For kids, getting a lousy game on Christmas morning is like getting underwear as a present. So rather than leaving a lump of coal in little Timmy’s stocking, let me recommend five sure-fire hits that won’t get tossed out with the wrapping paper.
Before I get into the list, let me point out that this list is centered around the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, where quality kid friendly games can be scarce at times. Nintendo are masters at making quality kid friendly games, so you will have no trouble finding good games on their most recent systems.
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW!
Out November 19th on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, 3DS, and PC
Usually I would say avoid any games based off of a cartoon like the plague… they’re usually cheaply produced and just meant to sell on name alone. Adventure Time is a different breed.
As a cartoon, it can be enjoyed by both children and adults, and developer WayForward already released a successful portable Adventure Time game last year. The game is exactly what the title says… you explore dungeons, fight monsters, and collect a bunch of loot. If you’re familiar with Diablo, it basically copies that style of game in a more kid friendly way.
The creator of the cartoon and all the voice cast are involved in the game so you can be sure it’s true to the source material. The game also features up to 4 players at the same time so you might just find yourself joining in on the adventure… and finding out what a “Lumpy Space Princess” is.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Out now on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC, PS Vita, 3DS and at launch on PS4 and Xbox One
My in-depth review of this game can be found here. Chances are if you know a kid, they’ve either played a LEGO video game or have played with LEGOs. Chances are that kid will also recognize at least one super hero from Marvel’s vast library of characters. The core of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes has you battling the various villains of the Marvel Universe while solving puzzles using each characters own unique super powers.
Layered on top of that is a free roaming LEGO version of New York City with many hours of side missions, races, and over 150 unlockable characters. Also if you’re getting one of those shiny new next-gen systems, this is one of the few family friendly games at launch. While I haven’t played the portable version, I hear it’s not quite the same game… so keep that in mind as well. Up to 2 players can play at the same time.
Out now on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PSVita, and PC
Easily one of my favorite games to come out this year. While Rayman has never had the recognition as a video game character on the level of Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog… he’s been around just as long. Rayman Legends is the latest game in the series and is not to be confused with the similar looking Rayman Origins from 2011 (although that is also a great game).
This is very much your classic Super Mario Bros side scrolling platform fun, but with modern looking painted style graphics. I dare say Rayman surpasses some of the latest Mario efforts with a very tight game that takes quite a bit of skill to fully complete. The entire game can be played with up to 2 players and there’s also a fantastic competitive mode called KungFoot that is similar to soccer. Even the Grinch would smile playing this game… it’s that FUN.
Out November 22nd for Xbox One, with a Xbox 360 and PC version TBA.
update: Lococycle turned out to be a very rushed and sloppy game, review scores have been very low. This is the equivalent of digital coal in the stocking.
Lococyle is a downloadable only title, so gifting it might be a little different than what you’re used to. A download code can be purchased for the game from a retail store like Gamestop. The code can then be redeemed to download the game… perfect for emailing to that distant relative. I recommend this game solely because the developer, Twisted Pixel, has such a solid track record of fun titles.
They were one of the few developers to make a Kinect game that was both fun to play and actually works, The Gunstringer. Lococycle is a hybrid of a racing game and a beat em up… featuring an AI controlled motorcycle dragging its mechanic behind it. It sounds violent, but it’s very cartoonish and over the top. Adults will also get a kick that the evil robot motorcycle is voiced by Robert Patrick, the T1000 from Terminator 2. It’s the most affordable game on the list at only $20.
SPORTS: THE GAME
Out now on EVERYTHING
There is not actually a video game called “SPORTS: THE GAME” but just about every sport imaginable has a video game counterpart. This just barely beat out Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing Transformed (which could consider racing as a sport) for the last spot on this list. There is bound to be at least one sport your child has an interest in. The only thing you have to do is narrow down which sport and make sure it’s the 2014 iteration of that game so it has the proper roster.
Some games like Madden NFL Football have exclusive rights and face no competition on the market. Other games such as soccer have multiple choices like FIFA 14 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2014… but really you can’t go wrong with either one. Who knows… maybe after mastering the digital version it might encourage your child to put the controller down and go outside to try the real version of SPORTS: THE GAME.