The Guide #64: Six games the whole family will enjoy this Christmas

Games have always been an important part of the Christmas experience – whether we like it or not. Back in the middle ages, households gathered together in the bleak midwinter to play versions of blind man’s buff and truth or dare; Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was inspired by a game played in aristocratic households where the masters and servants swapped roles for a night on the last day of Christmas. The Victorians were famous for their parlour games with charades and twenty questions as important to the 19th century experience of Christmas as roasted goose and rampant diphtheria.

During my own childhood in the 1970s and 1980s, board games ruled the festive period. Frankly, was it even Christmas until someone (me) flipped the dining room table during a particularly sociopathic game of Monopoly? Did everyone have that one uncle who took Trivial Pursuit too seriously – lambasting his terrified teammates for not knowing the chemical formula of sulphuric acid, while claiming the opponents were getting all the easy questions? Did everyone else immediately break Hungry Hungry Hippos?

Fortunately we now have video games, and in the 21st century – thanks to the rise of smartphones and casual gaming – they’re varied and accessible enough for the whole family to enjoy. Here then are six games that you can easily incorporate into your standard Christmas rituals. Have fun!


Heads Up

Where can I play it? iOS/Android
How much is it? £2

This smartphone app is just a slick version of the popular guessing game where you have a post-it note stuck to your head and you have to guess the famous person, movie or object written on it based on clues from your team mates. You only need one phone to play and there are hundreds of words in its library. It also keeps the timer and score, which cuts down massively on arguments. Alternatively, there’s now a smartphone version of the popular word-based board game Taboo that works in a similar way, and Charades! by Fat Chicken Studios is the classic Victorian game with lots of fresh features and is perfect for larger groups. For more showy families, Acting Strange is a fun take on charades where you have to perform bizarre silent scenes for everyone to guess. A good one to try if the fizzy wine has been flowing.


Jackbox Party Games

Where can I play it? PC, Playstation, Xbox, Switch
How much is it? £8-£28 per pack

Available on smartphones, PC and consoles, these brilliant party game collections combine trivia questions with hilarious social deduction, bluffing and light role-playing challenges. The games are absolutely perfect for extended friend and family groups, as they test your expectations and understanding of each other rather than just your general knowledge. Ideal Christmas Eve party fare.


Moving Out

Where can I play it? PC, Playstation, Xbox, Switch
How much is it? £23

They say moving house is the most stressful thing most of us will experience, but in this game it becomes a wonderfully entertaining four-player co-operative challenge. Your aim is to get everything out of a series of houses and into the back of your van as quickly as possible without breaking anything – a task made more difficult by the ridiculously OTT physics. Frantic, shouty fun.


Just Dance 2023

Where can I play it? Playstation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch
How much is it? £30

If you’re up for more of an active experience (or just want to amuse the kids for a bit while you attack the cheese board), the latest dancing game from Ubisoft allows up to six players to dance along to an impressive variety of pop hits. You can use your smartphone as a motion sensing controller, and setting up a local multiplayer session is really easy. Also, when January hits, the game becomes an excellent fitness tool.


Mario Party Superstars

Where can I play it? Switch
How much is it? £40

The Nintendo Switch is a treasure trove of Christmas-friendly party games, but this is perhaps the (brandy) cream of the crop. Four players traverse a board game taking part in an array of quick, highly competitive mini-tasks as they go. It’s colourful, silly and intuitive, and once you have a Switch you can also enjoy similar titles Nintendo Switch Sports, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and Mario Kart 8.



Where can I play it? iOS/Android
How much is it? Free

If your household is filled with smartphone owners at Christmas, this is the perfect option. Described as a co-operative shouting game, Spaceteam gets you to team up and play as the inhabitants of a starship yelling instructions to each other to avoid a series of disasters. Each participant uses their own phone as the interface, but all the fun is in interactions between players. It’s messy, chaotic stuff. Along similar lines is Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a fabulous co-op puzzler where everyone must work together to diffuse a bomb (it gets pretty fraught, pretty quickly!)

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