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Games to play with your children

Posted on 3rd Sep 2009 at 15:16 by Joe Martin with 36 comments

Joe Martin
I don’t have children, but I do have a lot of younger siblings and nephews and nieces, and we've played a lot of computer games together. A lot of the experiences we’ve shared have been through the medium of joysticks and mouse clicks.

Looking back on that recently I’ve come to think that parents should definitely play computer games with their kids, even though a lot of parents are of the opinion that "games are bad for you" and "all games are violent". Absolute rubbish, every word of it.

Of course, some games are violent and there’s a huge amount of games out there which aren’t at all suitable for children – but violence, if handled responsibly, isn’t always bad and there are a lot of games that are good for kids. My parents had an inkling of this and I spent a lot of time playing either with my Dad or talking about it with him. It’s something I plan to do with my children too, heaven forbid, and something I reflect on every time I go into a shop and see a parent blindly buying Grand Theft Auto for their seven year old. Grrr.

This isn’t new thinking obviously – any number of child-rearing programs or handbooks will tell you it’s important to get involved and find experiences you can share with your children. The problem though is that if you’re not someone who’s ‘into PCs’ and your kid is then it can be hard going. Thus, here are some recommendations for games that are suitable for most children and which open themselves up to this kind of activity.

Games to play with your children Games to Play With Your  Children
Lego Star Wars: The Original Saga
Lego Star Wars
This is the one to start with if you’ve got a young child as, if they like games, it’s likely they love Lego and Star Wars too – though it can be swapped out for Lego Indy or Lego Batman too. It’s easy and long and cute and funny and you won’t have to sit through loads of movies and so on. Best of all though, you can play it two player and spend ages running around collecting bricks. Available on all platforms.

Games to play with your children Games to Play With Your  Children
World of Goo

World of Goo
World of Goo is fun for all ages and really opens itself up to playing with children because all they have to do is drag and drop the goo around to make towers and bridges and you can sit there and help them solve the puzzles if needs be. Or just laugh at all the jokes. Either way, it’s vaguely educational and available cheaply, plus it has a great soundtrack and is available on the PC and Wii. Swap it out for Boom Blox, if you prefer.

Games to play with your children Games to Play With Your  Children
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
An absolute classic game, Monkey Island is the story of a wannabe pirate who has to chase down a ghost and save the governor of the island. It’s also recently been re-released with new graphics and vocal work, though you’ll still need a bit of patience to cope with the puzzles and pace. We played the original when we were young’uns and would highly recommend it. Comes on the PC, iPhone and Xbox 360.

Games to play with your children Games to Play With Your  Children
Trine

Trine
Something to consider if you’ve got more than one child to cope with, Trine is a fantasy platform game about a Thief, Wizard and Warrior who have to save a kingdom from…something or other…because of…something. M’eh. The story isn’t important – what is is that it’s good for three players at once, simple to get to grips with and all about teamwork. Available for the PS3 and PC.

Games to play with your children Games to Play With Your  Children
Braid

Braid
Something for the bigger kids, Braid is another 2D platform game – but one which has a lot of much harder puzzles and a deeply interesting story underpinning the fantastic visuals. It’ll probably take at least two of you to solve some of the harder puzzles as you learn how to rewind and control time, but sitting down and doing it as a team is kind of the point. Available on the PC and Xbox 360.

Games to play with your children Games to Play With Your  Children
Serious Sam 2

Serious Sam
Not every child is going to be satisfied by difficult puzzles and cutesy graphics though, which is when you break out one of the most fantastically fun shooters ever. Serious Sam has plenty of killing admittedly, but it’s all of a cartoon nature and not at all bloody or offensive, despite focusing on having hundreds of enemies fighting you at once. The difficulty levels cater literally to all skill levels and it supports team play as well, which makes it ideal for when you’re stuck on Braid. It’s available on the PC and Xbox 360.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head right now (edit: also and especially Psychonauts), but there are plenty of other games out there which are equally suited to playing with children, or even just watching kids play. It’s far better to try and get involved than to sit back let your kids play whatever they want, no matter how unsuitable it might be.

Unless you’d rather they played Grand Theft Auto?

