In Wii's Super Mario Galaxy (rated Everyone), Nintendo's crafty gamesmanship once again makes a familiar-looking Mario game seem like one of the best kids' titles of the year. Mario explores fiery and watery planets in distant galaxies. There's nothing special about that, but the way you travel the universe is cool and new.
I have to disclose that I didn't finish Galaxy before writing this review. I ran out of time while playing it and two other great new releases so I could give you impressions of all three titles in time for holiday shopping.
The other two superb games will appeal to hardcore gamers who love to shoot things to death. Mass Effect (Xbox 360, rated Mature) is an action-role-playing game with a cinematic feel. You save the universe by shooting evil robot-looking aliens across space stations, foreign planets and finely detailed capitols.
In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, DS; rated Mature), the bad guys are terrorists, and the gameplay and illustrations are seamless and rich. I just shot two guys in the back, in a dingy makeshift war zone littered with blown-up buses and fences, after I sniper-rifled a loser in his torso. I have to say I feel pretty good about that.