Game recommendations for 9 year old son

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Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:44 am

I've been a long-time Tech Report reader but have seldom used the forums. To my knowledge, this is my first new thread.

My son is age 9 and seems to enjoy games in a variety of formats. He has an iTouch on which he plays games. He has a Wii system on which he plays games.

He also has a PC that we built a few years back. I don't remember the exact specs but it has a E5200 Wolfdale CPU, Radeon HD4830 graphics card w/ 512MB RAM, and 2MB of RAM. It runs Windows XP. I realize that relative to modern systems it is underpowered. Heck, it was somewhat underpowered when I bought the components in Feb. 2009. Upgrading it is not an option, based on current financial realities.

Lately he has engrossed himself watching videos on youtube of some guy playing Minecraft. These videos seem to entertain him for hours. Yet it would seem that he would be more entertained playing games rather than watching someone else play games. This week he asked me, 'where is the app store for the computer?' So he knows enough to go to an app store on his iTouch and is querying about the same sort of service for his PC.

I am extremely tech savvy with regard to building and using computers, including finding just about everything I need over the Internet. However, my usage is for productivity, not games. When it comes to games I am a relative newbie.

So, that's the background.

I come to you, my TechReport friends, for guidance in obtaining age-appropriate games for my son for both his PC and his Wii. I would welcome any suggestions, whether it be commercial games that he would enjoy or websites that would serve as an 'app store.' I am aware of Steam, but unsure how it works. Thank you in advance for your help.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:51 am

In a nutshell...

Sounds like step 1 is to get him a copy of Minecraft for the PC. It is available for sale on their web site.

Steam is effectively the leading "app store" for PC games. If you wait for sales you can get some good deals. Just vet them first (Google is your friend!) to make sure they are age appropriate. Edit: And pay attention to minimum system requirements, since this is a somewhat older PC.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:53 am

Here's a clone of a very old but very awesome game that I played as a kid: http://www.droidquest.com/

It's based on the game called Robot Odyssey, which was an educational game that taught you logical circuit design in the context of programming robots to escape an underground city.

Bonus 1: It's free!
Bonus 2: It'll run on practically any PC you can find!
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:18 pm

Another random thought, since cost may be an issue...

If you're looking for a shedload of free PC games that could keep a 9YO amused for months, and which carry about as close to zero risk of malware as you can get, dual-boot the system or install a free virtualization tool like VirtualBox, and install a copy of Ubuntu Linux. There are literally hundreds of packages available in the "Games and Amusements" category of the official Ubuntu repository.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:24 pm

I would posit that there are no age appropriate multiplayer games for a 9 year old on any platform--at least not those with voice/chat. Plenty of good single player stuff out there or chaperoned web sites. The only games I'll let my 9 year old play when I'm not able to sit with him run on offline consoles (Playstation 2, Gamecube, etc.) that are rated "E for everyone". We do play some stuff online together at heavily policed sites like Raz Kids, Cool Math Fun, and Disney. Online stuff with voice/chat is just a parenting disaster for a 9 year old. You will end up having to de-program him like the kids in the South Park movie. Even watching videos of other people playing Minecraft on Youtube is going to leave you scrambling for the bleep button every so often. I just don't let him do it yet.
Last edited by cjcerny on Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:34 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:25 pm

My son is 11 and does Minecraft, Spore, and now at my suggestion, FTL. Spore and FTL are both on Steam.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:45 pm

My daughter is also about 9YO. She does enjoy minecraft. She also likes Portal and Portal 2, though she struggles with some of the tougher puzzles. We generally hang out together while she plays it and I help her with hints.

I've been looking into Quantum Conundrum as well.

It is a bit of a step up in difficulty I think, but he may enjoy Antichamber.

Fez is another that he'd probably like.

Most of these are on steam, and are pretty cheap and should run on a low end system...
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 1:46 pm

Without a doubt you should pay attention to http://www.humblebundle.com They sell groups of games for very low prices (often pay what you want) and most of the games are either indie games or older name games that could run well on your son's system. I know as I'm running on a OC'ed E5200 with a 650TI and all but the most recent games run okay on my system. (Though I do intend to upgrade to most likely a 4670K soon.)
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:04 pm

I will second the recommendation for Portal 2. I don't have a 9 yr old kid, but Portal 2 is really a good brain exercise (as others have said, it might be a little tough for a 9 year old at the higher levels) and the fact that it doesn't contain any gory violence is a major plus for younger players.

