Top 10 Family Video Games
As far back as I can remember I’ve been a gamer. Some of my favourite memories from growing up come from playing video games with my family. Whether it was taking turns with the whole family on Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, fighting with my little brother over world titles in WWF No Mercy on Nintendo 64 (shamefully he was better) or showing off my crazy skills to my grandmother in Donkey Kong Country on Super Nintendo, video games have always been a part of family life for me.
Even as an adult things haven’t changed much as a recent all-night Mega Man session with my mother proves. My wife and I play Lego Dimensions together on a regular basis since it’s a co-operative game so she can’t lose to me (that’s right I went there). Now we’re just waiting on our son to be old enough to join in on the action.
The following list is details 10 of the best modern games to play with your family, in no particular order, along with the different formats that each one is available on. Hopefully you can all make as many fun memories as I have.
I might as well start off the list with a Mario title–he is the king of family friendly games. After more than 20 years, the Mario Kart series is still top dog when it comes to multiplayer racing. Somehow, Nintendo have managed to make this entry in the series even better than Mario Kart 7. With the introduction of anti-gravity karts, the tracks become crazy rollercoasters with loops and twists not possible before. The game balances the staggered starting positions by giving the racers placed towards back better items with which to mess up an opponents’ race, while the head of the pack is usually left with the lowly banana skin to defend themselves from attackers in lieu of their head start.
Let’s not forget the bane of any racer who manages to be in first place: the winged Blue Shell. Hated by many since its introduction in Mario Kart 64, this shell will lock onto whoever is in 1st and blast them into the air with an almighty bang. Before now, there was no way to defend yourself against a Blue Shell, but if you are lucky enough to be in possession of the all new Super Horn make sure you hold onto it, as they can smash the Blue Shell straight out of the air–saving you in the process. Another little known dirty tactic is to slam on the brakes as soon as you know someone has gotten a Blue Shell, letting the racer in 2nd place pass you and take the hit. This is guaranteed to cause some family feuding. If you somehow manage to tire of the 32 tracks and 30 characters to choose from, there is additional downloadable content (DLC) that adds another 6 characters, 8 vehicles and 16 tracks to the already substantial offering. Bonus for amiibo collectors: there are currently 19 compatible figures that unlock racing suits for your Mii Racer!
The latest entry into the Toys to Life genre of video games is easily as much fun as its competitors, offering a mash up of lots of fan favourite franchises from DC Superheroes to Lego Ninjago. The old fogies like me are also catered to with the likes of Ghostbusters, Doctor Who and Back to the Future. The twist on the formula with Lego Dimensions comes from the fact that the base and figures are all made from actual Lego, adding a new element to the game as you can upgrade vehicles and items in-game while rebuilding the figure in real life. As with other Toys to Life efforts, the “story mode” can be completed using only what is given to you in the starter pack, but where’s the fun in that? Certain characters can use their special abilities to unlock hidden areas of the game. Take for instance the likes of Homer Simpson’s Super Burp that enables you to shatter windows. The entire game can be played co-operatively with a second player, so if a young child is playing it can be handy for helping them out with some of the puzzles. The attention to detail found in each level is amazing with lots of nods to the source material. The original voice actors are also used, some are old archived recordings but others have all new dialogue recorded specially for the game including Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, who makes a point of letting you know his time machine is far superior to the iconic DeLorean. Any character can enter any level or vehicle too, making the possibilities for gaming fun endless. Those with kids get to have even more fun when they have to rebuild the figures that get thrown across the room fifty times.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a gamer or not, there’s very little chance that you haven’t encountered Minecraft in some form or another over the past few years. It has become a phenomenon with everything from bedclothes to books to lunchboxes found on shop shelves. The concept is simple: mine for materials and see what you can build from them. It is much more than a sum of its parts however; the game can be whatever you want it to be. My brother and I had a two player session a while back that lasted a few hours, all we did was build a tiny shack and make fun of each other but it was amazing fun. More experienced players can make actual cities whereas the more casual of us can be content with making mere houses. While it’s easy to get lost in this game for hours at a time–the satisfaction of making a simple staircase is baffling, it becomes a whole different beast with extra players. Be prepared to be schooled by your kids.
The New Super Mario Bros games for Wii and Wii U have great multiplayer modes, but Super Mario 3D World feels a lot fresher than either of them. While 3DS entry Super Mario 3D Land tested the waters when it came to bite sized 3D Mario levels, 3D World really comes into its own with the addition of a full co-op multiplayer mode. I use the term co-op fairly loosely, as my wife and friends can tell you I spend half the time hindering everyone’s progress by throwing them all off ledges for the laugh. That’s part of the fun though… Once the treachery stops and the game faces go on, this game shows off the kind of fun you can have with “on the couch” multiplayer. The frantic race to see who can reach the top of the flagpole first at the end of level should be an Olympic event, and even if you only get one in ten it feels like a real victory. As with all great multiplayer games this will cause some arguments. The game itself never seems to end (in a good way), with 8 main worlds followed by 4 more bonus worlds. There are a ton of collectables to find that can unlock extra levels making this game is amazing fun.
With Star Wars now owned by Disney, it was a logical choice to base their next Toys to Life game around it. This title still has characters available from Disney franchises and Marvel Superheroes, but Star Wars is a very welcome addition. As in Lego Dimensions and Skylanders, the game is perfectly playable using the contents of the starter pack, with Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano and the Twilight of the Republic playset piece offering hours of play time before you even have to think about purchasing add-ons. But with extra content such as the Rise Against the Empire, The Force Awakens and Disney’s Inside Out playsets not to mention standalone characters like Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, Hulkbuster Iron Man and Olaf the Snowman, you’d be mad not to consider expanding your collection. Let’s be honest, the entire game is worth buying just to play as Kylo Ren.
