A great party needs good food, appropriate beverages, and the perfect video game. Unfortunately, finding the best game for a party isn’t exactly easy. Mixed groups of young children, teens, and grown-ups make finding something appropriate in a sea of titles a challenge. I’m here to help you find a game or two for your library that you can pull out to get the party started every weekend, and keep it family friendly.
It’s easy to party with a bunch of adults – just add booze. Partying with children, and making sure everyone has a good time, requires a different approach. Teenagers throw the mix entirely out of whack, they’re as likely to get pissed off that you’re “making them” play a video game as they are to appreciate you’re doing something they usually enjoy.
Luckily we live in a wonderful age of gaming where there are literally thousands of titles to choose from. The best way to determine which ones will work for your party is to decide how many players you’ll have.
If you only have 2 players
Couch co-op (two or more players in the same room on the same console) is one of the most rewarding ways to play. Here are three games that work perfectly for two players who are geared up for a hardcore gaming session:
- “Civilization 6” on PC – It’s the perfect educational game for parent-kid combos and a great introduction to turn-based strategy games. The best setup for this is a PC with HDMI out, a big-screen TV, and a wireless mouse. Players can take turns in “hot-seat” mode.
- “Minecraft” on console – Younger players will appreciate Minecraft more than Civilization 6, and it really is fun for all ages. All you need is a couple of controllers and plenty of snacks – you’ll easily lose hours at a time doing ridiculously repetitive tasks in a world with crappy graphics, and you’ll love every second of it.
- “Wii Sports” – Don’t sleep on the oldies. You need to get off the couch and burn off some energy, and you probably need a non-violent way to prove you’re a better boxer than the neighbor kid. Also, Wii bowling and the Wiimote, paired together, are one of the greatest inventions of the modern era.
If you have three to six players
Your options begin to change and you’re able to legally call your gathering a party once you’ve reached three people. It’s time to break out the party games because either you’re going to spend 15 minutes setting up the playing area and figuring out how to sign everyone in (Rock Band, I’m looking at you), or you just need everyone to be able to play without any fuss:
- “Rockband 4” on PS4 or Xbox One – The greatest party game ever made, unless you don’t like pretending to be a rock star. This is the most expensive video game on the list if you purchase the instruments, but it’s also the one that’s most likely to result in memories that last forever. For the real experience, you’ll need to buy the game’s hardware. Up to three people can sing with individual USB microphones though only one will be able to sign in and get achievements/trophies. Another player can jam on the drums in a pretty close-to-the-real-thing way, while two more can play guitar controllers as the lead guitar or bass player in the band.
- “Jackbox Party Packs” on PC or console – These games come with a child-friendly toggle that you’ll want to use if you have children playing. Included in the packs are several games that allow you to use a cell phone or tablet as a controller making them great for when you have more people than gamepads. In the games you’ll be asked to come up with funny catchphrases that everyone will vote on, or see if you can fool your friends into believing a lie you’ve created.
- “Use Your Words” on console – This is a riff on the “Jackbox” games, if you ask me, but it’s just solid enough to avoid being a rip-off, and it’s worth a purchase. You’ll compete with your fellow players, again based on votes, to come up with the best subtitles for a foreign film, or play “caption this” with news headlines. It’s a blast, and just like “Jackbox” you play it with your smart devices. The 50s vibe in the animations and voice acting for “Use Your Words” is exceedingly cool and, if I’m being honest, it suits the party atmosphere better than “Jackbox” does with its game-show feel.
Bonus mention: “Heads Up” on mobile is an option for those who don’t want to use the big screen. I’m not responsible for what happens if you play it – it’s the “who am I?” party game featured on the “Ellen!” show, and it’s a lot of fun no matter who you’re playing it with.
Once you’ve decided on the game the rest is up to you, but you’ll know it was a success if your game choice forces everyone to interact with each other more than the screen.