I wonder if Dawn of War (Retribution/Chaos Rising) would be a decent fit. Starcraft 2? These are aimed at a slightly older audience (I played Starcraft / SC Brood War in Middle School though), but I don't recall much harsh language and they're 3rd person, so the killing/blood isn't exactly happening in front of your face. On second thought...Civilization 5 would probably be a better choice in this regard.

Driving games could be fun, DiRT Showdown is multiplayer-capable (XBox controller(s) recommended).

Seems like all 8-14 year old boys these days are obsessed with Minecraft. But, that sounds like a for-sure purchase based on your OP.

Steam and Humble bundles are where you should shop. I didn't check, but you should be able to get all the games I listed for under $15 on sale at Steam since they're 1+ years old.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:37 pm

The first thing I would suggest is heading over to GoG.com and taking a look around. The offer a huge list of older games that should run fine on older hardware and at a pretty low cost, $1.19 and up. There are a bunch of games that would be right up a 9 year olds alley. They have something in every gaming genre you can think of.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:43 pm

Have a look through here as well, certainly the price is right if he finds some he likes.

http://www.pcgamer.com/2013/09/21/the-50-best-free-pc-games/
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:53 pm

One more vote for Steam.

if your son is an apt builder or strategy nut, then sadly I will have to recommend EA as well: the new SimCity and Sims 3 in particular (although the latter may prove costly if you count all the expansions). Granted, I was a bit older back when the original Sims was released, but I got insane mileage out of it and literally played for years.

If I were to further project my own preferences, we'd move further away from touch device games into traditional PC territory: hack&slash and first-person games of increasingly bloody varieties. Don't worry - they cause neither stunted growth nor school shootings, as my 9 year old relative can attest. I introduced her to Half-Life 2 and its Episodes when she was 6, and it was one of the few games she kept watching me play through without ever getting bored of it. Today she plays it on her own, and while it sometimes makes her scared or jump, she just giggles at how afraid she was and then keeps moving. She's not a violent child by the way, in fact turned out better behaved than her peers.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 3:02 pm

Meadows wrote:If I were to further project my own preferences, we'd move further away from touch device games into traditional PC territory: hack&slash and first-person games of increasingly bloody varieties. Don't worry - they cause neither stunted growth nor school shootings, as my 9 year old relative can attest. I introduced her to Half-Life 2 and its Episodes when she was 6, and it was one of the few games she kept watching me play through without ever getting bored of it. Today she plays it on her own, and while it sometimes makes her scared or jump, she just giggles at how afraid she was and then keeps moving. She's not a violent child by the way, in fact turned out better behaved than her peers.

In general I agree; other than our youngest's announcement on her 18th B-day that she was joining the local Roller Derby league, none of our kids have shown any violent tendencies whatsoever (and I can't conclusively pin that on exposure to violent video games at an early age)! :lol:

Exposure to unsavory personalities in online multi-player games is more of a concern, you will need to be vigilant here.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 3:21 pm

What about the Lego games (Star Wars, Batman, etc) -- those came out some time ago, so they should run fine on an older machine. Don't know if they're available on Steam or elsewhere, though.
Speaking of that machine, though -- XP? Yikes.
just brew it! wrote:In general I agree; other than our youngest's announcement on her 18th B-day that she was joining the local Roller Derby league, none of our kids have shown any violent tendencies whatsoever (and I can't conclusively pin that on exposure to violent video games at an early age)! :lol:
Hilarious. What's her Track Name? (It isn't Brew Witch, is it?)
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 3:34 pm

UberGerbil wrote:
just brew it! wrote:In general I agree; other than our youngest's announcement on her 18th B-day that she was joining the local Roller Derby league, none of our kids have shown any violent tendencies whatsoever (and I can't conclusively pin that on exposure to violent video games at an early age)! :lol:

Hilarious. What's her Track Name? (It isn't Brew Witch, is it?)

