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Consoles For Christmas 2008 - The Doting Parent

If you don't really consider yourself a console gamer, but you want to enjoy playing games with friends and family members, this is the profile for you. We're assuming that HD graphics and media functions aren't particularly important to you, and that you're not obsessed with staying on the cutting edge. Instead, you want an engaging and affordable way to keep your household entertained during rainy days (and gloomy months).

There's no real question which console rules this roost. Nintendo's Wii is still unbeatable for simple, child-friendly entertainment. The novelty might have waned over motion sensitive controls, but the fun factor certainly hasn't. Games like Super Mario Galaxy, Wii Fit, Mario Kart Wii, The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess and Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure are perfect entertainment for adults and kids alike, and we've heard good things about the Wii versions of Pro Evolution Soccer, the Lego Star Wars/Batman/Indiana Jones games and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

There is an awful lot of dross on the platform - frankly, the Wii is turning into a shovelware magnet - but that shouldn't discourage you from buying one. If you only buy four or five games a year, you'll still find enough quality titles to keep you busy. Wii Music, Shaun White Snowboarding and Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party all look promising (reviews to come) and Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City is on its way. The Wii MotionPlus accessory and the accompanying Wii Sports Resort should also give the console a boost (if only for the WaveRace clone included). Sure, it doesn't really offer the most advanced graphics or the most sophisticated gameplay, but the best Wii games still look good on your HD screen and with Mario Kart and Animal Crossing Nintendo is making strides into online play.

That said, there are good reasons for families to look at the other consoles too. The PlayStation 3 has the fantastic LittleBigPlanet plus the very family friendly Buzz! and Singstar games (including the new Abba version for Mamma Mia fans). Combine this with the console's strong media features (see the Movie Buff profile) and it makes a great centrepiece for a family home entertainment system. With its new interface and Mii-style avatars, the Xbox 360 shouldn't be discounted either. With consoles available from £130 the price point is very attractive, and exclusives like Lips, Scene It? Box Office Smash, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, You're in the Movies and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts are very much focused on the family audience. If you have older kids in the household, you'll arguably get more value from the Microsoft console.

There's no doubt that LittleBigPlanet is a superb family game, but it's not enough to swing this category in Sony's favour.

Remember, too, that some great child-friendly games, including most movie licenses and the Lego Star Wars/Indiana Jones/Batman games, are multi-platform. If you have a family but still hanker after the odd action game or racer, there's no reason to go for the Wii as a knee-jerk reaction. While some dismissals of the Wii as the novelty console are particularly harsh, it has to be said that genuinely great Wii games have been short on supply in 2008.

All the same, there is something about Nintendo's console that always gets family members from every generation involved. No serious gamer would have one as their only gaming system, but as a family choice it takes some beating.

Our choice: Nintendo Wii

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