Finding games for kids can be a bit of a challenge. A lot of "kid" games are low quality, quick and dirty movie and TV licensed games that just plain aren't very good, so sorting the games that are actually good from the flavor of the week can be tough. With Microsoft's Kinect motion controller, however, a lot of the games released for the device are kid and family-friendly, which makes finding kid games a lot easier. Of course, they do require a Kinect (see our Kinect Buyer's Guide here), but we think it is worth it especially if you have kids. We present our picks for the Ten Best Xbox 360 and Kinect games for kids. Note - Games marked as (Kinect) require the Kinect sensor.
Skylanders combines a videogame with a line of awesome toys to create one of the hottest collectible brands of 2011. The game comes with a little pedestal that plugs into your Xbox 360. When you place one of the Skylanders toys on the pedestal, that character automatically pops up in the game. It is really cool how it all works. The game itself is a bit simple, but the toys are very high quality and the concept is very cool. Kids will love it.
Kids will go absolutely bonkers for this game. Exploring the Disneyland theme park. Going on mini-game versions of all of the rides. Hanging out with Mickey Mouse. If there were ever a perfect kids game, this is pretty much it. All the fun of Disneyland - every kids dream - without actually going there - every parents dream.
Kinectimals in general is a fun game even for adults, but put a kid in front of the cute fluffy cats (and now bears) and let them interact with both motion controls as well as voice and Kinectimals suddenly becomes something truly special. The graphics are fantastic, and the Kinect controls for all of the minigames and taking care of your pet are really spot on.
Dance Central 2 might be the technically better dance game for Kinect, but for kids the Just Dance series is the way to go. The dance moves are simpler and easier, the visual presentation is a little easier to follow than DC2, and the track list (especially if you go for the guaranteed to be kid-friendly Just Dance Kids) is a little better for kids.
The LEGO games are kind of confusing as kids games because they are simple to play and ESRB rated "E10", but not always based on content appropriate for kids and some of the puzzles can be a bit much for kids to figure out. You don't necessarily have to have seen the movies the games are based on to have fun, but they won't make much sense if you haven't. Of course, kids probably won't mind. Especially if you play along with them to help them through any tough spots. There are Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, and Pirates of the Caribbean LEGO games available.
Playing music is awesome, even if you're just using little fake plastic instruments, and teaching kids about music and experiencing it with them is one of the special joys of being a parent. Any of the Rock Band games will work here, but LEGO Rock Band gets a special nod because of the fun LEGO aesthetic and because the song list is kid-friendly (and any Rock Band DLC you might have is trimmed down to just kid-friendly songs), which make it good for kids.
One of the coolest new gadgets to hit the Xbox 360 is the uDraw Gametablet. It is a little easy to use drawing tablet that transfers what you draw into the game. It comes with an art program to help teach your kids about art and to improve their skills, but other games that use the tablet will be available as well. It won't impress grown up artists much, but for a kid who enjoys drawing and painting, the uDraw tablet is a great place to start.
Maybe not for really young kids (10 and up seems to be best), PowerUp Heroes is a superhero simulator where you throw fireballs and use super powers and fight invading aliens. It is very simple and relatively short and pretty easy and good for kids. You might think a game focused on fighting is bad for kids but, really, they are going to do it anyway* (roughhousing, I mean) and PowerUp Heroes is so over the top and cartoony and unrealistic that it isn't any worse than most kid movies and TV shows. (*I was a kid once, I know)
A somewhat ignored title from the Kinect launch, Adrenalin Misfits is a snowboarding game featuring bright colorful graphics, goofy / funny character designs, and surprisingly solid controls. We liked it quite a bit, but kids will really dig it.
Aimed decidedly at younger kids that still like Elmo and company, Once Upon a Monster is a bright and colorful cooperative experience designed for kids and adults to play together. It is a game intended to teach young children about helping others, teamwork, and other age-appropriate life lessons all in the context of a bright and colorful Sesame Street storybook.