As a father, I know that sometimes gaming with your younger children can be painful. A lot of parents who aren’t gamers don’t know what games are quality experiences and even a lot of parents who do game know that many times children titles can equal a pretty bad game. On top of that when your youngsters game they won’t have the skills you have (at first) and lets face it dying a hundred times a level can be painful. However there is a bright and shiny middle ground I’ve found in a few games so I’d like to share those here.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii)
I decided NOT to save the best for last. If you have a exceedingly short attention span read no further. If you have a Wii and you want to have the absolute best time with your kids pick this up. The game released to critical acclaim, the graphics are nothing short of fantastic, and the difficulty is just right.
The best thing about the experience is probably that the difficulty is never too hard. When my son was four he made it through the majority of this game on his own. Instructions are right there in the level in neat drawings that instantly give your child an idea of what to do. The game’s story unfolds through cutscenes that are all read to your child and makes it easy for them to follow.
When you play co-op you can help younger and less skilled players progress through the level. Their progress is tied to yours and you can pull them along through the level as they can press a button to move up to your location. What ends up happening is even less experienced players can have the joy of playing the game with out all the frustration. My son played this with his younger cousin, who never games, and she had so much fun because he could just pull her along.
In addition there is tons of stuff to see and do within the game. You can decorate an apartment with random furniture you find, unlock music and more. There is tons of collectibles and you can revisit any level you like to unlock everything. If you decide to sneak a game session after the kids go to bed the difficulty is low, but if you go for every collectible it can raise it a bit. I love this game, my son loves this game and it’s probably the best on this list for younger kids.
LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3)
I’ve just included the second one here because it improves so much on the original, but the first iteration is awesome as well. LittleBigPlanet 2 was critically acclaimed for very good reason, don’t believe me check out our review here.
The great thing about LittleBigPlanet 2 for young ones is that there are literally millions of player made stages to choose from. Anyone who has young kids can tell you that their likes and dislikes can change rapidly. One day they love Ben 10 and the next all they want to do is watch Spiderman cartoons. Search for something and your liable to find it on Little Big Planet.
Within the game you unlock various costume pieces which allow you to create zany characters out of your Sackboy and I promise will amuse your children more then the actual game at times. You’ll also unlock pieces to build your own game with and older children who are creative will find that fostered as tutorials will help them along in creating their own experience.
The platforming is fun and challenging and even deaths can be rectified by getting to the next checkpoint. As the game progresses it can become a little too difficult and frustrating for younger gamers. Even so that is easily fixed as you can search for games through the well done interface and find games that younger children can play. When my son was only three I found a ABC game within that was easy enough to progress through and he learned something in the process! Bang for your buck doesn’t even begin to sum up LittleBigPlanet 2 as the replay value is literally endless.
Also it doesn’t hurt that the game is great fun for adults as well and you may find yourself playing sans small ones as you attempt to unlock that one last piece for your game.
P.S. Go through the tutorials and make your child a level of his own. Doesn’t matter how good it is he/she will think your a superhero.
Lego Video Games (GC/PS2/PS3/Xbox/360/PS3/Wii/DS/GBA)
When it comes to high quality co-op experiences that are kid friendly yet fun enough to keep an adult gamer’s interest, nothing does it quite like the Lego games. As you can see above they’ve been made for just about every system for the past two generations, which makes it easy for more budget minded parents to pick up a copy for their child.
Based on the iconic childhood toys that your son or daughter probably already enjoy playing with, the Lego games take various big name licenses and put whimsical spins on them. Your child can pick and choose from the likes of Batman, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean; most of them with several iterations a piece.
Dying only results in the loss of some collectible pieces and your child will never see a game over screen. Playing along with you they can enjoy the game without feeling failure. Instead they get to spend time collecting Lego bricks, unlocking characters, and searching every nook and cranny of a level. All the games allow you to replay levels with your unlocked characters in addition to having a story mode that is usually a decent length.
Just like the toys themselves you really just can’t go wrong with Lego.
Skylanders (PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, 3DS)
Skylanders has taken the toy world by storm and become a sensation among children and adults alike. Toy shelves have been ravaged and a sequel is even in the works and it’s not really hard to see why. If you’d like you could check our review out here for deeper details.
The basic gist, if you don’t already know, is you buy a toy figure and place it on the Portal of Power which comes with the starter set. As soon as you place the figure on the portal it’s transported within the game for you and your child to play with. As you play through the game your Skylanders will level up and you can collect gold to unlock new abilities. Each figure retains it’s abilities and levels whenever you take them off the portal and they are even compatible with all versions of the game across all consoles. This makes it easy for your kids to play with their friends even if they have it on 360 and their friends have it on Wii.
Skylanders is insanely addictive if you like this sort of gameplay, whether your an adult or a kid, and it’s the type of game I would have clamored for when I was a child. It’s not burdensome to play with your kids and you may have to explain to them why their Trigger Happy figure is level ten even though when they went to bed he was level two.
The game can be an expensive proposition which may make parents a little hesitant, however the initial starter set comes with everything you need to complete the game. Granted the commercials within the game are set up to make a kid want more figures, but the figures themselves are high quality and my son plays with them even when the console is off. If you buy your kids toys already that also likes video games, this gives them a sort of two for one deal. Either way you’ll probably find yourself having as much fun as your child and the difficulty is just enough to challenge you both.
Obviously this isn’t a list of every kid’s game ever released that might be fun to play. Instead it’s a short list of some of the games I’ve had the most fun playing with my son and more importantly the ones he has had the most fun with. Other games that came to mind, but I didn’t go into great detail will be listed below. All of them are pretty much a sure bet quality wise and are good for co-op gameplay with your kids.
- Once Upon a Monster (Xbox Kinect)
- Kirby Return to Dreamland (Wii)
- Double Fine Happy Action Theater (Xbox Kinect)
- Batman The Brave and the Bold (Wii)
- EyePet (PS3)
- Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii) or Super Smash Brothers Melee (Gamecube)
- New Super Mario Brothers (Wii)
- Super Mario Galaxy 1 or 2 (Wii)
- Disney Universe (Wii, 360, PS3)
Either way enjoy the games, enjoy your kids and enjoy being better then them for a small while. In ten years when they are mercilessly sniping you in Halo you’ll miss the days when you could play alongside them in the latest Kirby game.