She doesn't like beer (go figure)! I think she ODed on malt fumes as a small child. Her derby name is Dr. Bruise Banger.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 3:51 pm

Try him on OpenTTD?
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:45 pm

Ah, an opportunity to teach a young lad about the glorious days of yore, when games were games and developers had vision. A time of prosperity and enlightenment before the darkness and corruption brought upon us by the roving hordes of mobile apps and internet DRM. An elegant machine for a more civilized age, indeed.

Some suggestions, mostly classics from my own youth:

SimCity 4. Second best of the SimCity games (after SC2k of course), but with much better graphics and some kid-friendly minigames.
Civilization 3 (or 4 or 5 or whatever if you just can't do without Steam). Requires no introduction.
Stronghold. Very good and highly underrated castle sim from the guys behind the Caesar and Lords of the Realm series, with a bit of Monty Python flair. This one may carry a rating as it does involve medieval combat and cheeky, but IIRC not profane, dialog--give it a try yourself if you aren't sure.
Supreme Commander/SC:Forged Alliance. Exceptional RTS, lots of building and resource management. It was a bit of a CPU monster at the time, but I ran it on an Athlon 64 without issue so you should be okay.
Blender and/or Sketchup. I know, you said games, but if he likes Minecraft he might like making stuff with a real 3D design tool. And both of these are free, so if he doesn't like it you lose nothing.
Portal. First person puzzle game, should work on your system but do double check.
SimTower. Another Maxis game, before they became thralls of Mammon, this one involves building and managing a skyscraper.
Battletech series (Mechwarrior, Mechcommander). Giant mecha combat in a neo-feudalist future. Possibly too mature depending on your worldview and parenting approach. MechWarrior 3 and MechCommander are particular standouts, and MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries used to be a free download.
Homeworld/Homeworld 2. Best RTS games ever made, period, and one of the highlights of the sci-fi genre.


As far as keeping internet psychopaths at bay, that's simple: don't plug the machine in. Or, if you're worried that he might figure out how to connect, do some hosts file poisoning or TCP/IP blocking.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 7:20 pm

Another vote for GOG.com

You might also want to try exposing him to games from different genres like Tales of Monkey Island, Walking Dead, That new 2D Castlevania, Metal Gear Raizing, Ace Combat, etc... and encourage his hobby.


Once you can narrow down what types of games he likes, it's be much easier to recommend age-appropriate games. Hopefully, if he can handle old 320x200 256 color graphics with FM sounds, that expands the possible library exponentially.


/I know waaaaaay to much about games. *sigh*
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:01 pm

Roller Coaster Tycoon. Versions 1, 2, and 3 are available. I think v 2 is the most stable. I had real trouble getting v 3 to run on Win7. The fix was buried on an obscure website. I should be able to dig it up if you need.

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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:44 pm

How about a chemistry set, or maybe a balsa model airplane kit?
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:57 pm

Plants vs. Zombies?
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Sat Apr 26, 2014 12:48 am

Minecraft - I have set up a couple of family friendly minecraft servers for my son. Search them out, I've monitored the behavior on them and they are tame. It will require you to sign up and go through a fairly painless interview process. There are always aholes around who will break rules but generally the mods are on top of things quickly.
Spore - Easy game, cartoonish and cheap. Got a couple of months out of this one. Bonus is that he understands evolution a bit better at a young age.
Various car racing games - Easy enough to handle and none are inappropriate that I've found
PvZ is another excellent suggestion.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Sat Apr 26, 2014 4:30 am

I have 8 and 10 year old boys so I can relate very well. My kids would spend every waking hour on Minecraft given the chance, but I'm constantly impressed with the scale and scope of things they create while playing. I think it's a great option for kids around this age. The older one has started playing online with school friends on a heavily moderated server, but I do try to restrict that to times when we can keep an eye on what's going on. The biggest problem we've had with Minecraft has probably been the language in some Youtube videos more than anything else.

The kids are very much into construction/sandbox games like this, so on the PC they've also spent a lot of time with Transport Tycoon (OpenTTD) and Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 (picked up in a Steam sale at some point). The great thing is that at this age they seem far more drawn in by the content than how a game looks, so there's a huge library of older games that cost next to nothing to pick up and run fine even on an older machine or a laptop.

