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Videogames For Kids | Video Games For Children | Kids Computer Games

Best Video Games for Kids

15 games for all ages and stages.

by Christina Couch

March 11, 2010

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Designed to stimulate creativity, encourage neuron connectivity and get your kids off their butts, these fifteen games (in no particular order) build rather than burn brainpower. – Christina Couch

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Beating the game is easy. Doing it with finesse is what counts. Hitting shelves in September, the newest addition to the Nintendo DS family presents players with 220 simple problems like helping a two-dimensional boy reach a target that’s lodged in a tree. Players can type in any workable solution – literally anything ranging from using a ladder to climb the tree to building a robot dinosaur to grabbing the target – but only those who think waaaaaaaay outside the box can win. An example of just how innovative one has to be to solve these levels is available here. A double bonus is that parents and siblings without DSes can join in by brainstorming creative solutions.

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The more rudimentary pre-cursor to Scribblenauts, this game presents users with a scenario and requires them to literally draw (or color in pre-drawn) solutions like G-rated battle weapons or entire characters that come to life on their DS screens. Like in Scribblenauts, this game also focuses much more on kid-created content over flashy graphics or clever gameplay. The difference is that this one targets a slightly younger demographic and sits well with kids who aren’t yet ready to type in complexities like “open a time warp.” The separate SpongeBob SquarePants edition is also pretty perfect for long roadtrips.

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  • Rock Band

  • System: Xbox/PlayStation/Wii
  • Age: 13+ (music downloads not rated)
  • Cost: $30 to $100. Equipment necessary to play the game will run you an additional $170 to $250.

Yes, it will cost you an arm and a leg to buy all the pieces necessary for this game, but hot damn, it’s worth it. The next best thing to actually playing for a sold-out crowd, this game allows kids (or whole families) to wail on drums, slap some bass, shred a guitar and belt out a tune all at the same time. Players who choose to “go on tour” with the game can unlock new songs as their band gains gigs and fans. While the game does feature midriff-bearing ladies and not every song featured is designed for the all-ages crowd – after all, Rock Band 2 does feature Mastodon’s Colony of Birchmen as a challenge – certain packages like the recently released Beatles track pack allows families to rock without fear.

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Now in her four billionth year of solving crimes, America’s top teen detective goes digital. Requiring gamers to solve cryptic puzzles, interrogate suspects, find hidden clues and navigate death-defying situations like collapsing caves, this fem-friendly game features single and multi-player modes (allow you and your kid to dish on who you think the real culprit is), but may be inappropriate for super-young players due to mild violence.

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Dancing your ass off is going to beat running on a treadmill any day. With 25 workouts designed by Bob Greene – best known as Oprah’s personal trainer – kids and their time-pressed parents can get a solid at-home workout that’s leaps and bounds more interesting than typical gym machines. Exercise moves range from dance to inline skating, and players are encouraged to track their progress, work out with friends and family and connect with other Wii users who are training for real-life athletic events.

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It’s not the most clever or eye-catching product on the market, but it could provide a much-needed electronic bridge between generations. Packed with old school Hasbro games including Connect Four, Battleship, Sorry!, Yahtzee and Boggle, this highly social multi-player game is perhaps the ideal way to show younger kids how their parents used to have fun. Family Game Night might be the only thing parents and kids can agree on.

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Kids love animals. Kids love video games:you see where we’re going here. Designed to teach young minds about the world around them, this game presents kids with 140 levels of play, each of which teach elementary to fairly specific animal facts and identification. Since questions largely center on the basics on wildlife habitats and dietary requirements, older kids over, say, nine will probably get bored fast but the game fares well with the younger crowd. There’s also limited multiplayer action, meaning parents can only get directly involved in the action so much. Don’t sweat it though, there are plenty of opportunities to participate. For weeks after purchasing the game, be prepared to say things like “Oh really? A polar bear isn’t an herbivore? Who knew?”

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Create entire worlds of hand-sewn puppet-looking people (some of which can have your own face), design 3-D obstacle courses for them to complete, upload videos of your tiny universe to the web and watch as your entire afternoon sails out the window. Almost creepily addictive, the DIY charm of LittleBigPlanet allows future engineers (and anyone else with imagination) to construct elaborate worlds using items ranging from ropes and pulleys to oversized soccerballs. While the game itself is fun, the real draw to LittleBigPlanet is its social function. In addition to simply playing the game, gamers are encouraged to compare their blueprints online and swap war stories about the difficulties of building a universe from scratch.

