10 Must-Have Videogames This Holiday Season, 2012

10 Must-Have Games for 2012

If you've got a gamer on your holiday list, there are plenty of good choices this year.

The final years of a console generation typically bring some of the best titles, since videogame developers have gotten to know the ins and outs of the systems. Unfortunately, it often brings a flood of sequels, since publishers are less willing to take risks at this stage.

That makes it all the more surprising, then, that amidst the sequel sprawl of 2012, there are so many outstanding original games. Even better, some of the sequels that did show up were surprisingly innovative.

Please click ahead to see some titles sure to delight your favorite gamer.

By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 8 Nov. 2012

Dishonored
Source: Bethesda

Publisher: Bethesda
Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Real choice in videogames is a rare thing. You're typically steered in a certain direction — often forced to kill, even when you'd rather not.

"Dishonored" truly leaves the decisions in your hand, letting you be a lethal killing machine or a non-lethal ghost. It then adjusts to take your actions into account — and seemingly small decisions on one level can turn into bigger ones further in the game. It's original, intense and engaging.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Publisher: Take-Two
Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

This turn-based, role-playing strategy game is a reboot of one of the industry's most revered titles. That stacks the odds against it, but developer Firaxis, the maker of the "Civilization" series, knocks it out of the park with a terrific blend of action and resource development.

The game rewards creative playing and it can easily be played again and again — provided you can tear yourself away from it in the first place.

The Walking Dead: The Game
Source: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games
Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS

While most games that rely on a license from a TV show or movie are instantly forgettable, "The Walking Dead" stands out. It's less about killing zombies and more about the moral values of people in an unthinkable situation.

Rather than being just a generic shooter, it's an adventure game that forces you to make hard decisions in a very short period of time. Those decisions have impact too — both in the direction the story takes and in your relationship with other characters. To top it all off, it has some of the best voice acting in any game this year, which helps you establish an emotional connection with other characters.

Diablo III
Source: Activision-Blizzard

Publisher: Activision-Blizzard
Systems: PC

This action/role-playing game follows the same formula as its predecessors, but since its predecessors were two of the most beloved games in the industry's history, no one is complaining.

The solo experience is fun, but it's even more entertaining playing cooperatively with friends. There were some early bugs when "Diablo III" was released, but those are cleaned up now — and the game shines because of it.

Halo 4
Source: Microsoft

Publisher: Microsoft
Systems: Xbox 360

When series creator Bungie announced it was finished with "Halo," fans worried the quality would suffer. Boy, were they wrong.

"Halo 4" is the series' best title in years, injecting new life into the series, while keeping the best parts of what has made it so popular for the past 10 years. It's a great jumping-in point for newcomers, but veterans will absolutely love the game and its many free add-ons.

Papo & Yo
Source: Sony

Publisher: Sony
Systems: PS3

It's easy to dismiss videogames as being frivolous, but this one somehow manages to successfully blend a game with a real-world horror.

On the surface, it seems to be about a boy, a sometimes benign/sometimes terrifying monster, and intriguing — but not overly difficult — puzzles. The underlying theme, though, is child abuse.

The game's developer, who is a childhood-abuse survivor, made "Papo & Yo" to exorcise his demons. The result was a beautiful and thought-provoking title that stands apart from the crowd.

NintendoLand
Source: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Systems: Wii U

"NintendoLand" is to the Wii U what "Wii Sports" was to the Wii. It's the perfect introduction to the new system, holding a player's hands as it walks through what the Wii U can do.

Loaded with 12 minigames based on several popular Nintendo franchises, it's bundled with the deluxe version of the system's hardware. If you go shopping and can only find the less expensive basic version, though, this is an absolute necessity.

Journey: Collector's Edition
Source: Sony

Publisher: Sony
Systems: PS3

Developer Thatgamecompany has always followed its own path. This year's "Journey" is as much a work of poetry as it is a game, soothing and almost meditative.

There aren't any enemies to destroy or even too many difficult puzzles. The game is just what the name implies: a journey – but it's one that never gets boring. This collector's edition comes with the equally unique and terrific games, "Flow" and "Flower."

Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Source: Activision-Blizzard

Publisher: Activision-Blizzard
Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC

Activision's flagship franchise takes a step into the near-future this time around, with ultra-high-tech weapons and a plot that revolves around our dependency on computers.

But, let's face it, it's the multiplayer that people are interested in — and the sheer number of people playing online makes this a must-have item for many gamers.

Assassin's Creed III
Source: Ubisoft

Publisher: Ubisoft
Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, Vita

Ubisoft's flagship franchise kicks off a new chapter, eschewing its 15th and 16th century setting for the American Revolution — specifically Colonial-era Boston and New York — but the changes go deeper than that.

It's a much larger and more diverse game and works well for new players, while fans of the series will find plenty to like. Plus, how often do you get to interact with George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in a videogame?