36 Comments

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Blademrk 3rd September 2009, 16:40 Quote
My nephew (5) loves Castle Crashers on the 360, 4 players and great fun (the Forest level has a lot of toilet humour, and it cracks him up everytime he plays it).
Bauul 3rd September 2009, 16:40 Quote
There are plenty of games we all fondly remember as children that weren't "designed" for kids. Doom, for instance, was the first PC game I ever played, and I didn't even notice it was violent, it was just cool.

Prior to that, the first game I ever saw being played was Dizzy on the Commodore 64, and the first game I ever did play was Toki on the Amiga 1500. In all cases, the games I enjoyed the most were the ones I played with my parents (well, my Dad) and my brothers. I remember running into the garden yelling to my Dad when my older brother first defeated the penultimate boss on Toki.

Growing up, games are about shared experiences, and I think regardless of the game, doing it with people is absolutely vital.
CardJoe 3rd September 2009, 16:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
There are plenty of games we all fondly remember as children that weren't "designed" for kids. Doom, for instance, was the first PC game I ever played, and I didn't even notice it was violent, it was just cool.

Prior to that, the first game I ever saw being played was Dizzy on the Commodore 64, and the first game I ever did play was Toki on the Amiga 1500. In all cases, the games I enjoyed the most were the ones I played with my parents (well, my Dad) and my brothers. I remember running into the garden yelling to my Dad when my older brother first defeated the penultimate boss on Toki.

Growing up, games are about shared experiences, and I think regardless of the game, doing it with people is absolutely vital.

Agreed. You wouldn't believe how much time my brother, Dad and I spent playing Dune, Bloodwych and Monkey Island back in the day. Back then, when games like Bloodwych (a massive, multi-level, FPS grid-based dungeon RPG) didn't have a map feature then it was essential to have two young children and a supply of squared paper nearby.
Bauul 3rd September 2009, 17:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe

Agreed. You wouldn't believe how much time my brother, Dad and I spent playing Dune, Bloodwych and Monkey Island back in the day. Back then, when games like Bloodwych (a massive, multi-level, FPS grid-based dungeon RPG) didn't have a map feature then it was essential to have two young children and a supply of squared paper nearby.

Lol, I remember you telling us about how your dad used to copy out the dungeon designs onto reems and reems of squared paper.

In some respects, that aspect of discovery and the unknown is something many modern games are somewhat lacking. I got a moment, the tiniest of moments, of it playing Braid (thanks to the 2D perspective), but that's been it. I blame modern graphics personally. Being able to see everything in perfect detail may make things look pretty, but it doesn't leave much room for your imagination does it?
mooseguy 3rd September 2009, 17:15 Quote
My little brother (8) seems to want to play anything that I do... He's recently started on Deus Ex :D
CardJoe 3rd September 2009, 17:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mooseguy
My little brother (8) seems to want to play anything that I do... He's recently started on Deus Ex :D

I can adopt him?
Zero_UK 3rd September 2009, 18:33 Quote
Me, my brother and my dad used to play Tekken 2 when I was very young and sometimes Duke 3D - I used to always hide in the camera rooms on the first level because I was scared of a the pig cops lol. Then we were allowed to watch him play shooters like Max Payne and Half-Life and do a few racing games.. then when my and my brother got PC's from spare parts we'd all do lan Half life death match.
TSR2 3rd September 2009, 18:45 Quote
Why not some kind of RTS? Maybe one of the less-violent kind. I used to play Pharoh.
mooseguy 3rd September 2009, 19:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
I can adopt him?
You wouldn't want the mess.
Aracos 3rd September 2009, 19:54 Quote
Bah just give em manhunt uncut and lock them in a room till they're killing machines ^_^

Anyway I don't really think violent games at a young age are a bad thing, I was playing RE and tenchu (I still remember the spitting blood :P) and stuff like that at around 8 and I've never even thought a person in real life nevermind trying to blow peope's brains out of take a katana to someone's jugular lol

What I'd do is get them on the real games, the good games that sell consoles, Metroid, Zelda, Mario, those kind of things. FF is also a good choice if they have high attention spans :)
capnPedro 3rd September 2009, 20:45 Quote
I played through Duke Nukem 3D with my dad. It's the game that got me into gaming, computers and hence modding/overclocking/programming etc. Cheers, 3D realms!
roblikesbeer 3rd September 2009, 22:54 Quote
I'm not allowed to play with kids any more...
thehippoz 3rd September 2009, 23:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
Lol, I remember you telling us about how your dad used to copy out the dungeon designs onto reems and reems of squared paper.

