Holiday Gift Guide: All-Ages Gaming

By Jeremy M. Zoss in Features
Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Whether you're a hardcore gamer or a casual gamer, there's a good chance you've got someone in your life that could use an age-appropriate video game gift this year. That's why we've assembled our annual list of all-ages games. Below you'll find some of the best kids games, family-friendly titles and all-ages experiences that we've encountered in 2011. Enjoy!

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Dance Central 2
Kinect has multiple dance games. Dance Central 2 is the only one you need. Like the original game, it flawlessly transmits your dance moves to your in-game counterpart and does a great job teaching you the moves you need to get down. Dance Central 2 introduces two-player simultaneous dancing, and this new feature alone will make it a smash hit in your family. Dance Central 2 features a mix of classic and contemporary pop songs, some of which have mildly suggestive lyrics. But if your kids listen to Top 40 radio, there's literally nothing they haven't heard before. ESRB: T

Rayman Origins
Our Ryan Winslett had this to say about Rayman Origins in his 5 out of 5 review: "Rayman Origins made me feel like a kid again, and then it rewarded me with challenges befitting 20-plus years of gaming experience. In a gaming landscape that is currently dominated by gritty realism and buckets of bullets, it was an absolute treat to escape into this vibrant world overflowing with some good old fashioned fun." ESRB: E10+


Bejeweled 3
The world's most popular "match three" game is available on just about every digital device you can name, so it may seem unnecessary to buy another version. Or, it would if PopCap's flagship franchise wasn't so much darn fun. For only $20, the Nintendo DS version includes eight different versions of the game. Our favorite is the addictive quest mode, which challenges players to finish 40 scenarios with specific goals. From matching moving jewels before they reach the top to using jewels to uncover hidden treasures, the variations are clever enough to keep players of all ages hooked. The downloadable versions for Xbox Live Arcade and PSN are just as good, but you can't really put those in a stocking, can you? ESRB: E

Kinect Sports Season Two
Many of the Xbox's family-friendly games now rely on the Kinect sensor, and the games for the device keep getting better. Kinect Sports was a solid introduction to the sensor's abilities, and Kinect Sports Season Two improves on the formula with a fun variety of sports and activities. Use your body to imitate the motions of playing darts, baseball, football, skiing, golf and tennis - thanks to the variety of sports and variations on each game, there's plenty of fun to be had for everyone, especially in multiplayer mode. ESRB: E


LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars/LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5- 7
The LEGO video games series has become one of the most popular all-ages franchises around, thanks to the way they retell goofy, good-natured versions of familiar stories. The original LEGO Star Wars games retold the Star Wars movies with LEGO figures, but LEGO Star Wars III draws its inspiration from a source that's likely more familiar to young fans, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon. The game recreates the events of the series and adds large-scale battles bigger than anything seen in the LEGO games before.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 recounts the final stories in the mega-popular Harry Potter books and movies. Players can use blocky ingredients to create their own spells, but experimentation can have hilarious results. No matter which franchise the kids in your household are more excited about, the LEGO games offer up simple, cartoonish action that's acceptable for gamers of almost any age - both players and enemies crumble into LEGO blocks when defeated and players always rebuild themselves a moment later. ESRB:E10+

uDraw Gametablet
Last year, THQ released the uDraw Gametablet for Nintendo's Wii. Now a redesigned version has been released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Both of the new versions feature a responsive drawing surface with a special pen that allows young artists to see their artwork come to life on the screen. The $80 device comes with uDraw Studio Instant Artist, which teaches kids the basics of art. Also available for the device are games Pictionary Ultimate Edition, an electronic version of the classic board game, and Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat. The simple action game challenges players to defeat comic book-style enemies by drawing special moves on the tablet's screen. The Recommended for children 5 and up. ESRB: E

Back to The Future: The Game
No one does story-based games better than TellTale, and the excellent Back to The Future episodes have no been collected into one collection for both PS3 and Wii. If you pick it up for a young person in your family, there's a free bonus - if you grew up with the Back to The Future movies like we did, you might enjoy this clever continuation of the series even more than your kids! ESRB: T


Super Mario 3D Land
We couldn't have this list without some Nintendo titles, could we? Here's what reviewer Thorin Klosowski had to say about Mario's latest adventure: "It's not really trying to be a progressive Mario game, it's more interested in highlighting the best of Mario's history. Maybe it was created with the Mario anniversary in mind, or maybe Nintendo, like the rest of us, is just nostalgic for older generations of games. The level design is insanely clever at times and -- as cliché as I'm guessing this is going to sound by the end of the day -- the 3D truly is a system seller because it's the first game to prove that 3D can enhance the experience, not just add to it."

Additional picks: Cooking Mama 4, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, Ben 10 Triple Pack, The Gunstringer

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