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* Fallout 3: Survival Edition, from Bethesda Softworks, rated M for mature, for players 17 and older, $129.99. An inhabitant from a nuclear fallout shelter discovers a frightening, violent new world in this latest sequel to the sci-fi role-playing franchise. The player painstakingly creates his survivor and explores the remnants of the nation’s capital, looking for his father but often fighting for his life against postapocalyptic monstrosities, freaky factions and bounty hunters. Action is spread over multiple video-gaming genres as the haunting cinematic story evolves. For the mature player who must make an avalanche of life-and-death decisions that may sway his moral compass, Fallout 3 is a sometimes overwhelming, always time-devouring and, ultimately, very satisfying experience. The survival edition is also quite an impressive gift and includes, in addition to the game, a Vault Boy bobble head, a Vault-Tec metal lunchbox, a life-size replica of the Pip-Boy 3000 (a wrist-mounted, electronic assistant that has been transformed into a digital clock with stand), art book and “making-of” DVD. Add Prima’s hardcover Fallout 3 Collector’s Edition ($34.99) to the package, and players new to the genre will be eternally grateful.

Best for home computer

* Spore, from Electronic Arts, rated E10+ for ages 10 and older, $39.99. For a mere 40 bucks, megalomaniacs get to play God as they help a species evolve through five stages, ranging from a single cell to a working civilization to exploring the universe. The players control every aspect of the new life form, including minutia down to DNA collection, selection of mating calls and survival battles. Resource management includes buying tools, customizing vehicles, building structures and colonizing planets. All of a player’s successes and failures are contained in the massive Sporepedia, which can be broadcast to an online community. The creatures are cute as a button, and the animation is Pixar quality. A Creepy and Cute Parts Pack ($19.95) is available to further embellish life forms.

* World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Collector’s Edition, from Blizzard Entertainment, rated T for teens, $69.99. The megapopular, massive multiplayer online role-playing game gets a frozen expansion pack that takes players into the foreboding continent of Northrend. A player creates an avatar (the Hero Class now features a powerful Death Knight), joins factions, takes on quests, fights monsters and can explore legendary places such as the Borean Tundra, Howling Fjord and Crystalsong Forest. The impressive collector’s edition is contained in an ancient-looking blue tome and includes a behind-the-scenes DVD, soundtrack CD (with 21 tracks), 200-plus-page art book, mouse pad, a pair of World of Warcraft trading-card game starter packs with exclusive cards, and a pet dragon to take into the virtual world.

New citizens to the lands also will need the original game, the Burning Cross expansion pack and an online account. (The first 30 days are free, then it is $14.99 a month. Bulk time discounts are available.) I suggest the World of Warcraft Battle Chest ($39.99) containing both pieces of software and strategy guides.

* Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet from Oberon Media, rated T for teens, $29.99. Based on author James Patterson’s popular mystery book series, this seek-and-find game should grab the attention of the older, uninitiated female gamer looking for a puzzling experience. The player takes on the roles of familiar heroines — detective Lindsay Boxer, medical examiner Claire Washburn and reporter Cindy Thomas — to solve a homicide in San Francisco through a nine-chapter interactive story. This “I Spy” for adults is supplemented with word, slider, maze and jigsaw conundrums along with clue management. An excellent visual mix of storybook style illustrations and sequential-art imagery complement the investigative action. The package includes a novella prequel of the game’s story line titled “Fallen Flowers” and a taste of Mr. Patterson’s next Women’s Murder Club effort, “8th Confession.”