Shopping for special Christmas gifts for your kids can be difficult, especially if you’re an outsider to the wonderful world of gaming. You want to buy that special someone a game they’ll want to play, but at the same time, you don’t want the game to contain inappropriate content. Some games may look like they’re for kids and appear to be harmless, but contain graphic content that could scar a child for life (I’m looking at you, Battleblock Theater). You could always use the ESRB ratings as a guide and find a game that is rated E for Everyone, but then you risk unknowingly picking up a real stinker (like Ubisoft’s latest TMNT game … AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE).
But, we’re here to help you find the balance between being age appropriate while still being a genuinely fun game. Without further ado, here are the top five best video games for kids released in 2014.
1. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Earlier this year, the LEGO franchise made its Xbox One and PS4 debut with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and was met with a great deal of success. The game was heralded as the best LEGO franchise game yet, with many reviewers praising its large roster of Marvel superheroes to choose from. Sure, the most popular Marvel superheroes make an appearance, such as Wolverine, Deadpool and Spider-Man, but there are also many obscure heroes that pop up within the game, including Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes’ witty humor will appeal to grown-up and child alike, and gameplay will also be enjoyed by both.
Price: $19.99 (33 percent off MSRP)
- Huge character list
- Contains obscure characters
- Witty dialogue
- Fun gameplay
- Incredible presentation
- Story too all-encompassing
- Flying mechanics are wonky
- Lacks in-game directives at times
- Mind control missions are tough
- Can get repetitive after awhile
2. Rayman Legends
Holding a 90 Metacritic rating on both the PS4 and Xbox One is Rayman Legends, an updated take on the classic Ubisoft franchise. Rayman Legends is arguably the best platformer currently available on the new group of consoles, and brings four-player co-op to the franchise for the first time ever. Rayman, Globox and the Teensies are all making their way through an enchanted forest in a whimsical tale that will have your child laughing for its entirety. Rayman Legends’ only flaw is that Ubisoft hasn’t announced a sequel for it yet.
Price: $29.30 (27 percent off MSRP)
- Fantastic gameplay
- 4-player co-op
- Online challenges
- Bright colors
- Light on number of modes
- No online co-op
- Loses appeal when playing solo (although still good)
- Tough platforming for those with poor coordination
3. Just Dance 2015
With each installment, the Just Dance franchise continues to get better, and Just Dance 2015 is no exception. The latest iteration brings new moves and game modes to more than 40 of the top pop hits, including Jessie J’s “Bang Bang,” Maroon 5’s “Maps,” and even a Nicki Minaj track or two (don’t worry, it’s not “Anaconda”). And, most importantly, it contains a certain popular hit from a certain popular Disney movie that exploded in popularity this year (“Let it Go” from Frozen). Just Dance 2015 also brings back online multiplayer, which will allow you or your child to dance with anyone anywhere in the world. Even if your child isn’t the world’s best dancer, they’ll still have a blast learning new moves while playing with the family.
Price: $49.99 for PS4, $48.30 for Xbox One
- Great presentation
- Fantastic graphics
- Contains the latest hits as well as classics
- Online multiplayer mode returns
- Some slightly risque dance moves
- No individual dancer cards
- Doesn’t bring much new to the franchise
- Inconsistent scoring
4. LittleBigPlanet 3
There was one game notably absent from the PS4 launch lineup: LittleBigPlanet 3. This game will not only bring about the return of Sackboy, but will also introduce three new characters to the series. Oddsock, Swoop and Big Toggle are the additions, who will also bring new gameplay options to LittleBigPlanet. Creativity is the name of the game here, as players will be able to create and share an unlimited number of unique levels that only their little imaginations could dream up.
- New tools and power-ups
- New characters
- Incredible graphics
- Sparks creativity
- Learning curve
- Not a game for non-creative types
- PS4 exclusive (sorry, Xbox One owners!)
- Full price
5. The Pinball Arcade
If you’re like me, you spent countless quarters on pinball machines throughout your childhood, and now those machines will be right in your living room — without taking up a ton of space! The Pinball Arcade contains some of the best tables of all time for your child to compete on, with the new age addition of online leaderboards to prove his/her pinball prowess.
Price: $39.36 (2 percent off MRSP)
- 3D capability
- Impressive graphics
- Painstakingly emulated pinball machines
- Online leaderboards
- No quarters required
- Some physics are wonky
- Occasional game crashes
- No family fun