College of DuPage CIS Professor and Avid Gamer Shares His Holiday Video Game Gift Guide

video games

By Angela Mennecke

Steve Santello, College of DuPage Computer Information Systems professor and gamer enthusiast, gives his round-up of the ten best video games to gift to gamers this year.

Before coming to COD, Santello worked as an artist for Babaroga, a game developer that has strong partnerships with publishers like Electronic Arts (EA) and Disney Interactive. Santello worked on a dozen games, including the award-winning “Spore: Origins,” “SimCity,” “Pictionary The Game of Quickdraw,” “The Godfather Game,” “Meet the Robinsons,” “Hannah Montana: In Action” and “Plantasia.” Santello teaches Introduction to Game History, Advanced Game Design, 3D Game Development, Game Asset Creation and Optimization, Programming Logic Technique and Game Animation at the College. Learn more about the Computer Information Systems program at COD.

Following are Santello’s picks for the 2018 gamer gift guide:

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Coming Soon: Dec. 7
Genre: Fighting
1-8 players
Platform: Nintendo Switch
ESRB: E 10+
Publisher: Nintendo
Developers: Bandai Namco Studios, Sora Ltd.

Considered the most highly anticipated game on the Nintendo Switch, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a must own for any Nintendo fan. Smash Bros. games are often seen by many as a party game because of how inviting it is to newcomers/casual gamers, but they have quickly been accepted as serious tournament level fighting games due to it being so tactical. Smash Bros. Ultimate will be no exception. With 74 playable characters releasing with the game and more players to come via Downloadable Content (DLC), this will truly be the “ultimate” game.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

Genre: Fighting
1-6 players
Platforms: Microsoft Windows 7 and up, Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Arc System Works

Developed in 1984, Dragon Ball is arguably the most recognizable anime franchise of all time. It is not often that anime-based video games make a top 10 list, let alone a Dragon Ball game, but Dragon Ball FighterZ is an exception. Released in January 2018, this game has quickly been accepted as one of the most popular fighting games. Unlike other fighting games in its class (e.g. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, Guilty Gear and Mortal Kombat), this game doesn’t have a steep learning curve making it truly unique given that casual gamers can play with ease. For Hardcore gamers, the mechanics are deep enough that it still provides a challenge.

Lethal League Blaze

Genre: Fighting
1-4 players
Platform: Microsoft Windows 7 and up
ESRB: E 10+
Publisher and Developer: Team Reptile

A barrier for a lot of gamers these days is that games have too many mechanics and buttons to learn. Lethal League Blaze is a unique play fighting game because it is inviting to casual gamers, partially due to the game only utilizing a few mechanics and buttons, but tactical enough to attract hardcore gamers as well. Unlike games where players are punching/kicking one another, Lethal League Blaze players damage one another by hitting baseballs. This game feels like a cross between Pong and a party fighting game. Above all, this installment of Lethal League features Hideki Naganuma as a musical composer, best known for his music in Jet Set Radio.

Creed: Rise to Glory

Genre: Boxing
1-2 players
Platforms: Sony Playstation VR and Microsoft Windows 10 w/ Vive/Oculus
Publisher and Developer: Survios

One of Santello’s personal favorites, Creed: Rise to Glory, is based on the Creed movie series. The game is played through the eyes of a boxer being trained by Rocky Balboa himself. After training, players box opponents. Due to this game being not only virtual reality but dual motion controlled, the game provides quite a workout! The only downside to this game is that Rocky is not voiced by Stallone.  

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Genre: Action-Adventure
1 player
Platforms: Sony Playstation 4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games

Sling into action with this much-anticipated Spider-Man title. Insomniac Games created yet another masterpiece. While many regard Spider-Man 2 as the greatest 3D Spider-Man game of all time, Marvel’s Spider-Man blows its predecessor out of the webbing. Marvel’s Spider-Man feels like the “Arkham” of Spider-Man games. While the Batman Arkham games were the first games that made players feel like Batman, Marvel’s Spider-Man is the first Spider-Man game where players will feel like they are Spider-Man through the deep player mechanics and very cinematic scenarios that the players are exposed to. For gamers attracted to action-adventure games and for fans of Spider-Man, this game would make a great gift.  

