10 Great Video Games for Dads and Sons
You know, father-son relationships go through some weird, whiplash-inducing mutations. Dads and their XY-chromosomed offspring can veer from unblinking admiration to angst-filled rebellion to cranky competition, all while living under the same roof. In celebration of Father's Day, we've cooked up a quick guide of games that can strengthen ties, impart lessons, and maybe even diffuse some tensions between the men of the household. Prepare to button-mash your way to better male bonding.
1. LEGO games by Travellers' Tales ("LEGO Star Wars," "LEGO Batman," "LEGO Indiana Jones")
These games serve up a double whammy of fun for pops and sons: Dad gets to revisit the adventure icons of his youth, and junior learns all about them for the first time. As a bonus, lots of the characters in these games -- Batman and Robin, Obi-Wan and Anakin, Indy and the elder Dr. Jones -- have great father/son (or mentor/protege) relationships that show how inspiring good paternal influence can be. Breaking up enemies into little plastic bits? That's just a bonus.
Cut your son some slack: Lectures about deductive reasoning, spatial awareness and pattern recognition all sound horribly boring in an academic context. But, put them in a game as funny and singularly clever as "Portal" and he'll hardly realize he's honing those skills. Though it's put forth as the story of a female test subject's attempt to escape from a high-tech weapons testing facility, "Portal's" really a series of brain-bending teleportation puzzles. It's single-player only, but the battle of wits against scheming computer mistress GlaDOS provides a great opportunity for you and your heir apparent to put your heads together for victory. "Portal's" also incredibly well-written, and the reward at the end of the game will doubtless create a great shared moment.
Perhaps the most chilling and instructive example of nature vs. nurture in videogames, this 2007 first-person classic serves as a cautionary tale of what goes wrong when fathers and sons don't have healthy relationships. Fighting to survive in a broken underwater utopia torn apart by genetic manipulation and civil war, players encounter themes like moral responsibility and free will. The sober, mature plot makes it only really appropriate for teenagers and older, but the moody environments and incremental sense of empowerment will keep even the most blase man-child engaged until the final credits.
4. "Left 4 Dead"
Your son may already be playing tons of multiplayer first-person shooters online, but no game drives home the importance of teamwork and altruism like Valve's zombie-horror best-seller. If you don't take care of your buddies and vice versa in "Left 4 Dead," then eventually it's lights out for everybody. If even more camaraderie is what you're after, team up with your dad or son in the Versus mode and wreak havoc on another team as superpowered zombies.
5. "Burnout Paradise"
Dads who take their paternal duties seriously know that it's their responsibility to pass on the sacred art of trash-talking to their little princes. Having your son tell you to eat his dust after executing a high-speed takedown in Criterion's crash-focused racer might just bring manly tears to your eyes. Countless free updates have delivered tons of new features and vehicles to Paradise City's streets, so there's enough action to keep you both playing for hours on end. Best of all, you won't have to worry about the car insurance.
6. "The Bigs 2"
Even the best baseball games can drag on for hours, but "The Bigs 2" offers the most fun parts of America's favorite pastime in spectacular over-the-top fashion. Heck, it even makes fielding feel fun. "The Bigs 2's" best feature is Home Run Pinball, where you'll be able to demolish locales like Times Square, the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Tokyo with burly, architecture-wrecking homers. Suddenly, the sound of breaking glass needn't be accompanied by the words "wasn't me."
7. "Rock Band 2"
Nothing tends to symbolize generation gaps better than changing musical trends. But when you think about it, musical-performance simulators like "Rock Band" or "Guitar Hero World Tour" can actually bridge those gaps by showing the old man or young whippersnapper how good those Pixies or Beach Boys tracks really are. And more music appreciation arrives in September, when the upcoming "The Beatles: Rock Band" will give plastic-guitar players young and old the chance to come together while playing a virtual version of the Fab Four.
8. "Boom Blox Bash Party"
The supercute animals in the "Boom Blox" franchise may not seem terribly guy-friendly, but the sequel to last year's topple-tastic Wii game features the ability to create and share your own levels. Father and son can have the joy of destroying something the other built, without all that pesky therapy afterward. "Bash Party" offers new co-op play modes, too, in case you feel like working together for a change.
If your kid's eyes glaze over when you wax rhapsodically about the videogames of yore, then sit him in front of the new version of Nintendo's hallowed arcade boxing game. Chances are that your son, like you did years ago, will identify with Little Mac in a big way and glom onto the David/Goliath vibe that underpins the game. If taking down Glass Joe, Von Kaiser and the game's other international pugilists all by yourself gets tiresome, you can fight each other in the game's all-new multiplayer mode. Either way, you'll both wind up kings of the ring.
10. "Fallout 3"
The driving motivation in Bethesda's monumentally successful role-playing game is a search for the nameless hero's father. As you roam the post-nuclear wasteland of Washington, D.C., the game pits you against marauding gangs, irradiated ghouls and mutated animals. All along, you'll feel like you're single-handedly keeping the flickering flame of hope alive in the Wasteland. "Fallout 3's" overall tone may be bleak, but many of the characters just need to know that someone's looking out for them. That poignant note should resonate with most male family members, whether they're a dad or a son.
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