January 16, 2014

The Elite Four: Retro Babysitting Games

Welcome to my first Elite Four* article, which will showcase my "top 5*" of various subjects. We're starting with a pretty weird one, but it's one that I have to turn to quite a lot, actually. If you've got friends who are parents, you're tight with your neighbors, or maybe you've just got a big family like me, sooner than later you're going to get stuck with the kids. A lot of people in my life have young kids right now and in spite of the fact that I'm not the biggest fan of little ones, I try to be a good friend/sister occasionally by taking the little brats off their hands for a while.

I'm pretty sure you can't be "the cool aunt" unless you have video games… it just so happens I have many, and surprisingly, I have quite a few titles that are just perfect for kids. When it comes to entertaining 4-10 year olds, I often turn to my retro consoles for help, because I find the games as a whole are much less complicated for young minds, and I tend to prefer the consoles to the handhelds if I've got more than one munchkin, because then they can all see what's going on and participate. Playing Pokemon on Game Boy is awesome when you've only got one sitting in your lap, but otherwise, we need the big guns…
Now I'm sure someone out there is thinking something along the lines of, "yeah great, they trust you with their kids and you get your tv to babysit…"
Calm down, folks. I can assure you if it's a bright summer day, I'm at the park with the little buggers teaching them baseball or something, but sometimes fate is not so kind and there are a lot of damn children in my life, so occasionally I need some assistance from a telly. And I think games are a great way to keep them entertained for a relatively long time - if you play your cards right - while teaching them something, and it holds their attention because it requires interaction, unlike a movie, for example.

Just for the record, these are not necessarily the games I played as a youngin' but they're the ones I find are most successful at keeping younger kids entertained for hours on end, to make the night as painless as possible. You may notice some obvious staples are missing from this list, and that's because I find sometimes classics like Sonic/Mario/Kirby are a little too repetitive for young kids and they get bored with them quickly.

So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Retro Games for Babysitting.

5. Super Heroes (SNES/Genesis/N64)
My favorites are Batman (& Robin) and Spiderman. These are guys that young kids recognize, so they're interested in creating their own story and aiding our heroes in saving the world. I think it's kind of like playing action figures but on the television, so it's exciting for them. The boys can often spend a lifetime entertaining themselves with just one level of these games, and sometimes we even use 2 player mode, and see how they fair. Since they're on classic consoles, there are only so many buttons on the controller so figuring out the controls is simple enough. Mums don't seem to mind the violence much because these are beloved characters and baddies that everyone knows must be stopped!


4. The Berenstain Bears: Camping Adventure (Genesis)
I'm not entirely sure why I have this, but it rounds out my collection of kid-friendly games. The kids still recognize the B-Bears and this game seems to entertain even the youngest of critters. The setting changes a lot and keeps them engaged and there are different difficulties too, so you can adjust for the skill of the child. Other than that, controls are simple, and with my guidance they never get lost. Also 2P.



3. Earthworm Jim (Genesis)
I love Earthworm Jim. Kids these days don't seem to know who he is anymore, so it's a lot of fun for me to introduce them to a new hero. They find it hysterical that a worm is going to save a princess, and frankly, so do I, so it's a happy, bonding experience for all. Some of the levels can be a bit too much for the young ones, but that's what Aunty Lo is for, right?! If it's getting close to bed time, sometimes they're perfectly happy just watching me play, and I'm not about to complain about that...






2. Disney Games (SNES/Genesis)
My favorites are Aladdin, Toy Story and The Lion King. Again, kids recognize these titles, and if I've got them for a really long time I can always do a double feature and watch the movie first. Then they really get a kick out interacting with the characters and the levels they've just seen. And sometimes I get to do bad Timon impressions or quote the Genie and sing along.


And my absolute favorite game for babysitting? You're gonna laugh…


1. The Magic School Bus Space Exploration Game (Genesis)

First thing's first: this is the greatest tv show/book series ever. Hilarious cartoons that teach you stuff?! Even I enjoy these!
Also fun fact: I'm an amateur astronomer and general science and cosmos enthusiast, so I really, really enjoy teaching the kids about space and introducing them to our solar system, and this is an awesome way to do it! My friend's daughter got an award at school because she could name all 9 planets (fuck you, Pluto is a planet) in order from the sun, in Kindergarten! I'm so proud of her!
As far as I know, this is the only MSB game for anything other than PC. It's a pretty cool game that takes you through the solar system using different types of levels (flying through space, landing/maze games, puzzle game etc.) and the constantly changing environment keeps everyone busy and entertained. The game actually looks pretty terrible, but I figure it just encourages the little ones to use their imaginations, and it blows their minds even more when I show them planets in the real world via telescope. Sometimes they're not that surprised when they see pictures of what planets look like because the game gives them an idea beforehand. The tunes are pretty boss, you don't get those in the real world! I give this game so many points for being educational - but still imaginative - quite lengthy, diverse and just plain fun.


A few of the levels, including carting around Mars; landing your bus slash spaceship; and flying through space, in which you take pictures of various real life things like satellites and asteroids, and then the occasional cheeseburger…

Runners up: 
Duck Hunt (NES) - if the parents aren't too concerned about gun violence and whatnot, everybody gets a kick out of this classic.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) - if the kids are a little on the older side, they love this one.
Tiny Toon Adventures (NES) - it frustrates the hell out of me, so surely it's a good pick for them?
Super Mario, any (NES/SNES) - Again, I have more success with these if the children are a bit older and enjoy the challenge of a never-ending platformer. I usually make them take turns so they can figure the game out and learn some tricks and then have a turn at a level.


*50 points if you get it.


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