Help me find an Xbox game for my kid that doesn't destroy my sanity
April 21, 2013 5:52 PM   Subscribe

My 10 year old daughter has done awesomely at school, and was promised a new Xbox game as a reward. She has no ideas of what she wants, and is excited by the idea of being surprised. What is something I can give her that she will love, but that won't make me want to write strongly worded letters to game creators?

Things I like as a parent: smart, clever games, where any dialogue is completely in actual English - no slang, no babyish voices or otherwise affected speech. Essentially, the game should not actively work at making her less intelligent. Also, no themes above her age level - which includes games where women exist as sexy objects for the main character to have a relationship with.

Things she likes as a kid: games that can be tailored for her level so as not to be "too hard" for where she is at, female characters, story games, games where she can unlock things and achievements. She really enjoyed watching Fable, but it has some of the aforementioned elements, so is a no go.

Any help would be appreciated!
posted by corb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (38 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
My wife and step-daughter are both absolutely crazy for Viva Pinata for what it's worth.
posted by kbanas at 6:02 PM on April 21, 2013 [8 favorites]

You'd have to get a Kinect, but my 9-year-old daughter is crazy about JUST DANCE 4. And she can play it alone or at parties with friends.
posted by musofire at 6:09 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I haven't played it, but Beautiful Katamari could be fun, if it's anything like the PS2 Katamari games (which I have played). It's not a story game at all, though; it's more about hand-eye coordination and a little bit of strategy. I'm not sure what gender any of the Prince's little cousins are.
posted by limeonaire at 6:10 PM on April 21, 2013 [9 favorites]

Seconding Viva Pinata.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:16 PM on April 21, 2013

Best answer: Any of the recent Lego platform games. I'm having a good time with Lego Lord of the Rings right now. Pick the story that interests her the most: Harry Potter Years 1-4, Star Wars III: Clone Wars, and Lord of the rings are all good choices.

If by some chance your daughter doesn't already play Minecraft, the Minecraft on XBLA is good.

Another great XBLA game is Beyond Good and Evil. It's a great game, much loved by gamers for having an intelligent script and a great female lead character. It's also just fun and well made.
posted by Nelson at 6:17 PM on April 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

One of the things that is great about the Katamari games is that adults can play with kids without having much of an advantage. I have only played the PS2 version, but I've heard they're pretty similar.
posted by jessamyn at 6:21 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am not a 10 year old nor do I have a 10 year old. I don't really have the coordination for fancy complicated games. I did however enjoy and finish Spyro. I think it fits most of your criteria.
posted by meeshell at 6:24 PM on April 21, 2013

Costume Quest! I saw someone around here rave about it, so I bought it for myself my kids, and it's really fun/cute.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 6:26 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

But not in a sickly way. And you play as either a brother or sister, who works to rescue their sibling. All the dialogue is text, and there are no adult themes.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 6:28 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I got Lego Harry Potter (1-4) for my birthday and loved it! I am considerably older than ten, but my son who is five is just learning how to play it now. It fits all of your criteria and is funny too.

I like that A second player can join in or drop out at any time, which has helped avoid some tears at our house.
posted by heybearica at 6:29 PM on April 21, 2013

nthing Beautiful's like pacman, will enjoy it too...
posted by sexyrobot at 6:35 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Minecraft, of course!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:36 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Has she played Portal? It's fantastic and meets all of your criteria (except scalable difficulty level, I think, but it's not a *hard* game.)
posted by restless_nomad at 6:40 PM on April 21, 2013 [10 favorites]

May be a little hard for a 10-year-old, but Spelunky is great. You play an adventurer (with an appearance of your choosing) exploring a vast underground cave full of delicate physics puzzles and dangerous traps, and rescuing the occasional distressed person (also with an appearance of your choosing).
posted by Phssthpok at 7:20 PM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was going to recommend Portal, but my daughter's 13. If she's even remotely mature for her age, you may want to take a look.
posted by eschatfische at 7:35 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Costume Quest. It's fun and adorable.
caveat: I am also much older than 10
posted by rmd1023 at 8:01 PM on April 21, 2013

TVTropes has great game descriptions to help pick or rule out games. Not all games are indexed on their platform pages, but you can usually find them by poking through the related.

They're not on XBox, but if you have any iDevices sitting around, it sounds like your daughter would enjoy Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Ghost Trick, both of which have great iOS ports. (just the first Ace Attorney game, so far. SOB)
posted by nicebookrack at 8:05 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Portal is really wonderful, but it isn't exactly lighthearted. I think it's possibly too mature (it doesn't have any sexy scenes or anything, but it is maybe a little gloomy) for a 10 year old, although it does have many wonderful elements that would make it excellent for an older child.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 8:08 PM on April 21, 2013

You should check out Psychonauts, an underappreciated gem.
posted by O9scar at 8:23 PM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

I am also considerably olde than 10, but the game Raving Rabbits is super fun and not really violent at all. I would definitely call it kid friendly.
posted by ruhroh at 8:54 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

It may have been me Kaleidoscope saw raving about Costume Quest on here; I'm not a huge gamer and I loved it. Super cute graphics and storyline, funny and snappy dialogue, no complicated fighting involved and it fits all your criteria.
posted by Defying Gravity at 10:18 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by defmute at 12:38 AM on April 22, 2013

I think Katamari would be an excellent choice. It's colourful, it's easy to get to grips with, it's fun for all ages - and it has intelligent, coherent if wacky dialogue.

