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New Video Games 2015: Best Gifts For Your Girls And Boys (And You, Too)

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YOSHIS WOOLLY WORLD
Game on! | Nintendo
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Most video games are released during the holiday period, and there's a good reason for that. Getting a new video game for Christmas or Chanukkah is great for parent and child alike.

If you're like me (a dad raised on the original Nintendo who never stopped gaming after becoming a grown up), the opportunity to share this interactive experience with my six-year-old is the best use of screen time.

Whether your kid is into Lego and Star Wars, Super Mario and Pokemon or rocking out and busting a move, there are some wonderful video games that came out in 2015 that any kid would be happy to find under the Christmas tree or menorah. (Um, actually, don't put it under the menorah, that's a total fire hazard.)

  • "Splatoon" Wii U
    Rated E10+ for Everybody 10 and Up

    So your kid wants to play a shooting game and you're opposed to guns, well here's a potentially viable option. "Splatoon" is a third-person paint-splatter game that takes the essence of an online multiplayer shooter and Nintendo-izes is.

    It's a team-based game where you play as kids who can transform into squids, and you're armed with ink guns.

    The goal is not to shoot the other players, but to paint as much ink as possible on floors, walls and assorted objects on the game map (you can also swim though your own ink when in squid form). There are multiple modes, but the basics are that to win your side has the most things your colour when the time runs out.

    "Splatoon" also lacks voice chat, which some have complained about but it means you don't have to worry about multiplayer bullying. And if you don't want your kid playing online, there's also a single-player campaign that delves deeper into the mythology of Inkopolis.

    Oh, and it won best game at the British Academy Children's Awards, best Nintendo game at the Golden Joystick Awards and both best multiplayer game and best shooter at The Game Awards 2015.
  • “Lego Dimensions” PS4, XB1, Wii U
    Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Up

    First off, this is going to be an expensive proposition in the long run, but this is nothing new to parents of Lego-addicted kids. “Dimensions” is the iconic Danish brick toy’s incursion into the “toys to life” genre.

    The premise is to combine children’s love of collectable action figures with their love of videogames. While “Skylanders” was an original property, “Disney Infinity” upped the ante with their vast array of characters to draw from.

    Now Lego is following their lead, though it doesn’t feel like a copycat move given that they’ve been brickifying other entertainment properties in physical sets and video games ever since “Lego Star Wars” exploded over a decade ago.

    The base set is like a tasting menu. While it includes minifigs of DC superhero Batman, “Lego Movie” star Wyldstyle and “Lord of the Rings” wizard “Gandalf,” the trio get to explore a whole range of worlds, from “Wizard of Oz” and “The Simpsons” to “Ghostbusters” and “Back to the Future.” As you can tell, they are clearly aiming at nostalgic parents as much as their kids, making this co-op adventure an ideal game to play together.

    Many of the worlds need additional characters or playsets to open up beyond the base game, which increases playablity and decreases affordability. But at least you get a fair amount of Lego that you have to put down the controller and actually build in real life.
  • "Just Dance 2016" Multiplatform Rated E for Everyone
    Ubisoft’s long-running series is long-running for a reason. Kids just love the damn thing. My six-year-old complains about walking to the grocery store (“it’s toooo faaaaaar!”) but he will dance his feet off to this game for as long as we’ll let him. Oh, and when the kids go to sleep, it’s a pretty great grown-up party game, too.

    It’s multiplatform, and your dance moves can be tracked via various peripherals depending on your console, or using a smartphone, though the Xbox One’s Kinect is arguably the ideal experience because you’re hands-free and one of the game’s coolest tricks is recording your dance and playing back a hilarious sped-up version that you can share online. There’s also a Showtime mode where you film a music video with you in it.

    The 2016 edition comes with 40 new songs, including “Uptown Funk,” “I Gotta Feeling” and “All About The Bass” but we wound up shelling out for the new streaming service that, for a one month, three month or annual rate, gives you access to every song ever included in the series. Oh, but Ubi if you’re reading, my son would like more Michael Jackson, please.
  • "Yoshi’s Wooly World" Wii U
    Rated E for Everyone

    This is just about the most adorable game ever made, and that's saying a lot for a Nintendo product.

