Crispy Gamer

GamerParenting: The Family Game of the Year Awards

in

I know you.

You eat, sleep, breathe, and live games, but you?ve got kids now, and it?s time to be a grown-up and move on to more serious things. Put down the gamepad and get a life, right? Yeah? Well, forget that noise! Gaming is one of the best ways to bond, laugh, compete, and just plain have fun with your kids, and recent innovations like Nintendo?s Wii system make gaming appealing to just about everyone -- even your game-hating spouse (if applicable). Ah, but just because you?re a hardcore gamer, that doesn?t mean you know the kiddie market. It?s bigger than just Mario and games based on movie licenses. There really is a lot of great stuff out there. I?m the GamerDad and I know games and families -- and that?s why CrispyGamer is letting me pick the best family games of 2007.

The rules are simple: One winner per age category and two runners up.

Age 0-5

Winner: Cosmic Family (Wii): Billed as the first game aimed directly at four-year-olds, UbiSoft?s Cosmic Family is a charming, silly and cool little wonder. The game is bound together by a quirky art style and some bizarre transitional cartoons that?ll have your kids laughing. The challenges are varied, kids are totally in control of what they?re doing and when they?re doing it (a rarity in this age group), and parents actually won?t mind the cool electric guitar riff that functions as a soundtrack and the giant, yellow, polka-dotted elephant that serves as host. (ESRB Rating = E)

Peggle (PC, iPod, Mac, Xbox 360): PopCap knows how to make compulsive games and this terrific variation on Pachinko has style, finesse and Beethoven?s ?Ode to Joy? as a reward. Oh, and fireworks, too. The main draw is that it?s relatively cheap, requires no disc fumbling, and even the youngest kids can master the controls. Oh, avoid the T-rated Half-Life-themed version if you?re buying the game for kids under 13. It replaces the cute fairy tale artwork with gritty dystopian science fiction. (ESRB Rating = E)

QuickSpot (DS): ?One of these things is not like the other, one of these things isn?t the same, one of these things is doing its own thing. It?s time to play our game!? QuickSpot is basically an interactive version of those matching puzzles in Highlights magazine. It?s so much better than it sounds. Oh, and children and adults will both love it. (ESRB Rating = E)

Age 6+

Winner! Super Mario Galaxy (Wii): Leave it to Mario to innovate 3-D platforming by shooting their Italian plumber into space. The game is extremely deep and rich, yet it?s fairly easy if you don?t spend a lot of time and energy exploring for bonus stars. Best of all, younger kids can help an older sibling (or mom and dad) by controlling the remote, stunning enemies and gathering star shards in those hard-to-reach places. (ESRB Rating = E)

Wario Smooth Moves (Wii): With a sardonic Zen style, Wario Smooth Moves is actually one of the most innovative games ever made. Kids will love the bizarre actions and how the game makes you use the remote in increasingly funny and silly ways -- like holding the remote to your nose so you can play an elephant-based mini-game. Good, clean, silly fun. (ESRB Rating = E)

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (All Platforms): A child-friendly game that also appeals directly to the action-figure collecting child in every gamer of a certain age? The Complete Saga is both the first and second games in a single package. Since it?s Star Wars, it?s safe to let kids play, and the game lets another player drop in for co-op at will. Is your Padawan having trouble? Here comes Mom for a Jedi Master rescue. (ESRB Rating = E)

Age 10+

Winner: Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros? Treasure (Wii): What has a short pirate and a propeller-driven gold monkey as main characters? The answer is Capcom?s Zack & Wiki, an innovative adventure/puzzle game with a fun sense of humor, a lot of slapstick violence, and very clever use of the Wii remote. Fair warning: It?s a very challenging game. (ESRB Rating = E-10+)

Drawn to Life (DS): What a great idea! It works like this: Draw a character, any character, on your DS and watch him come to life; then use that character to play a fairly standard platform game. Kids love the magic of seeing their doodle come to life, and older kids will have an easier time and a lot of fun simply drawing. (ESRB Rating = E)

Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek (PC): Okay, there goes my hardcore gaming cred, right? Well, I have a daughter and this series of PC adventures offers ?tween girls the exact right amount of challenge. (ESRB Rating = E)

Age 14+

Winner: Rock Band (Xbox 360, PS2, PS3): Rock ?n? Roll band everybody?s waiting/ Getting? crazy, anticipating/ Love & music! Play! Play! Play! - Boston.

Can you believe that song isn?t in Rock Band? Despite that minor oversight, Rock Band does Guitar Hero one better by tweaking the game into something more serious and adding vocals and, especially, drums. This means you can play the game three different ways in single-player and still enjoy building a family band. We?re planning on buying a bus and touring the country as ?The Bubby Bunch.? (ESRB Rating = T)

Uncharted: Drake?s Fortune (PS3): Teens want to play M-rated shooters. I get mail about that all the time, teens begging me to help convince their parents that Resistance: Fall of Man is ?kid-friendly.? Rated T -- and given the constant violence and the scare factor I?d call it a ?hard T? -- Uncharted offers a fully realized main character and one heck of a grumpy old friend clich?. (ESRB Rating = T)

Portal (PC, Xbox360): Yes it?s part of an M-rated package (the fabulous but not recommended for kids The Orange Box bundle, though it can be downloaded solo for the PC), but Portal is something special: an innovative first-person puzzler with a wicked sense of humor that?ll teach kids spatial geometry, physics and other math disciplines at which I?m not very good. (ESRB Rating = T)

There you go. Trust me, you won?t go wrong with any title on this list. Since this is a family-based column -- and given that Crispy Gamer has an excellent Game of the Year article -- there?s really no point in my picking an M-Rated game (*cough -- BioShock -- cough*). 2007 was a terrific year for games, and 2008 looks even better as Sony continues experimenting with the PlayStation Eye, Microsoft is committing more to family gaming, and of course, Wii developers are getting better and better at taking advantage of the Wii controls. You can?t go wrong with any of these titles. Go ahead, pick a few for your own kids. They will thank you for it!

See you in two weeks!

Andrew is the GamerDad, a nationally recognized columnist, pundit and speaker regarding family and violence media issues. Andrew has written about games professionally for a decade now, and for the past four years he?s run GamerDad.com and the Gaming with Children blog, helping parents navigate the often confusing game industry. He?s proud to be published by Crispy Gamer.