What's more, it's a very old game at this point and you could probably pick it up second hand for peanuts.
posted by Ted Maul at 1:41 AM on April 22, 2013

Viva Pinata was my first thought as well, and Katamari is another great suggestion.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:41 AM on April 22, 2013

Minecraft is the only answer here, unless she already has it.
posted by empath at 3:20 AM on April 22, 2013

I came in to suggest either Katamari or one of the Lego games. Looks like that's been covered...
posted by neilbert at 3:36 AM on April 22, 2013

Portal is wonderful, but you do get shot at, and there are visible blood spatters as a result. Dying just results in respawning, but the blood freaked me out. (I am a weenie, though, and your daughter might be just fine with the small amount of gore.)
posted by kalimac at 3:56 AM on April 22, 2013

Oh - a Costume Quest issue I ran into: I don't remember all the details offhand, but there's some bug where if you download the sequel before you finish the first game, then the french fry costume doesn't work and you wander around wondering what the hell is supposed to be going on here. Or at least that was my experience. I think I had to delete local copies of both games and then reload costume quest and play through a big chunk of it again.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:23 AM on April 22, 2013

Portal is great, but don't forget that it has the various digs on Chell about her weight and being adopted and a young person might not catch on that the joke is that GLaDOS's gratuitousness is the result of an inept and overly simplistic understanding of human emotion. IIRC, the weight jokes were mostly in Portal 2. I wouldn't shelter a youngster but I would find an appropriate time to be all like, "What do you think of GLaDOS and her insults...?"
posted by Skwirl at 7:48 AM on April 22, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone! MiniCorb already has Portal, Viva Pinata, and enough lego games that I didn't want to get her more of those. (Which means you guys are totally on track! She loves them all. The only downside is that she goes around the house talking in the GLaDOS voice after playing Portal.)

Offered her Katamari, but she seemed uninterested (possibly due to visuals) but Beyond Good and Evil got an enthusiastic response, so we downloaded it. She is excited and eager to play it. Thanks again!
posted by corb at 8:15 AM on April 22, 2013

I visit these Ask threads in the hopes of finding forgotten, unappreciated gems, since not having an Xbox 360 I don't follow its library with any great interest. It's very depressing to find that every game offered here is one I already knew of and would have offered myself: Katamari, Spelunky, Portal, Viva Pinata, the Lego games, BG&E, Psychonauts, Minecraft. Costume Quest is the sole exception, and I did already know of it.

The question has already been answered, but following up in case someone visits this thread later... you should keep in mind that 360 Minecraft is not nearly as feature-rich as the full version. And that Karamari is best experienced from the first game going forward; the impact of the later games' big levels is all the greater if you experience them after the first game's big level, which is pretty darn impressive on its own.

The word is there are a lot of hidden wonders in the Xbox Live Indie Gaming section, but you have to do some searching to find them.
posted by JHarris at 8:59 AM on April 22, 2013

Do not get Beautiful Katamari! I would bet that your 10y.o. daughter would get tired of it real quick.
posted by It is better for you not to know. at 9:10 AM on April 22, 2013

I suggest "De Blob 2." It's lots of fun and very colorful.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:21 AM on April 22, 2013

Minecraft! Or Nino Kuni.
posted by Eicats at 11:22 AM on April 22, 2013

My son is 9 and he really, really loved The Maw which is a downloadable game from XBox Live. Another HUGE favorite is called Kinect Party (used to be called Happy Action Theater) and it is by far the best digital toy out there. Dollar for dollar, easily the best $10-15 bucks you can spend on a Kinect game. Fantastic party game that keeps the kiddos occupied (and exhausted) for hours.

Also, Lego games have been mentioned, but the Lego DC Superheroes (Batman 2) is very, very fun. And we can't hardly wait for the Marvel version.
posted by ssmith at 1:34 PM on April 22, 2013

Bastion is fantastic. Ditto Braid. Can you get Trine on Xbox? Because that (and Trine 2) is incredible.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:33 PM on April 22, 2013

Response by poster: Yeah, to note, even though we got her the game, I am not sad if anyone else has an awesome Xbox game to recommend! This situation will hopefully occur again!
posted by corb at 2:34 PM on April 22, 2013

In addition to Portal, Portal 2, and Beyond Good & Evil, I've heard great things about Mirror's Edge. Your main character, Faith, has the option of using firearms, but there's an achievement for going through the game without shooting anyone.

I didn't find it available using the XBox's in-game marketplace, but I was able to purchase it from the website and download to the console.
posted by CancerMan at 2:57 PM on April 22, 2013

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