It wasn't so long ago that suggesting the family gather around the TV to play a video game together would have been greeted with grunts of confusion, if not howls of dismay. That all changed when the Wii came along, and suddenly mums and dads, grannies and grandpas all understood what the fuss was about. Today, putting on a game to pass the time before the turkey is done is just another part of the festivities, so with that in mind here's our pick of the five best party games of 2012.
If you want to be at the cutting edge of communal gaming, then Nintendo's Wii U is the must-have hardware of the season. Its touch-screen tablet controller, combined with the traditional Wii remotes (you can use the ones you already have) mean that multiplayer games can venture into areas never seen before. For the perfect illustration, pick up Nintendo Land, which offers twelve mini-games ranging from competitive action to cooperative puzzling. Luigi's Ghost Mansion, for example, has one player playing as a ghost, using the tablet controller to escape from up to four other players who are chasing them around a maze. With racing games, shooting games and rhythm music games, it's a brilliant showcase of what can be done when one player has their own screen, and it'll keep you playing together well into 2013.
Maybe you're not quite ready to take the leap into Wii U? Don't worry - there's plenty of life left in the original Wii, as Mario Party 9 proved earlier this year. Reinventing the evergreen virtual board game series, you'll travel with the other players across various zones in dinky vehicles, rolling a dice to see how far you'll go. There are multiple routes through each area, cooperative boss fights at the end, and with eighty mini-games to try no two games will ever play the same way. Of course, you can play any of the challenges separately if you want to practice, or if you just don't have time for a full game. Bright, breezy and effortlessly entertaining, it's a game that everyone can enjoy.
Perhaps your family and friends are a little more game savvy, and prefer a more focused experience? In that case, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3, PS Vita) should keep everyone happy. Played one-on-one, it's a thunderingly good fighting game (as you'd expect with former Street Fighter man Seth Killian in charge), but with more players it becomes a manic and hilarious romp as characters from SONY's biggest and coolest franchises run, jump and duke it out in wild interactive arenas. If you ever wondered what it would look like if Nathan Drake and Kratos had a fight with Sackboy and Parappa the Rapper, here's your chance.
All that fighting might go against the spirit of the season, so why not try a competition that's a little less in-your-face? Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, 3DS, PS Vita, PC) is another massive character crossover game, but this time you'll be battling in cool vehicles that shapeshift from cars to boats to planes depending on the environment. There are weapons, but it'll take more than crazed aggression to win these races around the glorious arcade-bright tracks. No matter who's playing, there'll be a character you'll love - whether it's Sonic himself, Shinobi's ninja hero Joe Musashi or movie star Wreck-It Ralph.
Finally, dancing games are still the default party game and with good reason. From sprightly kids to game-for-a-laugh grannies, everyone can have a laugh with Just Dance 4 (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3). There's a dance battle mode for those who want to prove their moves, a deep "Dance Quest" system for those who want a solid gameplay structure, and a track list that offers something for all tastes. The kids can get down to Justin Bieber, Jessie J and Carly Rae Jepsen, while mums can wiggle their posteriors to timeless hits from Rocky Horror Picture Show and Dirty Dancing, as well as pop classics from Rick Astley and Britney Spears. There's even pomp-rock classic The Final Countdown, which might tempt brandy-sozzled dads off the sofa for a quick shimmy.
Whichever game you choose, you're guaranteed a great time and great memories. Just remember to share the embarrassing pics on Facebook, OK?