    Created by Good-Feel, the appropriately named studio behind another lesser-known Mario spinoff, “Kirby’s Epic Yarn,” the game once again applies a crafts aesthetic to the digital artform.

    Everything in the game is made of yarn or felt, including Yoshi the dinosaur, who now spits out weaponized yarn balls rather than eggs.

    It’s a traditional Nintendo side-scrolling platformer using cleverly designed that won’t make you miss the third dimension. It’s also got a two-player co-op mode that will allow parents or older siblings to help the little one make it through each level, as well as no time limit and a “mellow” mode that allows Yoshi to practically fly.

    It’s a perfect entry point into the medium for young kids.
  • “Transformers: Devastation” (Multiplatform)
    Rated T for Teen

    Tired of telling your kids that the old ‘80s cartoon is so much better than the soulless Transformers movies? Just get them PlatinumGames’ genius adaptation of the franchise. It’s an arcade-style hack’n’slash action game that lets you fight as a robot that transforms into a vehicle. It’s also manageable for younger gamers based on your comfort-level with the cartoonish violence.

    And I mean cartoonish literally. It’s basically an interactive version of the beloved animated series -- Soundwave is even the old-school version with a cassette deck on his chest.

    In fact, the original voice actors of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Grimlock, Megatron and Soundwave all reprised their roles for the game.

    But don’t worry, the nostalgia may be aimed at you but it’s plenty fun enough for kids born long after the show went off the air.
  • "Super Mario Maker" Wii U
    Rate E for Everyone

    This is possibly the most perfect game for parents and kids to play together. After all, there aren’t many game series out there that have remained as perennially popular as Super Mario.
    But this isn’t just another old-school side-scrolling platformer. It’s a platform builder.

    Using assets from Super Mario games ranging from the mid-'80s original to the Wii U sequel two decades later -- "Super Mario Bros.", "Super Mario Bros. 3," "Super Mario World," and "New Super Mario Bros. U" -- the game allows you to become Shigeru Miyamoto and design and share your own levels.

    This will appeal to Minecrafty kids, and it’s a real bonding experience to play a level your child or parent built. Plus, being able to play levels made by all the other fans around the world make the game a great deal.
  • “Disney Infinity 3.0” (Multiplatform)
    Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Up

    This third entry in Disney’s toys-to-life franchise follows the previous games essential set-up -- it’s a game pairing real-world collectable characters that can be inserted into the video game when placed on a platform.

    While the first game featured traditional Disney and Pixar characters, the second focused on Marvel superheroes and now the time has come to bring the Star Wars universe online.

    It’s a great way to extend kids excitement for the new film, especially given that this young-skewing series sticks exclusively to cartoonish violence.
    The starter set comes with a storyline set in the "Clone Wars" universe, while additional playsets will be available set during the original trilogy as well as “The Force Awakens.”

    For non-Star Wars-obsessed siblings, an “Inside Out” playset is also available.

    The thing that sets “Infinity” apart from its competitors, however, is the “toybox” mode, which allows them to build their own worlds and develop their own games. These can be share with the community, dramatically increasing the game’s replay appeal.
  • “Yo-kai Watch" 3DS
    Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Up

    You’ve probably never heard of “Yo-kai Watch.” But you will. The franchise has become the new Pokémon over in Japan. If history is anything to go on, now that the anime has started airing on Disney XD over here, this evolution of the “collectible creature” genre will also soon become ubiquitous among our elementary school set, too.

    It’s an open-world role-playing game made by one the genre’s greatest studios, Level-5, famed for the “Dragon Quest” and “Professor Layton” franchises as well as working with filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli on my favourite modern-era Japanese RPG, “Ni No Kuni.”

    Despite being about a kid with a really cool watch, “Yo-Kai” is rooted in Japanese spirituality. Pretty much everything and everyone in the game world is haunted by invisible spirits -- ones that only you can see, thanks to said watch -- and the game play involves finding good ones, evolving them and pitting them in battle against the bad ones.

