Here we are once again, sleighing our way into the Christmas season and waning days of 2018. And so our minds naturally turn to … why, video games, of course! Well, my mind is turning that direction, anyway, since it’s the time of year when I compile a short list of games that can sit comfortably in your cozy little fireplace-lit family room.
I mean, what else are you supposed to do on those snowy, icy and gusting days? You know, the kind where your inner parental voice says should be out shoveling the driveway, but your heart (and your toasty tootsies) suggest that you should stay inside, brew up some tasty hot cocoa and play something fun with the kids instead.
So with that in mind, the following titles are some of the better video game options that 2018 had to offer.
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Variety Kit: You can play a building simulator with your kids, or you can actually build something with them. This cardboard construction game gives you all the materials you need to assemble five fun projects that you can actually play with after the tab-A-fits-into-slot-B building process is complete. You’ll piece-together a steerable, remote-control RC car, a small playable piano, an expanding fishing rod and more—each coming with its own video game functions and mini-game applications. For the right creative kid and a parent willing to pop for a pricey package of purpose-built paper product, hey, cardboard nirvana awaits.
Platform: Nintendo Switch Rating: E
Sea of Thieves: This online pirating adventure sets eager buccaneers sailing the high seas, where they’ll battle galleons and cross swords with many a scurvy skeleton over their boundless bounty of gold doubloons. Of course, like any totally online adventure, this T-rated game has a few “Aaarrrggghhhs!” to be aware of. The battling, while not bloody, can be percussive. Players will encounter a ghostly ship of souls as well. But maybe the biggest shot ‘cross the mainsails can be the sometimes crass online shipmates you’ll voyage with. On the other hand, if you invite your own handpicked crew of friends and family to join you online and onboard, then that approach could be the best of all peg-legged worlds.
Platform: Xbox One, PC Rating: T
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Here’s another T-rated game with a few sticky bits in its play. There’s a little web-slinging language to contend with here, as well as some hard-hitting superhero-v-supervillian violence that could cause a small wince or two. But for families willing to navigate those content concerns, this is an excellent Spider-Man game packed with tons of high-flying action and lots of top-of-the-Empire-State Building awesomeness to double flip through with a hearty woo-hoo.
Platform: PlayStation 4 Rating: T
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Rise and Fall: OK, you’re probably tired of hearing me praise Civ games. But after 25 years of producing these world-building strategy games, Sid and his game-designing crew do strategy sims better than anybody. Players choose to play as one of a many historical leaders (complete with personality strengths and weaknesses), then march through the ages building cities, developing a country, spreading a religion and shaping a culture. Like past Civ titles, this one keeps the diplomatic channels free from salty language and the bird’s-eye-view battlefields sanitized of the presumed virtual carnage there. In fact, other than a reference to having a glass of wine, the only potential issue here is the fact that Sid Meier’s Civilization games have always played just a little fast and loose with history itself. After all, the Netherlands’ beloved Queen Wilhelmina didn’t actually conquer America and build Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower in San Francisco. (Just sayin’.)
Platform: PC (With an earlier version of Civ VI now available on Nintendo Switch) Rating: E10+
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Let’s Go Eevee: Another pair of Pokémon games? Yes indeed. Some old familiar characters and pocket-monster adventures are mixed in with updated elements designed to usher all those gazillions of Pokémon Go players—those newbies who were introduced to the world of Pokémon through a critter-catching phone app—into this Switch game’s version of “Gotta catch ’em all!” It’s a big, fun adventure. And besides a dash of Far Eastern spiritual creepiness, these twin titles don’t have much of anything else to make a Mom or Dad or Pokékid frown.
Platform: Nintendo Switch Rating: E
And as always, if you want to tell the world about some family friendly homeruns that you’ve played this year, then please, lay it on us in the comment section below. Happy family gaming to one and all. Ho ho ho!