In some respects, that aspect of discovery and the unknown is something many modern games are somewhat lacking. I got a moment, the tiniest of moments, of it playing Braid (thanks to the 2D perspective), but that's been it. I blame modern graphics personally. Being able to see everything in perfect detail may make things look pretty, but it doesn't leave much room for your imagination does it?

imagination is much more powerful than detail I think.. I still remember playing alternate reality and having the dungeon mapped out on grid paper too.. colored in spots and made a legend for each color.. even though the graphics were crappy- you could close your eyes and envision what it would be like to be there.. like even a mindblaster (looked like a stick with a purple thing on it's head on-screen) in your mind was full featured :D

think this generation of gamers will miss out on that.. and there's not much else to say about wolf3d/doom/duke- even the original gta.. you could lan, buddies could bring over their rigs and you still had the token ring network (where you could hog the token).. playing on different screens in the same space was new
Elton 4th September 2009, 06:10 Quote
For some reason, I wouldn't mind teaching my nephew how to play SimCity 3000.
Combinho 4th September 2009, 11:42 Quote
I used to play Duke Nukem 3D with my dad when I was 7 or 8, and it never did me any harm *mutters to self with crazy look in eye*. I think it's about what is suitable for your own children. If you know what is in the game, then you can make an informed decision about whether it is suitable for your kids. I mean, is GTA 3 really that unsuitable for a 13/14 year old. I played it at that age because it was fun, not ZOMG hookers and killings!!!11oneone. But the best game for kids has to be head over heels, now remade and available for PC here.
CardJoe 4th September 2009, 12:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Combinho
I used to play Duke Nukem 3D with my dad when I was 7 or 8, and it never did me any harm *mutters to self with crazy look in eye*. I think it's about what is suitable for your own children. If you know what is in the game, then you can make an informed decision about whether it is suitable for your kids. I mean, is GTA 3 really that unsuitable for a 13/14 year old. I played it at that age because it was fun, not ZOMG hookers and killings!!!11oneone. But the best game for kids has to be head over heels, now remade and available for PC here.

Agreed - very much about what is suitable for your children based on your judgement, but if you don't know enough to make an informed decision then you have to start somewhere. I figured the games I mentioned would be universally suitable and be a lot better than the usual over-sentimentilised, pandering arse-deposits that most kids games are.
Combinho 4th September 2009, 12:34 Quote
Also, Mario Kart Wii is excellent for kids. I play it a lot with my cousins who are 6/9, and they love it. The good thing is that you never fall too far behind, as you get the stronger powerups, but the game can also be challenging to win races. Win-win.
Ryu_ookami 4th September 2009, 12:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Agreed. You wouldn't believe how much time my brother, Dad and I spent playing Dune, Bloodwych and Monkey Island back in the day. Back then, when games like Bloodwych (a massive, multi-level, FPS grid-based dungeon RPG) didn't have a map feature then it was essential to have two young children and a supply of squared paper nearby.

QFT

Bloodwych rocked all the up to the part where the gate locked behind you and you had to fall down the hole and click on a brick as you fall to removet he pillow it ALWAYS glitched for me on that part :(
[PUNK] crompers 4th September 2009, 12:47 Quote
i sat with my dad and played through monkey island on the atari st, one of my earliest memories
CardJoe 4th September 2009, 12:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Combinho
Also, Mario Kart Wii is excellent for kids. I play it a lot with my cousins who are 6/9, and they love it. The good thing is that you never fall too far behind, as you get the stronger powerups, but the game can also be challenging to win races. Win-win.

Crash Bandicoot on the PSOne is another one I could have added, thinking about it.
logan'srun 4th September 2009, 14:03 Quote
any recomendations for the under 5 group?? I'm building a little computer for my son now and would like to show him some 'fun' stuff besides just banging the mouse against the desk
Blademrk 4th September 2009, 14:27 Quote
Plants vs Zombies, great for teaching them about Zombies ;) although if your 5 yr old is anything like the one living in my house it will be on almost constantly...
CardJoe 4th September 2009, 15:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by logan'srun
any recomendations for the under 5 group?? I'm building a little computer for my son now and would like to show him some 'fun' stuff besides just banging the mouse against the desk

I'd say that World of Goo would be pretty good once he'd got the dexterity for mouse movement. Bright, colourful, funny etc. Peggle would probably be good too.
logan'srun 4th September 2009, 15:14 Quote
do you think that's too complicated for a 3 yr old? otherwise I'll have to stick with the 'educational' ones until he's a little older
CardJoe 4th September 2009, 15:49 Quote
Not sure to be honest. At three years old most games with an actual level system may be too much and you might want something a little more sandboxy.