    The whole thing is absurdly impenetrable to parents, but that’s probably why it’s so popular with kids.
  • "Guitar Hero Live" Multiplatform
    Rated T for Teen

    Remember when plastic instrument music games were all the rage? Well, they’re baaaaack!

    "Guitar Hero Live," the first entry in the series since 2010, keeps its focus on its titular instrument, but upgrades the plastic ax with a new configuration that has two rows of three buttons. It is considerably more complicated than the original in an attempt to add more realism, so definitely for older offspring. It also replaces the cartoonish approach of the older games with first-person “live” video footage of crowds reacting to your efforts.

    The game comes with a set of songs by acts ranging from Black Keys and Green Day to Rolling Stones Pearl Jam to Skrillex and Ed Sheeran as well as a microtransaction-fueled GHTV feature that replaces downloadable songs with rotating playlists of over 200 more tracks.
  • "Rock Band 4" PS4, XB1
    Rated T for Teen

    Harmonix’s "Rock Band 4" has all new instruments, too, though the old ones can still be used with the purchase of a third-party. And unlike GHL, any DLC songs purchased from the 1,500 available on the three previous iterations can be re-downloaded for free. The game also comes with 65 songs packed-in, including St Vincent, The Cure, U2, Elvis and Queens of the Stone Age.

    Admittedly, the game hasn’t changed a lot in the in between years, but it's still a great for a big family and for teens to enjoy multiplayer gaming together on the same couch rather than with headsets from their own homes.
  • "Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon" 3DS
    Rated E10+ for Everybody 10 and Up

    If your kid is like my kid, then she or he knows more about Pokémon than pretty much anything else they've learned at school. This is probably the game for them.

    It's not a traditional Pokémon game but a spinoff known as a dungeon-crawler, in which you play as a human turned into one of 20 Pokémon from across the two decades worth of games.

    The goal is to travel through randomly-generated dungeons (which means each one is new and different every time you enter one to fight enemies, recruit Pokémon pals, escape traps and find items.
    Oh, and as you follow the game's save-the-world storyline, you will encounter all 720 Pokémon, Yes, there are that many. I know, I know.
  • "Tearaway Unfolded" PS4
    Rated E for Everybody

    Media Molecule is the British studio who made the amazing textile-inspired side-scroller "LittleBigPlanet" and "Tearaway" was their paper-craft-based platformer follow-up.

    It originally came out on Sony's handleld PS Vita, but given that device's low uptake, they thankfully reformatted the gameplay and control scheme for the much more popular PS4.

    The storybook basics are the same, though, as you play a god-like character known as "The You," controlling the in-game character Atoi who wanders about fighting off evil Scraps, going on quests and saving the wonderfully whimsical paper world.
  • "Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash" 3Ds
    Rated E for Everyone

    The latest entry in the cult series starring a three-inch tall helper robot eschews the GameCube original’s open-world household for a 2D side-scrolling platformer that travels the world.

    Aliens have invaded and they are stealing snacks (No, not Pocky!) and leaving behind garbage. It’s up to you to stop the thieving extraterrestrial litterbugs.

    The robot’s power cord, which must be periodically plugged in to recharge, also functions as the titular zip lash, allowing it to be both a weapon and a mode of transport. For kids who like collecting real toys, there’s also a Nintendo amiibo that you can buy which unlocks new gameplay.

  • “Star Wars: Battlefront” PS4, XB1, PC
    Rated T for Teen

    Hey, did you hear there’s a new "Star Wars" film coming out? Rather than an adaptation of the latest chapter, this "Battlefront" reboot of the early 2000s shooter series sticks mostly to the original trilogy, albeit with a just-released free download featuring the planet Jakku set right before the new movie. Otherwise it drops you into the battles you and your kids know and love -- Endor, Hoth, Tatooine – with up to 40 gamers in a series of multiplayer modes, both on land and in the air, and even opportunities to play as film faves like Darth Vader, Han Solo and Princess Leia.

    But be warned, aside from a few solo missions, there is no single-player story campaign so make sure the person on your list plays well with others.

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