Why do we tell stories? Is it because we want to share the experiences we have gone through with others? Is it to capture the imagination, or relate an event or an idea? Ultimately, the purpose of storytelling is to entertain and enthrall, and we have been passing stories down to the next generation for as long as anyone can remember. While this likely started out with children’s books, there comes a time when you start to remember all the great experiences you had growing up, being immersed in different words and woven plots, and you want to share them with your kids, who are now too old for bed-time stories. After all, what is the point of being moved by a great narrative if you have nobody to share in that experience?
So you want to get your kid interested in playing some of these RPGs? It may be wise to start out with the classics. You’ll feel most passionate about these stories, so they’ll make a great platform for starting your kids out on this excellent genre. Some of the best stories ever written were featured in games during the last 20 years. Start with your favorites, the ones you played as a kid. Maybe you fell in love with Chrono Trigger’s epic journey through time, or Final Fantasy VI’s tapestry of what it means to be human. Whatever game(s) you choose, make sure to talk to your kids about how these stories have affected them. Find out what they liked or didn’t like, and share an experience or two about how you felt while playing. If you have any difficulty tracking down these titles, the Nintendo Wii and WiiU both have a catalog of them in their Virtual Console service, available for direct download.
However, if your kids don’t show an interest in retro RPG games of old, there is still a bevy of new RPG games that may capture their imaginations. The Final Fantasy series has persisted long enough where multiple generations can enjoy it. Though you may or may not have a preference for the earlier iterations, newer stories in the series touch on relevant current topics, albeit within the parameters of a fantasy story, and they make excellent experiences for your kids. The Tales Series, such as Tales of Abyss, or Vesperia, and the Dragon Quest series (which are numbered like Final Fantasy) both have a more cartoony look appropriate for kids, but still maintain large-scale adventures that will definitely hold the attention of the older crowd. The recently released Fire Emblem: Awakening has excellent characterization set against a strategy RPG backdrop, but the story is just as moving as some of the ones we played years ago. Also, if your kids are into the cartoon style of Studio Ghibli productions (such as My Neighbor Totoro), then Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch will delight them with a colorful and vibrant, yet still deep story, with characters you’ll love as much as they do.
However, you may want to steer clear of Western RPGs for your kids, at least while they’re younger, if you want to spark their imaginations. While most of these games are amazing in their own right, many of the best ones tend to focus more on combat aspects and gameplay rather than storyline or depth of plot. In these cases, you’re less likely to identify and relate to having similar experiences with your kids, since the majority of their time spent with the games will be spent in battles. That is not to say these games are poorly made, they definitely contain some of the best experiences in gaming. You just might find it more difficult to share a moment with them about it afterwards.
No matter how you choose to approach RPGs for your kids, the most important thing to remember, is that storytelling shares an experience. Optimally, we’d all be laughing with our kids about how awesome that one scene in Breath of Fire was, but if not, we can settle for sharing a lifetime of stories with our families, that they can enjoy just as much as we did the first time.