Gaming is still widely considered a kids' medium, but the average gamer age in 2013 is actually 30 and a full 68 per cent of gamers are over the age of 18, which explains why the top-selling games tend to be the mature-rated ones.
These are often the best ones, too. While Nintendo still breaks ground with their "E for Everybody" platformers, much of the medium's progression is first tested out in the adult arena. So if you have an adult gamer on your gift list, here are a bunch of titles that should hit the target.
1. "The Last of Us"
Naughty Dog / Sony
Games have long aspired to be respected as art, or at least as much as cinema, but their biggest hurdle has always been narrative. Well, that achievement has been unlocked with this unexpected epic from the folks behind the fun but far less-ambitious "Uncharted" games. "TLOS" takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has essentially been turned into zombies (they're actually infected by a mutated fungus) with most of the survivors turning out to be even worse. As a father who lost his daughter in the chaos and became a gun-runner, you must regain your own humanity by helping escort a young girl across a ravaged America to a resistance group that may be able to use her to create a vaccine. While there's plenty of combat on hand, it's the sharp writing, impressive acting (both voice and motion-capture), organic art direction and bleak storytelling that set this game above its peers and earned its ream of near-perfect reviews.
2. "GTA V"
Rockstar North / Rockstar Games
PS3, Xbox 360
Rockstar has been making "Grand Theft Auto" games for forever now, and yet they still manage to surprise us with their quality. Once again, you play a criminal in a sprawling storyline that will take you from one end of a seemingly living, breathing city to the other. But it's so much bigger this time. You're actually playing three criminals whose stories intersect, and this new version of Los Santos, a thinly veiled L.A. first introduced in the sprawling PS2 game "San Andreas," is so much more alive. The satire still has bite, the music has kick and there's even a free online component that turns it, for the first time into a massively-multiplayer game in the vein of "World of Warcraft," albeit one inhabited by metaphorical trolls rather than real ones. "GTA V" will be remembered as the game that made a billion bucks in three days, but it should be remembered as the most fully realized open-world that gaming has yet produced.
3. Bioshock Infinite
Irrational Games/2K Games
Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac
This spiritual sequel to 2007 game of the year "Bioshock" by philosophizing developer Ken Levin is set in a floating "utopian" cloud city called Columbia in the year 1912 that satirizes the idealized past as imagined by the likes of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Tea Party. The game functions as a critique of of American Exceptionalism, religious fundamentalism and endemic racism as well as skewering the ideologues on the left once the rag-tag revolutionaries rise up against the theocratic dictatorship and prove to be similarly brutal. Admittedly some of these deep thoughts are undercut by the first-person shooter gameplay which eventually turns you into mass murder rampaging through a charnel house.
4. Dead Rising 3
Capcom Vancouver / Microsoft Studios
Does the person on your Christmas list love zombies and have an Xbox One now or soon-to-be under the tree? If so, then you can stop shopping right now. While the original "Dead Rising" was set entirely in a shopping mall, this third iteration opens up an entire city populated with the undead. There may be a lot of zombie games on the market, but none have managed to have so many onscreen at once thanks to this game's next-gen status. The gameplay itself is pretty straightforward -- you're a mechanic who must join forces with other survivors to escape the city before the military wipes it out. Oh, and slaughter as many zombies as you can along the way in as gory a fashion as you can.
5. "Killzone: Shadow Fall"
Guerrilla Games / Sony
For first-person shooter fans with a PS4 waiting for them under the tree, it's hard to go wrong with Killzone. It may not be the most innovative FPS in the market, but it can easily claim the title as the prettiest. The futuristic Rt direction is a real joy to traipse through, as the arch-enemies from the long running franchise find themselves inhabiting the same planet (with a Berlin Wall type divider) following the utter destruction of the Helghast Homeworld after the last game. The bad guys are bad, but the supposed good guys aren't much better -- the wealth and technology if the Vekta is in sharp contrast to the Palestinian-like slums the Helgans inhabit -- which adds an interesting wrinkle to the proceedings. Some have complained about this, but the (admittedly under-realized) subtext is that there are no truly good guys in a war.
6. "Ryse: Son of Rome"
Crytek / Microsoft
Crytek may be best known for their futuristic "Crysis" series, but for their first game for the Xbox One they took it back, way back, to the Roman era. Combining third-person combat with strategic command of armies (ordered about by voice) battling Barbarian hordes, "Ryse" is about as brutal as a game gets. In fact, the violence is actually far more visceral than a shooter, thanks to that up-close sword fighting and the improved graphics of the next-gen console that digitizes every drop of blood and severed limb. The increased processing power of the Xbox One also allows for far more soldiers onscreen than would have been possible in the past. The son of Rome in the title would be Marius Titus, and the game follows his rise from soldier to military leader as he seeks vengeance for the murder of his family during the era when Nero was emperor.
7. "Call of Duty: Ghosts"
"Call of Duty" has been one of gaming's biggest franchises ever since the first-person shooter left WWII behind to engage in modern warfare. One this latest entry, which is available for both current and next-gen systems, they've abandoned realism altogether for a new alternate-future setting where the Middle East has been nuked and America's primary anatagonist is the Federation, a collection of oil-producing South American states. (It's a real treat to finally have moved on from the franchise's fixation on evil Russians and Arabs.) The game actually begins out in space with a battle over a new superweapon before returning to Earth for the real fight amongst the ruins of the southwestern U.S. before heading further south. But the single-player campaign is still essentially an appetizer before the multiplayer main course, and this time out a good number of changes and new modes have been added to give it a literal shot in the arm.
8. "Beyond: Two Souls"
The latest from French auteur David Cage continues his quest to meld games and cinema together into a new form of interactive drama. He is joined in this effort by Canadian actress Ellen Page who provides the voice and motion-capture performance as Jodie, a girl attached to a supernatural entity, alongside Willem Defoe, who plays a researcher and father figure. The game jumps haphazardly around the timeline, from Jodie's being bullied at teenage house parties to her living on the streets with a community of homeless people to missions for CIA. But while the action is fine enough, it's the more quotidian scenarios that give the game the emotional oomph Cage always aspires to.
9. "Tomb Raider"
Crystal Dynamics / Square Enix
Now this is how you handle a reboot. Lara Croft is right up there with Nintendo's Italian plumber as far as game fame goes, but before this year it seemed like the treasure hunter had nothing left to find. So Crystal Dynamics took her back to the beginning with this gritty prequel that features a young Croft still finding herself.
Stranded on a free-roaming island populated by a crazed cult, Croft's main objective is simply staying alive. And unlike latter-day inspired-by game heroes like "Uncharted's" Nathan Drake, killing people is an emotionally wrenching experience for Croft rather than something to casually do between wisecracks.
10. "Splinter Cell Blacklist"
Created in Ubisoft's new Toronto studio, the latest game in the long-running Tom Clancy spy series tries to blend everything that has come before to craft a game that can be played either stealthily, bloodily, or both.
While longtime fans may miss the voice work of Michael Ironside as franchise hero Sam Fisher, they will love the character's return to sneaky form. This twisty comeback tale of a secret terrorist organization setting off an escalating series of attacks to convince the Americans to bring their troops back home from foreign sends Fisher to ripped from the headlines locales like Benghazi and Guantanamo Bay while lightly dealing with issues like illegal imprisonment, government torture and Iran's intentions. Admittedly, the game also boasts some unintended irony in making an NSA agent its hero in our post-Edward Snowden age.