Essential video games for festive family fun this Christmas

There’s still time for some last minute Christmas shopping – and there should definitely be some room in Santa’s sack for at least one fun computer game. Mum and dad can join in too – and it sure beats a game of charades on December 25 after the presents have been opened and the turkey’s been polished off. But which one to choose? Andy Robertson, family gaming expert, lends a helping hand with his top ten family games of the season.

Nintento Land

Nintendo Land Wii U

Nintendo’s new console may seem similar to the original Wii, but Nintendo Land’s set of games is a case in point of how the new Game-pad controller makes a big difference. Playing with five people at the same time lets everyone get in on the fun. Whether playing hide and seek with Mario Chase, shooting aliens in Metroid Blast or hunting ghosts in Luigi’s Mansion this offers a substantial amount of family fun.

Wonderbook: Book of Spells

Wonderbook for PS3

What better way to spend Christmas than in the world of Harry Potter? Wonderbook: Book of Spells not only has new writing from J K Rowling but also creates a whole new way to play video games. Put the blank pages of its big blue book in front of the PS3 camera and they spring to life with all sorts of interactive creatures and pop-up elements. More games for the Wonderbook peripheral will also be out in the New Year.

Skylanders Giants

Skylanders Giants PS3, 360, Wii, Wii U, 3DS

This toy collecting craze, that also has videogame functions, is top of many children’s Christmas list for good reason. Skylanders Giants uses the toys to access special characters and levels in the video-game and saves progress back to the figure itself with no wires or buttons. You can even take your figure to a friend’s house and use it in their game no matter which console they have.

Clockwork Racers

Clockwork Racers iPad, iPhone

This simple racing game starts with players winding up their vehicles on the iPod Touch or iPhone touch screen before using them to race each other around a variety of courses displayed on a central iPad (or big screen via AppleTV). The novel play style and simple controls makes it great for gamers of any age, and there are plenty of levels to download to keep them entertained for hours.

Kinect Sesame Street TV

Kinect Sesame Street TV 360

This is the first of a new series of games for the 360’s hands-free Kinect controller that is aimed at pre-school players. The game uses a TV show style format with Sesame Street characters and then includes optional interactions. Because it continues even if the player gets things wrong this is well suited for the often overlooked younger gamers. More episodes will also be available to download in the New Year.

Paper Mario Sticker Stars

Paper Mario Sticker Stars 3DS

This is a Mario game with a difference — it’s a role play adventure rather than a platform game. This means things are slower paced and the story is much stronger –meaning it depends on much more than reaction times and button pressing. Paper Mario on 3DS is more a strategic and features a novel sticker-collection challenge, and it’s even better if played on the 3DS XL’s larger screens as the whole family can join in and suggest the best way forward.

Need for Speed Most Wanted

Need for Speed Most Wanted PS Vita, PS3, 360, PC

Racing games used to be about going round and round the same small track. Need for Speed Most Wanted changes all this with an open world to explore. This not only means that families can play the game at their own pace but can also plan their route from the start to the finish line. Most impressive is the Vita version that squeezes the full game onto Sony’s new handheld.

Mutant Mudds

Mutant Mudds 3DS eShop

This will have mum and dad reminiscing about the video-games of their youth while the kids enjoy the 3D platforming action. Mutant Mudds is an old school platform game with an innovative layered world that players navigate by jumping back and forth. Music and visuals are a nod to games from the Spectrum and Commodore era while at the same time looking bang up to date.

The Unfinished Swan

The Unfinished Swan PS3

This is a beautifully narrated modern-day fairytale on the PlayStation 3. Players navigate a black and white fantasy world by throwing paint to reveal the path ahead. This simple interaction leads them into a story about a little boy looking for his mother and the painting she hadn’t finished painting. The result is an emotional tale about the challenge of growing up — enjoyable and educational at the same time.

AppMates Cars 2 iPad

This driving game is controlled by placing a real plastic car on the iPad screen to explore the digital world of Pixar’s Cars films. The car is not only designed to ensure it doesn’t mark the screen but also offers a natural way for children to play. This tactile and engaging experience includes nice touches like car headlights on the screen in-front of the toy, day and night modes and new maps to download. It’s ideal for families with younger racers or Pixar fans.


Andy Robertson (@GeekDadGamer) produces Family Gamer TV and the Family Gaming blog. He is also editor of the Ask About Games site for Ukie.

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One comment

  1. Clockwork Racers (one of the essential games above) is available here:

    https://itunes.apple.com/app/clockwork-racers/id567103599?mt=8

    And it’s free to download and try out, right now

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