Best party games 2011: 14 titles to power up Christmas
14th Dec 2011 | 12:17
Christmas Day afternoon. You've done the giving, the getting, the forgiving and the forgetting, and now you and the family have settled into a tedious turkey-stuffed stupor in front of the five-hour Eastenders Christmas special.
But it doesn't have to be like this.
Below are a selection of the very best party games and finest family-focused titles on offer this Christmas, ones that will arm you - Chuck Norris style - with enough ammunition to take down the usual boredom of Christmas afternoon. You'll know best what sort of games your brother, sister, mum, dad or gran might enjoy, so - for ease of use - we've broken them down into genre, given first, second and third choices, plus sorted out the best available price too.
BEST DANCE GAMES
Get the family up for a Christmas boogie - but maybe not straight after dinner...
1. Dance Central 2
Format: Xbox 360 Kinect
"The very best dancing title available," said Xbox World in its recent review of Dance Central 2, before slapping a mighty 8.6 score on the game. The music may be a little 'modern' for older relative's tastes - unless your gran loves herself a bit of Daft Punk - but its two-player simultaneous-play versus and co-op modes are the best in the genre and a vast improvement over those in the original Dance Central. Another plus is that players can dance together but on different difficulty settings. Handy when your creepy uncle has been on the Scotch since 11am.
Best price: £24 at Amazon.co.uk
2. DanceStar Party
Format: PlayStation 3
PlayStation Move's answer to Dance Central 2 features a slightly more oldie-friendly tracklist, with the likes of Elton John and Barry White featured, and up to 20 people can play in DanceStar Party's, er, Party mode. Not all simultaneously, obviously. That would be madness. No, it's two at a time with players chosen at random, and difficulty settings can be adjusted for each pairing.
Best price: £9.71 at Amazon.co.uk
3. Just Dance 3
Format: Wii, PlayStation Move, Xbox 360 Kinect
This is a multi-format offering but for Wii owners it's your best bet for a boogie, although as the Official Nintento Magazine noted, it's "more of the same, really. Fans of the previous versions will probably love it but the controls are still suspect." Eight players can share four Wii Remotes, so it's good for getting everyone involved. If your lounge is large enough. Note: if you're feeling in a 'boy-from-the-John-Lewis-ad' mood, you can pick up Dance On Broadway dead cheap which uses the same game engine, and mum can sing along to show tunes from the likes of Chicago and Guys And Dolls.
Best price: £12.99 at The Hut (Wii version)
BEST QUIZ GAMES
You've given your digestive systems a workout. Now one for your brains...
1. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Special Edition
Format: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
No wait! Come back! Look, this feature is all about getting the family together for some console-related fun instead of staring blank-eyed at Downton Abbey and you can guarantee that WWTBAM will appeal to everyone. Who doesn't love a good quiz? A download-only title, this special edition follows the familiar formula of the TV show, has 1200 generic quiz questions and no Chris Tarrant. Sorted. There are also two special question packs to download on top of the main game: the South Park pack probably isn't what you're looking for within earshot of your mum, but the Movie pack most definitely is. Grab both the main game and the packs on PSN and Xbox Live.
Best price: £7.99/800 MS Points
2. Scene It? Box Office Smash!
Format: Xbox 360
It's a little long in the tooth now but we've spied this version of the Scene It! movie quiz game for Xbox 360 bundled with four controllers for less than 15 quid at Amazon.co.uk so if you haven't played the game before that's some bargain entertainment. There's a more recent version too - Scene It? Bright Lights! Big Screen! - and that's on PS3 and Wii. Bit pricier, mind.
Best price: £14.25 at Amazon.co.uk
3. Buzz! Quiz World
Format: PlayStation 3
Another oldie but goodie, there's still plenty of fun to be had with Buzz! You do need the controllers but once bought, there are loads of titles in the series that you can wheel out for family occasions so that you don't run the risk of repeat questions (repeat questions, of course, being the start of an uncomfortable, mood-spoiling argument with your dad about how videogames aren't even as good as the Daily Mail crossword).
