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Best Overall: Mario Kart 8 at Amazon
"Giving new life to the venerable Mario Kart franchise while still retaining the best parts from its long legacy."
Best Budget: Rayman Legends at Amazon
"The game gets all of the basics right, including a superb multiplayer mode that's perfect for playing with a group of friends."
Best for Younger Kids: Yoshi's Woolly World at Amazon
"Simple controls, beautiful visuals, a delightful soundtrack, and two different difficulty settings."
Best Multiplayer: New Super Mario Bros U at Amazon
"Easily the best 2D Mario game in years."
Runner-Up, Best Multiplayer: Splatoon at Amazon
"With gorgeous, brightly-colored graphics and fun-filled gameplay (plus a kid-friendly lack of in-game chat options)."
Best Puzzle: Captain Toad Treasure Tracker at Amazon
"The controls are simple, but the levels themselves offer plenty of challenges."
Best Open-World: Lego City Undercover at Amazon
"Gives you a huge city to explore, with all of the charm and brick-building that accompanies Lego in the real world."
Best Strategy: Pikmin 3 at Amazon
"A real-time strategy game that offers a mix of combat, puzzle-solving, exploration, and resource-gathering."
Courtesy of Amazon
If it feels like Mario Kart has been around forever, that's because it pretty much has — the first version came out all the way back in 1992. Despite that, Nintendo has managed to keep each new version fresh and fun, and Mario Kart 8 is no exception.
The most noticeable change is the visuals, with have switched to HD graphics. Everything — from the cars and tracks to characters and backgrounds — is crisper, clearer, and just downright gorgeous.
But it's not just about looking good. There are plenty of new additions to the gameplay that will keep the fans happy, including many more races, new features like anti-gravity track sections that let you race along walls or up waterfalls, and the ability to share highlights and play with friends online. An Animal Crossing downloadable content (DLC) pack is also available, which is well worth the purchase for the extra tracks and characters.
Giving new life to the venerable Mario Kart franchise while still retaining the best parts from its long legacy, Mario Kart 8 on Nintendo's successful Wii U console will be a big hit for kids of all ages.
Looking for a hugely-enjoyable platform game that the kids will love, without breaking the bank? Take a look at Rayman Legends. This side-scrolling platformer could easily have been just another Mario clone, but it ended up being so much more.
The game gets all of the basics right, from the beautiful hand-drawn graphics and fun animations to a superb multiplayer mode that's perfect for playing with a group of friends. But it's the fantastic level design that really makes this game stand out. For example, there are music-based sections where the player needs to time their movements and actions to what's happening in the soundtrack. Every area is crammed with hidden secrets to uncover, and the sheer variety of challenges, from angry enemies to dangerous obstacles, means things never get repetitive. The 3D boss battles are also exciting and challenging, requiring strategic thinking to win.
Combine all of the above with a price that's typically lower than most other Wii U titles, and you have an undoubted winner on your hands. This game is rated as suitable for everyone aged 10+.
When it comes to cute game characters, Yoshi the green dinosaur is sure to appeal to little kids. First showing up as an erstwhile companion in Mario games in the early 1990s, Yoshi soon branched out into his own series of games, and Yoshi's Woolly World is arguably the best of the lot.
As the name suggests, pretty much everything in the gorgeous in-game world is made of yarn, from the scenery to the characters, and including Yoshi himself. Playable in solo or two-player mode, Yoshi explores the world to help rescue his companions from their wooly prison.
The yarn theme adds a fun new dimension to traditional exploration games, including weaving platforms to get to otherwise-inaccessible sections, yanking stray strands to reveal hidden areas and treasures, and tying up enemies.
With no time limit on the levels, the game rewards careful exploration and experimentation. With simple controls, beautiful visuals, a delightful soundtrack, and two different difficulty settings, Yoshi's Woolly World offers many hours of entertainment for kids young and old.
Launching alongside the Wii U was the latest installment of everyone's favorite plumber-based platform game: New Super Mario Brothers U. While the name is certainly a mouthful, the game itself is easily the best 2D Mario game in years.
Up to five people can play at once, picking from all the classic characters like Toad, Luigi, and of course Mario himself. The classic side-scrolling action is enhanced by the Wii U controller, which adds some new abilities not found in the older versions.
With near-perfect level design, loads of new enemies to battle, and a reinvention of many of the boss battles, both longtime fans and newcomers to the Super Mario universe will find something to love.
Alongside the standard story-based approach, other gameplay modes let players try for speed runs or unlock new challenges. It might take a while before those other modes get used, though, with plenty of hidden secrets and minigames to keep the fun going and the replay value high.
Most shooting games are not designed for kids, but Splatoon is a rare exception — rather than bullets and tanks, the game is all about ink. Use ink rollers, bombs, and blasters to cover the arena with as much color as you can. While it's also possible to splatter other players, that's not how the game gets won!
In the game, you can also transform into a squid to access extra abilities like stealthy hiding, swimming, and wall-climbing skills that help you reach otherwise-inaccessible areas. It's possible to upgrade your ink weapons and clothing, adding plenty of customization options and tactical depth to the game. While the game is designed first and foremost for multiplayer, with two teams of four battling it out online, there's also a well-designed and engrossing single-player mode.
The gorgeous, brightly-colored graphics and fun-filled gameplay (plus the lack of in-game chat options) make Splatoon something truly rare: a multiplayer shooter that's great for kids. It's rated as appropriate for anyone aged 10 and up.
Another Mario character that ended up with their own dedicated game, pint-sized Captain Toad and dedicated companion Toadette duck and weave their way through a variety of puzzle-filled worlds in the delightful Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
The controls are simple, but the levels themselves offer plenty of challenges. Figuring out how to avoid enemies and collect treasure often requires real thought and exploration, whether your character is stomping through wild west villages or splashing through the water park levels. Collecting the star on each level is necessary to get to the next stage, but grabbing the diamonds is optional. This leaves plenty of scope for replayability after reaching the end, helped by special quests that only show up after the game has been played through at least once.
With the perfect balance of fun and difficulty, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a great puzzle game for kids of all ages.
Lego City Undercover gives you a huge city to explore, with all of the charm and brick-building that accompanies Lego in the real world. In the game, you play as Chase McCain, a master of disguise and undercover investigation. Your mission: bring criminal mastermind Rex Fury to justice.
Wear different costumes to assume different roles — each outfit adds different skills and abilities and gives you access to new areas. Don a firefighter's uniform and put out blazes, or dress as an astronaut and zoom around the map on a jetpack.
There's no multiplayer mode, but that's about the only thing missing from this expansive, engrossing, and downright enjoyable game. Lego City Undercover is rated as suitable for older kids aged 10+.
The platform may be dominated by Mario-based games, but one of the best kids titles on Wii U is from a series relatively few people have heard of. Pikmin 3 is a real-time strategy game that offers a mix of combat, puzzle-solving, exploration, and resource-gathering. You control three explorers, plus a horde of tiny, adorable "Pikmin." All of you will have to work together in a battle to save a beautiful planet.
Pikmin 3 makes great use of the Wii U's hardware in a way that is unique to this particular console. The gamepad's screen shows the map and adds a "Go There" feature that helps you control all three characters simultaneously even when you've split them up to lead different squads.
Playable in both solo and multiplayer modes, Pikmin 3 has gorgeous, lush HD graphics and a near-perfect difficulty level that's challenging without being frustrating. Pikmin 3 is a fantastic, underrated Wii U title that's worth a try, even if you've never heard of it.