This time of year brings all kinds of reasons to stay in and play a video game, whether you prefer console or computer. As the nights grow longer, we'll be firing up the hottest games of the season: Here are the four you won't want to miss this month and next, three more coming at the top of 2017, and the holiday deals and discounts to watch for.

Dishonored 2

The original Dishonored (2012) put Arkane Studios on the map with a blend of rich lore, layered gameplay mechanics, and a world that gradually reflected your play style: The more violently you played, the darker the story became. The newly released sequel takes you to a different part of the game's fictional world, one that mixes 19th century Victorian whaling society, occult magic, and steampunky technology into something more than the sum of its parts.

And this time you can choose a fully voiced male or female character who will bring their own perspectives to the world around them. Dishonored 2 features an A-list cast of voice actors: Rosario Dawson, Jamie Hector, Pedro Pascal, Sam Rockwell, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Robin Lord Taylor should ring a few bells.

Watch_Dogs 2

The Watch_Dogs games are like Grand Theft Auto, except you can also hack electronic devices in the environment, from ATM machines to street lights to construction equipment. The original game was criticized for an unsympathetic main character, a lack of geographical accuracy, and overly familiar game mechanics. But early gameplay demos of the sequel indicate necessary adjustments, such as a new main character and a shift from "Chicago" to San Francisco. Refreshingly, the game also appears to support a nonlethal approach to various objectives -- it's hard to root for a populist underdog who goes in guns blazing.

Final Fantasy XV

Gamers may have reason to extend their gratitude beyond Thanksgiving when the next Final Fantasy arrives on store shelves November 29. While titles in this franchise come out every year, it's been six years since a regular main-line entry, so Square-Enix has built up a lot of anticipation. Sony also announced that the the PlayStation 4 Pro [TKTK link to GameSpot coverage] (a souped-up edition designed with 4K and HDR in mind) will run the game at 60 frames per second at 1080p, which ought to make things buttery smooth -- if you're willing to drop $400 on this updated console. Previews indicate that FInal Fantasy XV will be in the same basic mold -- control a group of heroes on an epic adventure, using the traditional back-and-forth Japanese RPG combat style that emphasizes dramatic attacks and gradual ability progression over the course of the game.

The Last Guardian

From the makers of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus comes one of the most delayed but interesting games of the last 10 years. Originally slated for release in 2011 on the PlayStation 3, The Last Guardian went under the radar and did not officially resurface until summer 2016, as a PlayStation 4 exclusive. It tells the story of a boy with amnesia who befriends a huge, mythical creature that looks like a combination of a dog and a griffin. The boy must solve puzzles and do some sneaking as he works to figure out where his mysterious tattoos came from and how he can escape captivity.

Holiday game deals

This year, Amazon and Best Buy are fighting particularly hard for your gaming dollar. Amazon Prime subscribers get 20% off preorders and games that have been on the shelf for two weeks or less. With Best Buy's Gamers Club Unlocked, $30 gets you a two-year deal in which any new game is 20% off, and many preorders bundle a $10 discount off your next game.

However, Amazon and Best Buy limit these offers to physical copies of games, and Best Buy does not let this discount stack with Black Friday sales. So make sure you know what you're buying and when. Many gamers prefer physical copies anyway, because refunds are much easier and the games can be traded and resold. But if you prefer downloads, Steam and Origin can give refunds on digital purchases, if you haven't racked up too many hours of playtime.

More winter game highlights

New game season ain't over just because you've unwrapped your holiday presents -- several big titles will still be waiting in the wings. Here are three games you can look forward to in early 2017.

Horizon Zero Dawn

  • Release date: February 28, 2017
  • Genre: Open-world action adventure
  • ESRB rating: Pending (probably T for Teen)
  • Platform: PlayStation 4 (exclusive title)
  • Where to buy: Amazon, Best Buy, PlayStation Store

Guerrilla Games churned out five Killzone games in nine years but decided to change gears in 2011 -- Horizon Zero Dawn is the result. The game is set in a future where society has collapsed into tribal cultures and robotic creatures roam the land, some of them as big as a Brontosaurus. You'll need to take down some of those robots to collect resources and move the story along (we have only tantalizing bits of what that might be). Horizon Zero Dawn was originally slated for a 2016 release, but Guerrilla was given more time to polish the game.

Ghost Recon Wildlands

Ubisoft's latest Tom Clancy-branded game takes us to Bolivia, where your team of US special operations forces is tasked with bringing down a powerful drug cartel by way of gunfire and explosions. The game is more "Rambo" than "Recon," but then you don't buy a game like this to stare at bad guys through digital binoculars all night. If your friends have the game and play on the same platform, they can drop into your game over the Internet and blow up things with you. It sounds like a promising stress reliever.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Andromeda is the fourth game in the Mass Effect series, and it's so named because you've taken a long one-way trip from our Milky Way galaxy to the titular one, because of some paradigm-shifting events back home. Mass Effect is a story-rich experience, so if you like sci-fi and action-oriented RPGs, we recommend using the time between now and March 2017 to play through the first three games, or at least the third one. They're available on the Xbox One via backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360 version, on Windows via Steam and Origin (only Origin sells the third game on PC), and on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 via the original discs.

More holiday shopping

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at