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Wednesday, June 26, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Tech Deck

Last-minute holiday buying guide for parents of gamers

To parents of young gamers, the holiday shopping season can seem a minefield. Which games will work with your kid's console? Which titles are appropriate for young eyes? Well, parents, worry not; this last-minute gift guide will help you navigate the ESRB ratings and the gaming jargon to ensure that your child sheds tears of joy, not sorrow, after they desecrate your thoughtful wrapping job to reveal that brand new game.

You'll first want to verify the gaming console (a.k.a. platform) that your child uses. Since the dawn of the gaming medium, a huge amount of consoles have released, but chances are your kid is using one of the rigs listed below. So blow the dust off of that mysterious black (or white) box in the living room, or that strange folding piece of plastic on his/her bed-stand, and compare it to the pictures below.

Now it's time to figure out which compatible games your kid will enjoy. Under the appropriate sub-headings, you'll find games that work with each console, arranged by age-appropriateness. Keep in mind that games listed under younger age categories may also appeal to older children depending on their interests.

Also, many of the titles described below are "multi-platform" games, which means that they are available on more than one console. Be sure that you check the telltale colored band at the top of the game box for a clear indication of which console that particular disc will work with, and ask an employee if you're confused.

Finally, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the ESRB ratings scale. This system was developed by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board and is the primary method of content rating for games, akin to the MPAA for films. Games are actually rated on a six-level scale, but two of these levels aren't represented in this guide. Here are the important ones:

E for "Everyone" - Titles rated E are deemed appropriate for all ages.

E10+ for "Everyone 10 and up" - Titles rated E10+ are deemed appropriate for everyone age 10 and older.

T for "Teen" - Titles rated T are deemed appropriate for everyone age 13 and older.

M for "Mature" - Titles rated M are deemed appropriate for everyone age 17 and older.

Now you're ready to shop.

 

Xbox One

Young Children (Ages 5-10+)

Fantasia: Music Evolved - Rated E - This music-oriented title was developed by Harmonix, who were responsible for the Rock Band and Dance Central games. It's garnered considerable praise from critics, and is sure to bring the entire family together with its Disney-oriented dance tunes and unique focus on rhythm. The catch is that Fantasia requires the use of the Kinect peripheral, a boxy black camera that sits below the TV. Make sure you've got one before going for this option. ($59.99 at amazon.com)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack - Rated E10+ -  (see description in Wii section)

Pre-teens/Teens (Ages 11-15+)

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare - Rated E10+ - Garden Warfare is a multiplayer shooter game that places players in the shoes of a vast array of living plants. Its goofy, wildly creative aesthetic ensures that it's nowhere near as violent as many of its genre brethren, making it a great pick for younger gamers looking to get in on the shooter scene. ($39.99 at GameStop.com)

Older Teens/Young Adults (Ages 16+)

Sunset Overdrive - Rated M - This kooky title combines elements from various genres to craft an incredibly unique experience. It's absurdly gory, but the fountains of monster blood are offset by Sunset's beautiful visual style. Xbox One gamers who tend toward single-player and have a taste for action will love this console-exclusive title. ($59.99 at amazon.com)

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - Rated M - (see description in PlayStation 3 section)

Grand Theft Auto V - Rated M - (see description in PlayStation 4 section)

PlayStation 4

Young children (Ages 5-10+)

LittleBigPlanet 3 - Rated E - For PlayStation gamers young and old, it's tough to go wrong with LittleBigPlanet. Small children will be drawn in by the game's beautiful, hand-knitted aesthetic. They will also have the ability to team up with family members for the structured 4-player "adventure mode." Older players will have the know-how to mess around in the title's extensive creation suite, which lets players craft their own playable games. ($59.99 at GameStop.com)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack - Rated E10+ - (see description in Wii section)

Pre-teens/Teens (Ages 11-15+)

DriveClub - Rated E - This ambitious car racing title encourages socialization and interaction with other players. Your kid will be wowed by its stunning graphics, and shouldn't be turned off if they haven't dipped their toes into the racing genre before. The game has been heralded as being accessible for inexperienced players while possessing plenty of depth to be explored by seasoned racers. ($59.99 at amazon.com)

