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Video Games the Whole Family Can Enjoy

Violent video games like Halo 3 and Manhunt 2 are great holiday gifts for your kids, but only if you’ve still got a 30-year-old living at home. If your kids still believe in the Tooth Fairy and like to be read bedtime stories, then you’ll need to shop carefully to find suitable games.

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While it may not be as graphically sophisticated as its competitors, the Nintendo Wii (suggested retail price: $279.95) was a surprise hit in gaming circles when it was released last year.

Part of its success comes from an innovative wireless controller that makes games easy to play – even for someone who’s never played a video game before. Ease of play has made the Wii popular with families because mom and dad can join in the fun, and its relatively low price point has also helped fuel sales.

New games for the Wii that are sure to be a hit with families this holiday season are Super Mario Galaxy and Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree. Big Brain Academy is a game of mental challenges that pits you against the console, but is best played against others.

“It provides a competitive and fun social experience,” said Nintendo Canada Marketing Manager Farjad Iravani. “It allows parents, kids and grandparents to compete with each other on a level playing field.” 

Super Mario Galaxy features the iconic Mario character in a thrilling platform game that launches him into space. The game features a “co-star” mode that allows a person with a second controller to assist in saving the galaxy.

If you’re buying your first Wii don’t overlook game titles from last holiday season. They are just as fun as the newer ones. Two popular titles to look for are The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Mario Party 8. Twilight Princess is an epic fantasy game and Mario Party 8 features the ever-popular Mario in yet another zany game.

The suggested retail price for all of the Nintendo games mentioned above is $59.95, but stores may sell them for less.

In a bid to lure first-time console buyers away from the Wii, Microsoft has bundled a version of its Xbox 360 this holiday season in a low-cost Family Arcade Console package (suggested retail price: $299.99).

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The Arcade Console features an Xbox 360 with five games preloaded from the Xbox Live online service, a wireless controller, a high-definition multimedia interface connection to enable high-definition output and 256 Mb of memory to store games and entertainment content. The five games in the bundle are Pac-Man Championship, Uno, Luxor 2, Boom Boom Rocket and Feeding Frenzy.

Pac-Man Championship and Uno are modern updates of the classic games many parents will be familiar with, while Boom Boom Rocket has you synchronizing fireworks to music. Battle your way across ancient Egypt in Luxor 2 to defeat the god Set and in Feeding Frenzy you live underwater where the basic rule is to eat anything that’s smaller than you, while making sure you don’t get eaten by anything bigger.

“There are more than 200 games rated E and T available for Xbox 360 this holiday season, making it possible for everyone in the family to jump-in,” said Margaret Cobb, the Director of Family Marketing for Xbox. Among those family games is Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action; Viva Piñata: Party Animals and Rock Band.

Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action (suggested retail price $59.99) is a casual movie trivia game that is rated T for teen so it’s good for families with older kids while Viva Piñata Party Animals (suggested retail price $49.99) will appeal to the younger set. This wacky game is based on the Viva Piñata cartoon show that stars wisecracking piñata animals and features crazy competitions that pit player against player.

Rock Band (suggested retail price: $59.99) is a game that lets your teen channel his or her inner rock god. Play and sing along to popular songs in a wide variety of genres. You can buy a special edition of the game that comes with replica guitar, drum and microphone controllers to make the experience even more authentic.

Sony’s Playstation 3 is technically the most sophisticated of the new generation of game consoles, but that powerful hardware has made it the most expensive. Sony has cut prices for the PS3 to boost sales (suggested retail price for the 40 Gb PS3 is $399 and the 80 Gb PS3 is $499).

Sony is also repackaging its older, but still popular, Playstation 2 console with the SingStar Bundle as a low-cost alternative to the Wii or Xbox (suggested retail price: $149.99). The bundle features a white PS2 console, the SingStar game, a controller and two microphones. SingStar is a competitive karaoke game, similar to American Idol.

While the PS3 is aimed at older, more sophisticated gamers, there are still several games for the platform that are suitable for families. One new title that will be popular is Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. It’s a fun game that features a gadget-building superhero and his robot sidekick as they battle their enemies in a bid to save planets across the universe. It’s rated E10+ which means it’s aimed at kids older than 10.

If your children love sports, then check out some of the many sports games available for the PS3 such as NHL 2008 and Madden NFL 2007. You’d swear you were watching a televised sporting event and not playing a video game.

One game from last year that is still worth seeking out is Motorstorm, a fantastic racing game that will have you gripping your controller with white knuckles as you perform all sorts of driving maneuvers that you’d never try in real life.

“It’s one of the showpieces for the PS3,” said Matt Levitan, the Marketing and PR Manager for PlayStation Canada.

The suggested retail price for all of these Sony games is $59.99, but stores may sell for less.

Mark Stachiew is a technology columnist for