Parent Trap: Helping Newcomers Start Playing Pokémon, Zelda and Metroid

Andy Robertson on bringing new players to the Nintendo banner

One of the difficulties of big video game series for any newcomer (never mind families) is when and how to jump in. Franchises like Skylanders, Zelda and Metroid offer lots of different games on lots of different formats that a family could buy to get started. However, the problem is that until you've tried and got to know these games it’s very hard to know which option to go for.

The bigger the franchise the more difficult the decision is. Purists will insist that you should start at the beginning, following the series through chronologically. Others will have their favourite iteration that they think is the best place to start.

Pokémon is perhaps the biggest of these series and therefore presents the biggest problem. Each game is crammed full of complexity and a different mix of gameplay and Pokémon to collect. Even if you do decide which platform and game to get you then need to decide which of the two versions to pick up, as each main entry is usually split into two titles.

It’s a minefield for the well versed, but for families it can mean they choose to simply avoid the decision all together, opting instead for the simpler family mini-game experiences that will last them all of five minutes.

This is where, I suggest, Pokémon X & Y comes in. Not only is it an iteration of the series on the latest hardware, but it also offers some simplified controls and super accessible multiplayer modes. For newcomers, or those who are returning after a break from the series, it really is a compelling way to get started.

Starting with this latest version also works with Pokémon as the game is not as heavily story-led as some other Nintendo experiences. Whichever game you pick up first the learning curve is about what these Pokémon creatures are, how you use them and why – rather than about what is happening in the narrative.

Working with some of my test families, we made this video around how they got on with the new game. As you can see it’s the multiplayer aspect of Pokémon X & Y that they really hooked onto. Being able to simply exchange and battle Pokémon with both the local wireless and internet WiFi connectivity not only offered a lot of accessible entertainment but also meant they could use voice-chat to stay in touch while they were away.

Pokémon X & Y adds a second knock-out punch in the form of the 2DS. Of course the pairing of a new system with a new game is an arbitrary decision and one that revolves around release timing as much as anything else. However, for families this offers not only an easy way in to play Pokémon on 2DS a reason to jump from DS to “3DS” games — something that parents will also appreciate as they can then catch up with the last two Professor Layton games on 3DS.

So there you have it, Parent Trap’s case for starting Pokémon with X & Y. I’m sure you have other iterations of the series that you’d like to suggest for newcomers — as well suggestions for other big Nintendo games. Which Zelda game on DS should families start with (not forgetting that GBA slot)? Where best is it to start Metroid, not forgetting its overarching story? Or how about the best place to rock up in Phoenix Wright? Let us have your own answers by posting a comment below.

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