The other day, as I was getting my hair done (no, being a games journalist doesn’t mean you can’t get your groom on), I found out that my hairdresser is a huge gamer. As she colored the locks, she divulged her love for Nintendo games (Wii and GameCube these days), her collection of Mario characters hanging in her car, and of her son’s pride in his gamer mom. She described how she and her husband and her son once passed the controller around for hours as they conquered Zelda: Wind Waker and went on about how heated the competition gets in her family’s nightly WarioWare sessions. Jen totally changed my mind about gamer moms – she’s not just buying whatever her kid wants and plopping him down in front of the TV – she’s as into the games as he is – and that makes her a total badass.
So inspired was I by this encounter that I decided to put together a list for other parents looking to find solid, quality games that they can play with their kids and have as much fun as they do. The Wii takes a (rightful) beating by gamers who cite the insane amount of utter trash on the system – crap like Jenga and endless minigame collections that prey upon unsuspecting Wii consumers just looking for a new toy to play with. There are so many diamonds in the rough – casual or family-oriented games that are actually worth the $50 and provide tons of bang for the buck.
I’ll start with Lego Star Wars (or really, any of the Lego franchise games). If you’ve ever listened to the What They Play Podcast you’ll know that Game journo (and dad) extraordinaire John Davison’s kids are absolutely obsessed with Lego Star Wars – and have been for the better part of a year. All of the Lego games offer extremely fun co-op play (perfect for parents and kids) and a fantastic blend of platforming, light puzzling and fighting – all within the context of goofy “Lego-ized” versions of popular film/comic franchises.
The next title on the shortlist is the recently released Excitebots: Trick Racing, which is a goofy racing game that’s much more about completing crazy stunts and getting plenty of air than it is about racing. There’s skill involved – especially in the later circuits and in the wildly addictive Poker Race mode, but anyone interested in having a very good time without too much investment should pick this up.
If you’re looking for a good party game that anyone can pick up and play, try Boom Blox. A puzzle/party game that allows you to throw blocks, play competitive Jenga-style games of balance and shoot cutesy character blocks around, it’s super-addictive, squeaky-clean fun. It’s equally perfect for family game nights, mixed-crowd parties and pass-the-controller single player action, making it almost impossible not to recommend. The game’s sequel is due out next week (it launches May 19, 2009) and I’m anticipating a similarly awesome experience.
On my honorable mentions list : Klonoa, the Cooking Mama games and of course, Super Mario Galaxy.