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Sure, it may look like all you’re doing is building things to break them, but there is real thought behind this smash-heavy multi-player game. Based around the simple premise that knocking down things is fun, Boom Blox features 400 levels of assembling intricate structures then taking them down using gravity-defying baseballs, lasers, cannons, whatever, all guided by the Wii remote. The game sounds simple, but the physics in both Earth-based and outer space worlds are real; meaning one ill-timed flick of the wrist can equal total destruction (victory!) or total failure. Like nearly all other Wii games these days, Boom Blox also comes with a DIY function that allows families to stump each other with self-created puzzles.

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  • DJ Hero

  • System: Xbox/Wii/PS3
  • Age: 13+
  • Cost: $120

Debuting October 27 of last year, this PG, borderline PG-13-rated game allows wannabe rock stars to create their own original mixes and mash-ups using samples ranging from Herbie Hancock to Jay-Z. Like other games in the Guitar Hero franchise, DJ Hero allows players to unlock new beats and celebrity jockeys, but what sets it apart is that it also allows players to create their own original tunes instead of recreate someone else’s. Preview demos of what the game is capable of can be found here. We’re particularly fond of the Gorillaz/Marvin Gaye mash-up. Curse words are bleeped out or digitally covered, but be prepared for mild language.

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Kids will get a kick out of constructing jello-y bridges, towers and bizarre shapes out of living plops of goo. Parents will get a kick out of the lessons in construction, physics and design that go along. One of the most heavily lauded family-friendly games from 2008, World of Goo presents players with a series of spatial puzzles they must defeat by building structurally sound solutions out of gloppy little creatures. The fact that this game is undeniably cute and marked with strong visual and sound effects is a plus, but it earns a spot on this list because of the problem-solving skills it strengthens.

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Puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles are the crux of this game. In both games with this franchise, Professor Layton – a cartoony Sherlock Holmes-like character – is charged with solving a crime and the only way to do that is by unlocking plot points by solving a boatload of visual, memory, strategy, logic and mathematical puzzles. Lest you think that the game is the electronic equivalent of an IQ test, know that puzzles are designed with maximum creativity and center around bizarre visuals like fat hamsters and towers of pancakes. While the game has several built-in help systems like skippable levels and puzzle hints for younger players, parents and older kids will be challenged as well.

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  • Braid

  • System: Xbox/PC/Mac/PlayStation
  • Age: 10+
  • Cost: $15

Don’t be fooled by this game’s linear Mario-like appearance. Though Braid involves an almost identical storyline – an unlikely hero sets out on a quest to rescue a chick from a monster – the key to winning this one is successfully manipulating time. Instead of simply overcoming obstacles and dodging bullets, players defeat levels by slowing down and speeding up time (keeping in mind that certain objects in the level are immune to time changes), creating clones to get a preview of how a certain plan of action will pan out or coordinating time and player position (e.g. objects closer to the avatar speed up time. Those that are further slow it down). Younger players won’t quite grasp what’s going on, but middle school-aged kids and up will be delighted to use their noggins to create time warps.

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  • Carmen Sandiego games

  • System: PC/Mac
  • Age: 3+
  • Cost: As low as $0.99 for a used copy

Despite the Neanderthal graphics and the fact that these games hit their hey day way back in the ’80s, it’s hard to deny that America’s most prominent world and time-traveling sticky-fingered filcher didn’t teach us a thing or two about geography. For those who missed the trend, these games track Carmen Sandiego – the world’s most notorious behatted thief – across continents, history, even galaxies and require amateur sleuths to dig up clues based on facts on major landmarks by looking them up in almanacs and reference materials that come with the game. Families who can get their paws on an O.G. copy of any of the games in this franchise will be rewarded with one of the few products that turns map-reading and deductive reasoning into an enjoyable past-time.

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  • Spore

  • System: PC/Mac/Wii/Nintendo DS
  • Age: 10+
  • Cost: $25-$40

A journey (for better or worse) in physical and cultural evolution, this two-tiered game offers players the ability start as a single-celled organism and work their way up the food chain to the point where they’re commanding galaxies filled with civilizations of creatures. The single-player mode is innovative, but the game’s true genius lies in its ability to connect users and reward those with true imagination. Players are encouraged to create their own creatures, landscapes, houses, vehicles and just about anything else, upload them online to the almost intimidatingly large Sporepedia and download creations from other users to incorporate in the game. Because players can either create or download basically anything they can imagine, each game is unique.

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This article was written by Christina Couch for Babble.com, the magazine and community for a new generation of parents.

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