Games my toddler "plays"
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My son started playing video games at about 2.5 years old. Here are his favorites.

I'll maintain this list until he's old enough to play more or less as intended, both as a personal chronicle and maybe a resource for other parents.
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1. Video Game: Mario Kart 64 [Average Rating:7.87 Overall Rank:109]
Video Game: Mario Kart 64
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This was his first game, and I actually wrote it up here before realizing that a GeekList would be a better format.

He still describes this as his "favorite game". Since then, he's switched characters (Daddy, you will be Yoshi and I will be Mari-uh) and often asks for me to steer and "do the buttons" (accelerate) while he presses the jump button and says "boing". His favorite levels are "school buses" (Toad's Turnpike), "the train one" (Kalimari Desert) and "the snowmen" (Frappe Snowland).
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2. Video Game: Super Mario Bros. 3 [Average Rating:8.32 Overall Rank:29] [Average Rating:8.32 Unranked]
Video Game: Super Mario Bros. 3
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He calls this "a different Mari-uh game", as that was how I pitched it the first time. The first few times we played this, he would press the jump button while I handled d-pad duty. This turned this game into a very challenging co-op. Here's how our first continue went:

1: Run into first Goomba.
2: Get past first Goomba, then jump directly into fire from plant that would've gone safely over our heads.
3: A decent run - we actually made it past the flying Goomba, but that big jump is difficult if you can't get a running start (and don't know exactly when you're going to jump)
4: Run into first Goomba, again.
5: Jump onto pipe too early and hit the plant.

Later, he started doing it all himself, and to my shock, his second or third time he actually made it to the big pit halfway through the level. This turned out to be a fluke, though, as since he hasn't consistently been able to get over that first Goomba. If I do the first part and get him a raccoon tail, he's pretty good at finishing the level (since he can drop slowly over that big pit).

Recently, after a life or so of this he wants to go play with his blocks (presumably because of the blocks in the game), which makes me feel a little better about starting him so young.
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3. Video Game: Super Smash Bros. Brawl [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:230]
Video Game: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
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He calls this "the library Mari-uh game", since that's where we got it.

As with Mario Kart, I have to be Yoshi and he is Mari-uh. I usually just give him the nunchuck so he can run around and jump and set it to a short timed match on Smashville (we tried Mushroomy Kingdom once, but he said it was "too scary" - I assume because of the auto scroll). He really likes the presents and the soccer balls (I use Yoshi's standing A attack to kick the ball, and he loves that - he does keep asking for basketballs, so hopefully they'll get those in the sequel ). He'll frequently ask me to "make us eggs together" - I put him in an egg, then put up my shield and pause the game so he can go show Mommy.

The suicide stats for Mario are going to be forever ruined on my system, but that's OK
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4. Video Game: Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Superheroes [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:3287]
Video Game: Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Superheroes
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I know, I'm a bad father.

The used video game store in the mall has a MvC cabinet for only a quarter a play. My son is really into Spider-Man (partially because his name is also Peter), so I decided to save this for a future emergency. We were at the mall the Friday before Christmas, and it was very loud (my son is jumpy about noise even for his age). He looked unhappy, so I asked him if he wanted to go to the video game store (which he calls "the Mari-uh store", since they have stuffed Mario dolls hanging from the ceiling). We went down there, and I set up a game for both of us - he naturally picked Spider-Man, and I was Captain America since he's got at least a vague sense of who that is. (His actual favorite comic book character is Foggy Nelson, who I also really wish was playable. I mean, come on; they put Phoenix Wright in MvC3!)

A slight tangent: I've been researching arcade sticks recently in preparation of building my own, and as with any time you learn details about something, you tend to become a snob. Up until recently, I never really noticed differences in arcade sticks, but my thought when I was playing MvC was "ugh...bat-top American style with a circle gate, glad I'm not playing this for real". If that doesn't mean anything to you, stay ignorant and enjoy arcades, but I will explain that American style joysticks tend to be very stiff, whereas Japanese style tend to be loose.

