The Best Video Games of 2008

We played until our fingers ached, but it was all worth it -- we found the 10 best kid-friendly video games (no violence or mature themes here). Whatever your kid's age or interest, you'll find the perfect match.

  • Courtesy of THQ Games

    de Blob

    THQ Games
    Wii, Nintendo DS
    Puzzle/Action
    Rating: E
    Age it's good for: 5+

    You're a spunky paintball rolling through a city enslaved by the evil I.N.K.T. Corporation, which has blanketed everything in gray and ruled all color strictly verboten. It's your job to splash paint on buildings, landmarks, even citizens, freeing them from their monochromatic fate.

    Why We Like It
    It's mellow, quirky fun. Younger kids can simply paint the town their favorite color or have fun learning how to mix shades to make new colors. Older kids can get more into the actual game play. (The very funky, jazzy soundtrack is a bonus.)

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    The additional game play modes (combat, time attack) are fun, but we wish they were a bit more challenging and added another layer of depth for older gamers.

  • Courtesy of Activision

    Kung Fu Panda

    Activision
    Wii, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, PS3, PS2
    Adventure/Action
    Rating: E
    Age it's good for: 6-12

    Po, the imaginative young panda from the computer-animated DreamWorks movie, takes you along on his daydream journey in which he is a kung fu warrior wielding "mad skills."

    Why We Like It
    A fighting game without violence, if you can believe it. Detailed graphics aptly reproduce the fanciful world that was so beautifully rendered in the film. And the Jack Black imitator is pretty spot on, too.

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    The journey is fun, but a bit simple and linear. Older kids could get bored quickly.

  • Courtesy of LucasArts

    LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures

    LucasArts
    Wii, Nintendo DS, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360
    Adventure
    Rating: E10+
    Age it's good for: 10+

    Our favorite archeologist -- in LEGO form! -- runs through adventures from the first three Indy movies, solving puzzles and reliving classic scenes alongside old on-screen friends like Marion Ravenwood, Short Round, Willie Scott, and Mola Ram.

    Why We Like It
    Once you've racked your brain figuring out the decently challenging puzzles, you're rewarded with humorous asides from the movies, like a cocky Dr. Jones reaching back for his fedora, nearly being crushed by a giant stone door in the process.

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    Kids familiar with any of the Indy movies will enjoy recreating the scenes, but this title does little to expand on the film-to-LEGO concept already established with the Star Wars LEGO games.

  • Courtesy of Namco Bandai

    We Ski

    Namco Bandai
    Wii
    Sports
    Rating: E
    Age it's good for: 5+

    Finally, a second game that uses the Balance Board you bought to use on Wii Fit but wound up shoving under the couch next to your dumbbell and ankle weights. We Ski uses the device to navigate the game's snow-covered mountain playground, which offers straight ahead downhill skiing, moguls and slaloms, plus extras like a ski school, an on-site photographer, and a variety of other events.

    Why We Like It
    We Ski does an admirable job mimicking the arm movements (pull the numchuk and remote toward your body to tuck poles and increase speed) and balance techniques you actually use on the slopes. Plus, it supports up to four players with a split-screen multiplayer mode.

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    Extras like a photographer who takes your snapshot for a savable photo album is sort of fun -- the first time. We'd have preferred more action, like a hyper speed long jump event, or how about a snow board half pipe?

  • Courtesy of EA Games

    Boom Blox

    EA
    Wii
    Puzzle
    Rating: E
    Age It's Good For: 5+

    Steven Spielberg makes his debut in the gaming world with this addictive little puzzler that employs the Wii remote to take apart, blow up, or rearrange various blocks and structures.

    Why We Like It
    It's a joy to discover that something this simple can be this fun. Spielberg and Co. managed to pack enough thought-provoking challenge into this title to keep you playing until your arm is sore from virtually throwing things.

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    Not that you'll notice while you're engaged in the multitude of challenges, but we wish they would've paid a little more attention to interesting graphics and backgrounds.

  • Courtesy of Nintendo

    Mario Kart

    Nintendo
    Wii
    Racing
    Rating: E
    Age It's Good For: 6+

    A very fun arcade-style racing game that uses the wireless Wii remote to turn a plastic wheel into a very cool steering controller used to navigate the additional 16 courses that have been added to the 16 from past Mario Kart games. Also new this time around: the option of driving a kart or a motorcycle.

