With Black Friday just around the corner, it might be a good time to start thinking about picking up the hot games for the kids. Be warned: in the world of kids' games, there are a lot of duds, and barring racing games, I'd recommend staying away from titles associated with kids' movies. That said, here are the best titles for each platform.
You'd best act fast -- these are going to be the titles that fly off the shelves this year.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword -- Considered by many to be the best game of the year, this title brings Link into a land full of mysterious temples, giant birds, and gameplay that uses the Wii+ controller to wield your shield, sword, and crossbow in real time. Rather than use the controller buttons or simply flipping the Wiimote around, you actually hold the controller up in the air and simulate the motions associated with hacking and slashing your way through Hyrule. It's a bit intense for younger kids, but Dad and Mom will get a kick out of it.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land -- This is probably the best family game I've played this year. Little Pink Kirby is joined by his friends to help an alien rebuild his broken spaceship. The best part? The littlest ones won't fall behind because the game makes sure everyone is on the same screen at the same time.
Super Mario 3D Land -- Built from the ground up for the Nintendo 3DS, this game proves that 3D works on handheld consoles. It's great fun to smash the Koopas, grab coins, and save the princess -- I mean it's a Mario game. What were you expecting?
Sonic Generations -- Sega just relaunched the Sonic saga with this new title. It's available on multiple platforms but it's quite a bit of fun on the 3DS. Folks who remember the original Sonic games will love this recap of almost all of the greatest levels and, most important, you'll be able to show the little ones how mommy used to dominate Green Hill Zone back in the olden days.
Kirby Mass Attack -- How many Kirbys does it take to beat the Skull Gang? After a nap, Kirby splits into 10 separate tiny Kirbys, and using the pen, you control each of these little fellows as they squirm around the screen, solving puzzles and vanquishing enemies. Great for the littlest players.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter -- Professor Layton solves mysteries. In this cute title, you and your assistants must solve the mystery of a strange monster terrorizing the city. By solving puzzles, searching crime scenes, and exploring quaint towns in the English countryside, you solve the mystery of the Last Specter. Fun for older kids, ages 10 and above.
Kinectimals Now With Bears -- Kinectimals has been an Xbox staple for a while now. Using the 360 Kinect add-on, you can interact with animals including (as you'll note from the title) bears. The best part? Realistic interaction with digital pets will keep them from wanting the real kind for a little while.
Kinect Sports Season Two -- With the addition of Darts and Baseball, Kinect Sports Season 2 improves upon the original sports by adding, well, Baseball and Darts. Also included are Football, Golf, Tennis, and Skiing. An excellent winter activity for the whole family.
Bonus 360 Tip -- Have you been having problems with your Kinect in a small room? Try the Nyko Zoom for Kinect. A good choice for folks with smaller rooms.
LittleBigPlanet 2 -- Sackboy, the star of Little Big Planet, is back and he looks great on the PS3. This sandbox game lets you create wild scenarios and play through realistic environments created by others online.
Rayman Origins -- Rayman is on par with Sonic as one of the definitive characters in gaming. In this episode, he and his friends fly, swim, and swing through a set of wild, old-school adventures. Great for a bit of family competition.
Images (top to bottom) via Nintendo (top 3); Microsoft; Ubisoft