BOSTON (TheStreet) -- If you're looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer this holiday season, video games are a great gift idea, especially for the male demographic. Picking one from hundreds of titles on the shelf can be a daunting task, though, which is why I've crafted this list of the 10 best video games.More than 200 video games have been released in 2011 across all platforms, from Microsoft's ( MSFT) Xbox 360 to Sony's ( SNE) PlayStation 3 to Nintendo's ( NTDOY.PK) Wii home console and 3DS portable device. While Black Friday was a boon for retailers, video-game sales haven't perked up, though. Research firm NPD Group said overall U.S. video-game sales were up only 0.4% in November as hardware sales lagged.
10. Saints Row: The Third Release Date: Nov. 15 Publisher: THQ ( THQI) Open-world sandbox action games have been extremely popular since the emergence of the Grand Theft Auto series in the late 1990s. Several open world games captivated gamers recently, like Take-Two's L.A. Noire in 2011 and Red Dead Redemption last year. The Saints Row series is certainly a clone of the Grand Theft Auto genre, but the game takes gang warfare to a whole new height of absurdity -- and that's a good thing. What makes this title stand out from the rest is the sense of humor the developers brought to the game. While L.A. Noire will undoubtedly make critics' lists as one of the top games of 2011, it suffers under the weight of its own seriousness. Saints Row: The Third, on the other hand, understands the game genre and gleefully mocks it. It's like a Michael Bay film in that the storyline suffers but the action is over the top and fun. The Saints Row series doesn't get the same acclaim as other titles, and as such retailers haven't been offering great deals on the game. That said, Amazon.com ( AMZN) is currently giving a discount of a few dollars off the $60 retail price.
8. Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster Release Date: Oct. 11 Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive I'm sure hardcore gamers are rolling their eyes at this selection, but please hear me out. Parents out there have little kids who want to get in on the video game fun. And truth be told, most of the interactive titles for the Kinect device have been very lackluster. This Sesame Street title changes that, albeit only slightly. Little kids love Elmo and Cookie Monster, and using both characters is the top reason why this game succeeds. I don't love that my young daughter parks herself on the couch to watch Elmo on TV, but I love that this game gets her singing, dancing and jumping around. The game does a fine job of getting the little ones involved, although Elmo's voice will probably have the adults longing for the sweet soothing sounds of a car alarm. The retail price of Once Upon a Monster is $50 at most spots, although great deals can be had this week at several retailers. If that still isn't cheap enough, you could also nab Disneyland Adventures for the Kinect for only $25, although I'd still stick to Elmo if you can. Compared to the other Kinect-enabled games on the market, this is certainly the best offering for young children. Hey, they deserve to play games just as much as Halo fans.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Release Date: Nov. 20 Publisher: Nintendo ( NTDOY.PK) Nintendo has churned out quality first-party titles for years, but 2011 was a bit of an anomaly for the company. The catalog of games created by Nintendo this year was skimpy as the company launched its 3DS handheld gaming unit and continued to prep is Wii-U console, which will probably not reach store shelves until late 2012. Nintendo fanboys have stuck with the company through thick and thin, and their reward for a very thin 2011 is the latest in the extremely popular Zelda series. The game doesn't disappoint, delivering all the dungeons and puzzles and action that fans of the series have come to love. It's a beautiful game with cool motion controls. For Wii console owners, this is probably one of only a handful of games that are worthwhile purchases this year. Some critics have called it the best Zelda game ever, although I have to admit that I didn't find anything revolutionary about the title that makes it stand out from other Zelda games. Some of the quests the game drops on you are boring and tedious, but you tend to forget that as you traverse the massive map. Unfortunately, I'm hard pressed to find a retailer selling the game at a discount price this week, so you'll be stuck shelling out $50 for the title if you want to surprise your own Zelda fan.
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Release Date: Nov. 11 Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Role-playing games, or RPGs, have their own unique audience. That is, not every gamer out there enjoys software titles with big ambitions of story-telling and innumerable quests like the Final Fantasy series of games.Bethesda Softworks, though, has been delivering quality title after quality title, the latest of which is Skyrim, which continues the Elder Scrolls series. I'll admit it, I'm not a very big RPG fan. Most of those games, like Final Fantasy, have a heavy Japanese influence to design, which is a turnoff to lots of gamers. But Bethesda gives gamers more of a Western flavor in their RPGs. It doesn't hurt that you start this beautiful game by fighting a dragon almost immediately. Many new releases have such an emphasis on multiplayer capabilities that it's great to have a wonderful single-player game with a terrific narrative and massive world to explore. During this holiday week, shoppers can nab a copy of Skyrim for $50 at several retailers, a slight discount to the normal retail price of $60.
2. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Release Date: Nov. 1 Publisher: Sony ( SNE) Computer Entertainment This PlayStation-only title is one of the highest-reviewed games this year and with good reason. The entire Uncharted trilogy has been based on great narratives, lush worlds, fast-paced gunfights and tough puzzles to crack. Rarely have action games combined all four aspects so well, and yet the developers of the Uncharted games (the Naughty Dog game studio) have done so and improved them as the series has gone on. Players once again take the role of Nathan Drake, a fictional treasure hunter who is seeking to reclaim the ring of his descendent, Sir Francis Drake. Just like previous games in the series, Drake has to solve puzzles in the game to progress in his hunt. This epic game came extremely close to nabbing the top spot on this list this year, although the game suffers only slightly from high expectations. The second game in this series set the bar so high for Uncharted 3 that, without any revolutionary additions to the gameplay or storyline, this installment only barely passes that high hurdle. Buyers of the third Uncharted game can get deals this week at several retailers, where the game is marked down from its original $60 price to below $50.