    What We Like About It
    Eleven-player WiFi capability is pretty cool, but you can enjoy this game all by yourself. The controls are complex enough to keep the vets engaged but intuitive enough to addict the newbies. And like past additions, the action is still quick, the tracks (filled with hairpin turns and exploding objects) are absolutely nuts, and there are plenty of extras (try an on-track battle using bananas and turtle shells) to keep this game in your regular rotation for a long time.

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    We have to wonder why Nintendo decided to make Grand Prix mode available only in single player this time around, not to mention their switch to a teams-only format in Battle mode (rather than every racer for his or herself, as in past editions).

  • Courtesy of EA Sports

    NCAA Football 2009

    EA Sports
    Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii, PSP
    Sports/football
    Rating: E
    Age its good for: 7+

    Just like fans of real-life football, there are gamers who insist EA Sports' college pigskin game is superior to their heralded pro-football Madden franchise. The latest installment doesn't completely reinvent the game, but it has added enough cool features to make this an extremely worthwhile addition.

    What We Like About It
    In addition to some very cool additions to game play (expanded running moves, new tackle animations on defense), '09 has also made some nice tweaks to the Dynasty mode, including an ability to enter a dynasty online and compete with up to 12 other players for the same pool of prospective students for over 60 seasons.

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    There's just not enough to do in Campus Legend mode (where you control a player's life while he finishes up his high school career) to keep it interesting, especially now that EA killed some of the silly fun activities (pep rallies, pickup games) from last year.

  • Courtesy of Activision

    Guitar Hero on Tour

    Activision
    Nintendo DS
    Music
    Rating: E10+
    Age It's Good For: 10+

    The obscenely popular Guitar Hero franchise hits Nintendo's portable DS console without sacrificing too much of the fun gameplay that made the original game (with its giant, very non-portable guitar-shaped controller) such a hit.

    What We Like About It
    The appeal is definitely in part the novelty of a shrunken-down Guitar Hero you can pull out of your pocket. The hand-sized strap-on Guitar Grip controller slips right into the DS console, enabling you engage in the same challenging rock-alongs as the original.

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    When the notes start flying, your speed demon fret fingers will shake the console a bit, making it somewhat difficult to adequately see the notes on the screen. For the next addition of On Tour we'd love to see a plug-in remote Guitar Grip that detaches your movements from the screen entirely.

  • Courtesy of EA Sports

    UEFA Euro 2008

    EA Sports
    PS2, P3, PSP, Xbox 360
    Sports/soccer
    Rating: E
    Age It's Good For: 6+

    EA Sports tapped the increasingly popular European soccer tournament with a beautifully rendered, fast-paced, customizable game that lets you choose from 50 countries and play from qualification up through the championship tournament.

    Why We Like It
    UEFA builds on its FIFA soccer titles, presenting the smoothest game play of any soccer game to date. Also nice are the online gaming modes (like Battle of the Nations, which tallies up points and gives you a worldwide ranking) and a "Captain Your Country" mode, in which you control one player throughout his career and help him rise up to team captain.

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    It's a bit nit-picky, but the weather seemed to affect the game a bit too much, forcing major readjustments in judging passes depending on rain or shine.

  • Courtesy of Square Enix

    Space Invaders Extreme

    Taito Corporation
    Nintendo DS
    Action/Shooter
    Rating: E
    Age It's Good For: 6+

    Regardless of how old you are, respect must be paid to the legend that is Space Invaders (now 30 years old!). Believe it or not, Taito manages to pay homage to the classic with a quick, updated version with appeal to gamers of all ages.

    Why We Like It
    Extreme follows the game's original concept (a canon shooting rows of aliens slowly creeping down to earth), while adding things like a quicker pace, 3-D backgrounds, cannon power-ups, and various mini-games that make it feel like a fresh, next-gen game.

    One Thing We Wish We Could Change
    Things still aren't terribly challenging, though unlike the 2600 classic, it'll take young gamers a long time to match the 12-hour-marathon mastery of your glory days.

    Copyright © 2008 Meredith Corporation.