One happy family

The 3DS is quite a system, and has found its way into the hands of more than 50 million players all over the world. However, there are a few features on the console that families often overlook, one of which is Download Play.

Of course, expert and avid Nintendo players know all about Download Play, but as a consequence it often falls from the conversation. Introducing a family to this feature, particularly on games they already own, has won me the odd free drink at the pub the last few years.

While there are a long list of games offering Download Play on the 3DS, the two I've found most useful to introduce the concept to families are Mario Kart 7 and The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes. Mario Kart makes the point about competitive play for up to 8 players with one cart, while Zelda offers more focused collaborative play for just 3 players.

For a family there are a couple of specific benefits in my experience. Foremost is the obvious cost saving of only requiring to purchase a single copy of the game. In my family, this has meant that my children have chosen to collect different Download Play games between them to maximise their play choices.

There's also the novelty factor of getting the game setup with just on cart. Although it's a feature provided by design, it feels like a hack getting it working. My youngest takes great delight in having memorised not only how to set it up but pretty much the full list of Download Play games.

Mario Kart 7 is a good example, as it offers broad functionality to those who have downloaded the game to play but at the same time has to limit the options. While players can compete on any course, the downloaders are stuck racing with Shyguy and have no Kart customisations.

It handles a mixed economy of players well, with any of the 8 being able to use the game if they have it or opt for download as need be. In Zelda Tri-Force Heroes you have to choose between either Local or Download play, which is slightly more limiting.

Here though, the gameplay offers something quite different to a family group of players. While I'm used to being able to wade in and "help" the kids when they are stuck (I end up taking over a bit, if I'm honest), here I have to collaborate with them to progress.

Luigi's Mansion 2 is another popular game for us in the Download Play area. Here though, like other 3DS games, the download experience is focused on a multiplayer mode. This can sound like a compromise, but in the case of Luigi's Mansion it takes that compelling ghost-hunting mechanic and fits it perfectly for up to four players.

Other popular Download play games for us include Tetris Axis, Mario Tennis Open, Street Fighter IV and Kirby: Triple Deluxe. I'm sure you can suggest some others, and point out particular limitations for families in the comments. This is all before we even touch on the DS games with Download Play features.

The other feature of the 3DS that families often overlook is the eShop. Particularly those that have tried the DSWare feature on the DSi, there is the assumption that this is just a convenient distraction rather than a major way to find and buy games.

For families the eShop has grown into one of the best introductions to the world of 3DS gaming. Reading star ratings and reviews is a great way for them to find hot new games. Demos and videos of games also take the mystery out of purchasing.

Of particular use are the store subsections. The Indie section is a great way to introduce new gamers to the joys of Shovel Knight, Xeodrifter or Mutant Mudds. Then of course the Virtual Console section brings together retro games parents may remember from their childhood.

What I want to know are your suggestions for Download Play games for families or great value games from the eShop. Let's make this Parent Trap post the place to go for the best details on these games, along with any shortcomings to watch out for.