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Five great games to play with the whole family

Sony/Insomniac Games

The family that games together, stays together. This holiday, Ratchet & Clank and crew can help show you how.

It's official. The holidays are upon us. And you know what that means: In the coming weeks you and your kinfolk will have ample time to sit cooped up together in one house for way too long.

It’s during these desperate times that you will search for something to keep the people related to you amused (and from strangling each other). And in these moments, a video game can be the perfect rescue.

Much like the board and card games of yore, video games can be a great way to pass the time with the entire family. They can offer everyone a chance to connect, a chance to laugh and, most importantly, a chance to totally crush one another in bit of friendly competition.

The members of your extended family don't play games, you say? Pshaw! They simply need a gentle and amusing introduction. Here are five video games to play with the whole fam damily.


1. Kinect Sports: Season Two — Xbox 360 (Kinect required) $50
Here's a good way to burn off all the calories from the turkey or figgy pudding that you and your fam just packed away ... and all without actually having to brave the freezing weather outside.

With this follow-up to last year's "Kinect Sports" game, Microsoft delivers another solid package of sporty mini-games that the whole gang can jump into using the motion-and-voice-sensing powers of Kinect.

This time around you'll play mini-games based around the real-world sports of golf, darts, tennis, baseball, skiing and football. With Kinect watching your every move, you'll pantomime the actions you'd really use when playing these games — swing your arms to swing a bat in the baseball game, lean side-to-side to ski your way down a digital snow hill, etc.

It's nothing but good fun for everyone ... and you might even break a sweat.

Extra! Extra! Sports mini-games for the family have been a staple of motion-controlled gaming for years now. If you don't have an Xbox 360, grab "Wii Sports Resort" for the Wii or "Sports Champions" for the PlayStation 3. Since both games are a year or more old, you'll find them at some nicely discounted prices.


2. Dance Central 2 — Xbox 360 (Kinect required) $50
You know what they say: The family that dances together stays together. That, or maybe it's the family that laughs together stays together. I dunno, but either way, both apply when it comes to this game.

The great thing about "Dance Central 2" is that you can have two left feet and still enjoy this game in which you pit your dance skills (or lack thereof) against those of friends and family. Like the original "Dance Central," this sequel uses the Kinect motion controller to read the movements of your entire body as you try to follow choreographed dance routines performed by a colorful array of characters on the screen.

You'll perform some sweet moves with names like "Say What," "Hot Feet" and "Mad Dash" to songs from Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, Sir Mix-A-Lot and yes ... even Justin Bieber. And, believe it or not, you may actually improve your dance skillz along the way.

The game's developer has made numerous improvements to this sequel — the most important one being that two players can dance at the same time. Also, the game now features a beefed-up "break it down" mode for teaching players each move. You can now select specific dance moves to work on, view each move in slow motion, and even record yourself dancing and see how you do compared to your on-screen instructor.

Leave your ego at the door, toss back some eggnog (spiked for the grown-ups) and put this game into your Xbox 360. The whole family will soon be doing the "Board Walk" and the "Beauty Step" ... and having a blast the entire time.

Extra! Extra! If dance games are up your family's alley but you don't own an Xbox, check out "Everybody Dance" for the PlayStation 3 and "Just Dance 3" for the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Magic Pixel Games

3. Carnival Island — PlayStation 3 (Move controls required) $40
If the members of your family aren't big video game players — or if they're simply not the dancing kind — then try easing them into things with this collection of motion-controlled, carnival-themed mini-games.

Everyone's been to a circus or a fair, and this PS3 game simply brings the midway to your living room. Using Sony's Move motion controls, you can compete against each other at games based on familiar real-world midway games such as skee-ball, ring toss and basketball shoot. Up to four people can play "Carnival Island" at one time and it features more than 35 games and attractions in total.

Yes, seasoned gamers will note that this is not the deepest or most impressive video game you'll find out there. But it does a really great job showing off the accuracy of Sony's Move controls and it's an easy one for everyone from junior to Gramps to jump right into.

Extra! Extra! If motion-controlled mini-games are up your family's alley but you don't own a PS3, consider the similarly carnival-themed "Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do! for the Xbox 360 or "Wii Play: Motion" for the Wii. 


4. "Family Game Night 4: The Game Show" — Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, $40
Speaking of easing your family members into the world of video gaming with something familiar, "Family Game Night 4: The Game Show" takes traditional gaming, crosses it with motion-controlled video gaming and tosses in some easy-to-pickup game show action to boot.

Here traditional games like Connect 4, Yahtzee and Scrabble are given the motion-control twist. For example, Connect 4 becomes a motion-controlled basketball game in which you must toss your colored-pieces into vertical and horizontal lines of four as fast as you can, trying to beat your opponent both with throwing accuracy and strategy.

Again, this is the kind of video gaming that shouldn't seem too intimidating to the non-gamers joining you for the holiday.

Insomniac Games

5. "Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One" — PlayStation 3, $60
If your extended family does have some game experience — enough to handle your basic game controller — then "Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One" is the perfect game for some quality holiday bonding.

Games starring Ratchet, the big-eared Lombax, and Clank, the tiny robot, have been PlayStation staples for years, but this is the first R&C title to include cooperative multiplayer gameplay. That means up to four players can jump in at one time and work together as they take these colorful characters on yet another sci-fi adventure.

Young kids will love the bright world and the zany sense of humor, casual players will love having friends in the game to help them out and more seasoned players will love the high quality of the platforming and puzzle-solving found here.

As Galactic President Qwark says in the game, "We must set aside our petty squabbles and act as a singular unit!" If that doesn't sound like family bonding ... I don't know what does.

Extra, extra! If this kind of mad-cap, four-player adventure is up your fam's alley, then other good options include "Disney Universe" (for the Xbox 360, Wii and PS3) and "Kirby's Return to Dream Land" for the Wii.

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Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+. And be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page here.