Gaming's been a big part of my family life since I was very small. My parents and I played games together for years, and ever since we all got iPhones, we even play on the go while we're miles apart. (Thanks, Words with Friends!) That makes about 20 years of gaming, and when I have a family to call my very own (read: little ones), I hope to keep the family tradition going.
Image Credit: left-hand
It's understandable if you want to play something with your whole family! Nothing brought me and my parents closer than those moments we shared. Not to mention that it's guaranteed fun these days. I almost wish I'd grown up now instead of the 90s, just because there's so many other things I could have enjoyed! For instance...
Retro games are just a button push away.
A lot of the exact games I played with my parents? Now just a quick download away. Classics like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (and its competitive splitscreen), Columns, Dr. Mario and more are all available in mere seconds with a few dollars and an Internet-connected console (mostly on the Wii's Virtual Console in the online shop and the PlayStation Store). Some of these classics have even been updated to take advantage of online features available in newer consoles — not that you'll need them when you're playing together, however.
Here's a taste of competitive multiplayer in Sonic the Hedgehog 2:
See also: If it's retro games you want, there are a few collections available. Try Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Portal 2 is awesome and it exercises your thinking muscle.
Valve's Portal 2 (ESRB: E-10+), is one of my favorite games this year. The series of physics-based puzzles will really make you think in single-player, but as far as families go, that's not where this game shines. Instead, the co-operative mode, where you play as two robots doing dirty deeds for evil artificial intelligence GLaDOS, is where this game really shines. You'll love working together with your family member to determine how to best navigate the treacherous waters placed in front of you. And if you fail, it's okay — you're just a robot! No deaths here to dissuade you, you're just reassembled. Ah, the perks of being made of metal.
Portal 2 also allows you to either play in splitscreen on PlayStation 3 or with other players on PC/Mac — and that does include one person on console with the other on computer, just in case you're not so great at sharing screens. And hey, new PS3 copies come with a copy of the PC/Mac game (which, with some finagling, you can use with a different Steam account). So it's like getting two copies of the game at once, just so you can play together.
See also: I'd provide examples of other games that encourage this kind of spatial thinking and also offer the opportunity for two people to play together, but there really aren't any.
NBA Jam is the perfect brand of silly and simple.
Sometimes, you just need to be a little bit silly. NBA Jam, one of my childhood favorites, is actually back and better than ever as of last holiday season. The two-on-two basketball title is a lot easier for people who are new to sports to understand, the games are short enough for a quick playthrough and the game's announcer is hilarious. Here, take a listen:
BOOM-shaka-laka! It never gets old.
See also: Any sports game — Madden, NCAA, NBA 2K12...every year, a new possibility in your favorite sport.
Mario Kart Wii keeps the competition friendly.
Racing games, especially cutesy titles like Nintendo's Mario Kart Wii, are perfect for the whole family. Mario Kart is especially great for families because of what Nintendo does with it — Everyone behind the leader gets a bit of a boost, while the current first-place racer has additional obstacles to overcome. No matter what, there's a chance for a photo finish, which is great for younger kids — or you, if you're falling behind.
Not only that, but this can really be a game for the whole family — the splitscreen allows up to four players to race instead of only two. Take a look:
See also: Forza Motorsport 4 for Xbox 360 and Gran Turismo 5 for PlayStation 3 are a lot more grown-up, but they offer a chance to teach your kids what really goes on behind the wheel and under the hood.
Kinect's just what you need to get the party started.
Ever since the Wii got the motion gaming fad going back in 2006, the other console manufacturers have been trying to catch up, and Microsoft took its shot at the relatively new genre with the Kinect for Xbox 360, which touts that "you are the controller," as I'm sure you've heard in the commercials a thousand times by now. Several Kinect titles let you play two-at-a-time, and one of the hotter games this holiday season will be Dance Central 2. This game teaches you the necessary moves to get your groove on with some of the hotter pop songs on the radio today (as well as a few older ones), and you can actually play with or against someone else, unlike the previous game, which only let you take turns. Take a look at this trailer:
See also: Kinect's got quite a few games that let you play with someone. Check out Kinect Adventures for a series of unconventional sports games, Disneyland Adventures for a faux trip to the California theme park, and Once Upon a Monster for some Sesame Street fun for younger kids. If you've got a PlayStation 3, check out PlayStation Move titles like Sports Champions and Eyepet for a similar experience.
Tiffany Nevin is the News Editor at GamingAngels.com, which is the Web's #1 destination for women who love all things geeky. She lives in Alabama with her husband, two cats, three game consoles, and a lot of yarn. You can find her on Twitter (though you probably don't want to) as @kweenie.
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