The only way I was able to sell the idea of a Wii to my wife, and even to myself, was the idea that we would only use it to play games together. There will be plenty of time later for the kids to hide themselves away to play video games. If we were to get a Wii, I wanted it only if it would be a better alternative to playing another game of Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders.
When we got the Wii, we got two games:
Wii Play, the free game that comes in the box, and Wii Sports, a game that really makes use of the Wii’s technology. Wii Play is somewhat pedestrian, with simple games that I find a bit boring. Billiards and golf move to slowly in video form for my tastes. The table tennis is hard to maneuver, but maybe I say that because my son consistently beats me at it. Wii Sports is a far better selection of fun games including the famous Wii Tennis. This game selection is a crowd-pleaser. Even my wife will play a few games because it gets everyone out of their seats to hit the ball. Even young kids can play, though it’s frustrating when players are too mismatched.
Video games teach short attention spans, and we quickly got bored with our two games. I was a bit sticker-shocked when I found out how much games cost. The only good choice is rental when you realize that it’s going to be hard to milk $20 or $30 worth of value from most new titles.
So I joined Gamefly with the idea that we could try lots of movies, à la Netflix. We then tried Mario Kart Wii. What a game. Lots of excitement and fun cars. Four players can play, though my wife only joined in one time before pronouncing it too stressful. However, for the rest of our merry band, we had a great time. My four year old was oblivious to the fact that he was always last. I cribbed by reading all the on-line cheater notes I could find, and within a few games, my daughter was wiping the floor with us in every race.
This was so much fun, I increased our subscription to two games and ordered Ratatouille, in Wii form. This was a mistake. Despite a description that it is good for four players, the game basically allows only one person at a time to solve the little rat’s puzzles. Small mini-games exist, but can only be accessed once you reach certain levels, which we appeared to be too incompetent to achieve, except by using cheater codes (thank God for the internet!). We never figured out how to remove ourselves from whirlpools, which rendered the game pretty much useless after a while. I finally sent it back.
We moved on to Decca Sports. It looked fun, but again, we could find no way to play with mulitiple players at one time, so we sent it back.
Wacky Races was next. This is a fun game, especially for little kids, and even for dads for a while. Unfortunately, it requires that everyone has a nunchuck to play. We only invested in two nunchucks and I’m not about to buy a third, so Wacky Races was gone in two days.
We then tried Mario Party 8. Here’s a game that’s good for the whole family. Lots and lots of 4-player games are available right from the start. To access them, however, you have to play a simple roll-the-dice style game that gets a little tiring. It’s pure chance and low on skill, but the graphics are kind of fun and little kids will love it.
Another good game for multiple players is Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz. The multi-player games are quickly accessible and easy to play for one to four players. Many require a nunchuck as well, but not so many that you’ll feel cheated. Most of the games are simple enough for even small kids while others require some real thinking of how best to use nunchucks and remotes in tandem and in different configurations. The main game, a race in little glass balls, propelled by monkeys, is for single players only, which gets boring pretty fast.
If you’ve ever been to a fair or carnival, you will recognize every game in Carnival Games. The rules are easy, the instructions intuitive and the games are very realistic. It’s so simple, you may find yourself bored after a few plays since how many times can you pitch a ring at a bottle without the thrill of wasting a lot of cash to win a useless stuffed animal. While we were able to wile away two afternoons with this game, both of my kids were happy to send it back in favor of playing Wii Sports. As a dad though, I enjoyed the fact that this game was really easy to set up and use for 3-4 players and we all had fun discovering the different parts of it.
If you”re trying to find non-violent age-appropriate games for little kids (mine are 4 and 8), this list is a good start. You’ll have to try them out to see what works best for your family and strikes a balance between simple enough for the youngest child and hard enough to keep dad involved.
Here’s our summary of family-appropriate games:
Best for interaction in families and groups
1. Mario Kart – everyone, up to 4, plays at once with a lot of competition
2. Wii Sports – Tennis is the best 4 person game for real life action
3. Mario Party 8
4. Super Monkey Ball
Needs a nunchuck to play
OK to try but not a keeper
Fun, but not for group play