Christmas is just six days away, so we’ve put together a list of eight apps and games that we think make great gifts for your loved ones’ Windows and Windows Phone devices.

Also, we want to make sure you’re aware of a holiday promotion that gives you a $25 gift card toward apps and games found in the Windows Store, Windows Phone Store or select Xbox stores with the purchase of a Windows touch PC. The offer is available now through Dec. 28 (or while supplies last).

Or, if your friends and family are already fully stocked in the device department, you can still give them the gift of apps and games with a Windows Store Gift Card.

Now, on to that list!

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Fans of the reality TV show “Ice Road Truckers” will shift their nerves into overdrive with the Windows Phone app of the same name. Before you download the app though, steel your nerves to negotiate those hairpin turns and ask yourself, “Do you have what it takes to conquer the world's deadliest roads?”

Join Hugh, Lisa, and Alex in “Ice Road Truckers” the game as you battle the toughest winter roads the world has to offer. Tackle slippery terrain, avoid frozen lakes and boost over ramps to see how many miles you can go before the ice road claims another victim.

The app is 99 cents and you can download it from the Windows Phone Store now.

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With “Shooting Showdown,” you can experience the trick shooting game that changed the First Person Shooting genre forever. Match up against your friends, your enemies or anyone in the world in the world's first virtual reality shooting range!

The game features hyper-realistic muzzle flashes, bullet tracers and impact sounds that make for a spectacular next-gen experience. Other features include a head-to-head online multiplayer mode; physics-based shooting challenges with destructible targets; a practice range for honing your skills; Leaderboards and Achievements to track your improvement and unlockable guns and upgrades.

“Shooting Showdown” is $1.99 and available now in the Windows Store.

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Stack the States” is a fun and engaging app that helps students learn about the 50 American states.

As kids learn state capitals, shapes, geographic locations, flags and more, they can actually move and drop the animated states anywhere on their screens. Build a stack of states that reaches the checkered line at each level and you win!
You earn a random state for every successfully completed level. All of your states appear on your own personalized map of the United States. Try to collect all 50! As you earn more states, you begin to unlock the four free bonus games: Map It, Pile Up, Puzzler and Capital Drop. That’s right, it’s four games in one!

“Stack the States” is $1.99 in the Windows Store. Download it now!

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Food Diary and Calorie Counter is an easy to use and comprehensive food diary and calorie counter app for Windows that helps people lose weight naturally - by eating better and making better daily food choices. The app has been featured on NPR Morning Edition and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act" as well as in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Food Diary and Calorie Counter features a massive food database of more than 510,000 foods with 210,000 foods entered by the app’s maker, MyNetDiary Inc. and 300,000 popular foods contributed by members. The database is updated daily. The app also tracks your water intake and produces a Food Score that helps consumers understand food labels at a glance.

Food Diary and Calorie Counter is $4.99 and available in the Windows Store now.

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Casino game fans, get ready to be happy! IGT Slots Kitty Glitter is the authentic casino slot experience that you can play on your PC or laptop. The game has four real casino slot machines from IGT, including video slot games “Kitty Glitter” and “Siberian Storm” and mechanical slots “Double Diamond 3x4x5x” and “Triple Stars.”

Features of the four games include actual slot sounds and graphics, the ability to play with true casino payouts, denominations from 1 cent to $1.00 as well as single-line or multi-line wagers.

IGT Slots Kitty Glitter is $4.99 and is available in the Windows Store now.

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Don’t know much about biology? Well, now you do! The “Powers of Minus Ten” game lets you experience biology firsthand. Zoom into the human body like a scientist equipped with a powerful microscope and check out some of the key cells in your skin. You can see cells in various states of mitosis. For those who don’t know, mitosis is “is the process by which a cell, which has previously replicated at least but not limited to one of its chromosomes, separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets of chromosomes, each set in its own new nucleus,” according to Wikipedia. But you probably already knew that!

The game was produced with funding from the National Science Foundation and serves as a great general introduction to the structures of the cell and key molecular processes. It was also a finalist/honorable mention in the “Best Interactive Game” category in the 2011 Science Visualization Challenge.

“Powers of Minus Ten” is $1.99 in the Windows Store. Check it out!

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“Hey you guys!!!!!!!”

Fans young and old of “The Electric Company” surely remember the enthusiastic shout at the start of the show, and now you can experience some of the magic with the “Electric Company: Banana Blast Off!” app for Windows.

From the educational media experts at Sesame Workshop comes this collaborative all-in-one game that brings kids together to solve a galactic problem that puts math and adventure at the center of their experience.

This time from Prankster Planet, Manny has stolen all the numbers from Earth and scattered them throughout the galaxies! The Electric Company and Paul the gorilla need your help to collect them all and return them home. You and up to three of your friends need to use your Banana Blasters to complete the mathematical missions before Manny's goo, his bots or the time runs out! Get your math skills ready; The Electric Company needs your intergalactic intelligence!

“Electric Company: Banana Blast Off!” is $1.99 in the Windows Store. Blast off and download it now. It’s electric!

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The final app in our roundup is a bird lover’s delight. Audubon Birds – A Field Guide to North American Birds has more than 3,200 high-definition photos and oodles of information on 820 birds found in the U.S. and Canada.

The app includes the most comprehensive information available for identification, habitat, range, nesting, mating and migration. Other features include more than eight hours (2,300 separate recordings) of sounds and calls from the best audio field naturalists in North America, range maps (including wintering range) and filtering options to allow you to search for a bird by color, region or even shape.

Audubon Birds – A Field Guide to North American Birds is $4.99 in the Windows Store. Fly, fly away!

You might also be interested in:

· 3 big ways Bing broke out of the search box in 2013
· Bring Bing Windows 8.1 apps directly to OneNote and share with others
· University of Colorado Health adopts Microsoft Office 365 for its data privacy and security commitment

Jeff Meisner
Microsoft News Center Staff