5 games to occupy your holiday downtime

If we're to believe Andy Williams, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It's when you reconnect with your family, open presents, enjoy some hot cocoa, sit by the fireplace… then ditch everyone as soon as you’re able to have some much needed alone time with your video games.

With all the free time you’re likely to have these upcoming weeks for the holidays, this is the perfect occasion to dedicate your resources to certain games that require a large time-sink to complete and enjoy. So instead of reaching into your shame pile and trying to finish a game you picked up from a Steam sale a few months ago, here are five more recent games you should be playing instead, because they’ll make the most of your holiday downtime.

Dragon Age: Inquisition, for the extensiveness of its world

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When it comes to saving the world, most games put you front and center of that dilemma. It’s par for the course in video games to make you the destined hero, but this year none do it better than Dragon Age: Inquisition. As the world of Thedas crumbles with a new threat waiting to drag the planet down into darkness, you are the only one with the power to seal the rifts spewing monsters throughout the planet. You're also tasked with bringing peace to a politically divided world, because there wasn't enough on your plate.

Even if you’ve never played the previous installments in the seriesDragon Age: Inquisition is an engrossing and addicting game that you’ll easily spend thirty-plus hours playing, and that’s just in the beginning chapters—not because the game demands it to progress, but because you get sucked in wanting to complete every sidequest (a la Skyrim). Dragon Age: Inquisition’s areas are expansive, as are the tasks that fill each region. Couple that with its diverse characters and political scuffles, and there's a lot to occupy your time and make you happy for it.

LittleBigPlanet 3, for the community levels

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No game captures the creativity of the gaming community quite like the LittleBigPlanet series. Having the same tools at your disposal that the developers themselves used to make the game you’re playing is a rare opportunity, and LittleBigPlanet 3 is the latest in a series that permits just that. Given its six-year history, you’re able to explore not only the new content LittleBigPlanet 3 has to offer, you’re also able to access all the levels ever created for LittleBigPlanet, which means there are thousands of levels at your fingertips. Combine this with new players becoming familiar with the series and their new created content, and LittleBigPlanet 3 is sure to keep you occupied well into the New Year.

Far Cry 4, for its outposts and animal life

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Far Cry is a series that tries its best to top its previous installments, and Far Cry 4 is no exception. Whereas Far Cry 3 brought us sharks and hang gliders, Far Cry 4 has elevated the stakes with elephants and… really, what more could you want than elephants? The Far Cry franchise has evolved quite a bit since the first game released in 2004, and Ubisoft has definitely grasped and delivered on the Far Cry brand staples.

Far Cry 4 is an extensive game with much to explore and discover, especially when it comes to liberating outposts held by criminal factions. Nothing's more thrilling in Far Cry than developing a strategy and watching it succeed, . You’ll have to plan how to overtake a camp populated by twenty bad guys—and it's just you. There are many outposts to claim in the fictional Himalayan region of Kyrat, thereby providing hours and hours of entertainment.

You can also expect beautiful scenery and vibrant wildlife. Not only are there animals present in the game, they influence the player's actions. Even if you plan the perfect strategy for one outpost, a nearby cougar may decide having you for dinner is a better choice, and then there's that to contend with in the middle of a gun battle. These elements bring variety and unpredictability to the world of Far Cry 4, and it's something you'll want to dedicate as much time to as possible. It’s a perfect fit for the holidays.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection, to go back through the classics in HD

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Nostalgia is a powerful force, especially when it comes to an iconic franchise like Halo. No one can deny the influence Halo has had in the game industry, representing a major step forward in the world of online play for consoles. It was also one of most innovative FPS games ever in many facets: gunplay mechanics, level design, rechargeable shields, and more. It's a series that produced countless cherished memories for Xbox owners, and Microsoft and 343 industries have given us the wonderful gift of a high-definition overhaul. With revamped graphics and toned mechanics, the Halo: Master Chief Collection is a great (and long) trip down Halo memory lane, just in time to put your Xbox One to good use.

Grand Theft Auto V, for newcomers

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What's there to say about Grand Theft Auto V that hasn't already been said? With stellar reviews and astronomical sales, the city of Los Santos has already claimed legions of fans. But if you haven't yet experienced what it's like to live as Michael, Franklin, or Trevor, you can play it for the first time on the next generation consoles Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

There's just so much to do in Grand Theft Auto V; the story missions alone can take you more than twenty hours to complete, but you'll likely get sidetracked by a random event anyway. If you've always wanted to go scuba diving, GTAV helps you accomplish this feat without the wetness downside. Even if you've completed all there is to Los Santos in a previous version, GTAV for Xbox One and PS4 has a new first-person mode that drastically changes the gameplay and experience. So while your family is wondering where you disappeared to as they're preparing for the ugly sweater picture, you'll be too engrossed in the criminal underworld of Los Santos to notice.