Do you often find yourselves in the situation of having to entertain people who don't play video games? It happens to me fairly often. Whether only a few members of a larger group (read: friends' wives) or an entire crowd, I always think of it as my responsibility to try to enlighten them regarding the magic of video games. They're good, clean fun!
Depending on the non-gamers' level of revulsion towards gaming (which I try to gauge by the look on their face just after I bring up the activity), here are the titles which I usually pull out, ordered from least revulsion to most revulsion:
I actually feel that Smash Bros. is one of the LESS accessible fighting games, since anyone can mash buttons, but platforming and pulling off a triple jump stage recovery isn't so easy. But, with the right crowd, it's hilarious fun. And Auto-Handicap keeps it somewhat even.
Micro Machines 64!
Eight players on four controllers is always a recipe for a good time. It's like gaming Twister. Caution: Do NOT jack up the Turbo Level.
With an exclusively male crowd, flashy/violent fighting games like Fight Night or Tekken Tag Tournament 2 really get the testosterone and (virtual) blood flowing. Caution: May repulse females.
Or Burnout Revenge. These are very accessible, arcadey racing games with lots of amusing destruction. Grand Theft Auto and Earth Defense Force also provide a similar type of chaos based entertainment. Caution: May also repulse females.
The grandaddy of games that you can play with your grandaddy! Boxing may not be a great simulation of the actual sport, but pitting two guests against each other is surprisingly amusing.
In my experience, however, many people lack the physical coordination required to play these games. (Even bowling.)
This game goes over surprisingly well, but requires quite a bit of explanation. Animal Crossing may be the most fun competitive game, but good luck explaining the rules without losing the crowd!
Caution: Everyone will fight over the gamepad, and gamepad hogs may incite feelings of jealousy.
Spin The Bottle: Bumpie's Party!
I guarantee that this game will generate some laughs. It might be even more fun with both genders. Not that I'd know!
Buzz: Quiz Party!
Or any similar high-quality quiz games, such as You Don't Know Jack. Bonus points for being compatible with simple, buzzer-type controllers. Everybody likes pressing big, red buttons. It's human nature.
Or any game with a similar karaoke function, including Rock Band. All you need is a microphone!
Caution: Some people are shy about singing in front of others and may refuse to participate, leading to group awkwardness.
Game & Wario: Sketch
It's Pictionary, essentially. Fun when you can draw, and funny when you can't. It's always a good time (although the word list is kind of limited).
#1 was the first one that popped into my head (closely followed by Wii Sports and NintendoLand). G&W ain't a bad package all-around, but Sketch alone is worth the price of admission! Great execution with just the right touch of humor.
In my experience, Fortune Street ends up going over surprisingly well too!
@Zero Even "gamers" have trouble with Smash. My friends wouldn't play Melee with me back in the day because they self-destructed constantly. Seriously, I don't know how Smash got a reputation as a casual-friendly fighting game. Mash buttons in Street Fighter and you still punch and kick and stuff; mash buttons in Smash and kill yourself. It's "accessible" in that you can do flashy-looking things by hitting the B-button, but that only applies if they're cool with being KO'd by stage hazards and items and killing themselves constantly until they adjust to the controls.
Burnout Takedown is a solid off-the-board pick, though. I'm not really a racing fan for the most part, but I really liked that game. You go faster when you drive dangerously, and when you crash you get to slow-mo control your car to take out other cars, it's sweet!
You know what I think it is? Smash is still a "gamer's" game in that it's difficult for non-gamers to just jump in, but it appeals to the non-fighting game style of gamer because the difficulty lies more in action-oriented gameplay rather than fighting-oriented gameplay.
Not sure if I said that right, but if you grew up with stuff like Contra and Mega Man and Mario, you know how to avoid touching hazardous things, and Smash's controls/physics are way more in-line with those types of games than most fighter's (who have larger characters with smaller, stockier jumps, etc). Additionally, people that grew up with that stuff also are good at keeping their eye on their character even when a lot is going on. So if you introduce Smash to a gamer that doesn't play fighting games but does play sidescrolling action games or platformers, they'll latch right on. Otherwise, there's a steep learning curve.