Away from the sandbox genre, they also really enjoy all the Lego games (Star Wars, Harry Potter, and most recently Marvel Super Heroes). All of these were very cheap in a Steam sale last week, though if you're going to play on the PC then I'd recommend picking up an Xbox 360 controller to use if you don't have one already - these games are much harder to play with a keyboard. The same games are all available on the Wii, the trade-off being that they'll be a bit more expensive to pick up. One great thing about these are that two people can play together, even on the PC version, so you can play with your son as well.

Plants vs Zombies is fine for kids of this age by the way, though the guy earlier who recommended The Walking Dead must be joking. It's a good game, but very much for adults.

Moving on to the Wii, a lot of the big Nintendo franchises are fantastic for kids. Generally very simple to pick up and play but with surprising depth. Particular highlights have been Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros, and of course Mario Kart. Away from the core Nintendo games, they've enjoyed the Skylanders series of games as well, but be warned that this involves collecting little plastic figurines to play with in the game which not inexpensive. At least we were able to use them as part of a reward system for a while...

This probably makes it sound like my kids do nothing but play computer games all day, but they're also into real Lego, sports, and antagonising each other as much as possible. :-) I'm still much happier if they're playing games than just slumped in front of the TV at the end of the day.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Sat Apr 26, 2014 12:16 pm

Its commendable to be looking for age appropriate games, for sure.

Minecraft is obviously recommended, and I also recommend browsing Steam, Good Old Games (GoG) and The Humble Bundle. Watch for ratings and read about the games to see if anything rubs you the wrong way.

As for older games that are lots of fun, Startopia is one of my all time favorites and I've actually been playing through it again. I still own the big box from 2001 but I did buy it on GoG since they integrate a lot of community patches and updates to make games a little bit more compatible with newer systems. You should have no problems running it on Windows XP with a Radeon. My laptop with an i5-3210M and HD4000 graphics plays the game very smoothly, but it did require a bit of tweaking and there are a couple of non-game-breaking graphical glitches... this is a 13 year old game running in Windows 8.1 on Intel graphics though, so I can live with that.

If he seems like he'd be interested in interactive adventure games, like the old point and click adventures from Lucas Arts, there are lots of those that are fun and available on Steam or GoG (just watch the ratings). There are also some modern ones from the last few years that are made as a throw back to those old point and click adventures... like Machinarium, Wallace and Gromit or Sam & Max.

And there's always racing games. An almost guaranteed hit would be any of the Flatout games (other than Flatout 3... it is apparently aweful). And for a really old school game that is also tons of fun to play on LAN, 1nsane is well... insane. You can get it on GoG too.

Just some other random games :
Aquaria, Safecracker, Vessel, Knytt (free), Waking Mars...

All great games, and a huge variety of gameplay.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Sat Apr 26, 2014 4:25 pm

Heh, I guess Steam is kinda the app store of games for the PC. Steam does have an entire category for free-to-play games and some of them might be worth a look. That said make sure to monitor what games are downloaded and installed to Steam's Library as not all of them are age appropriate for a nine year old.

I am a big fan of getting kids to focus on creative world builder style games. Minecraft is perfect for that. If you have heard of Oregon Trail, then FTL is mostly a space equivalent to that. Kerbal Space Program is a pure builder sim although it may be advanced for his age, he may need help getting started with it if so. Civilization V is the equivalent to the board game Risk with more focus on Civ building, it may not be his style game but on the off chance he takes a liking to it then it'll keep him entertained for quite a long time. To mention at least one free game I'll give a nod to Spiral Knights, it's a fairly tame arcade shooter. Between all of those there's a diverse range of games to try out and get a feel for what genres he likes.
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Re: Game recommendations for 9 year old son

Postposted on Tue Apr 29, 2014 3:13 pm

Thanks, everyone, for the numerous replies. I have a lot of work to do to investigate all these posts. However, despite the fact I have plenty to keep me busy for a while, please feel free to add more if it hasn't been mentioned yet. Thanks again.
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