What it is: The Nintendo Wii may be on its way out (the new Wii U console is expected in 2012), but this video game system is responsible for the surge in popularity of motion-controlled gaming and casual titles. And even though it doesn’t display high-definition graphics and it lacks many of the multimedia features of the more advanced Microsoft and Sony consoles, the Wii does boast a number of fine games that are especially approprate for families. The Wii also has a couple of online services--namely the WiiWare channel for various downloadable games, and the outstanding Virtual Console for downloading classic titles found on previous Nintendo systems.
Cost: The console sells for $150 and comes with the popular Mario Kart Wii title. Most new games cost $50.
Essential peripherals: You might need a few extra Wii Remote controllers if you want everyone to be able to play at the same time, but otherwise what you get in the box is perfect.
The bottom line: The Wii is very much the all-ages, family-friendly machine. It contains technology that’s inferior to what’s inside the Microsoft and Sony offerings, so don’t expect stellar graphics and amazing sound. What you will get, however, is a lot of fun for everyone.
Five Great Family Games for the Wii
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Improving on Mario’s first planet-hopping adventure in outer space, Super Mario Galaxy 2 features impressive cooperative play in which a second player controls a starlike creature that can help the famous plumber collect items and attack foes. This charming game is just plain fun, and it readily makes both kids and adults smile.
Wii Sports Resort
About $35 (used)
Wii Sports Resort, one of the most family-friendly games available for the Wii, is very easy to play. In a tropical-island setting, players of all ages can compete in assorted activities such as bowling, archery, golf, table tennis, Frisbee (with cute dogs ready to fetch), and--our favorite--swordplay.
Rayman Raving Rabbids
This collection of ridiculous minigames (also available for download on Xbox Live) will have parents and kids laughing and playing together. Thanks to the built-in instructions, anyone can quickly come to grips with the challenges--most of which require just basic movement and timing skills. Rayman Raving Rabbids’ bright, colorful cartoon style and its sharp sense of humor make it fun for the whole family.
Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree
A brain-teasing game that actually helps to sharpen your mind while you play, Big Brain Academy tests its players with puzzle-oriented challenges in categories labeled Identify, Memorize, Analyze, Compute, and Visualize. Who’s the smartest person in the family? Now you can find out.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Featuring a huge cast of characters consisting of Nintendo’s best-known video game personalities (plus a couple of guest stars), this lighthearted fighting game is great for families. The four-player action in Super Smash Bros. Brawl can be speedy and chaotic, but it’s a lot of fun, and matches are balanced so that even novices have a chance.