The other thing is Smash Attacks. Darned if it doesn't take forever to teach those...
I think the original N64 Smash Brothers was somewhat casual-friendly, but its sequels definitely got more hardcore with each one, and got more in common with regular fighters. I had some success in getting people to play the N64 game, but not so much any of the others.
I've tried a bit of 2-player in Micro Machines 64 and it was kinda fun. I could see it being a wild time with four players, but I never got the chance for that.
I've had a lot of good experiences with Wii Sports, of course. Especially bowling. I never played much of the sequel, though.
The concept of Nintendo Land doesn't seem to appeal to people, so I've never really gotten to try out the multiplayer games. I played some of the Zelda game with my sister, which was fun, but that's about it.
No one wants to play Game and Wario either, so I haven't played any multiplayer.
I have not played the other stuff listed, but have heard of it.
I like NintendoLand, but I've only played its single-player games! I really should get some people together for the multiplayer.
Spin The Bottle: Bumpie's Party is one of those games that I'd like to try given an opportune time.
I've gotten some friends and family to play Game & Wario's multiplayer games and it was fun. I've said this a lot, but I really like Game & Wario.
Runbow might be a good choice for entertaining non-gamers. It's described as a "party platformer", and up to 9 people can play at once. There's a mode where one person uses the GamePad to prevent the rest of the players from reaching their goal. It sounds fun!
Good list! I'll add a few more that I've found worked well with those that aren't exactly uh, "avid" about gaming:
Pac-Man VS. - originally on Gamecube, also available on DS. It's simple enough to explain, and Pac-Man is something many people already know and understand, even without having played games much (or at all) before. The GCN version actually adds an extra layer of "real-world" interaction, thanks not only to nearly requiring players to talk to each other to corner Pac-Man, but also due to the physical passing of the GBA and controllers between players after each "turn."
Mario Kart - maybe too obvious of a suggestion. But yeah, this series appeals to pretty much anyone. Simple to explain, play and enjoy. The "cutesy" visuals tend to not scare off the casuals.
Soulcalibur II - I suppose just about any entry in this series would work. I've seen most success with this one, though. I've found it's even easier to get into (i.e. pick-up-and-play) than something like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, since Soulcalibur's controls are much more fluid. "Non-gamers" can practically button-mash against each other and still pull off some impressive moves.
Super Mario Advance - Actually, any of the them. But not the "main" game - the always included second mode, Mario Bros. Classic. It's a revamped, 16-bit version of Mario Bros. (NOT *Super* Mario Bros., mind you) and is compatible with up to 4 players at once. It can get pretty crazy, especially when everyone is gunning for top score, and/or bonus coins. And wow...hilarity ensues when someone gets a Starman. This is obviously playable primarily on GBA, but I found that using the Gamecube's Gameboy Player, people were more apt to try it out in a party setting. The only caveat is that there is a lot of hardware required to play this, so make sure you have all the necessary....STUFF...before you suggest it. Though thankfully, only one copy of ANY Super Mario Advance game (or Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga) is required to play it. Can anyone confirm if multiplayer is possible for this game (these games?) on Wii U Virtual Console?
Dance Dance Revolution - basically the same as the suggestion for Karaoke Revolution or Rock Band/Guitar Hero. Even those that can't actually dance, can still enjoy this game of Simon Says: Feet Edition. Simple, silly fun that's pretty much perfect for parties.
Donkey Konga - last one. I suppose we could just say "music/rhythm" games and call it good. But I found that Donkey Konga was a surprise hit when non-gaming friends came to visit back in...whatever year this game came out. Banging on bongos and clapping hands is easier to understand that say, a fake plastic guitar with colored frets, so basically anyone can play this. The only drawback is the required hardware, which I can only presume is rather expensive nowadays. But if you've still got the peripherals, it can be good times.
Oh, that's a bummer. Though not totally unexpected. I suppose multiplayer for GBA games would work "okay" on Wii U, if it was a two-player only title. One player could use the Gamepad as a screen, the other could use the TV.
But any three or four-player games would be difficult to say the least. They would have to implement split-screen or something on the TV, I guess.