These particular sticks were stiff enough that if you pulled a direction and let go, they would actually bounce past neutral and into the opposite direction. Add to that that crouch + jump = super jump in MvC, and you can probably guess that resulted in a delighted toddler. He was giggling most of the time, and still talks about the game today. The next morning, the very first thing he said to my wife (who wasn't there) was:

"Mommy! Daddy and I went to the Mari-uh store and played a Spiderman game and I was Spiderman and Daddy was Superman, NO! Captain America! and I shot a web!"

He did find the buttons occasionally, but I just threw my shield and passed it off that they were playing catch. (It did look more or less how it does when we play catch...)
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5. Video Game: New Super Mario Bros. Wii [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:108]
Video Game: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
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I got this in a math trade and it arrived yesterday. Peter is always interested in the mail, and was very excited when he saw what this was. "There's Mari-uh and [points to Luigi] Yoshi and...who's that guy [Toad]? Mommy, there's a Goomba there!" He wanted me to open it up "to see if there's a CD in it", and I left him to "read" the instructions while I went to the bathroom, expecting him to be playing with something else when I got back. He wasn't. He was ready to try the game.

This is the first real simultaneous co-op game we've tried, so I asked him if he wanted to play together, but he opted to take turns "like we usually do". He said he wanted me to go first, but grabbed the controller at around the first Goomba. We mostly played this the way we typically play Mari-uh 3, with him pressing jump and me doing the rest. Since this game is easier (at least at the start), we actually beat a few levels that way.

He asked to be Yoshi, but I explained to him that you don't play as Yoshi in this game - that you ride him instead, and that he was hiding and waiting for us to find him. I played this once before, and I remembered Yoshi was early but not which level, so he was really excited to find him. "Where's Yoshi? Where could he be? Maybe he's in this block! Maybe he's in that hill!" And so on. He was a little disappointed that Yoshi didn't stay in his egg (see Smash entry), but enjoyed the floaty jump (guess he didn't notice that from Smash). At one point, we got hit and Yoshi ran into a pit. "Where is Yoshi now?" I told him Yoshi went to another part of the level (how do you explain bottomless pits and temporary death to a 2 year old?) and that we'd have to find him again, which was fortunately a satisfactory explanation.

He played this all the way to the end of video game time yesterday (typically he'll want to switch games at least once), then asked very nicely for 5 more minutes (we let him, since we've been working on asking nicely) and then not so nicely later when we were on the phone with my parents and they asked what he'd done that day. If trends continue, this might replace Mari-uh Kart as his favorite game.
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6. Video Game: Super Mario World [Average Rating:8.44 Overall Rank:18] [Average Rating:8.44 Unranked]
Video Game: Super Mario World
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Yup, more Mari-uh. What can I say? I own a lot of them and they're better for kids than most games.

I got a Classic Controller in the mail yesterday and Peter wanted to try playing Mari-uh Kart with it. After that, he asked to play Mari-uh 3 (by name for the first time - I think the introduction of New Bros made him realize "the other Mari-uh game" isn't specific enough any more), and I gave him the choice of that one or a different game that needs this controller. (I can't even imagine playing this with a GC pad, so I didn't try.) He opted, as usual, for the new one.

As with New Bros, he wanted to be Mari-uh and me to be Yoshi. Fortunately, the opening video in this one shows Mari-uh riding Yoshi, so I pointed that out and said we could go find him. He had me do most of the controlling in Yoshi's Island 2, so I thought this might end up on the rejected list, but he said he wanted to keep watching me. I went the other way to open up the Yellow Switch Palace, figuring that'd be good for him. He liked the coins, and very nearly completed the level on his own (would have been a first for him in any game).

But what really grabbed his interest was the pipe. He'd never experienced going through a pipe before (weren't any he could get to in 3, and I don't know New Bros well enough to know where they are), and he was enamored. That's actually why he didn't finish the switch palace; he kept trying to go back through the pipe. We went back to Yoshi's Island 2, and he was happy to just go through the pipe there, have me get the coins, go through the other pipe, then have me take him back to the first pipe to repeat until time ran out. Emergent gameplay!

