While the big trend at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles was decidedly toward mature and violent games (Nintendo’s Wii U announcements notwithstanding), there are still several high-quality options available for children coming this holiday season. Here’s a look at some of the best video games for kids you can expect to lay hands on in coming months – including many new and novel options that will entertain the whole family.
NintendoLand – Nintendo– Holiday 2012 for Wii U – When Wii U launches, this is the title that will make it all make sense, as 12 different game experiences based on favorite Wii characters highlight and showcase the many ways that the Wii U’s tablet controllers can revolutionize gameplay. Players will need to team up to avoid or find their friends in games based on Animal Crossing, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, Luigi’s Mansion and more.
Wonderbook: Book of Spells – SCEA – Harry Potter’s Book of Spells is the first title for this brilliant combination of PlayStation Move/Eye technology and a new, AR-ready book peripheral. Players will watch on screen as the book and pages come to life as they turn and interact with them. The World of Harry Potter is the perfectly enchanting way for players to learn and utilize actually spells that young wizards learn at Hogwarts.
Cartoon Universe – An online massively multiplayer virtual world built just for kids where children can explore worlds inspired by popular series such as Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo, while enjoying safe and fun experiences in the company of other live players.
Kinect TV Games – Microsoft – With titles based on both Nat Geo and Sesame Street, Microsoft is using Kinect to help parents connect and interact with their kids while watching educational shows they already know and love. Each game plays like real-life episodes of the TV show, with opportunities to get up and play in front of the Kinect Camera, such as acting like Grizzly Bears or playing around with Dorothy the Fish in Elmo’s World.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two – Disney Interactive – While the trend for family gaming seeming to focus on more bite-sized and app-like entertainment experiences, Epic Mickey 2 is truly a game that parents and kids can play side by side. The darker themes and camera difficulty of the original Epic Mickey are gone, replaced by bright, colorful gameplay with plenty of choices for parents and kids to discuss about whether to use paint or thinner to progress through the story.
Harry Potter Kinect – Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment – Relive highlights from all 8 films as kids can enter their face and likeness onto a character and even go through the sorting process themselves. As they go through the game, they’ll earn plenty of points for their house, while taking on powerful enemies like Voldemort, just as Harry Potter and his friends did.
Just Dance Disney Party – Disney Interactive – Kids love the simplicity of the Just Dance games, and Just Dance Disney Party brings the familiar mimicking dancing action to favorite Disney songs. Whether it’s classics from the Jungle Book or songs from new shows like A.N.T. Farm, every young Disney Fan is going to love playing Just Dance Disney Party with their friends and family.
Nickelodeon Dance 2 – 2KPlay – This follow-up title stars even more Nick Jr. songs, such as Team Umizoomi and Bubble Guppies, adding them to the mix with Dora, the Fresh Beat Band and the Backyardigans. Designed for pre-schoolers, there’s a neat freeze dance mode that requires players to stand perfectly still for extended periods – no small feat for young kids.
Rabbids Land – Ubisoft – This board-game style multiplayer game features wacky Rabbids humor and use of the Wii-U tablet features to provide the perfect multiplayer experience that kids will love. There’s strategy and random luck involved, and the Rabbids always find a way to make kids (and grown-ups) laugh as they cooperate and compete.
Skylanders Giants – Activision – While your kids may still be collecting original Skylanders, get ready for a new wave this holiday as an all-new game that works with existing figures also introduces new characters, as well as powerful Skylanders called Giants. This hugely popular franchise may seem like a gimmick, but trust us, the cooperative gameplay would make this worth recommending even if it didn’t use real-life action figures.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing – Sega – Take to the road, sea and air in this racing game starring Sonic favorites as well as others from classic Sega franchises, including the guy from Crazy Taxi. It’s fast-paced racing action and includes power-ups, items and other obstacles that leave the winner always in doubt up until the end.