Thanks to that jolly old sweatshop manager Saint Nick, Christmas has always been about elves, and now it's increasingly about dragons, too. And knights, actually. And giant robots.
Is there a better way to mark the festive season than by setting off on an epic quest, smacking people around with swords, or shooting somebody's eye out with your +10 blaster? Possibly, but it almost always involves doing something selfless, such as taking orphans to dinner - and orphans don't half know how to run up a tab.
If you're like us, then, Christmas memories and gaming memories are hard to disentangle, and there are no fonder Christmas memories to be had than those involving Hyrule, or Middle-Earth, or wherever it is that Star Wars is set. (Azeroth?) That's why we've gathered together a selection of the best RPG and fantasy games you could hope to receive this December. It's also why we're going to lock ourselves away with the TV for an entire month, and tell those orphans to take a hike.
Zelda: The Skyward Sword
Release: November 18th
Much like old age, student loan repayments, and Jack the Ripper, Zelda's kind of crept up on us this year. Luckily it's still gaming's closest thing to a safe bet.
Skyward Sword should definitely be at the top of your list come Christmas Day. Not only is it almost certainly the last big game you'll be picking up for Nintendo's Wii, but now we know it's a classic, too, as the CSI-style forensic review specialists at Edge have shone those weird blue flashlights over it and pronounced it a 10. That's quite a good score, coming from them.
All of which is to say that we're counting on something really special from this one. Set in the floating world of Skyloft and the mysterious landscape that lies beneath it, Zelda's gone missing again - a cry for help, surely? - and it's up to the boy in green to save the day. Expect a selection of gadgets old and new - alongside bombs and a bow, you'll also get to mess around with a whip and a mechanical beetle, which sounds handy for collecting those hard-to-reach rupees - and an increased emphasis on combat, with the Wii MotionPlus finally coming into its own to provide some of the series' finest swordplay.
It's simple, really: Christmas is magic. Zelda is magic. That means thatZelda at Christmas is like two wizards kissing while one of them spontaneously catches fire and the other coasts about on a unicycle, doing card tricks.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Platforms: PC, PS3, 360
Skyrimmight be the best Elder Scrollsadventure yet. This frosty, mountainous world looks like a great place to wander through, we're promised plenty of dragons to kick off against, and Bethesda's even brought in a new game engine, meaning its quirky habit of riddling its products with mildly entertaining bugs might finally be laid to rest.
If you know the series, you'll be right at home with this: there's exploration, combat, detailed side quests and plenty of loot to be foundas you work your way towards a final confrontation with an evil dragon god.
There's a new Radiant Story system in place, which stitches quests together around you depending on the things you've already done, while the removal of the class system gives you more freedom to pick between skills and build the character you've always wanted. (It will also please any subscribers to the Socialist Worker.) When it comes to fighting, the pace of combat has been slowed a little in order to allow you to exploit openings in your enemies' defences a bit more, and there's a new focus on using spells and weaponry in concert.
Beyond that, expect to join factions, punch rats, and lose yourself in another majesticElder Scrolls adventure. Take the week off, throw your phone out of the window, and tell any relevant family members that you've died in suitably noble circumstances so that they'll leave you alone.You're going to want some quality time to yourself with this one.
Lord of the Rings: War in the North
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
Release: November 9th
He may rule the bookcase like a fat little king, but when it comes to videogames, Tolkien has to make way for home-grown superstars such as Zelda and Skyrim. War in the North still looks pretty interesting, though: a class-based three-player co-op game in which you pick from a Ranger, a dwarfen Champion, or an Elven Loremaster - it's similar to a routemaster, apparently, but you can get pushchairs on it - and then battle it out with Middle-Earth nasties across a range of moderately pretty environments.
It's third-person combat, in other words, with a little light levelling-up to be had in between smashing orks' faces off. On that note, it's worth mentioning that the game is pleasantly violent by LOTR standards. With the chirpy little Hobbits out of the way, this is all about sprays of arterial blood and gaping neck wounds. The prospect of pummelling a Balrog, along with the fact that we also hope to be able to use our "You Tolkien to me?" gag again when it comes out, has us quietly intrigued.