TBH, at that age I'd be an advocate of either actually playing it with him (possibly even playing little adventure games and reading them to him) or waiting on a PC and investing in a selection of board games and physical activities instead. A game of Mousetrap will be endlessly more appealing to a toddler than a game of Lemmings. Peggle would be a safe bet though - but a lot of it depends on the kid and how patient they are and what relationship they've built with you and so on. Some kids will just love sitting with someone and watching them play Sam and Max and listening to the funny voices. Others will get bored and cover the kitchen with whipped cream.
Blademrk 4th September 2009, 16:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by logan'srun
do you think that's too complicated for a 3 yr old? otherwise I'll have to stick with the 'educational' ones until he's a little older

for a 3 year old, I'd say stick with the mini games on the cbeebies website: numberjack match (pairs) and so on - it'll help them get used to the mouse and also help with eye/hand co-ordination and maybe even help to learn the numbers & letters.
andrew8200m 4th September 2009, 16:41 Quote
Has anyone mentioned sitting down and watching them play "spyro"... its a good little game.

Andy
yakyb 4th September 2009, 16:57 Quote
my sister completed sonic the hedgehog when she was 7

also when she was 3/4 she loved interactive story books, you know the ones where the character would say where is my carrot then you can click around the screen trying to find it,
supermonkey 6th September 2009, 03:33 Quote
My 2-year-old daughter has taken to picking up the Mario Kart box and running around the house yelling "BEEP BEEP GO DADDY!!" Although she's not very interested in actually playing, she does like to hold the second controller and laugh while I race around.

She also enjoys the interactivity of Wii Music. I was able to get her to do the Hand Bells game with me (the simple Wii Music version of Guitar Hero), and she has a blast doing the improv stuff. I think the enjoyment for her is the audio/visual feedback she gets when she shakes the Wii-remote.

-monkey
Aracos 6th September 2009, 17:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by logan'srun
any recomendations for the under 5 group?? I'm building a little computer for my son now and would like to show him some 'fun' stuff besides just banging the mouse against the desk

Stick him on Hexic HD and see if he can get you that 1,000,000 total score achievement, it's one evil game that. I MUST HAVE ALL ACHIEVEMENTS!!!!!!

Anyway is it just me or has crash bandicoot turned into a steaming pile of donkey turd lately? Played the crash of the titans demo and it was good awful, it's turned into some fighter adventure with horrible audio instead of a straight forward platformer T_T
CardJoe 6th September 2009, 19:33 Quote
Oh yeah, new Crash Bandicoot is awful. The old ones are fantastic though.

Lego Racers 2 was quite good for kids by the way.
dec 7th September 2009, 00:44 Quote
so no gears of war?
hardflipman 7th September 2009, 14:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe

Crash Bandicoot on the PSOne is another one I could have added, thinking about it.

i've been playing this with my son who's nearly 4. he absolutely loves it and my daughter(2) loves it too (she just watches)

however i think it's important to restrict how much they play so currently it's about once every 2 or 3 weeks.

now, to find a ps1 memory card so i can actually save the damn game!
Bauul 7th September 2009, 14:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Oh yeah, new Crash Bandicoot is awful. The old ones are fantastic though.

Lego Racers 2 was quite good for kids by the way.

I'd be wary of Crash Bandicoot. The fact I never 100%ed number two, despite trying twice, still burns somewhat. We put hours into that thing. Careful you don't turn your kids into OCD sufferes because they just can't get that last blasted crate.
Spaceraver 11th September 2009, 20:15 Quote
Little Big Adventure..
mute1 18th September 2009, 00:48 Quote
I meant to make this comment ages ago but I still think it is worthwhile to say that I couldn't really recommend Psychonauts unreservedly for children. I thought the last level was mildly disturbing and I don't believe I'm overly sensitive. As others have said, though, it really comes down to the individual. And Psychonauts is still a great game...
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