As the holidays approach I thought it might be useful to compile another list of new games you can play with your kids without going out of your mind. These games will appeal to kids because they're fun and accessible, but unlike most child-focused titles they offer plenty of inviting gameplay for adults too. This is a remarkably difficult balance to strike, but the games I've included here seem to get it just right. Most of these titles aren't kids games at all; just solid, well-designed games everyone can enjoy. FYI, you can find last year's list here.
de Blob (Wii) - The hidden gem of the holiday season. Appearing amidst a deluge of other big-name releases, few people have heard of this singularly wonderful game. Players control a jello-like blob that picks up paint colors and splashes them across a drab monochromatic city. Combining a mixture of platforming and puzzle-solving elements, the game enables you to liberate the city of Chroma and bring joy back to its citizens. If you've played Katamari Damacy, you will recognize a bit of de Blob's spirit, but this game is its own utterly unique experience.
Boom Blox (Wii) - The Steven Spielberg game that no one knows is a Steven Spielberg game. Released six months ago, Boom Blox isn't quite a new game; but it remains the best and most overlooked multiplayer Wii game since Wii Sports. It's a deft combination of Jenga and Legos with built-in physics-based destruction thanks to a hearty flick of the Wiimote. No game I've played on the Wii brings people together with more fun than Boom Blox. Just be sure to wear your wrist strap. Seriously.
World of Goo (PC, Mac, Linux, Wii) - Another terrific indie game makes good (de Blob is the other). Players use goo balls to assemble various structures like towers or scaffolds to reach an exit pipe where the remaining goo balls are sucked up and sent to the sinister World of Goo Corporation. Impossible to explain, but equally impossible to put down, this game is great fun for a single player, but even more fun for two playing cooperatively. Younger kids may need to play Dad's "helper" for this one.
MySims Kingdom (Wii) - EA wisely executed a design reboot from last year's version of MySims, transforming the game from an Animal Crossing-esque life sim to a simple but fun adventure game. In MySims Kingdom you help King Roland and his subjects revitalize the Kingdom one enchanting theme-based island at a time. Along the way you build various contraptions and structures to help the citizens improve their lives. EA disagrees with me, but this is a game best suited for younger kids. However, it's so stylish, well-paced, and smartly delivered (with a nice sprinkling of genuinely funny dialogue), you'll enjoy playing it too. When I first saw this game at EA a few months ago, I was only mildly impressed. Now that I've played it (admittedly for only a few hours), I like it much more than I thought I would.
I'll also mention a handful of other terrific games, all suitable for family play:
- Little Big Planet
- Lego Batman
- Wii Music
- Rock Band / Guitar Hero
- Mario Super Sluggers
I should mention that I include Wii Music based on strong recommendations from friends with kids pre-school to 12 years old. It's the only title on this list I haven't played myself.
If I've omitted a game that belongs on this list, be sure to let me know. Happy gaming!