A video game store can be daunting if you don't know what you're looking for. It's not easy to tell the winners from the losers. Here are some of the best games of 2013. Two important things to keep in mind:
• Know what kind of game console the gift recipient owns or will get.
• Games that have an "M" rating (for Mature) are not appropriate for kids. Games labeled "E" (Everyone) and "E10+" (Everyone 10 and older) are fun for the whole family.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft, for the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, $59.99): Jack Sparrow's got nothing on Edward Kenway, the swashbuckling hero of this pirate romp. There are treasures buried everywhere in this version of the 18th century New World, but the real prize is the rousing ship-to-ship combat across a churning Caribbean.
Need for Speed: Rivals (Electronic Arts, for the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, $59.99): The latest edition is packed with enough high-octane challenges to satisfy the most demanding speed freak.
Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar, for the PS3, Xbox 360, $59.99): A gangbanger, a former bank robber and a psychopath cross paths in the new chapter of the blockbuster crime series. It's vicious, profane and thoroughly entertaining.
Skylanders Swap Force (Activision, for the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, $74.99): The Skylanders franchise, which combines collectible figurines with video games, is satisfying on both fronts. The toys are durable and attractive, while the games are clever and packed with a variety of activity. Bonus: A kid who already owns "Swap Force" will be just as thrilled to receive some new characters, which cost $10 to $15 each.
Rayman Legends (Ubisoft, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC, $59.99): This beguiling cartoon adventure from France takes Rayman across a hallucinatory landscape filled with tricks and traps. It has more than 100 levels to explore. Each one feels fresh and inventive.
m Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo, for the Wii U, $59.99): The plumber and his pals Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad explore a sprawling environment jammed with running and jumping challenges.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo, for the Nintendo 3DS, $39.99): Link, the hero of the long-running Zelda series, can now flatten himself down to two dimensions. Sounds useless, but it opens up a whole range of clever spatial puzzles and elevates the 3-D capabilities of Nintendo's handheld beyond mere gimmickry.