10 Cool Games of 2009 That Are Uncool for Kids (and 10 Alternatives)

Violent video games can be high quality, and still inappropriate for kids.
Caroline Knorr Parenting Editor | Mom of one Categories: Screen Time, Violence in the Media
Parenting Editor | Mom of one

Kids often give their parents major grief for crossing "cool" games off of holiday wish lists. In kid logic, games are "cool" when they have awesome graphics and gameplay, envelope-pushing storylines, and all manners of weaponry. And they aren't wrong. The games they want typically are well constructed, thoughtful, and exciting. But they're often inappropriate for the teens who hunger for them.

A lot of this season's most talked-about games include ones with excessive violence, negative role models, extreme gore, sociopathic behavior, and other things that have been proven to have a negative effect on kids.

So how do you give kids what they want without giving them what you don't want? Know your options. Follow our tips on a choosing great video games, check out our 2009 video game gift guide, and offer alternatives that don't veer into unhealthy territory.

We've compiled a list of this season's hottest games, plus 10 you can say yes to. In choosing our alternatives, we stuck with T-rated titles geared for ages 12-15, and we matched gaming systems -- so if you nix an M-rated PS3 game, you can replace it with a similar T-rated PS3 game.

10 Cool Games That Are Uncool for Kids (and 10 Alternatives)

Assassin's Creed II Authentically recreated Renaissance cities, near photo-realistic action, and historical accuracy make this a great game for mature players. But playing as an assassin who relies on an arsenal of weapons makes the violence excessive.
Alternative: Mirror's Edge

Borderlands This first-person shooter earned critical acclaim for its innovative use of weaponry, comic-book-like world, and online play. But the game (which has a cover that shows a character shooting himself in the head) has strong language, human enemies used as target practice, mature humor, and lots of blood and gore.
Alternative: Infamous

Brutal Legend  Cartoon-like in its graphics and delivery, this fantasy action game nonetheless features plenty of violence, including the ability to hack and slash demonic armies with your double-sided axe.
Alternative: Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 An immersive first-person perspective ups the realism of this shooter, which contains a controversial (but optional) level where you go undercover as an enemy terrorist.
Alternative: Battlefield: Bad Company

Dead Space: Extraction  This atmospheric, horror-filled tale offers players a unique cooperative play option, but its use of violence -- like blood spurting out of victims' bodies, human carcasses littering the floor, blood-stained walls and floors, and copious screams of torture -- put it over the top.
Alternative: Deadly Creatures

Dragon Age: Origins  This is a masterly crafted but combat-heavy game featuring decapitations and swords plunged deeply into monsters' chests.
Alternative: Braid

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony  Frequent and ruthless violence, gratuitous sex, lawlessness, drinking, drugs -- this isn't a game for kids. But the fully interactive open world offers an immersive diversion for hardcore gamers.
Alternative: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Demon's Souls  It's not just the copious amounts of blood and the smaller enemies who fall like rag dolls at your feet -- this game also has a depressing vibe. Because you constantly die, it can break the spirit of even the most seasoned gamer, but hardcore players relish this kind of challenge.
Alternative: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Left 4 Dead 2  Teamwork is an essential component of this super-gory shooter, but violence -- players are meant to gawk at and appreciate the extreme levels of gore -- plays a much greater role.
Alternative: Overlord II

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars  Don't let the cartoon-like look and DS platform fool you. While this game's fully realized world and challenging missions are fun for adults, players can use the services of prostitutes, run over pedestrians, and kill police officers.
Alternative: C.O.P.: The Recruit

Video Game Editor Jinny Gudmunsen contributed to this article.

About Caroline Knorr

As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for…?"... Read more

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Comments (5)

Teen, 14 years old written by Bionic Reviewer

I'm not entirely sure the author of this article actually tried to play any of these games. A platformer game, in place of a medieval-fantasy action RPG? A Batman game in place of Grand Theft Auto? No. I agree with whoever said the game The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind should replace Dragon Age. Morrowind contains a small amount of blood and a large world to explore with an interesting story. It's also actually in the same genre as Dragon Age. Heck, even a Skyrim modded to be appropriate is a better replacement then Braid. InFamous isn't a heck of a lot like Borderlands, either. InFamous is actually a better GTA replacement than that. I tried Ghostbusters, as well. I found it extremely long and dull, younger players might not enjoy that. In place of Brutal Legend, well, not too many great replacements for that, but, Ghostbusters? What the heck do they even have in common? Even a Ben 10 game would do better than that.
Teen, 17 years old written by TheIrishVaultHunter

Wait,what?Infamous instead of borderlands?This is the second time I've read an article like this where the suggestions have nothing to do with the other game.
Kid, 12 years old

I am a fan of braid. I am a fan of Ghostbusters. I LOVE Infamous. But suggesting these as alternatives is just crap. Pardon my language, but it's crap. Batman Arkham Asylum is just as inappropiate as... whatever the heck It's supposed to be replacing, I don't know! Instead of trying to offer alternatives, parents should use these oppurtunities to teach children about mature themes. I'm not saying to give a six year old L.A. Noire (Appropiate for 13+) but if I hear "They only get better" on more time...
Kid, 11 years old

good that parents are aware of this stuff. but braid has nothing in common with dragon age, and will dissappoint kids that get it. i suggest Elder scrolls three in place of dragon age.