Week in and week out the very best sports-centric video games and peripherals cross the Sports Gamer's desk. Some of those games and peripherals, as you know from my regular column, are absolutely awesome, while others are merely OK. (And, in some extreme cases, some make for good paper weights and that's it. Quick question: Who even uses paper weights these days? Who has papers just blowing around the room all the time that they actually need a weight to hold them down? Anyone?) Without further ado, here's a list of some of my favorite things from 2011. Enjoy the holidays, game fans.
*Let's get started with the Wireless Speed Wheel (360, $59.99). I was skeptical when this thing showed up at the office. It looks like something I'd throw at Professor Ulane when he misses a deadline. But after a few hours of gaming, the Wheel proved itself to be one of the best peripherals of 2011. Dear Wireless Speed Wheel: I'm sorry for ever doubting you. Your friend, the Sports Gamer.
*You know how cheese goes great with crackers? And how both ingredients--the crackers and the cheese--taste better with the other? Forza Motorsport 4 (360, $59.99) is the cheese to the Wireless Speed Wheel's cracker. This is one superb video game racing experience.
*While I'm usually down on 3D these days--I still don't think it makes sports games any better--the PlayStation 3D display ($399.99) is actually pretty darn cool, if you're looking for a smallish desktop-sized TV (24-inches) and you want to draw your own conclusions about 3D gaming.
*NBA 2K12 (PS3, 360, $59.99) was downright awesome when it first shipped back in October. But add in the Legends Showcase DLC in November, and this already awesome experience becomes off-the-charts awesome. Even if you don't love basketball, you'll still love this game.
*Everyone: It's time for me to talk about Mario Kart 7 (3DS, $39.99). I know what you're thinking: "Wah, Mario Kart? That's for kids. I want realism! I want customization! I want simulation!" My response? This game is fun. And if you don't think so, you should go to the doctor and have your fun gland checked out. And no, there is no actual fun gland. I made that up.
*Even though it makes you look like Lando's headgear-wearing buddy from The Empire Strikes Back, the PS3 Wireless Stereo Headset ($79.99) is one of the best gaming headsets on the market.
*Finally, probably my favorite way to game in 2011 was on an iPad/iPhone/tablet. FIFA 12, NBA 2K12, and Fight Night Champion were all excellent on the tablets this year. But the biggest story of the year? It has to be Super Stickman Golf. It's only 99-cents, and with the recent free update (v. 1.7), you get six new courses to play through. Sure, the graphics are simple. And the gameplay is simple. But beneath that simple surface lies a deep, challenging, must-play experience. And did I mention that it's only 99-cents? I did? Boy, am I getting daffy in my old age. Merry gaming, everyone.
The Sports Gamer's real name is Scott Jones. He played football for 12 years before hanging up his cleats and jumping into video game writing. In his time covering the gaming world, Scott has interviewed star athletes such as Venus Williams, Tony Hawk and David Wright.