Guacamelee! 2

Genre: Metroidvania
1-4 players
Platforms: Microsoft Windows 7 and up, Sony PlayStation 4
ESRB: E 10+
Publisher and Developer: DrinkBox Studios

Gamers who have played 2D Metroid games or Symphony of the Night Castlevania games will enjoy this metroidvania-style game. Based around the wacky adventures of a luchador, players will be able to play solo or cooperative through an array of dangerous areas gathering power-ups to defeat enemies and bosses. What sets this game further apart from traditional metroidvania games is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It is hilarious and even weird at times.

Dead Cells

Genre: RogueVania
1 player
Platforms: Microsoft Windows 7 and up, Mac OSX 10.9 and up, Linux Ubuntu 16.04 and up, Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Publisher and Developer: Motion Twin

RogueVania games do not come out often, but when they do they usually are fantastic. Like many Rogue-like games, RogueVania games tend to be procedurally generated levels with randomized drops and enemies, but a big difference is, when players lose, the player won’t start over from the beginning and lose all of their power-ups. They start at a checkpoint and are able to keep permanent power-ups that they have acquired from their previous play through. These are the base mechanics and flow behind Dead Cells. For gamers who like difficult 2D games which focus on skillful combat and constant losses, with the exploration and ability upgrades of a metroidvania game, Dead Cells is a must-have.

Forza Horizon 4

Genre: Racing
1-72 players
Platforms: Microsoft Windows 10, Microsoft Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Playground Games

The Forza series has been widely considered the best racing series available over the last two generations due to its hyperrealism, wide array of cars/tracks, customizations and multiplayer ability. Forza Horizon 4 seems to improve on almost all of these areas making this one of the best realistic racing games released to date.

Dragon Quest XI

Genre: Turn-Based Role-Playing Games
1 player
Platforms: Windows 7 and up, Sony PlayStation 4
Publisher and Developer: Square Enix

With each installment of Dragon Quest, there tends to be gameplay features added to the core mechanics that keep the series pure and simple but with more and more features to keep the game fun. The biggest feature Dragon Quest XI added is crafting. Yes, now players can craft all sorts of gear eliminating the need for making money and shopping. Even with a mode like draconian quests, the game is still pretty easy, so for gamers looking for a very hard role-playing game, this may not be the best one. Dragon Quest XI clocks in at well over 100 hours for a single playthrough, so this is easily the longest Dragon Quest game to date. In a world where even Final Fantasy has moved away from being turn-based, this is a beacon of light for so many role-playing game purists.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Genre: First-person Shooter, Battle Royale
1-100 players
Platforms: Microsoft Windows 7 and up, Sony Playstation 4, Microsoft Xbox One
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch

For gamers who haven’t played Call of Duty in a while because they are too busy playing Fortnite or Players Unknown Battleground, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is a great game to add to their collection. In what seems like a marketing ploy, the most major aspect of the game is its Backout mode (battle royale) which throws players in maps of up to 100 players battling it out in player-versus-player gameplay. But what sets this game apart from other battle royales of its class is that this is utilizing Call of Duty gameplay and semi-realism. This battle royale fits well into the Call of Duty ecosystem, truly making this one of the best battle royale experiences. The game has kept many other modes (yes, there are still zombies) along with even more melee/ranged weapons, maps and more. The only downside to this game is that there is no campaign mode, which has made Call of Duty games shine. However, this particular game does so well with all of its amazing multiplayer modes that it really does not need a campaign to be one of the best first-person shooter games of 2018.

Still unsure of which video game is the best for the gamer on your list? Contact Santello at or (630) 942-2654 for advice. 

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