Best price: £38.99 at Amazon.co.uk with controllers
BEST SPORTS GAMES
Wear the family out - then you can nip off and play Skyrim while they sleep it off...
1. Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games
In addition to the track and field events, which have been streamlined and improved since Mario & Sonic's Beijing-based offering, London 2012 Olympics offers rioting, hedge fund managing and... hang on, that's not right... the game includes football, badminton, volleyball, rowing and cycling among its many mini-games. NGamer's Mario & Sonic London Olympics review reckons this is perfect for those family members who look at controllers as spawn of Satan: "Most events keep controls nice and simple - essential for any pick up and play party game... If you can wobble a remote, you can trampoline, row and fling a Nintendo mascot between the uneven bars." Or, of course, you could just dust off Wii Sports bowling for the zillionth year on the trot.
Best price: £28.99 at Base.com
2. Kinect Sports Season 2
Format: Xbox 360 Kinect
The original Kinect Sports is arguably the better package when it comes to the sports themselves but if you've done those to death then Season 2 is still a safe bet for family fun. (Special bonus points for you: no controllers, no problems.) On offer this time around are golf, darts, tennis, skiing, American football and baseball. Unfortunately for your dad, it's the darts that stands out as the weak link here, as mentioned in our Kinect Sports Season 2 review. The U.S.-focused sports probably won't go down too well with your grandparents either, who are already worried about foreigners taking all our jobs and destroying our Britishness, but all should be rescued with the golf which, as Wii Sports already proved, is pretty much an unbreakable template.
Best price: £29.99 at Amazon.co.uk
3. Carnival Island
Format: PlayStation Move
Carnival Island has 35 different carnival games, it's cheaper than a couple of fairground burgers, and its Metacritic ranking is 65 - which, for a game of this type, is basically like getting a 95. So, why not roll up, roll up... and, er... roll in... to, uh... Never mind. It "does a tidy job of recreating familiar sideshow attractions," says the Official PlayStation magazine in its 7/10 Carnival Island review, and what higher praise is there than... "tidy"?
Best price: £13.69 at Amazon.co.uk
BEST GAMER'S GAMES
Family ready to make the step up from golf? Time for some 'proper' gaming...
1. Rayman Origins
Format: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii
It's sold about three copies, and all of them to Michel Ancel's family, but don't let that put you off: Rayman Origins is one of the best platformers, on any system, for years. We'll front up: it occasionally goes into full-on confuse-o-mode when the retro-stylish four-player support kicks in, but it's worth persevering - this is mostly great fun, a good schooling for your knowledge-free family members and, praise be, there's no sodding Rabbids. Want further proof? Our own Rayman Origins review bestowed a mighty 88% score upon the game. It's good on any format, but Wii probably presents the fewest barriers to entry.
Best price: £22.99 from Gamestation (Wii version)
2. LittleBigPlanet 2
Format: PlayStation 3
Sony's imagination station allows you to build your very own Christmas-themed game for everyone to tackle on Christmas Day. Probably worth doing this before the 25th, though, or you risk getting a mince pie thrown at your head for spending all afternoon, hunkered down in front of the TV, constructing a Yuletide masterpiece.
Best price: £17.99 from GAME.co.uk
3. Forza Motorsport 4
Format: Xbox 360
No, seriously. It might be the highest end of high-end racing games but it also includes split-screen play and, via the power of Kinect, controller-free racing. (Surprisingly, it works really well. You sacrifice accuracy, plainly, but it's incredibly impressive and super-simple to grasp.) Male relatives will love bombing about in fancy sports cars they could only dream of owning. Though they'll probably love you beating them a bit less.
Best price: £27.85 from SimplyGames
4. Mario Kart Wii
Bonus fourth entry: it never gets old or tired does Mario Kart and while Mario Kart 7 is the current belle of the karting ball, chances are not everyone in your family is going to own a Nintendo 3DS. Whipping out the three year old Wii version will always delivers. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Best price: £29.99 from Play.com (with wheel)