Gaming on the Cheap: Plug 'N' Play Games

arcade goldJust plug these into your TV and start playing, without buying a $300 game system.

Not ready to invest in a gaming system just yet? We understand. Could be a little too pricey right now, or maybe you're not willing to forfeit your child's time to the land of video games. We understand. And we have a solution. All these plug-n-play games are exactly what they sound like -- video games that use a cord to plug directly into your TV set. No extra hardware or software to install -- though you will need batteries. Some of them will include just one particular game, while others might have more than one to choose from. Either way, it's a simple and inexpensive way to give your children a little bit of gaming time without a major investment. Here are some of our favorites.

Jakks Pacific Arcade Gold and Spongebob Squarepants Jellyfish Dodge
(Pictured above)
If you're looking to get retro and show your kids what gaming was like in the old days, Jakks Pacific Arcade Gold is eight funky games from your childhood repackaged in one joystick. Our fave is classic Pac-Man for sure, but you'll also get other Pac-Man products -- like Super Pac-Man and Pac and Pal. There's also some other totally rad games you may have lost sight of, like Dig Dug and Galaxian. It's meant for ages 5+ and will run you $20.

If your children can't get enough of that yellow rascal who lives in the sea, the Spongebob Squarepants Jellyfish Dodge controller includes four new games -- all shockingly having to do with jellyfish. It seems they're loose and it's Spongebob's job to throw snowballs at them, pop bubbles and dodge them best he can. Games include JellyFish Dodge, Guide 'N Collide, Sponge Pop and SnowBall Showdown -- and the controller is a 3D Spongebob masterpiece. Best for ages 5 and up. Retails for $20.

Leapfrog ClickStart My First Computer
You may not think of Leapfrog, the children's educational toy and game company, when you think of plug n play gaming, buleapfrog my first computert its ClickStart My First Computer is a great way to get kids used to a desktop experience right from the TV. And if you don't know already, trust us, they'll be on there soon enough -- banging away at your poor keyboard. A cartridge-based console, it includes a (child-sized) wireless keyboard, convertible mouse for righties or lefties, and four on-board games to help kids understand keyboard navigation. And of course, because it's from our friends at Leapfrog, it's also educational -- with counting, ABC's, numbers, math, shapes and colors, and even phonics. Perfect for ages 3-6 and retails for $40.

minutes gym
Minutes Gym Digital Video Trainer
Ok, this is more for you than the kiddies, but it is plug n play and it is cool. And hysterical. But still cool. Straight from Japan, you'll have to shell out close to $100 for this game, but it includes over 100,000, three-minute workouts demonstrated by animated avatars. Includes a body-fat analyzer and work-out history to let you see how you're progressing -- and advanced interval workouts take you to the next level. Create a personalized training program and take it anywhere for a quick workout. God, we love the Japanese. Find it at for $84 (shipping is $18).winfun power drive

Winfun Power Drive
Give them a steering wheel and watch their eyes glaze over. Yes, driving can calm even the most savage beasts, so the Winfun Power Drive Plug 'N Play game is a must-have. The included steering wheel control pad with turbo button and pedals includes 30 games and promises to simulate a true driving experience. Though it looks kind of like a bigwheel without the wheels, it's easy to use and can be thrown in the basement or closet when they're done playing. Retails for $45 and is suggested for kids 5 and up.

play tv snowboarding
Radica PlayTV Snowboarder
Not quite ready to strap your child onto a snowboard? Keep them off the slopes and in your living room with Radica's PlayTV Snowboarder game. The snowboard was created to simulate true-to-life equipment and includes four games -- including Slalom Competition, Free Ride, Half-Pipe Competition and Big-Air Competition -- that let your child compete for style or time. So if you see them catching air and landing tricks on your carpet -- you may have just escaped a trip to the hospital. Retails for $43 and is meant for kids 8 and up.

Senario Waikiki Wipe Outwaikiki wipeout
Whether they've hit the waves before or not, your kids are going to totally dig Waikiki Wipe Out -- a surfing game with an eight-way, directional tilt sensor surfboard control. You get five, built-in games and the sound gets louder with the speed and height of each wave. Score points by catching the next wave at exactly the right angle. Also not bad for helping learn balance. For kids 6 and up, retails for $30.

Dance Dance Party Mix 16 Bit TV Twin Pro Dance Pad
This is genius. It's Dance Dance Revolution without the console. Just plug your double dance pad into the TV and away you go. With arcade and fitness modes, it has 15 stereo-quality songs to groove to and includes four dancing heroes to play along with -- Sammy, Kio, Alva and Di-Bot. And you won't get stuck on one level either -- you can start with easy, make your way through normal and head all the way to hard. We love that this pad is for two people so you can dance together for fun or challenges. Retails for $130. (We also spotted this on for $55).
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