This also provided for a more interesting co-op on a single controller experience than Mari-uh 3 due to the layout of the classic controller. When he had me move while he was jumping, he'd periodically grab the left stick while I used the D-pad. This is the first game we've played at home where both were functional simultaneously, and it added to the challenge, as in addition to not knowing exactly when I was going to jump, I wasn't completely sure which way I would be moving...

It's too early to tell if this will make the rotation or not, but given that I gave him the choice several times of switching to Mari-uh 3 and he declined, I feel comfortable adding this here.
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7. Video Game: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:2859]
Video Game: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
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I was a little worried about this one. I found the DK Bongos in a thrift store a few months ago, and he's just enjoyed playing with them as drums. After the surprising Mario 64 failure, I no longer feel confident that he'll like any particular game, and my concern wasn't so much that he wouldn't like the game (not a big deal at all) but that it might ruin the fun he was having with the bongos otherwise. Nevertheless, this week was "D Week" at home, so I figured it was as good a time as any to introduce it.

And he LOVES it.

For those unfamiliar, this is a 2D platformer controlled by the bongos - hit the left or right to move in those directions, hit both simultaneously to jump, or clap to attack. Peter actually couldn't get enough volume on his claps to trigger the microphone that way, but when I clapped three times to start the game he got the biggest video game related grin I've seen in a while. (Frankly, I think that was true for me as well when I first tested it out...it may be a gimmick, but it's a great one.) Mercifully, the jump controls are pretty forgiving, so he's able to basically jump whenever he wants. He also found that shouting will work for the attacks, so I don't have to worry about adjusting the sensitivity (just his sister sleeping ).

Don't get the Wii version of this. It just becomes a straightforward (if competent) platformer with no soul whatsoever, and you can probably get the GC version and the Bongos for about the same price anyway.
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8. Video Game: Super Mario 64 [Average Rating:8.25 Overall Rank:39]
Video Game: Super Mario 64
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He wasn't impressed at all with this one when I first suggested it (and it kicked off the other list), but has now asked for it specifically a few times, so I can add it here.

It started when we were doing Royal Raceway in Mario Kart 64. He mostly wanted me to drive into the pond for a while, and when we got halfway around the course, I asked if he wanted me to show him the castle. He said yes, so I drove over there. He asked if we could go inside, and I said we could in another game, and he wanted to see it.

This time, he did think it was funny to see Mario jumping around and such, after being mostly stone-faced when I first showed him (go figure). I showed him around a little, and he was into it at first, but his interest dropped off when I showed him the wing cap in the first level and he wanted me to "fly to the sea" (the texture on the invisible wall looks like the ocean) and I couldn't.

Lately, when he asks for this he says he wants Mario "to bring the baby penguin back to its mommy", which is one of the stars in the fourth world, and then we do one of the water levels (still a favorite for him, though less so for me in this one than the 2D games).

This one is more watching me play than him playing himself, though he'll run and jump a bit here and there.
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9. Video Game: Kirby Air Ride [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:3359]
Video Game: Kirby Air Ride
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I got this for him after one frustrating Mario Kart session where he was tapping the A button (rather than holding it down) and couldn't make it up a hill. I like the game (not enough to pay the premium of my own accord), but thought it'd be about perfect to play with kids. I actually got it a couple of months ago, but he wasn't really interested until he woke up from his nap recently when I was playing through Kirby's Epic Yarn.

He LOVED this. For those who haven't played before, forward motion is automatic. Every button does the same thing: brakes, then boosts on release. Perfect controls for his current comprehension level. He finished a couple of courses on his own - a first for any racing type game. (I set it up in Free Run for him.) He also got a kick out of the transformations; besides the obvious, one of the things we do at bath time is give him "crazy hair" (because he didn't used to like having his hair dried, so I did it fast and showed him in the mirror). Many of the transformations resulted in spiky hair for Kirby, so Kirby's "crazy hair" was met with much hilarity.

He played this for 10 minutes before asking to switch to Mario Kart 64...which he then played for about 10 seconds, due to the harder controls. We then switched back to New Mario Bros, which has mostly been his favorite the last month or so anyway. Either way, I don't regret picking this up for him (and I think I'll probably start my daughter with this one, if she wants to play when she's older).
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