With two weeks to go until Christmas, it’s pretty much a guarantee that everyone has at least one holiday party coming up. Perhaps, even, you’re the person in charge of throwing it. The general requirements for a Christmas party are pretty simple: finger foods, lights, drinks, and plenty of Christmas carols on the stereo. Not that we have anything against traditions, but these alone can leave parties feeling a little, shall we say, boring after a while (or maybe I just don’t get invited to the good parties). So if you’re looking to add a little social spark to your upcoming party, may we recommend a few party games to get the crowd going?

Whatever console you own (or even if you don’t own one), there are plenty of affordable, accessible, and downright fun games for four players or more. To help you get started, we’ve got a couple suggestions for games to get the party going (or to keep it going) for each console. And even a few that use strange pieces of cardboard called “cards” and “boards”. Yes, they still exist. Amazing!

Wii

Mario Kart – This one almost goes without saying, but four player Mario Kart has been the go-to party game for over a decade now. Straight-forward, easy to grasp, and with a power-up system that keeps the playing field pretty level (blue shells, anyone? Thanks Rampaged Reality for the picture.), Mario Kart can bring the hardest of harcore gamers and the most unexperienced together for some raucous rounds of racing. Bonus points for the sheer recognizability of Mario and Co. Plus, it lets your guests get their share of drunk driving without idiotically endangering the lives of others on the road.

Wii Party – Mixing the familiarity of a board game with the joy of shaking and waving the uncomfortably phallic Wiimote, Wii Party is the perfect way to inject some laughs and friendly competition into an evening. Add in the crazy “House Party Games”, which include fourth-wall breaking tasks like physically hiding the remote from other players, and you’ve got yourself a party. Wii-style.

Smarty Pants – For the trivia junkies among us, Smarty Pants is a steal at $9.99 (if you can find a used copy at GameStop). It’s a straightforward trivia games (think Jeopardy!), but with a great spread of questions and the ability to tailor question sets for age groups, meaning the kids can jump in without fear of being asked about obscure baseball players from the 70s. Plus, it allows you to turn your encyclopedic knowledge of 20th century Modern Art into game with the ladies!

XBox360

Rock Band – My favorite holiday recipe: 3 microphones, 2 plastic guitars, 1 drum set, and freely flowing booze. Mix together, add recognizable rock classics. Sprinkle with some stage theatrics. Serve chilled. While the era of music games is waning, you can’t deny the sheer fun of getting a full band together in Harmonix’s rock star simulator. Mixing party gaming with the fun of karaoke, the Rock Band games have endured simply because of how universal their appeal is. Turn on the no fail mode (because being told you suck is a total buzzkill), and wail at it. Just be sure to not to invite that guy who always asks to play Disturbed (or at least shun him when he does so). And maybe give the downstairs neighbors a fruit basket so they don’t call the cops.

Scene It!/You Don’t Know Jack – The 360 has two solid series for the trivia obsessed out there. Scene It! streamlines the classic movie trivia game, adding actually buzzers, animations, and a smarter system to be sure you don’t see the same questions every other game. For those wanting something more general, You Don’t Know Jack mixes broad, bar-style trivia with some clever wit and a tongue-in-cheek presentation. It’s hard to explain, so here, watch a video! But trust me, it’s a blast, and great for the pop culture savvy (and if you’re reading Popblerd!, of course that’s you!)

Halo:Reach – Though not quite as broadly appealing as the other options, Halo still provides some fantastic four-player action for those who can handle the controls. Whether partying up to play online or just enjoying some free for all action offline, Halo is still the best local multiplayer shooter on the market. Better yet, if you can wrangle some extra consoles and TVs, you can get as many as sixteen people into the same game. After a while, you won’t even be able to hear the carols over the screams of trash talk and obscenity. Though it certainly isn’t going to endear you to the rest of the guests…

Playstation 3

Singstar – If your friends like karaoke, they’ll love Singstar. End of story. While the solo and duet modes can be fun, the real heart of the game at parties is the Battle mode, where you can pit two teams of four against each other in the vocal equivalent of You Got Served. Each round randomly pits team members against each other, with a variety of challenges, but each game culminates in a pass the mic battle, where teams must sing the same song, passing the microphone to the next teammate after a few phrases. The sweet chaos of eight people frantically tossing a microphone back and forth while belting out the likes of “Tubthumping” or “The Greatest Love of All” is something that has to be experienced.

Castle Crashers – A simple beat em up (press buttons, make things die), Castle Crashers really shines when four players team up against the waves of enemies that flood each level. What sets the game apart is a slick art style, some bawdy humor (aka poop jokes), and some very basic character progression. At a bargain price of $15, Castle Crashers is a great way to keep a group of friends busy for an evening of blood-drenched, princess saving antic.

Little Big Planet – Besides boasting the absolutely adorable Sackboy (go ahead, giggle), LBP serves up a unique four player platforming experience. The cute graphics and simple controls make the game easy for anyone to love, but there’s some depth here too, especially with the physics based puzzles. And with its dedicated community and level builders, there are hundreds of new challenges to check out once the main game is over. At the very least, you can all let out a collective “Aww!” when your lion costumed Sackboy grins for the camera. See?

Board Games

Apples to Apples – A mix of word games, free association, and (if played right) spirited debate, Apples to Apples is a great game for big groups. It excels when players decide to play the rules a bit fast and loose and allow copious times for arguments and impassioned speeches. Sure, lightning may be the most logical choice to go with the adjective “electrifying”, but it’s way more fun hearing someone try to convince the group why “Jack the Ripper” is a better choice. It’s the perfect venue to flex your scintillating wit and sparkling powers of persuasion. Or at least to make some edgy jokes about JFK.

Catch Phrase – Another entry in the stories “large groups yelling things” genre of games, Catch Phrase tasks players with describing basic words and phrases without actually saying those phrases. While it seems easy, trying to get a group of increasingly drunk people to say “Lake Superior” without actually saying the word “lake” can be a real challenge. But nothing beats the rush of a last minute right answer and the digital timer beeps like a crack-addicts’ EKG.

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