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Non-violent videogame gifts for the holidays (2013)

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 9:50AM Friday December 13, 2013
under Holidays

Looking for a videogame gift to put under someone's tree? If you're a parent like me and the recipient is a teen, tween, or even younger kid, you might prefer something free of blood, guts, guns, and other violent images.

Alas, that leaves out a lot of the hot new releases, including Assassin's Creed IV, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Grand Theft Auto V. I'm not wild about exposing my kids to so much realistically rendered brutality. (That's what TV is for! Kidding, kidding.)

Fortunately, alternatives exist. If you want to give the kids something new for the Xbox, PlayStation, PC, or Wii, you can choose from plenty of fun-filled titles that haven't a trace of violence, gore, or adult themes.

Look to LEGO
For starters, look no further than the LEGO series of games, most of which are available for all three major consoles (and, in some cases, the Nintendo DS).

The latest entry, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, exhibits all the hallmarks of the previous titles (which include LEGO Lord of the Rings, LEGO Star Wars, and LEGO Harry Potter): satisfying puzzles, clever humor, fun nods to the movies on which they're based, and not a shred of objectionable content.

(I should note that the LEGO games do involve some fighting and/or shooting, but nothing of a realistic nature. Instead, it's more like the kind of pretend "pew-pew" stuff kids do on the playground.)

Go for a Drive
There's nothing inherently violent about racing, right? (Well, apart from occasional bouts of road rage.) That's why racing games make great gifts for kids, as they also allow them to virtually engage in an activity they can't yet do in the real world: drive.

The hot new racing games this year include Gran Turismo 6 (PS3), MX vs. ATV Reflex (Xbox and PS3), and Need for Speed Rivals (Xbox and PS3).

Have a Ball
Although a few sports (hockey, football) are pretty violent in real life, there's nothing too bone-crushing about their videogame counterparts.

And every year the well-known sports franchises release new versions of their popular titles, with new features, players, updates, and so on. This year there's NBA 2K14 for basketball fans, FIFA 14 for the soccer crowd, NHL 14 for hockey lovers, and, of course, Madden NFL 25 for football.

Get Kinect-ed
I'm also a big fan of Microsoft's Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360 (and newer Xbox One), which gets kids off the couch for physically active motion-controlled gaming.

Best bet: Zumba Kids, a dance-oriented game for ages 7-12. For older kids there's Just Dance 2014, which challenges players to match dance moves with onscreen avatars. It features dozens of new and popular tunes, with an option to buy more from a built-in store. Just Dance 2014 is also available for PlayStation and Wii.

How to Save on Videogames
Thanksgiving is over, but let's talk turkey. New videogame releases always carry a premium priceā€”o ften as high as $60. If you're looking for cheaper alternatives, skip the new releases and opt for last year's big hits. Most of them will be heavily discounted by now.

Thus, instead of Just Dance 2014 ($40-50), pick up Just Dance 3 for around $20. Likewise, where LEGO Marvel Super Heroes will set you back $50-60, last year's LEGO Lord of the Rings can routinely be found for under $20.

That's one surefire way to make everybody happy this holiday season.

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and, and also writes for PC World and Wired.