Gaming

10 games to watch next holiday season

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Attendees walk past Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation signs at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, June 16, 2015.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

The worst part about E3 is the waiting. After getting a peek at hundreds of titles and getting a good sense of the ones they're most excited about, players have to put that excitement on pause for several months—and sometimes years.

While it's never safe to determine which titles will top the Christmas sales charts based on sizzle reels and carefully controlled demonstrations of small segments of games, E3 is a good barometer of what's catching the collective gaming eye.

As we do each year, we've compiled a list of the games most likely to perform well at retail this holiday season. That doesn't mean they'll be critical smashes, but they're likely to connect with today's gaming audience. Keep in mind that while all of these are slated to be released in 2015, development schedules are fluid–and the titles may slip into 2016 or later, or even be canceled.

—By Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com
Posted 18 June 2015

'Star Wars: Battlefront'

Electronic Arts

(Publisher: EA)

The original "Battlefront," which was released in 2004, is one of the most popular Star Wars games of all time. And EA's relaunch of the series, put together by the same team that handles its "Battlefield" franchise, is expected to be one of the biggest games of the year. EA expects it to sell between 9 million to 10 million units by the end of fiscal 2016. Players choose to fight for either the Empire or the Rebels, and the game will support up to 40 players per match in online battles. Show enough skill and you might get to play as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker. (Due out Nov. 17)

'Halo 5: Guardians'

Microsoft Studios

(Publisher: Microsoft)

Last year's "Halo: The Master Chief Collection" was something of a disaster, loaded with bugs that frustrated players. But don't expect any lingering resentment to keep fans away from "Guardians." This latest chapter in the Master Chief's saga finds him adrift and on the run. Expect the apparent death of his trusted AI confidant Cortana in "Halo 4" to play an important role in the story as well. (Due out Oct. 27)

'Disney Infinity 3.0'

Disney Interactive Studios and LucasArts

(Publisher: Disney Interactive)

For the past two years, Disney has seen notable success with Infinity, its "toys to life" game that competes with Activision's "Skylanders" series, but this year's installment could be the real breadwinner for one simple reason: "Star Wars." The game features real world playable figurines of Yoda, Darth Vader and all of the well-known characters from previous "Star Wars" films as well as this winter's "The Force Awakens." (Due out Aug. 23)

'Call of Duty: Black Ops III'

Activision

(Publisher: Activision)

Any new "Call of Duty" is a good bet, but when it's the sequel to the series' most popular installment, you can double down. The game is set in 2065, and soldiers have been augmented, gaining virtual superpowers. There's a plot, but the game's really more about its multiplayer aspects, which should once again be like catnip to action fans. (Due out Nov. 6)

'Rise of the Tomb Raider'

Microsoft Studios

(Publisher: Microsoft)

If 2013's "Tomb Raider" reboot showed the origins of Lara Croft, this game aims to show how she became evolved into the iconic character gamers are so familiar with. The game is exclusive to the Xbox One, a big plus for Microsoft, and its big competition, Sony's "Uncharted 4," was delayed into 2016, so this could be a chance for Lara to truly shine. (Due out in November)

'Mario Maker'

Nintendo

(Publisher: Nintendo)

Blend the popularity of user-generated content with one of the most iconic characters in the gaming world and you've got "Mario Maker"—a Wii U exclusive that lets players create their own levels for the famous plumber in a Super Mario Bros. world. To help build buzz, Nintendo will offers fans—and the curious—the chance to try out the game themselves now through June 20 in select Best Buy stores. (Due out in September)

'Assassin's Creed Syndicate'

Ubisoft

(Publisher: Ubisoft)

Like "Halo," "Assassin's Creed" had an off year quality-wise in 2014, but it's hoping to bounce back with Syndicate. And to ensure that, it has dropped the game's multiplayer element to focus on creating a solid single-player experience. Players can switch between two protagonists—one male, one female—which the publisher hopes will finally extinguish the furor that popped up last year by its decision to not feature any female assassins. (Due out Oct. 23)

'Skylanders SuperChargers'

Activision

(Publisher: Activision)

Disney may have "Star Wars" on its side, but Activision's "Skylanders" series isn't rolling over this year. "SuperChargers" adds land, sea and sky vehicles to the usual character figurines, which opens up all sorts of new play styles. It's not just an action game, it's now also a driving, flying and exploration game, which should help it remain competitive. (Due out Sept. 20)

'Fallout 4'

Bethesda Game Studios

(Publisher: Bethesda)

Arguably the most anticipated game of the past five to seven years, this post-apocalyptic role-playing game has all the makings of a gigantic hit. Its roll out, at Bethesda's press event, got a longer, more sustained period of applause than virtually any other title at the show. And the just-released free-to-play app loosely tied to the game is already one of Apple's top titles in terms of revenue generated. (Due out Nov. 10)

'Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival'

Nintendo

(Publisher: Nintendo)

The "Animal Crossing" franchise has been a go-to series for the Wii and Wii-U and will likely continue to perform on the 3DS. To ensure the success, Nintendo is utilizing its phenomenally successful amiibo figurines. The only threat may be yet another "Animal Crossing" game–"Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer." (Due out holiday season)