Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor for Xbox 360 sort of seems like a faded fad at this point. The device launched with expectations that it would revolutionize gaming, and it certainly did well for itself, selling more than 24 million units. However, core gamers didn’t like the lack of precision, many early games were lackluster, and developers stopped paying much attention to it within a couple of years.

But four years after its debut, the original Kinect peripheral can be found cheaply—very, very cheaply. Like, $25 used at GameStop, with many of the pre-owned games themselves available for a few bucks apiece. If you shop around, you can surely find a new Kinect bundled with games for less than $100, as well.

It’s unlikely that additional Kinect games will be released for Xbox 360 at this point, but snagged at a low price with a handful of games, this system can still offer your family plenty of fun dancing, playing sports, and interacting with music and animals alike. If you didn’t jump on the motion gaming bandwagon back when—and/or you need a fun last-minute holiday gift for the family—now’s the time. And here are six great games to check out if you do.

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

ESRB Rating: E10+
Content Descriptor(s): Lyrics
Just released this fall, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved may well be the last big game to require the Kinect sensor on Xbox 360—but it’s luckily also one of the best. Inspired by the classic Disney films, Fantasia sees you as the latest apprentice to sorcerer Yen Sid, and your task is to battle an evil force by learning spells. You’ll do that by directing music much like a composer would, using your hands to match on-screen motion indicators and remix an array of popular songs.

We heaped praise upon Fantasia: Music Evolved in our review, and also deemed it the best family game for the holiday season. Whether you play alone or with a friend or family member alongside you, Fantasia immerses you within the music like nothing we’ve ever played. And with a mix of classical favorites and more modern hits, there’s something for everyone within.

Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): None
If your kids like watching Sesame Street, then surely they’ll love playing alongside Elmo and Cookie Monster and becoming a part of that world. Licensed games aren’t always great, but Once Upon a Monster hails from renowned indie developer Double Fine, and its incredible heart and charm prove infectious.

Once Upon a Monster takes the form of a fantasy storybook, wherein you’ll play through a series of colorful mini-games while interacting with the familiar leads. It’s uplifting, positive fare, and the games are approachable and non-punitive to let preschool-aged kids have fun. And like Sesame Street itself, it’s plenty funny and entertaining for adults, as well. Also, if you enjoy this, check out Kinect Sesame Street TV, which adapts real episodes to include interactive segments.

Dance Central

ESRB Rating: T
Content Descriptor(s): Lyrics
From Harmonix, the same developer as Fantasia, comes Dance Central, a trilogy of excellent dancing games that really show off the capabilities of the Kinect sensor. All three of the games feature the same design and premise: you must mimic the real-life-inspired dance moves that your avatar performs on the screen, and the Kinect camera picks up whether you’re really moving every part of your body as instructed.

While rival series Just Dance may be better known, that game sometimes feels like you’re… well, just dancing, instead of really playing a game. Dance Central does a better job of teaching its moves and routines and feels like it’s accurately judging your performance. But that doesn’t mean it’s only for advanced or more active players: it scales down in difficulty to accommodate even those who don’t think they have any rhythm. So step up, bust a move, and have a blast.


ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): None

If we made a list of the most adorable games of all time, surely Kinectimals would rank very high indeed. It’s a simple game, but for kids and adults who adore fuzzy companions, this upbeat romp across an island filled with playful wild cats is absolutely irresistible.

You’ll give your cat a name—which it responds to via the Kinect microphone—and you can then play various games with it, like fetch with a ball, or guiding it through an obstacle course. Cutest of all may be petting the cat, as the Kinect recognizes your hands rubbing and patting the virtual creature. It’s light but lovable, and younger kids in particular should have a blast. Also, there’s a paid downloadable add-on that brings an island of bears to play with, or you can buy Kinectimals: Now with Bears! on disc and get the whole package in one set.

Kinect Party

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): Comic Mischief, Mild Fantasy Violence

In the mood for silly fun? Kinect Party is one of the best examples of how much joy and laughter can be had via Kinect, especially when you can have several people interacting at once—and none of them need to learn rules or commands. Essentially, it’s a collection of goofy visual effects that you can freely interact with, but in the right party or family play scenario, it’s an absolute blast.

For example, the camera will show your living room with everyone in it, but then suddenly fill the frame with virtual lava, letting you jokingly writhe around and splash molten goo on your loved ones. Or you’ll just have a room full of digital balloons to kick and punch with your real limbs. This downloadable game also has a wide array of costumes to place atop your real-life visage, and you can either purchase the whole package at once or pay $1 a pop to own individual activities.

Kinect Sports

ESRB Rating: E10+
Content Descriptors: Mild Cartoon Violence

Kinect Sports is one of the top multiplayer games available for Kinect and also one of the most active games. Sure, bowling doesn’t require a ton of physical effort, but try going a few rounds in boxing or running hurdles without breaking a sweat. Whichever events you play, Kinect Sports does a good job of making you feel like a star athlete without too much skill—especially since your avatar can be customized to look just like you.

Bowling is a blast, in particular, since subtle turns of your hand put spin on the ball and affect your aim. It feels just like the real thing. But table tennis also provides fast-paced fun, especially with a second player next to you, and those more active affairs mentioned earlier offer plenty of cartoonish entertainment. And if you love the original game, a sequel is available with sports like baseball, darts, and football included.

This article was written by

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor, and his work has appeared in more than 50 publications around the world. He’s also a work-at-home dad to a wild toddler.