One of the best things about video games is how diverse they can be; the difference between Tetris and Fallout is massive. So when you're looking for a game that can help get you (and your family) through Thanksgiving, there are a lot of choices. And it all depends on what you want to do. Do you want to get out some aggression with your uncle? Teach your little cousin how to build stuff? Or chill out and enjoy a good story together? No matter your mood, one of these will help make your Thanksgiving just a bit better.
Want to get creative?
Super Mario might be the closest thing gaming has to a universal language. Nearly everyone understands how he jumps and what happens when you grab a mushroom. Super Mario Maker for the Wii U lets you use that knowledge to build your own Mario levels for other people to play. It's an incredibly intuitive process — the Gamepad's touchscreen makes it easy to drag and drop new items into your creation — and, even though it's technically a single-player game, it's a lot of fun to build stages and then watch your friends and family play them in real time.
For a few years rhythm games were the go-to multiplayer experience for many people; there's just something universal about wanting to pretend to be a rock star. This year both Guitar Hero and Rock Band made a comeback, and while both have their good points, Rock Band 4 has one particular feature that makes it perfect for showing off your creative side: guitar solos. For the first time in the series, you can freestyle during the solo portions of a song, instead of simply following on-screen instructions. It's not only a lot of fun, but it's also a great way to make everyone think you're actually good at guitar.
There is a very strong possibility that at least one person in your family is a fan of Property Brothers. If that's the case, what you need to do is grab that person, sit down beside them on the couch, and break out a Nintendo 3DS with a copy of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. The game takes place in the adorable Animal Crossing universe, but this time you're put in the role of an interior designer. Animals will give you loose guidelines for how they want their home to look, and from there you have complete freedom to design their dream home. You even get to design restaurants and shops. It's possible to make some really cute locations, though if you're in the mood for something darker, you could always build a new settlement in Fallout 4.
In the mood for some action?
The biggest portion of Star Wars Battlefront is its online multiplayer, where you can engage in massive space battles with people all over the world, and customize your own character with different looks and weapons. But the game also includes a local split-screen mode, which makes it perfect for playing together on a couch. The survival mode is a particular highlight: you and a partner take on the role of two Rebel soldiers, taking on increasingly challenging waves of Imperial forces, from stormtroopers to TIE fighters. Nothing keeps a family together quite like bringing down a towering AT-ST as a team.
If you're not in the mood for shooting, though, there's always jumping. The sleek, minimalist N++ takes a familiar concept — Mario-style platforming — and turns it into one of the most intense games of the year. In the process of completing a single level you will likely die dozens of times (at least), dodging everything from laser beams to homing missiles. The game also introduces a new co-operative mode to the series, so that you can share the game's intense joys and horrible lows with another person sitting right next to you.
Of course, it's not always possible for everyone to get together in one place on Thanksgiving, but the internet makes it relatively easy to play games together online. And Nintendo's Splatoon is one of the only family-friendly online shooters around. It's more paintball than death match, tasking two teams of four with painting as much of a level as possible before time runs out. It manages to be fun even if you have terrible aim; you can even wield a giant paint roller instead of a gun. The only real drawback is the lack of voice chat, but, depending on your family, that might not be such a bad thing.
chill out and enjoy a good story (Together)
In a lot of ways, a lot of games are starting to resemble television — which means you can enjoy them with other people in the same room, just like a good TV show. Only one person can play at a time, but that doesn't make the experience any less communal. Life is Strange is a perfect example of this. The game is divided into five episodes, each around two hours long, and follows the story of a young high school student with the power to rewind time. It plays out a lot like a TV show, except at key points you'll be able to make decisions that influence how the story plays out. Having a couple of extra people to help can make those decisions a lot easier to make.
If you're looking for something a bit more eerie and relaxing, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture tosses you into a quaint English town with one very important twist: every single person has disappeared. There's no action, so you don't have to worry about failing, but the story comes at you in different ways — from phone messages to scraps of paper laying around — and picking up on everything can be a challenge. It's a big help having someone there to point out clues you might otherwise walk right past, or connect narrative dots that aren't totally obvious. And since the ending is very ambiguous, it also leaves plenty of room for post-feast arguing about what really happened.
Similarly, Her Story is one of gaming's few great whodunits, a game that involves nothing more than watching clips from a series of interrogation clips. You're presented with an ancient-looking computer screen, which you can use to search key terms and then watch any corresponding clips. All of the video is of Hannah Smith, a woman whose husband died in an as-of-yet unsolved case. By watching her old interrogation videos you have to figure out if it was an accident or murder. There are plenty of twists, and like a good episode of Sherlock, they're best enjoyed with someone else.