Older teens/Young Adults (Ages 16+)

Grand Theft Auto V - Rated M - The Grand Theft Auto series is often criticized for the violence and sexuality it portrays, but such criticisms rarely take into account the amount of intelligent, biting satire and relevant social commentary that the games bring to the table. GTAwas called a masterpiece when it first released late last year. The updated 2014 version packs enough worthwhile new features to satisfy returning fans and newcomers alike. A safe bet for all mature console gamers. ($59.99 at amazon.com)

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - Rated M - (see description in PlayStation 3 section)

Wii U

Young children (Ages 5-10+)

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Rated E - A spinoff of the wildly popular Mario series, Captain Toad is a fine pick for Wii U players of all ages. Its adorable characters and bright, colorful worlds should entrance young players, while its engaging puzzles and varied nature will keep them playing long into the new year. ($39.99 at GameStop.com)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack - Rated E10+ - (see description in Wii section)

Pre-teens/Teens (Ages 11-15+)

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U - Rated E10+ - Super Smash Bros. is a continuation of one of the most popular fighting game series in gaming history, but no prior experience with the titles is needed for your kids to enjoy the title's fun, frenetic action. Plenty of depth exists for kids that like to get fully immersed in their games, and more casual players will find lots to enjoy in the game's enormous playable character roster and insane group battles, which allow up to eight players to duke it out on a single Wii U. ($59.99 at amazon.com)

Older Teens/Young Adults (Ages 16+)

Bayonetta 2 - Rated M - Bayonetta 2 for Wii U is actually two games in one: It contains both the titular product as well as a remastered version of the original Bayonetta. The original is considered one of the greatest action titles of all time, and the sequel is a fantastic continuation for existing fans as well as a perfect jumping-on point for newcomers. Just make sure your kid is willing to take on the game's high level of difficulty and mature themes. ($59.99 at amazon.com)

Nintendo 3DS/Nintendo 3DS XL/Nintendo 2DS*

Young children (Ages 5-10+)

Pokemon Omega Ruby/Pokemon Alpha Sapphire - Rated E - Pokemon games release in pairs, which can make purchasing them as gifts a confusing proposition. But Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are nearly identical games, so pick the one whose box art your kid will dig the most. These accessible role-playing games are loved by gamers of just about every age. It's tough to go wrong with Pokemon. ($39.99 at GameStop.com)

Pre-teens/Young Teens (Ages 11-15+)

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS - Rated E10+ - This fighting title is mechanically identical to the Wii U version of the game (see above) and contains some nifty options to play with others on the Wii U. That means that, for children who have both a 3DS and a Wii U, receiving both versions of Super Smash Bros. could be appealing. Gamers of all kinds should be thrilled to have Smash on the go. ($39.99 at amazon.com)

Older teens/Young Adults (Ages 16+)

Bravely Default - Rated T - 3DS gamers yearning for a more strategically demanding single-player experience should have their hunger satiated by this Japanese title. Bravely Default does not hold players' hands, and should not be considered for any gamers who prefer casual, laid-back experiences. In true old-school form, Bravely Default asks a lot out of players and rewards the capable with a lengthy adventure that's been heralded as one of the best Japanese titles of the last few years. ($39.99 at amazon.com)

*All 3DS/3DS XL/2DS game boxes simply say "Nintendo 3DS," but fear not; every 3DS game is also compatible with both the 3DS XL and the 2DS. They are not, however, compatible with the Nintendo DS, Nintendo DS Lite, Nintendo DSi, or Nintendo DSi XL. Ask a clerk if you're confused.

PlayStation Vita**

Pre-teens/Young Teens (Ages 11-15+)

Freedom Wars - Rated T - This brazenly unique action titles pits players against each other in fast-paced multiplayer battles. Its coating of Japanese weirdness means it's not for everyone, but its exciting blend of action and strategy should make it an appealing option for your Vita-owning child who, quite frankly, is starved for games at this point due to the overwhelming lack of support for the platform. ($29.99 at GameStop.com)

Final Fantasy X-X2 HD - Rated T - A remastering of two of the most revered titles in the history of role-playing-games, this dual-pack gives Vita players the alluring chance to take the games' complex narrative and stellar combat on the go. The package boasts a whole lot of content on a console that is sorely lacking in the area. ($19.99 at GameStop.com)

**Be careful not to mistake your child's PlayStation Portable (PSP) for a PlayStation Vita. The two consoles look quite similar, but their games are not cross-compatible.

