land and a reward scheme that'll earn you discounts on the Wii U eShop. Throw in some additional bits of plastic that can act as cradles and stands for the console and GamePad, and it represents good value for the extra investment.
Of course, the biggest challenge is stock, with the system only days old in Europe and selling well in North America. There's evidence that the Basic white model isn't selling as well as its black counterpart, so it seems more likely that this version will be on shelves more often. If you have to have a Wii U and it's the only available model, you can always pick up Nintendo Land separately and be prepared to add an external hard drive that little bit sooner.
A family-friendly standout in the games library is New Super Mario Bros. U, a continuation of the series that's arguably the best 2D Mario title in the "New" franchise, and includes the newbie-friendly Boost Mode on the GamePad. If you're looking for more entertainment that's solid and suitable for young gamers, consideration can also be given to Rabbids Land, which isn't up to the level of Nintendo's amusement park of tricks but offers some fun, while Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is one of the least expensive retail options that can be downloaded directly from the eShop.
An excellent budget option for older gamers is undoubtedly Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition, available at good prices in various stores and on the Wii U eShop, while Assassin's Creed III and ZombiU are high profile mature titles from Ubisoft that are well worth considering. The eShop has some download-only treats available too, with Trine 2: Director's Cut being a high profile example, though we particularly recommend Chasing Aurora and Nano Assault Neo, depending on your preferred genre.
Thanks to Nintendo's shiny new home console, the stereoscopic 3D handheld has now been somewhat shoved out of the limelight. That doesn't mean that it doesn't have plenty to offer, however, for those new to its charms or otherwise.
In terms of systems, there are two flavours to choose from with the standard model and this year's XL release. The original model is less expensive and, if rumours turn out to be true, heading for a further discount of $30 to its MSRP in North America. There are plenty of bundle options on hand, too, with the U.S. receiving a Blue 3DS XL bundle that comes with Mario Kart 7 pre-installed, while lucky Europeans can choose from five games for a free retail download if they register a 3DS XL before 15th January 2013. Whether you prefer the smaller version or its larger cousin, various retailers are sure to offer bundle deals to tempt you into a purchase.
In terms of high profile games this Holiday season, Nintendo weighed in with many of its big-hitters earlier in the year to clear the path for Wii U, though Paper Mario: Sticker Star is likely to be high on many wishlists, while Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is another high profile release vying for your attention — our review of that is coming soon. It's perhaps the eShop that's bringing the most goodness in this festive month, with titles such as Fluidity: Spin Cycle and Crimson Shroud catching the eye.
A Holiday 3DS can also be considered a sound investment for 2013. Let's just mention Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Fire Emblem: Awakening and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and leave it at that.
The Golden Oldies
As Nintendo's recent Black Friday sales figures showed, there are still plenty of Wii and DS fans out there. With combined unit sales well above 200 million, you may wonder who on Earth doesn't own these systems, but there's always someone. From the Wii's perspective it's all about the back-catalogue, with Nintendo admitting that it's working on no more first-party games for the system. A recent high-profile release is Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, a sequel to the popular Wii original — our review is coming for that, as well. If you want to track down some classics though, you could always check out our top 20 list, while consoles bundled with a game are available for $150 and under, with UK equivalents available for around £120 at various retailers. If you're in Canada, you can always pick up a new Wii Mini.
The humble DS, or the DSi to be more precise, is also a good budget option for those hooked to the Touch Generation library of games, among others. The highest profile recent release is undoubtedly Pokémon Black and White 2, tapping into the collecting instincts of Pokémaniacs worldwide. Like Wii, DS has an impressive back-catalogue with dozens of stone-cold classics to choose from, with DSiWare also playing its role. In truth, the difference in price between DSi and 3DS does make the newer system the better value package, with its own ever-expanding library, but if you firmly want to stick to the older handheld there'll be plenty of games to work through.
So there you go, some ideas for the best of Nintendo that's available this Holiday season. We may update this article should other ideas strike, and we'd love it if you pass on your own suggestions in the comments below.