Holiday shopping time! It’s a little rough every year – agonizing over finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones, wondering if you’ll be able to find that special thing in time. Of course, this year is a bit more difficult, since so many of our wallets are, well, emptier than usual. It’s times like this you want to know the money you spend is going to make your loved ones smile.

That’s why we’re here with our holiday shopping guide all this week. Each day carries a different theme, representing different sorts of people with great gifts sure to be winners. Just find the days that best match your giftees and buy with confidence. Happy holidays!

For an overview of our 2008 Buyer’s Guide, click here.

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The Net Set is the new Jet Set. You don’t spend all your hard-earned cash on fancy trips and cars. A good chunk of your money and time go to the best gadgets and the best digital entertainment. You know how to talk to your friends on the other side of the globe over your computer, and you have to cuz if you’re not in front of it, you’re likely on your Blackberry or iPhone on your way to another meeting. In short, you’re busy, so you want to hit the highlights of 2008. Whether or not you’ll be home for Christmas, you can game in style with these.

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Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360)

You see the giant worm off in the distance at some point. “He’s an enemy I’ll have to reckon with later,” you think to yourself, imagining aiming your badass mortar gun at his eyes, or maybe crushing him under a mountain of rock, or, perhaps, ripping open his belly with the chainsaw bayonet of your Lancer. Think again. You’re going inside that bitch to rip out its heart and bathe in its blood. Buckle up.

Gears of War 2 takes everything good about the original, rounds off the annoying rough edges and presents a polished, if loud, shooter experience you’ll be thinking about for days. And with the player vs. bots Horde mode and the on-and-offline co-op multiplayer, it’s an experience you can share with your closest friends, wrapped in a bloody, bullet-riddled bow. Happy Holidays from the man-boys at Epic.

Up next: It’s the end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine.

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Fallout 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

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So you’re not convinced the world is going to end in 2012. You saw Return to Thunderdome and decided you liked the 2Pac video more because at least the song was catchy. This game still demands to be played. Beyond the apocalyptic clichés is a world with stories to be lived and choices to be made. Bethesda receives a lot of backhanded compliments when people say their games replicate an MMORPG for the single player. This couldn’t be further from the truth. MMORPGs offer the attractions of an extremely competitive rat race, while Fallout 3 is a role-playing game in the truest sense. It’s about being a tourist in the wasteland of Washington DC, irradiating yourself in the name of science and just taking a minute to stop and smell Goldwater’s daisies.

Up next: For the stick-it-to-the-man Olympic track star in all of us.

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Mirror’s Edge (PS3, Xbox 360)

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Every so often, a game comes along that everyone should play, no matter what kind of gamer they are. Mirror’s Edge is one such game. Its unusual approach to the first-person genre, stylish visuals and fast pace is quite unlike anything else available and as such is an experience that all game lovers should have. Unraveling the game’s conspiracy is just a pretext for the exhilarating free-running and athletics that will have you traversing rooftops and catwalks with breathless glee. Mirror’s Edge is also one of the few mature-themed games in which you truly can succeed by taking a non-lethal approach, a refreshing change from the glut of shooters on store shelves.

Up next: Master terrifying magic, save the world, and play with your dog.

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Fable 2 (Xbox 360)

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RPGs tend to be a bit on the heavy side when it comes to your character’s responsibilities. You usually have to save the world, rescue a family member, avenge a king, or some combination of all of the above. That’s also true in Fable 2 – you’re not just saving the world, you’re avenging your sister – but the game takes a light and funloving approach to telling the tale. There are plenty of dramatic moments, but they’re offset with the game’s pervasive humor and cartoonish art style. Fable 2 is a great choice for gamers who want an RPG fix, but don’t have the time or desire to dive into a massively epic timesink of a game.

Up next: The best time-shifting this side of Persia.

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Braid (Xbox Live Arcade)

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Frat boys have their sports games, angst-ridden teenagers have their JRPGs and chronic hand-raisers have their puzzle games. And now the highest echelon of obnoxious overachievers, who scoff at Sudoku and thought Portal was too easy, have Braid.

It’s not that Braid‘s puzzles are hopelessly difficult, although they may initially feel that way. It’s that once you find the solution, you feel like a complete jackass for not figuring it out sooner. To play Braid is not to become smarter, but to realize how stupid you were before. And for the elite puzzle gamers out there (yes, both of you), this knowledge is a weapon they will use to bludgeon you over then head. You should never, under any circumstances, play Braid with this type of individual: His constant snickers of smug self-satisfaction will drown out the game’s gorgeous string instrumentals, and you’ll end up thrusting your Xbox controller down his throat while repeatedly screaming “rewind this, motherf**ker” at full volume. Or so I’m told.

For an overview of our 2008 Buyer’s Guide, click here.

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