When my wife asked me what I was hoping to accomplish by nesting an Xbox controller in my two-year-old daughter's tiny hands — I told her “a co-op partner“, failing to realise that she couldn't so much as reach both joysticks — let alone the whole pad. And that, of course, is what led us to a two-year training montage, crammed with simple-minded games, all of which helped develop her underlying skills and strengthen our cooperation. And now, although not quite at the phase of sliding through Gears of War together — we've just about cracked a LEGO game. Before that, however, we had to endure the easier worlds. Worlds that, honestly, made Viva Pinata look like Dark Souls.
Introducing video games to your little one can be one of the most entertaining things in the world. They'll study your actions, learn from your mistakes, and, more than likely spend more time running counterclockwise than actually progressing through the story. But that's okay. It's all a part of the experience, as well as something you'll both remember for the rest of your gaming lives. But it all has to start somewhere, right? So, allow these five simple yet fun games to be the initiation sequence for your little one. A whole life awaits at the press of a button. All you need to do is teach them how to push it.
Ah yes, Phogs. Think of Cat-Dog, only more Dog-Dog, so to speak. That's basically the concept behind this charming little platformer, and, essentially the running theme for every enchanting violet-soaked level. You play as two dogs merged into one being, with the ability to control both with either stick on one controller, or separately over two. However, using one, for training purposes, is probably the best method for honing your little player's skills. At least to begin with, anyway.
The idea is simple: navigate various platforms and use a combination of teamwork and initiative to obtain certain key items. Progress through enough of them and you'll spiral into other wondrous worlds based on food, sleep and play. That's all there is to it, and it really is a nice little way to settle into some forgiving entry-level puzzles for a short while. Plus, it's ideal for a little pair of hands that can only just about reach a single joystick and trigger. Together, you can just about power through Phogs and its joyous world with ease. Eventually.
4. Rain on Your Parade
Similar to Phogs, Rain on Your Parade also offers plenty of rainbow-riddled environments with just as much simple-minded fun. While not being a co-op title per se, it is something you can tackle as a team, if only on one controller. Also, button-wise, it isn't overly complex, to begin with, meaning you'll be able to master the mechanics without the hassle of actually teaching them in return. One controls the cloud, and the other pours the rain. Simple.
The reason why I'm leaning towards Rain on Your Parade isn't because of the merry little settings it brings to life, nor the simplicity of its controls. But more the various video game references that encourage adult players to progress alongside the tiny, more unaware gamer. Metal Gear Solid, weirdly enough, gets a brief nod on one level, along with a few others, all of which provide a good laugh between older generations. But overall, above the references lies a quirky gem in which you just have to rain on people and spoil their day. It's simple, yet oh so effective.
3. Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure
One cluster of games that will most definitely bring a few smiles to your little one's face is Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure, along with its spool of animated icons and nostalgic settings. Also, being a perfect example of co-op gaming for a younger target audience, there really is no journey better than the one embedded within this pocket Pixar world. Plus, we can all agree that anybody in their twenty-somethings will also shed a few blissful tears over the resurrection of some early Pixar greats, too. And yes, I am talking about Toy Story and The Incredibles. The rest are mere cherries on the Bakewell, to be honest.
Rush offers you and your customizable character the chance to explore a Pixar themed park, in which you can immerse yourself in various worlds either alone or with a partner. From Toy Story to Finding Nemo, Cars to The Incredibles, Ratatouille to UP, each jam-packed portion allows you the freedom to become one with the franchise and embark on various themed quests. Work together to complete puzzles, defeat scheming bosses and hoard shiny collectables. Do whatever takes your fancy — so long as it's in the name of Pixar and friends.
2. Zoo Tycoon
Although not a co-op exclusive as such, Zoo Tycoon does assign its moments that require a helping hand to navigate. But while you can't exactly slump the financials and bookkeeping onto your toddler's naive little shoulders, you can work together to craft the park of your dreams, filled with all the animals one could possibly imagine. And considering Zoo Tycoon along with most park management games have sandbox modes — your creativity truly is your only boundary with this one.
From the outback habitats where kangaroos pounce to the shrouded waterholes where the crocodile's slumber, Zoo Tycoon opens up to one enormous world where almost anything is made possible. Build, imagine and evolve as you set out to create an outstanding empire where the sky's the limit. Work together to keep customers happy with gift shops and milkshake shacks, and everything in-between. Just be sure to hire a dozen janitors to help mop up the mounds of poop you'll encounter. It comes by the truckload, I'm telling you.
1. Disneyland Adventures
We'll stick by our guns and say that Asobo's well-carved Disneyland Adventures is still hands-down the best game to play with your little co-op companion. Even if you're the most clueless Disney fan in the world, the material it features practically rolls out to everyone, with levels practically tailored to any skill level and background. And even if mini-games don't necessarily appeal to you or you haven't quite reached that stage yet, simply patrolling the Disney park replica can provide endless hours of magic and bliss. And to be honest, nobody captures that exact magic quite as well Asobo, meaning it really is an absolute must for any Disney lover.
Disneyland Adventures puts you at the forefront of the Magic Kingdom experience, with all the slideshows and features stacking up to recreate the next best thing to the Orlando resort. After creating a character, you can explore the whole of the park, acquire autographs and meet the Disney roster, transform your surroundings with the wave of a wand, and even purchase themed costumes to wow the many princesses that wander the resort. Throw in an ocean of interactive rides and mini-games, and you've got yourself one of the most magical video games ever created.