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The Best and Worst Video Games for 2009

The unquestionable king of entertainment isn’t Hollywood (domestic box office receipts flat at $10 billion); it isn’t the music industry (U.S. album sales down nearly 10%); it’s the gaming industry. Video game sales are up a staggering 43% from 2006 to 2007 with some titles, like Microsoft’s Halo 3, commanding more than $300 million in sales the first week alone. Who said the consumer is dead?

In spite of the economy, the gaming industry is expecting another big season, leaving more experts to claim it as a truly recession-proof business. Chris Kohler, game life editor for Wired.com, decides the best games of the season using criteria like age range, special effects and value (how much playing time you get per game). Below are his top three game picks for the new year:

LittleBigPlanet (PlayStation 3): This game allows you to make your own levels and share them. It’s a big value beause you can log in and play hundreds of new levels that other players are making, so the game essentially never ends.
$60, Sony, Rated E (ages 6 and up)

Fallout 3 (Xbox360, PC): A massive role-playing game that offers dozens of hours of content. Many players are already saying it’s addictive.
$60, Bethesda, Rated M (ages 17 and up)

Animal Crossing: City Folk (Nintendo Wii): A virtual village that you build and play in every day. The game constantly changes with the times – residents of the town celebrate holidays with special events so it would take a year to see everything the game has to offer.
$50, Nintendo, Rated E (ages 6 and up)

But there are also certain games to steer clear from, Kohler reports. Namely, some $10 and $20 titles for the Wii stand out as particularly bad:

Chicken Shoot: Awful graphics depicting a bunch of cartoon chickens on a farm that shoot eggs at you. The premise doesn’t even make sense if you think about it.

Rig Racer 2: Was there ever a Rig Racer 1? This game allows you to race big rigs, but it feels more like a simulation of drunk driving since you can’t control a thing.

Beware of knockoffs as well, Kohler says. If you are going to buy a Nintendo DS portable system because you’ve heard of the brain games or virtual pet simulators, make sure to get the real things – Brain Age and Nintendogs – rather than the dozens of cheap knockoffs out there, which cost the same as the real ones.

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