As more and more gamers become parents, it's only natural that they'd like to share their pastime with their kids. However with this development, the question of what games are appropriate for younger audiences also become much more important. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about "appropriate" in the ESRB Ratings sense. We here at DKOldies played just as much Mortal Kombat, Narc, and Splatterhouse as any of the other kids on our block, and we like think we grew up to be relatively well-adjusted human beings. No, I'm talking about games that are mechanically appropriate for younger audiences.
It's no secret: the games we grew up with were hard. Frustratingly hard. Infuriatingly hard. NES games are still legendary for their borderline-sadistic difficulty. In retrospect, it's amazing so few of us didn't snap our controllers in half while enduring titles like Battletoads and Mega Man. They're great games, but it's hard to deny that they're more than a little intimidating for a budding gamer. So what's a good starting point for our youngsters.
Well a lot of people forget about this, but Sega actually developed a solution to this issue all the way back in 1994. Their "Sega Club" line of was short lived, and never really got the credit it deserved. None of the games were really ground-breaking titles. But then, they weren't supposed to be. Sega Club was meant to be a series of gateway games for fledgling players who weren't yet ready to tackle more challenging titles. It's with this in mind, that we invite you to consider some of these overlooked titles:
1. Ecco Jr
Ecco Jr Sega Genesis Game On Sale Now!
The original Ecco the Dolphin for the Sega Genesis that you can buy today at DKOldies.com was one of the harder console exclusives that Sega ever produced. However, this spin-off was actually an incredibly breezy, fun, little game that focuses simple puzzles and basic quest missions. But what makes it really standout is its use of the same graphical assets as Ecco. This makes Ecco Jr every bit as visually enchanting as its bigger Sibling.
2. Crystal's Pony Tale
If you were a kid who showed up to your first day of elementary school, rocking as many Lisa Frank binders, pencils, and erasers as you could shove into your backpack, thanm this game had a lot going for it. Character customization may be a standard feature in most of today's games, but in '94 being able to choose what colors went on your pony was a big deal. The game play is good, requiring you to explore a number of extremely interactive worlds in a quest to save all of Crystal's pony friends from an evil witch. It's simplistic, but that's perfect for the audience for which it was designed.
3. Wacky Worlds
It's pretty much impossible to avoid comparing Sega's mouse-powered creative suite to the vastly superior Mario Paint for the SNES. However, a scaled-down version of a masterpiece is still pretty darn good. Sporting a sticker-book motif, Wacky Worlds' menus, tools, and customization were all incredibly accessible for young minds, and provided for hours of fun tinkering, tampering, and fine-tuning until every world was just how you wanted it.
4. Scholastic's The Magic School Bus: Space Exploration Game
In this title, Ms. Frizzle takes her students on yet another field-trip across the solar system, with no regard for parental permission slips.This game doesn't really excel in any one area. But considering that it features puzzles, platforming levels, and even a basic flight-simulator in one nifty, little, 16-bit package, it easily stands out by virtue of its variety. Oh! And it's educational. That's always a plus.
5. The Berenstain Bears' Camping Adventure
This shines as a rare example of a solid co-op platformer that is genuinely accessible to young gamers. If you're a parent looking for a title that you can play with your kids, I really cannot recommend this one enough. Berenstain Bears is a great introduction to platforming games, as it features collectibles, boss battles, secret rooms, and pretty much all the other common elements you'll find in more challenging games. Pair this with charming children's book visuals and you have a genuinely engaging title.
We think all of these are great games for young children, who are just starting to pick up controllers. But then again, what do we know? We were thrown into Contra On sale now for the NES headfirst and it did nothing to dissuade us from gaming. What do you think, do there even really need to be "children's" titles, or should today's kids endure the same digital trial by fire that we did? What do you play with your children?