10 Best Video Games of 2009
Dora the Explorer: Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom
This collection of 12 mini games has a clever "helping mode" where parents can use a second controller to assist their children in advancing through all of the fun, logic-building levels.
Ages 3 to 5, $40 for Wii
Jump Start Pet Rescue
Kids try to save as many baby animals as possible as they make their way through more than 20 activities -- all while working on their basic math, reading, logic, counting, and letter-recognition skills in this early-education game.
Ages 4 and up, $40 for Wii
Ni Hao Kai-lan
Hold the Wii controller like handlebars, and simply lean your body to pop falling bubbles, decorate lanterns, and learn about the Chinese culture and language with this easy-to-follow game that's based on the popular Nick Jr. animated series.
Ages 3 to 5, $40 for Wii
LEGO Rock Band
Looking for a musical game that doesn't have suggestive lyrics? Check out this hit series' new Lego-themed title with kid-appropriate songs. Players can form a band and play music to earn more reward blocks.
Ages 6 and up, $50 to $90 (with Instrument controls) for Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3
Hot Potatoes! Best of The Wiggles
Set at a carnival, this well designed party game lets your kids try their hand at darts, a ring toss, alley bowling, and other festive activities with their favorite characters from the films, Buzz and Woody.
Ages 6 and up, $50 for Wii
Wii Sports Resort
Your family can do everything from playing a simple game of table tennis to going on an exciting skydive in this sporty title that has lots of variety (and skill levels). Bonus: It comes with a new Wii MotionPlus controller for smoother play.
Ages 5 and up, $50 for Wii
World of Zoo
Players can build and customize their very own zoo, complete with 90 different species. Each animal comes with a National Geographic fact sheet to sneak in some educational trivia in this creative simulation game.
Ages 6 and up, $40 for Wii, $30 for DS, $20 for PC
New Super Mario Bros.
An old favorite is back -- with a novel twist: If your child gets stuck, you (or another player) can run back in the level and help him get out of a jam. This feature is a great addition to the game because it encourages teamwork and cooperative play.
Ages 8 and up, $50 for Wii
Ideal for children learning to read and write, this open-ended logic challenge lets players see the words they scribble on the handheld device's touch-screen come to life. For example, if your child jots down dragon, the fire-breathing creature will suddenly appear in the game, like magic. Older kids will also get into this clever, innovative program, which requires them to solve harder and harder puzzles as they try to advance through ten unique worlds of play.
Ages 8 and up, $30 for DS and DSi
Spore Hero Arena
One of last year's biggest games, the original Spore had each player use their imagination to design and evolve their own creature. The new version gives kids the chance to pit these critters against each other.
Ages 7 and up, $30 for DS
Originally published in the December 2009 issue of Parents magazine.