Here we have a Lego title that doesn’t use the Toys to Life model and instead follows in the footsteps of older games in the range. Rather than collecting real life Lego toys to use in game, you unlock secret characters by progressing through the game itself. The story takes place in the universe of the Marvel Avengers movies taking scenes from Avengers Assemble, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3, the first two Captain America movies and Thor: The Dark World. That’s a lot of content wrapped in such a small package! The action has you jumping back and forth between scenes from all of these movies with each scene injecting a little bit of that familiar Lego charm and comedy we’ve come to expect from the games. Anybody with even a passing interest in these films or the comics they’re based on will have a lot of fun exploring the open worlds and playing as iconic heroes such as The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America. There are an insane amount of secrets to unlock, all of which can be tackled in two player co-op, making the team-up abilities even better.
The original Toys to Life game returns this time with drivable vehicles. When the first Skylanders launched it used the popular character Spyro the Dragon as its cover star to launch the platform. These days the Skylander’s brand is far more well-known than Spyro, who has been demoted to just another member of the crew. This time around, mega villain Kaos is up to his old tricks, with his new weapon The Sky Eater/Doomstation of Ultimate Doomstruction (what a name) that threatens to destroy all of Skylands. This is where a new team of Skylanders, the titular Superchargers, come in. Luckily for people who have previous games, all previous figures are compatible with Superchargers, meaning you could already be well equipped before you even begin. Any character can use any vehicle but you can only Supercharge a vehicle by matching it up with its true owner. Those who own Nintendo systems also have the bonus of being able to use Hammer Slam Bowser and Turbo Charge Donkey Kong who aren’t compatible with other formats.
This game features one of the most beautifully crafted worlds of this generation with all of the characters and backgrounds made of wool and various fabrics. It’s not just a part of the graphics though, the game incorporates this style into the gameplay mechanics, with Yoshi able to unravel woolen enemies with this tongue and turn them into little balls of yarn. These can then be fired at incomplete portions of the level to unlock secrets and build paths. Anyone familiar with any of the Yoshi’s Island games will know to expect worlds packed with secrets and impressive end-of-world bosses, not to mention fun mini games. In a move that completely justifies all the money I spent, Nintendo has designed this game to make great use of your amiibo collection, with almost every figure released so far unlocking a new woolly costume for Yoshi. The entire game can be played alone or co-operatively with a second player, so you can let the kids play as well instead of making them watch you have all the fun.
If you fancy yourself the potential rock star but can’t be bothered to learn a real instrument, you’re looking in the right place. Guitar Hero Live takes the premise of previous titles in the series and shakes it up by changing the layout of the buttons on the guitar controller to allow for more chord-like button combinations. Each song in the “Live” portion of the game also features real video recordings of your in-game band mates and an audience that reacts accordingly depending on how well (or badly) you’re performing and believe me they’re not shy about letting you know if you’re playing a stinker. The other half of the game called, “Guitar Hero TV,” features a set up like the MTV of old. This has the original music video for the songs playing in the background while you play along in whatever difficulty you see fit. There are multiple channels featuring different genres so there’s something for everyone. Whether you decide to pass the guitar around for some score chasing fun or track down another guitar controller for head to head action, this game knows how to turn the fun up to 11 and make you feel like a rock god in the process.
Even though Super Mario Maker doesn’t actually have a multiplayer mode, it’s one of the most inclusive games available on the list. It takes the mechanics we know and love from Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U and deconstructs them down to their most basic level. This allows people of any age to try their hand at creating their own Mario masterpiece, whether it be a fiendishly difficult maze full of traps or a fast-paced obstacle course against the clock. The amount of options available in this mode allow for endless possibilities, with even more features and building blocks being added through free regular updates. If you don’t think of yourself as the creative type, you can play one of over 5 million levels designed by other Super Mario Maker players around the world, as well as plenty of courses designed by the creators themselves. This is also another amiibo friendly game that lets you scan your favourite figures, unlocking 8-bit character models of the amiibo in question. Who’d have thought we’d eventually see Sonic the Hedgehog playing in a Super Mario Bros platform?
BONUS – COMING SOON
Below are two upcoming titles that look good enough to muscle their way into the Top 10 when they hit the shelves later this year.
This re-imagining of the original game in the long running Ratchet & Clank series is guaranteed to bring back nostalgic memories to anyone who played it back in 2002 as well as excite a new generation of explosion loving gamers. The graphics have been given a major overhaul from their modest Playstation 2 origins making the futuristic setting shine brighter than ever. It also has the benefit of features and weapons that were originally introduced in subsequent games such as the ability to strafe during combat and the weapon The Bouncer, which will be unlocked for players who preorder the game.
As with all Lego Star Wars games before it, The Force Awakens promises to deliver an addictive and hilarious take on a galaxy far, far away. Lego games are always great fun, but the Lego Star Wars games in particular have always been personal favourites of mine, throwing in just the right amount of comedy to the proceedings. The amount of unlockable characters and vehicles will have fellow Star Wars fans frothing at the mouth with anticipation, this being the first opportunity to play as a Lego version of the cool new villain Kylo Ren–a particular highlight for me. You’d never know I was a fan of Kylo Ren, right? Roll on June 28th.
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