The Best Games to Play with the Family

By Ramon Mejia

I work full time, write part time, and produce a podcast. However, my most important pleasure in life is spending time with my family. While I’m not a father, I am a husband and do babysit a variety of small people on a fairly regular basis. However, finding time and figuring out what to do with them is sometimes a challenge. No two members of the family all like the same things. Thankfully, I’m a gamer. So solving puzzles like this only gives me extra XP for my next level.

After much trial and error I’ve figured out that just about everyone loves to play games. I’ve even sneakily gotten my wife, not really the gamer girl type, to slowly learn to enjoy video and board games. I’ve also introduced a variety of non-traditional board games to extended family (grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc.) during holidays successfully. Also, it turns out kids are pretty enthusiastic to play any type of game whether it’s a video game or board game. Who knew?

Below I’ve listed the board and couch co-op video games my friends and family actually play and can wholeheartedly recommend. Additional recommendations for other game resources will follow after that.

Best Couch Co-Op Games- Video games that you play with people in the same room. Different than online multiplayer.

The video game usually are available for: the Wii, WiiU, Xbox 360, Xbox One, or PS3, PS4.

Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare and Garden Warfare 2 – The best way to train or introduce someone to the first person shooter genre. My wife has a hard time coordinating two joysticks at once but this game made it very easy. Also the characters are fun and familiar. The PS4 and XBoxOne versions allow for couch co-op of two people and online multiplayer lets everyone play in not serious sessions without having super hardcore gamers bothering you. Easy enough for my 4 year old niece to play decently. Rated E for everyone for Animated Blood, Cartoon Violence.

New Super Mario Brothers (Wii version) and (WiiU version)- Nintendo is the king of family video games. Nowhere better is this proven than New Super Mario Brothers. It has all the familiarity of any side scrolling Mario Brother’s game but now you can have up to 4 character playing on the same screen at one time. The controls are easy and familiar enough for my grandfather to use. Everyone from grandparents to grandkids can play this one. 1-4 players. Rated E for everyone. That means it ok for all ages.

Kirby Epic Yarn (Wii)- This one of more for the kids. It’s a much easier, cuddlier, version of Super Mario brothers. Up to 4 players on the same screen. I found that small children liked this the best but it was not quiet challenging enough for more advanced gamers. 1-4 players. Rated E for everyone. It’s fun for everyone.

Wii Sports (Wii version) (Wii U version)- The game that brought motion controls to the main stream world. Intuitive controls that everyone can use. My father in law is partially blind and he loves to play Wii bowling. 2-4 players depending on the game. Rated E for everyone. That means it ok for all ages.

Lego anything – The Lego games brings together the fun of smashing Lego figures and buildings and just about every intellectual property you like. There’s likely some Lego game that has characters you love. The controls are pretty simple and lots of Lego things to collect and characters to unlock. 1-4 players usually. All these games are rated E for everyone. There’s a bit of cartoon violence.

(Lego Harry Potter) (Lego Avengers) (Lego Star Wars) (Lego Batman) (Lego Jurassic World) (Lego The Hobbit) (The Lego Movie)

Diablo 3 – A fun RPG game that is not complicated. It’s mostly smashing bad guys in the 3rd person perspective. The story is enough to keep you wanting to play. The RPG part means that you gets fun powers to upgrade and new armors to buy or collect to keep everyone engaged. More for older teens or grownups. Can play with 1-4 players all on the same screen. Rated M for Blood and Gore, Violence

Borderlands 2- A sci-fi shooter that is loads of fun and has a funny story line. Borderlands is known for its unique art style and sense of humor. Lots of powers to upgrade and tons of weapons and armor to collect. Very challenging in places and having a buddy along is very helpful. 1-4 players but the screen is split up so each player gets their own view. Intended for teens or grownups. Rated M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes and Use of Alcohol.

Board and Card Games- These aren't your boring old board games. These fun games have strategy and storytelling galore.

Settlers of Catan- A game about civilization building, building roads, and gathering sheep. It’s more fun than it sounds. Especially since the rules are lose enough to let you choose to form alliances with other players or gang up against them. This one is the most popular during Thanksgiving and Christmas with the extended family. This one is for the older kids to grandparents. 2 - 4 players.

Mice and Mystics – Roleplaying light. A fun story with mice going on an adventure and facing off against the evil rats. This one is easy enough for kids as young as 6 or 7.

Munchkins – A  simplified card game. Quirky card descriptions make the game fun and there are a lot of expansion cards that can keep the feeling fresh. Games last about 10-15 minutes. Kids that can read and add can play.

Tsuro: The Game of the Path- Add tiles that determine the path of your stone dragon. Don’t let your dragon fall off the board. A game for kids as young as 4. 2 – 4 players.

Magic the Gathering- One of the best trading card games around. Gather resources to play magic cards and summon monsters to battle your opponent. You get to customize your deck and can get expansion cards. Lots of strategy here. Great for the competitive members of your family. For 2 – 4 players.

Zombie Dice- The simplest game on the list. A dice game where you get to play as the zombie. First to get 10 brains wins but watch out for the shot gun dice. If you get 3 three shot gun dice you lose all the brains you’ve gathered. Great for kids learning to count or add. For ages 3 and up.

Additional Resources to find games

Table Top – An amazing YouTube series where grownups play table top games and have fun. The show lets you see how the games are played and really helps in deciding whether or not to they’re the type of game you like.

Common Sense Media- An expanded explanation of what’s in a video game. Great for parents that want to figure out whether their kids should play a particular game or not.