I'd consider myself the "video game guy" in my circle of friends, go figure. And as such, I have some friends that are my antithesis: the never gamers, the "I'm cool with watching" crowd. God bless their tolerance of our antics as gamers, it's nice to have an audience sometimes. But every blue moon there's a game that can appeal to everyone, or one that gets close. Those games can light up a room, focus its attention or just provide something amazing to watch for a while to tolerant friends and family.
What are those games? What are their names?
They Like To Watch:
Sometimes you just want to kick back and enjoy watching someone go through the maneuvers of a great story, or a great visual event. There are games that are joys just to observe.
The Silent Hill series and I have had a long history, stemming back to playing Silent Hill 2 sitting beside my best buddy in high school Jim. We kicked that games ass, then moved on to 3 and 4, enjoying the process every time. Silent Hill is a cerebral adventure into the protagnoists madness, and when you print out the entire walkthrough before sitting down at the controller the game becomes a team sport: One man navigates while another drives. The terror is shared, the killer good storyline are enjoyed and everyone can savor the madness. For the best time play Silent Hill 2 first, then try the freaky Silent Hill 4: The Room.
Mass Effect 2
The antics of Commander Shepard and his companions is the perfect bite-sized space opera to invite someone along for. It's got the pace of a TV show, with missions split between quick, fierce battles and engaging story moments. Mass Effect knows its audience and it knows how to make a game like watching an episode of a great sci-fi TV series. Each play through can have the feeling of watching a great movie you love, where the details just change slightly each time.
Shadow of the Colossus
It's like watching a Disney movie: an old animated classic adventure for the times. Shadow of the Colossus is 16 perfectly balanced events in the life of a lonely young man with big ambitions and a sleepy girlfriend. The story doesn't need many words to be compelling, and the challenge of besting the various colossal enemies culminates in a mind blowing final chapter. I've seen rooms of people raptly staring at someone playing this game.
Also See: Rez, Heavy Rain, L.A. Noire
They Want to Try:
The middle ground. These are games with a little helping hand for people who aren't all that into playing games, or simple enough controls to be deeply enjoyable. There's some games that come out as nice little balances of intense and accessible.
There's a great mode in Bayonetta called "Very Easy Automatic", where mashing the "Y" button will have the lovely woman slinging across the screen, executing combos automatically and tearing it up. It shows off some of the games animations at the cost of a little difficulty, but for someone not that into action games, or not able to get into the more technical side of combo stringing this is the perfect way to enjoy Bayonetta's wild story and vibrant visuals.
Legos for adults. If you're not on Minecraft's wagon by now you will be someday. It's an amazing game, affordable and fun, easy to enjoy on lots of levels. There are videos of people who've built CPUs inside the thing, entire replicas of the Enterprise and more. You can enjoy it alone or hop online to get a real taste of one of the more versatile titles to come out in a long, long time.
Metal Slug Collection (Wii)
"Heavy Machine gun!" The cry goes up. Metal Slug is one of the best platforming games ever made. It's a madcap series with challenging levels, memorable enemies, tropes and a very unique sense of humor. From the ever entertaining "Fat" mode to the crazy vehicles (Tanks, Submarines, Mechs, Mastodon with Lasers, Camel with Lasers...the list goes on) Metal Slug delivers. Play it pass-the-controller style for the best effect. Every time you get a continue, pass the control to the next player!
Also See: Wii Sports Resort, Burnout Paradise
They Want to Play:
And sometimes the competition heats up. There's times even the people you'd never expect to pick up a controller will want to destroy you at some game, and you'll need that game at hand. What's a game everyone can feel good at playing?
You Don't Know Jack
A fantastic stand-by to Trival Pursuit, You Don't Know Jack is one of the best written, best presented trivia events in interactive entertainment history. I played this game on PC when it was entering its first stride, and I got most of the questions wrong then too. You Don't Know Jack is a staple of parties and groups of friends with 20 minutes of free time. The episodes are fun and fast, cheap DLC means lots to go around, and once again the writing is just top notch. No game has funnier commercials, or more attention to the little conversational details like YDKJ.
Warioware Smooth Moves!
Motion gaming had to make an appearance somewhere on this list, and Warioware Smooth Moves! is probably my favorite motion controlled game right now. It's quirky mini-games take everyone who plays it by surprise at first, but it works wonders on a crowd Be sure to unlock all the multiplayer options before your friends all sit down for a round so the game really shines. It's a great example of a game that knows its place in the multiplayer world: have a lot of people sitting around a wii, with only 1-2 controllers? Whip this sucker out.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Back when I was doing my time down at the US Space and Rocket Center, our downtime was so preoccupied by this game we had special regulations over when it could be played. It consumed us. Brawl is a nice even playing field for fans of the series and casual fans of the fighting genre. A fighting game made for fanboys, the game features a colorful cast of gaming greats with some truly unique entrants (R.O.B., Solid Snake and Sonic, for example), and a plethora of game modes to enjoy. Don't doubt the power of Brawl for large groups.
Also See: Kinect Sports, Mario Party