Finding just the right gift for someone is tough. When that person happens to be a child, that challenge can almost be tenfold. Kids can be very particular about what they like, and if you don’t have any of your own you may not be able to tell a pirate from a Pikachu. Fortunately, we’ve put together a list of several family-friendly video games that parents and kids can enjoy together.
Very few games are as well-known as Tetris, a title that has transcended generations and given people an over-inflated confidence in their packing skills. This year we saw the release of one the best iterations of the game ever made, Tetris Effect. Produced by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, creator of Rez and Child of Eden, Tetris Effect is a true celebration for the senses. Colors, controller vibrations, and accompanying visuals all help take this iteration of Tetris to a whole other level. As a bonus, it’s also compatible with PSVR.
One great thing about the Spyro Reignited Trilogy is that you’re really getting three games for one. The remastered collection of these very kid-friendly platform games follows the adventures of a small purple dragon on his classic quests. Some kids may already be familiar with Spyro thanks to the Skylanders franchise, but this is also an opportunity for parents to share a game they may have grown up with their own kids.
Moss stars an adorable little mouse that communicates with you through sign language as you help her solve puzzles and fight mechanical monsters through a world of magic and wonder. However, Moss does have some darker moments as well. It’s very similar in tone to some of the great kids' movies of the 80s such as the Secret of Nimh or the Neverending Story. So maybe make sure your kids can handle a few scares here and there before making a purchase.
Rhythm games never go out of style and they are definitely the type of title that families can enjoy together. Beat Saber is the most recent game to reign supreme in the genre. Players use their lightsaber-like wands to slash through bricks and dodge around walls all to an eclectic mix of tunes included in the title. The game gets bonus points for the physical activity factor that has the double bonus of getting kids some exercise and tiring them out.
Another adorable platformer for kids to enjoy, Astrobot: Rescue Mission can be played by young or old alike. The game has a visual style somewhat similar to De Blob in that it’s cartoonish and very animated. Gameplay may remind folks of titles like Super Mario Odyssey only you can use the PSVR headset to peak around corners or find new areas to explore. Cute robots and straightforward platforming make Astrobot a great choice for kids.
Want to share your love of pirates with your kids but don’t think you can stomach another Johnny Depp-infused Disney movie? Look no further than Sea of Thieves. Microsoft’s exclusive open oceans MMO made a big splash here at Shacknews among the staff and the game has only gotten better since then. You and your kids can hunt for buried treasure, fight a Kraken, do a little jig dancing, and more along your adventures.
Combining aspects of competitive puzzlers and Pokemon collecting Sushi Strikers: The Way of Sushido is an easy to learn, but hard to master Nintendo exclusive. In a world where wars are fought over sushi, players take on the role of a young orphan who dreams of one day being the greatest sushi chef of all time. Players will munch their way through the battle by eating pieces of sushi off the same colored plates in order to unlock special moves and stack up plates to throw at their opponents.
There ain’t no party like a Super Mario Party because a Super Mario Party doesn’t stop until the kids are ready for bed. The latest installment in the series for the Switch is just as entertaining as the previous iteration. Players take on a number of mini-games where they either compete against each other or work as a team to earn as many coins as possible. Many of the mini-games make use of the Switch’s motion controls for an added novelty effect. Super Mario Party is hands-down a great game for families to enjoy together.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is by far one of the biggest titles to come out this year. Odds are your kids have already bugged you about how much they want a copy of this massive brawler. The game’s roster features 74 playable characters from various gaming franchises, most of which are Nintendo exclusive, but characters like Pac-Man and Solid Snake make cameos as well. The combat is not complex at all and while characters do have their own moves, controls are essentially universal making it easy to pick up and play even at a young age.
The great thing about the Nintendo Labo series of products is that they combine gaming with some basic programming skills as well as the DIY making trend. Kids and their parents build things like pianos and robot punching exo-skeletons using cardboard kits from the Labo line of projects. It’s a great way for kids to learn some basic programming while gaining confidence from building something from scratch.
This classic Nintendo title sucks in the best way possible. Luigi’s Mansion came to the 3DS this year and while it's been several years since it launched on the Nintendo Gamecube the game still holds up. Odds are the kids missed out on this one the first time around, so why not give them a chance to vacuum up some ghosts? It might be a great gateway to introducing them to the Ghostbusters movies as well.
While we wait for the cinematic debut of Detective Pikachu, why not pick the kids up a copy of the game that inspired the film before Ryan Reynolds ruins Pikachus forever. Players solve cases as a grizzled Pikachu and his human partner while they search for his partner’s lost father. It’s definitely a different take on the Pokemon games that most people are familiar with, but it still works.
When it comes to kid-friendly games, you can’t go wrong with Lego titles. This year saw the release of two great games that both involve popular superhero franchises while being worlds apart in their overall tone. Lego The Incredibles gave kids a chance to smash, build and collect bricks with the Disney Pixar franchise, while Lego DC Supervillains gave folks a chance to see what it was like to be the baddest of the bad guys. It’s a nice juxtaposition, to say the least, and both games are chock full of content that should keep kids busy for hours on end.
Got a kid that’s afraid of the monster under their bed or in the closet? Why not teach them how to kick that monster’s butt with Sleep Tight? The game is sort of a Fortnite Co-op mode light where players take on the roles of kids who have to build defensive forts and turrets in their bedrooms then take on the things that go bump in the night twin-stick shooter style.
When I spoke with some of my gamer parent friends in preparation for this buyer’s guide no title came up as much as Onrush. It’s one part racing and one part smash and dash survival game. Players race along with their team members through checkpoint after checkpoint in order to keep their clock ahead of the opposing team’s. Whoever’s team runs out of time first loses. The game is full of over-the-top racing madness and since it’s not necessarily about coming in first place, younger players can just have fun and mess around.
Probably one of the more challenging puzzle games on this list Overcooked 2 is a great family fun title that has players taking on several roles in some of the weirdest kitchens in the world. Players prep food, mix the right ingredients, clean plates, and avoid obstacles in order to complete customer orders. It sounds a lot more simple than it actually is though and the action can get frantic easily. Multiplayer is a great way to learn communication skills as well since it’s key to keeping things flowing in the more chaotic levels.
Think we missed something? Feel free to drop your own suggestions in the Chatty and be sure to check out all our other gift guides for more ideas on what to get your gamer friends and family this holiday season.