It’s a busy world, and families are always looking for more ways to spend time together.

Well, parents at least are looking for more ways to connect with their kids. Movies provide us with such classic solutions as “camping trip to an isolated location where everything goes wrong,” or “another cliche.” Luckily, the answer is a lot easier than that.

It’s time for family game night.

Why?

Let’s get this out of the way. Gaming together is a great way to spend time with kids of any age. It lets you step into their world and do something that they enjoy. And as far as hobbies go, video games are pretty good for you. Parents who play games with their children are often working together as a team to win. This kind of closeness leaves warm fuzzy feelings long after the game is over.

The Basics

Depending on what age your kids are, setting this up can be easy as pie. Younger kids will jump on the idea; teens might need a little more convincing.

Get organized. Teens have their own complex schedules centered around friends and homework. They’ll appreciate having a little time to mull over the game night idea before you dive in. Try bringing it up at dinner and asking what they think of it; then set a date a couple weeks out to start playing.

Choose games as a family. If your kids are gamers, they’ll have their own ideas about what will be fun. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are no stupid questions—you’re just acknowledging your kid’s expertise!

Make some snacks. You can give game night a fun party atmosphere by setting up some food to keep you going. The less messy the better—here are some ideas to start with. You can also up the ante by making videogame-themed meals or desserts.

Set a time limit. For younger kids, this is useful for helping them wind down towards the end of the night. With teens and tweens, who have other interests and responsibilities, it’s a bargaining chip. Even if your plans are fun, it’s sometimes difficult for teens to turn away from what they’re doing and focus on you. Setting an end time means you’re not asking them to sign away their lives—you just want to spend some time together.

Invite a friend. Letting kids invite their friends over can be a great way to get kids engaged in what you’re doing, but if you have more than one guest it becomes less of a family night and more of a party. However, inviting one close friend to join in can be a fun bonding experience.

Once you really get rolling with monthly game nights (or however often you choose to have them), it will be something that everyone looks forward to. Now on to the recommendations!

10 and Under

Younger kids can be competitive, but ultimately they’re more interested in having a good time with you. Younger kids have a lot of energy so we recommend getting them up and moving when they game.

Make sure you set a time limit, and maybe plan for a nice wind-down activity to make sure the night ends smoothly and the kids aren’t left bouncing off the walls.

Top 5 Games for 10 and Under

Nintendo Land

Nintendo Land

Players use their Miis to explore a virtual theme park in this game for the Wii U. There are a variety of minigames that you can take on as a team or in competition!

Kinect Adventures!

Kinect Adventures

This game uses the Xbox Kinect’s motion sensor camera in a variety of adventurous minigames. Players usually need to cooperate to win and earn medals. There’s also a Kinect Disneyland Adventures for the Disney lovers in your house.

Just Dance Kids

Just Dance Kids

This one is perfect for your younger dance lovers.

Hasbro Family Game Night

Hasbro Family Game Night

Why play board games on a screen? There are a few reasons. There are no tiny pieces to clean up (or for your kids to eat), and having all the games on one disc is a space-saver.

Minecraft

http://www.flickr.com/photos/de_vry/8564492476/
In Minecraft you and your kids can build fantastic structures—with no worries about competition or time limits. This game is used in lots of schools, and kids of all ages seem to love the creative opportunities it gives them.

More Games for 10 and Under

  • Super Mario 3D World
  • LittleBigPlanet: Karting
  • Wii Sports
  • Mario Kart
  • Lego series (Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, etc.)

Tweens

This age group is more prepared for complex games. Unless you’re a gamer yourself, your kids will probably be schooling you and having a great time doing it. Tweens like to show off, but they’ll also enjoy working with you to take down the baddies. Let your kids’ friends come over if you want to make it a party, but let them know this is about wanting to spend time together as a family.

Top 5 Games for Tweens

The LittleBigPlanet series

LittleBigPlanet 2

The LittleBigPlanet games are creative platformers that will challenge your problem-solving skills. The games are also hilarious and cute. Build your own levels, play thousands of user-created levels, or take a turn through the basic game mode. Teamwork is absolutely crucial!

