Happy videogame season, everyone! Hoping to cash in this Christmas, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube are unveiling their heaviest of hitters (in Videogame Land, that means "sequels"). But with so many eagerly anticipated games--and with each one costing 50 bucks a pop--how's one to know which ones to play? Here are our best bets.

- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, out now) PlayStation's 800-pound gorilla has six times the playing area of the previous GTA, Vice City, and is already being hailed by some critics as the best PS2 game ever. With new vehicles, character options, and countless ways for depraved players to test the moral ambiguities of its sprawling world, San Andreas should piss off uptight parents and senators for years to come.

- Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GameCube, November 15) New multiplayer action, puzzles, and story elements have bounty hunter Samus Aran traveling between dark and light worlds.

- Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (all consoles, out now) and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (Xbox, December 4) With Final Fantasy XII pushed back until next summer, role-playing fans have two movie-inspired games to tide them over. The Third Age looks like a Tolkien-ized Final Fantasy anyway, and Sith Lords should improve on the first (and excellent) Knights--but it's too bad they're using the same graphics engine, as even the first game looked pretty dated.

- Halo 2 (Xbox, November 9) This is what I tell non-gamers when they ask why I stay up at night, literally counting the days until the sequel to Halo, Xbox's blockbuster sci-fi action shooter: "Well," I say, "it's the videogame equivalent of Jesus coming back to Earth, starting a rock band, and granting everyone's wishes. And giving away free cars to everybody. And the cars are Porsches. And they're made of gold and candy." ERIK HENRIKSEN