One of my favourite questions I get from parents is “what games should I let my child play?” or a variant of that question. I love it because I see parents are starting to realize that there is some value in gaming and game based learning and that not all games are time wasters and, in fact, most games – even if the child is just wasting time, have educational value. Feel free to read my paper on the value of games here: http://www.mrwashburn.net/virtual-worlds-and-real-life-an-autoethnographical-journey-in-online-gaming/#sthash.qse901nm.dpuf
To that end, I am going to try to maintain a games list here and update it either as I learn about new games, or through feedback. I will add descriptions and links to purchase as I go. It might be ugly for a bit – and will definitely improve in quality if the engagement is high. The list is sorted first by rating (I don’t decide which games you should let your child play, you do) and then by game type. The source of the ratings is the ESRB.
Rated E (Everyone)
World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle video game by 2D Boy, an independent game developer consisting of Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel, both former Electronic Arts employees, released for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS,Android, BlackBerry 10 and WiiWare. The game is built around the idea of creating large structures using balls of goo.The game is divided into five chapters, each containing several levels. Each level has its own graphic and musical theme, giving it unique atmosphere. There is also a bonus meta-game called World of Goo Corporation, where the objective is to build the highest tower using goo balls which the player collected through the course of the game. Players from all over the world can compete, as the height of the tower and number of goo balls used are being constantly uploaded to the 2D Boy server. The main objective of the game is to get a requisite number of goo balls to a pipe designed to represent the exit. In order to do so, the player must use the goo balls to construct bridges, towers, and other structures to overcome gravity and various terrain difficulties such as chasms, hills, spikes, windmills, or cliffs. There are several types of goo balls in the game, each of which has unique properties. The player must exploit combinations of these goo balls in order to complete each level. Extra goos recovered in the pipe are pumped through to the World of Goo Corporation, a sandbox area where the objective is to compete with other players worldwide by building the tallest tower possible. Players can also try to achieve the “Obsessive Completion Distinction Flag” for each level by completing the level under more stringent criteria, such as collecting a larger number of Goo balls, finishing under a set amount of time or using as few moves as possible.
Action / Adventure Games
Epic Mickey is primarily a platform game and allows players to use their own solutions for getting through the levels. Epic Mickey features a morality system similar to games like Infamous,Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, and Shadow the Hedgehog. Different alliances, side-quests and power-ups are made available depending on the choices of the player. It is also possible to avoid mini-bosses if specific actions are taken. The game’s key feature is the magic paint brush, which Mickey wields, that has the ability to draw or erase objects using paint and paint thinner. For example, obstacles can be erased from physical existence using the thinner and then restored using the paint, or enemies can be befriended by revitalizing them with the paint or destroyed completely using the thinner. Mickey is also able to materialize objects from sketches, which have various effects. Two of the three sketches, the watch and the television, slow down time and distract enemies, respectively. Both fluids have limited reserves, adding a strategic element to gameplay: players must compromise between making various tasks harder or easier to accomplish. However, the fluids automatically but slowly refill and power-ups that quickly replenish the fluids are available in certain areas. Another thing that is useful in the game is a type of currency called E-tickets. These can be given or discovered. They are used to buy concept art or paint or thinner refills.
Like its predecessor, Epic Mickey 2 takes place in a world based on classic and retired Disney characters and attractions. So The gameplay in Epic Mickey 2 closely resembles that of the original. One of the biggest updates is the addition of Oswald as a supporting character for Mickey; Oswald can either be controlled by the computer or a second player. Oswald uses aremote control in the same basic method as Mickey uses his paintbrush, to attack or befriend enemy characters and to alter the environment as needed to complete tasks. Oswald also has many other abilities, such as flying with his ears, taking off his leg, using his arms as boomerangs, etc. There are also some special abilities that can only be used when Mickey and Oswald are working together.
In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds players assume the role of a young boy named Link, who is tasked with restoring peace to the kingdom of Hyrule, after a malevolent sorcerer named Yuga captures Princess Zelda and escapes through a rift to the ruined world of Lorule. Yuga seeks to kidnap the Seven Sages and use their power to resurrect the Demon King, Ganon. Link is granted with the ability to merge onto walls as a painting after obtaining a magical bracelet and encountering Yuga. This new ability allows Link to reach previously inaccessible areas and travel between Hyrule and Lorule.
In Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages the player controls the protagonist Link from an overhead perspective. In Seasons, the Triforce transports Link to the land of Holodrum, where he sees Onox kidnap Din, the Oracle of Seasons. In Ages, the Triforce transports Link to Labrynna, where Veran possesses Nayru. The main plot is revealed once the player finishes both games. Link is armed with a sword and shield as well as a variety of secondary weapons and items for battling enemies and solving puzzles. The central items are the Rod of Seasons, which controls the seasons in Holodrum, and the Harp of Ages, which lets Link travel through time in Labrynna. Before he can infiltrate Onox’s castle and Veran’s tower, Link must collect the eight Essences of Nature and the eight Essences of Time, which are hidden in dungeons and guarded by bosses.
In The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, the player is given advice and directions by non-player characters such as Ulrira, a shy old man who communicates with Link exclusively by telephone. The game contains cameo appearances by characters from other Nintendo titles, such as Wart, Yoshi, Kirby, Dr. Wright (renamed Mr. Write) from the Super NES version of SimCity, and the exiled prince Richard from Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru. Chomp, an enemy from the Mario series, was included after a programmer gave Link the ability to grab the creature and take it for a walk. Enemies from Super Mario Bros. such as Goombas also appear in underground side-scrolling sections; Link may land on top of them much as with Super Mario Bros., or he can attack them in the usual way: both methods yield different bonuses. Director Takashi Tezuka said that the game’s “freewheeling” development made Link’s Awakening seem like a parody of The Legend of Zelda series. Certain characters in the game break the fourth wall; for example, little children inform the player of game mechanics such as saving, but admit that they do not understand the advice they are giving.
The Legend of Zelda (3DS, Wii, Wii U)
Little Big Planet (PS3)
Little Big Planet 2 (PS3)
Rated E10+(Age 10+)
Portal 2 (PC, Mac, PS3)
Action / Adventure Games
Skylanders Games (3DS, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4)
LEGO Games (3DS, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, iOS, Andriod)
Disney Infinity (PC, Mac, Wii, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360)
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Kingdom Hearts Games (3DS, DS, PSP, PS2, PS3)
Final Fantasy IV (iOS)
Final Fantasy III (iOS)
Minecraft (Xbox 360, PC)
Minecraft: Pocket Edition (iOS, Andriod)
SimCity (PC, Mac)
Sid Meier’s Civilization V (Mac, PC)
Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution (PS3, Xbox 360)
Rated T (Teen)
Limbo (Linux, PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360, PS Vita)
Terraria (PC, Mac, iOS)
Daisy the Dinosaur (iOS)