Getting your first video game console is something you never forget. For my brother and I, it was Easter morning in 1990. We giggled our way across the room to rip open the wrapping paper. We knew just what was inside. And even though everyone else had already long saved Princess Zelda, we loved our Nintendo Entertainment System with all our hearts.
Parents strive to treat their families to amazing experiences. Catapult, in partnership with Intel, is the field guide for the modern mom, offering tech-based at-home activities that will build lasting memories.
Video games were such an integral and emotional part of our childhoods. Many of us found true community huddled around a Space Invaders arcade or discussing the tricks to rescuing Princess Peach sitting cross-legged with bruised knees on our parents’ bed. And we definitely learned a thing or two about suspension of disbelief. It’s only natural to want to share those nostalgic feelings and vintage digital challenges with the next generation.
Games can offer little people a platform to strategize, problem solve, and improve their hand-eye coordination. They can explore a new universe with new rules and overcome adversity with no real-life consequences. Showing your kids the vintage video and computer games you loved also allows you to exert more control over what they’re doing in the digital realm. The rise of virtual reality and insanely expensive consoles makes bonding over Pong a cheap, entertaining, and wholesome way to introduce kids to a piece of history. And every parent alive would prefer their kid spend the day eating cherries as Ms. Pac-Man than on a first person shooter game like Call of Duty. And no joke, Super Mario Bros. is still a lot of fun to play. There’s even a planned re-release of the game for the hottest new console of the season, the Nintendo Switch.
Bring your kid to the nearest arcade for a real day of gamers past. There’s something infinitely more rewarding about playing a game in an arcade, even if it involves crashing cars or shooting zombies. Your kids will be forced to talk to people, even if it’s just to cash in their tickets for a prize. Playing Donkey Kong or Galaga, while being cheered on by friends and family will become one of their most cherished memories.
Back at home, there are plenty of old school games that you can just plug into the TV and play, like Pac-Man Connect and Play or the Atari Plug & Play Game. If Sega was more your thing growing up, there’s a Sega Genesis Classic Game Console with 81 classic games like the Sonic series and Mortal Kombat. Two controllers make this an opportunity to get in the zone with your kid. If you have a little extra money to throw at this activity, get a Pandora’s Box 5s 999, which has 999 games, a built-in joystick, and can support two players. FreeWebArcade also offers all the classic games to those with an internet connection and a great laptop, from Q*Bert, to the all-time best way to kill your day, Tetris.
Or head over to eBay and buy an old NES system with the “Zapper Light Gun” and play Duck Hunt. Make an afternoon out of it. Just know, they don’t work on HDTVs, so dig up an old CRT television while you’re at it. If you want to save dough and you have a little hacker-in-training, get an emulator and a ROM and play retro games on your PC. You can let us know in twenty years what it’s like to parent the next Steve Jobs.
The appeal of certain games may be harder to explain to your kids, like ones you played on your mom’s Commodore 64. These include Frogger and The Oregon Trail, which, if you are a Gen Xer or older millennial, really defined an innocent period of your childhood. Nowadays, you can grab a Frogger Plug and Play Classic Arcade Game to hook into your television for a daylong session of dodging killer cars. And The Oregon Trail? You just have to visit the site ClassicReload and you’re on your way to explaining what typhoid is to an eight year old! This site has more than 5,000 DOS/Window and classic console games you can play right online, so let that typhoid trivia turn into an intense week of gaming history lessons.
There are also some rad re-releases of vintage consoles. There’s the Nintendo SNES Classic with 20 vintage games that came out this year, and, just in time for the holidays, the sleek new, extremely architecturally appealing Atari product, Ataribox, that you may want to preorder for yourself.
There are plenty of other vintage games you could still play for hours if work, screaming children, and urgent bathroom breaks didn’t get in the way. Introduce them all to your children and watch them fall in love, just like you did.
Liz Tracy is a Miami-bred, Boston-based freelance writer, editor, and mother.
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