Create and nurture a society from mud huts up through space travel in this modern masterpiece, now playable on some of the consoles. $60. Rated E 10+. Xbox 360, PSP, PS3, DS.
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Best Educational Video Games
An engaging brain teaser that has you popping the world from two dimensions to three to navigate the various levels. $30. Rated E10+. PSP.
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
This long-running series recently had one of its best incarnations for the mighty Wii. $45. Rated T. Wii.
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga
Lego plus Star Wars characters plus puzzles plus comedy equals a near-perfect game that's fun and challenging for multiple generations. From $35. Rated E10+. Xbox 360, PS3, DS, Wii.
Little Big Planet
Don't be fooled by the lighthearted exterior — this game is a remarkably deep journey. $60. Rated E. PS3.
It's a shooter without bullets, a puzzle without pieces — a genuine mind-bender. This standout, released in 2007, features thought-provoking gameplay and outstanding writing. From $20. Rated T. PC, Xbox 360, PS3.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Navigate a giant series of puzzles to solve the town's mysteries and help its inhabitants. $30. Rated E. DS.
The latest in the long-running city-building series still has the magic. You can now play the original SimCity online for free at simcity.ea.com/play/classic. From $30. Rated E. Wii, DS.
The objective here is to design bacteria, then guide them through a millennium's worth of evolution. From $30. Rated E10+. PC, Mac, DS.
Thrillville: Off the Rails
An amusement park simulator that's equal parts management and fun. The cherry on top? You can ride roller coasters built to your specifications. From $30. Rated E10+. Xbox 360, PSP, DS, Wii.
Originally published in the November 1, 2008, issue of Family Circle magazine.