Xbox 360

Young children (Ages 5-10+)

Fantasia: Music Evolved - Rated E - (see description in Xbox One section)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack - Rated E10+ - (see description in Wii section)

Pre-teens/Young Teens (Ages 11-15+)

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare - Rated E10+ - (see description in Xbox One section)

Older teens/Young Adults (Ages 16+)

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel - Rated M - The wacky four-player shooter franchise returns for a third go-round on Xbox 360. The Pre-Sequel is extremely similar in nature to its predecessors, Borderlands and Borderlands 2, which means if you've ever heard your teen in the TV room being verbally abused by masked psychos, chances are they'll get a hearty dose of enjoyment out of this new installment. ($59.99 at amazon.com)

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - Rated M - (see description in PlayStation 3 section)

PlayStation 3

Young children (Ages 5-10+)

LittleBigPlanet 3 - Rated E - (see description in PlayStation 4 section)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack - Rated E10+ - (see description in Wii section)

Pre-teens/Young Teens (Ages 11-15+)

Minecraft: PlayStation 3 Edition - Rated E10+ - Though the Minecraft sensation has already swept most of the children of the world, the game's PlayStation 3 edition released only a short time ago, meaning that PS3 gamers are less likely to have already experienced the game's cave-digging, pig-chasing goodness. Minecraft will keep your kid entertained for dozens upon dozens of hours which, depending on your outlook, may be a good or a bad thing. ($19.99 at GameStop.com)

Older Teens/Young Adults (Ages 16+)

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - Rated M - If your kid is a fan of The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, he/she will probably be enthralled by this action game. This title sets players lose in the menacing land of Mordor, and tasks them with toppling a vast hierarchy of imposing Orcs. Kids that like climbing, running, stabbing, and feeling cool in games will love Shadow of Mordor. ($59.99 at amazon.com)

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel - Rated M - (see description in Xbox 360 section)

Wii

Young children (Ages 5-10+)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack - Rated E10+ - The Skylanders franchise is infamous among parents for the myriad of extra toys that can be purchased to earn players additional in-game characters. If you're purely concerned with your child's own enjoyment and not with your wallet, then the series' latest installment is a great pick-up, offering accessible action and same-screen cooperative play. ($74.99 at GameStop.com)

Just Dance 2015 - Rated E10+ - The Just Dance series has become an annual powerhouse of the games industry, selling like gangbusters every year. In the games, players hold the Wii's remote and emulate the smooth motions of an on-screen dance master. Each installment imbues the series with a pack of the newest pop songs as well as a handful of old favorites that might just encourage you to jump off the couch and dance with all the fervor of your kids. ($39.99 at amazon.com

PC***

Pre-teens/Young Teens (Ages 11-15+)

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor - Rated T - If your kid is a World of Warcraft player, then you probably already know it thanks to the exorbitant amount of hours they pour into the game, and the $15 monthly payments they make to keep their addiction fed. If you're alright with encouraging investment in the game, then the latest expansion set, Warlords of Draenor, is guaranteed to make your WoW-playing offspring squeal with delight. ($49.99 at GameStop.com)

Older teens/Young Adults (Ages 16+)

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Rated M - Be sure that your child already owns the original version of Diablo III before you consider Reaper of Souls, because this expansion requires that game to play. With that criteria set, Reaper of Souls is a sure bet to please the Diablo-minded youth, fixing many of the issues that bogged down Diablo III upon its release and adding a whole swath of new content. ($39.99 at GameStop.com)

***Gaming PCs (personal computers) come in all shapes and sizes. If your kid plays games on a computer powered by the Windows operating system, then these titles are compatible. Be sure to check the system requirements on the box to make sure your computer can handle the game, and - as always - ask a clerk if you're confused.

--Isaac Handelman, author of this blog post, is a Lewis-Clark High School senior and avid gamer who is interning at The Spokesman-Review.

 




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