I remember when I got my first gaming system. It was Atari Pong. It was a simple game, essentially a tennis match on a little screen, but I’ll never forget playing well into the night on several occasions with my cousins. Then I got a GameBoy. It changed everything. It was a one player handheld unit that was compatible with multiple games. Tetris was something that I learned to master and my parents didn’t mind. I saw it as fun but they could see that it also taught me logical thinking. Even games like Space Invaders and Centipede required me to think quickly and be strategic. They even had fun with the games and to this day, Dad still enjoys a good game of PacMan.
But how far games have come! Now, when shopping with or for our kids, we’re face to face with a plethora of gaming options. Where do you start? It’s overwhelming, I know! Kids are asking to play games on devices even as young as 4 years-old these days. It isn’t surprising they want to get in on the action especially when they see their older siblings and parents on the tablets and mobile phones.
When starting off, it’s best to start your little gamer out with some parameters. Discuss when they will be allowed to play the game or be on the device. We my kids were small, I only allowed them to be gaming when we had to wait, like line-ups at the airport or waiting for food at restaurants. A phone or tablet is easy to take on the go, and there are so many great learning-based apps for small kids these days.
You’ll be amazed at how intuitive your kids are and how quickly they’ll get the hang of a new game. You can thank the app developers for that. Many apps have extensive research behind them. We’ve enjoyed Sago apps that encourage learning through play like Sago Mini Puppy Preschool that introduces pre-school kids to numbers, shapes, matching and music.
After the ipad and mobile device games, as kids get bigger many parents begin looking at gaming consoles or systems. So, what is right for your child? And what should you consider when investing in a system (since you could be spending an upwards of $350+ for the console alone.)
Longevity of a gaming system
This is top of mind for many families. We want something that won’t be pushed aside in a year because something else shiny and new will replace it. Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft Xbox, and Sony Playstation will give you at least five years of play. While they sometime release an updated version, know that what you get now won’t become obsolete too quickly. Plus we’ve been relieved to know that some of our older games can still be played on newer gaming consoles (backward compatibility). We’ve had our Xbox One and Wii U since 2013 and both are still being enjoyed.
Availability of age appropriate games
Some gaming systems are built for richer gaming experiences and games that can take full advantage of the technology. We’ve found that the most popular games for Xbox are for older kids and teens while Nintendo Wii U has more popular options for kids and families. Keep in mind that the biggest games can often be found for both systems. Lego Dimensions, for example, is a gaming system that connects to your Xbox or Wii U but games under the Super Mario or Pokémon titles are only made for Nintendo. Find out from friends or even ask your local gaming expert. Seriously, when my kids were younger I would go into my local Toys R Us and find my go-to gaming consultant that gave me his honest opinion on games and consoles. He was completely up on the latest tech toys and reliable reviews as well. After all, the games can get quite expensive.
Always important for adults to keep in mind. Note that all systems have the ability to play and converse with friends or other gamers via internet access. Being able to connect with friends to play is a lot of fun, but it’s important to know how to use and manage the settings to keep the playing safe.
Add-ons and accessories
These definitely enhance games so look for sales and gaming bundles during peak gifting seasons. Everything from steering wheels for the driving games like Xbox’s Forza Horizon 3 to ‘bundles’ like the current offering of Nintendo 3DS with Pokémon Sun and Moon are definitely worth looking into that will save you money.
So what’s right for your family? Luckily there are only three companies that dominate the market and they are all good for different reasons. We decided on our consoles based on the variety of games available just as much as the console itself. Also keep in mind that the consoles need to connect to your television so if you’re looking for 4K quality, your TV needs to support that. Also, be sure to check out the controllers and if they are suitable for the hands of who’s playing. Here is a breakdown of the systems on the market today:
NintendoSwitch is launching on March 3 worldwide, and if you are contemplating a gaming system for your family, particularly for kids, this is worth keeping an eye on. It’s more than just one system. This actually has the versatility to play in a variety of modes. Play games on the TV or take it on the go. It’s one system that will offer continuous play. Nintendo has taken the stand out features of many of their previous gaming systems and plunked them into one. Two fun games (ARMS and 1-2 Switch) that are great for families will launch at the same time as the console. Having a chance to get a first play with them already, we can tell you that the games definitely highlight what the NintendoSwitch is capable of already. There are currently 80 other games in development and a highly anticipated Super Mario Odyssey will be released in the holiday season. That’s definitely one to watch for.
Nintendo 2DS and Nintendo 3DS XL
These are just two of this company’s hand-held devices that you can take anywhere. They’re great starting points to introduce kids to the world of gaming. Portable, durable and highly recommended so parents can see if their child can follow instructions before moving onto larger family entertainment systems. Games are also more affordable with options for purchasing digital copies (the device has a built-in web browser) or hard copies. The devices can also be ‘social’ and allows players to interact with friends. We love the option of playing locally, meaning a few friends can come over with their Nintendo hand held devices and play a game together. Parental settings will help you manage access to the outside world.
Nintendo Wii U Deluxe Set
This is the best console for family-friendly play as many of the games are designed for kids as well as multi-generational use and multiple players. My niece (8) and nephew (4) have been playing together on this system with my kids who are 12 and 16 years old. Grandpa has also played along. That’s a decent range!
The console comes with a GamePad that has a touchscreen that opens another option for play. Other players can use the Wii controllers that can be purchased separately. Nintendo has many games that are suitable for kids and families including Splatoon, Mario Kart 8, Just Dance, Wii Sports, and Donkey Kong. Many that can be purchased as hard copies or digital downloads. We’ve noticed a few opportunities to trial run games before purchasing as well. Nintendo also has amiibo figurines that are purchased separately (perfect stocking stuffers). Each amiibo holds additional gaming fun (you’ll need a starter kit first to add onto the console) and brings a whole new level to play. Also note for teens and adults there is the ability to connect to other gamers through their StreetPass feature.
Nintendo NEW Classic Edition
Everything old is new again. This retro gaming system is a mini version of the original NES that was released way back in 1985. It brings back over 30 classic games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Metroid and The Legend of Zelda. Gaming visuals are even pixelated—just like the original versions. Nothing fancy but you can relive those fun simple games with the kids. Note this is very limited in games that are exclusive to Nintendo but it’s good fun for nostalgic reasons.
Microsoft Xbox One and Xbox One S
Popular for serious gamers (mostly teens and adults) with their game offerings including Gears of War, Halo Wars and Forza Horizon franchises. There are limited games for younger kids, but Minecraft and Lego games are most popular. This gaming console can multi-task even while in play, like the ability to Skype your family and friends or watch your favourite show while playing. While that may be a little too much for kids—and we prefer them to be focused on one task at a time, it is a neat feature. The graphics are incredible and more advanced play is available through their gaming community Xbox Live.
Sony PlayStation 4 and PS4 PRO
These game titles are mostly for teens and adults and offer vivid colours and graphics—incredible for die-hard gamers. The newest PS4 Pro offers 4K gaming and entertainment for premium gaming experiences but again, your TV needs to support that. It offers a Dualshock4 wireless controller offering a greater sense of control in play. You’ll need to purchase extras if needed. Sony has also recently launched a sleeker model PlayStation 4 Slim. While we haven’t had a chance to check this newer model out yet, we’ve heard it’s pretty much the same as the PS4 only thinner. Games that are popular and with games that have content that you’ll get the most out for this gaming console include a few titles like FIFA 17, and within mature audience games like Call of Duty, Watch Dogs, Dishonored and others.
You can find out more specifics on each gaming website but hopefully this gives you a good idea of what is right for your family now.
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