The Madden Football series

Madden Football

There are 25 years worth of Madden games for you to enjoy. Take control of a team full of real football players and go head to head. For football lovers, this is a must.

Super Mario 3D World

Super-Mario-3D-World-3

This game has one of the best multiplayer modes out there. Up to four players can jump in at any time. With all the familiar characters and fun power-ups, this one has been a hit with every age group.

Just Dance

Just Dance

If you’re not afraid of getting a little embarrassed, Just Dance is a fantastic group game. Using a motion sensor like a camera or a Wii-mote, the game evaluates how well you can follow along to the dance moves of popular songs. No need to be self-conscious; it’s all fun!

Disney Infinity

Disney Infinity

In Disney Infinity you can unlock different “playsets” by buying real-world toys. Once you’ve got the toy, the whole world opens up for you. You can build your own levels with in-game objects, or play through levels based on your favorite Disney films. It’s a cash cow, but it’s definitely fun.

More Games for Tweens

  • Brave: The Video Game
  • Hasbro Family Game Night
  • Rayman Legends
  • Skylanders: SWAP Force
  • Dance Central
  • Guacamelee!
  • Minecraft
  • Katamari Forever
  • Kinect Adventures
  • Nancy Drew series
  • Lego series (Lego Batman, Lego Star Wars, etc.)
  • Pikmin series
  • Nintendo Land
  • PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
  • Naruto Shipuuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm
  • Super Smash Brothers
  • Mario Kart
  • Mario Party
  • Wii Sports
  • Wii Party
  • FIFA Soccer
  • Need for Speed: Rivals

Teens

Let’s get this straight, your teenagers love you. They really do. But teens are also in the process of turning into independent adults, and they don’t always want to hang around with the family. That’s not a bad thing! But game nights can be a great waypoint in the long journey toward the moment when you’re all adults having fun together.

Like I said above, it’s good to propose the idea of a game night long before you actually schedule it. Let them weigh in on the games, let them tell you their homework schedules so that no one’s toes get stepped on. Invite a friend if you want to, but too many friends will make it about the friends—not about family time.

Last but not least, as with elementary school kids (ironic, right?) teens will appreciate a time limit. Sometimes the idea of a family night can loom unnecessarily large in a teen’s mind, making them nervous that their freedom is being taken away. It’s easier to convince them to donate three hours of their time to you, and if you’re having a lot of fun they won’t want to stop.

Top 5 Games for Teens

Portal 2

Portal 2

Two players can solve puzzles together in Portal 2’s intense co-op mode. You will absolutely need good communication and innovative thinking to get through this game.

Super Smash Brothers series

Super Smas Brothers

This fighting game takes popular Nintendo characters and pits them against each other. You can learn exactly what buttons to press to make an attack…or you can just mash them and hope for the best. Either way, the Super Smash Brothers games (Brawl being the most recent) are fun group games that appeal to players of any skill level. It’s fine for tweens too, but teens will get more strategy out of it.

Mario Party series

Mario Party

Mario Party (there are nine in the main series so far) is a great game for up to four players. It’s appropriate for younger players as well, but it’s on the teen list because it’s competitive. Really competitive. Players make their way around a game board and take part in multiple minigames that pit them against the other players (or force them to work together).

Halo series

Halo

If you’re looking for a little more action, the Halo series offers top-class multiplayer. Yes, it’s about shooting, but it’s also about teamwork and strategy. We recommend it with a caveat—it’s rated M. However, we know lots of teen already own and enjoy these games. The best way to keep them safe is to play along with them.

Need for Speed

Need for Speed

This series of racing games. The latest, Need for Speed Rivals, lets you play either a cop or a street racer.

More Games for Teens

  • Dynasty Warriors
  • Just Dance
  • League of Legends
  • Dance Central
  • Minecraft
  • Katamari Damacy
  • LittleBigPlanet, LittleBigPlanet 2 and LittleBigPlanet Karting
  • Pikmin series
  • Nancy Drew series
  • Rock Band
  • Madden Football series
  • Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom
  • PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
  • FIFA Soccer
  • World of Warcraft
  • Wii Sports

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.