The volume of video games released annually seems to grow and grow. It’s hard to keep up with what the latest hot thing is, let alone figure out what’s appropriate for your little one. There’s an endless amount of AAA titles (big budget) filled with gratuitous bloodshed, scantily-clad characters, and adult situations of varying theme. If you’re not careful, you might expose your child to something before they’re ready to handle that sort of content. For those who need some guidance in determining what could be a fit for their families, Fatherly is ready to level you up.
We’ve played through some of the most popular games of recent times, and are recommending them based on their ease of playability, subject matter, and whether or not they’re just plain fun. At the end of the day, parents know what’s best for their kids, so if you feel your child is mature enough for Starfield or Assassin’s Creed, more power to you. If you feel lost among the hundreds of games in stores this holiday season, here’s our list of games that are ideal for younger kids who might not be ready for more grown-up escapades.
Bluey: The Videogame: 1-4 Players
Just in time for Bluey’s fifth anniversary, the wholesome Heelers now have their first multi-console video game. This interactive sandbox adventure is perfect for preschoolers, and is a great choice for a very young child’s first video game experience.
We raved about how enjoyable Bluey: The Videogame is in our hands-on review of it, from the episodic storyline to mini-games and collectibles, as well as simply how fun it is to replay. For little kids, Bluey’s first game teaches them the fine motor skills needed to play this and other titles, making it the ideal beginning to a lifelong love of video games.
Don’t get this title mixed up with the mobile game that shares a similar name. We found that Bluey app to not be worth your time or money.
Bluey: The Videogame is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder: 1-4 Players
Believe it or not, Mario hasn’t had a traditional 2-D side-scroller since 2012. With Super Mario Bros. Wonder, the series returns to its roots, upgraded with game-changing power-ups and other quality-of-life improvements that make this a standout platformer. The experience is your classic Mario game, but the Wonder Flower literally turns into a completely transformative experience.
Fatherly spent some in-depth time on this game earlier this year, and loved every aspect of it. You can never go wrong with a Mario game, and this one is sure to please gamers young and adult.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is available exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
Sonic Superstars: 1-8 players
Depending on whether you were a Nintendo or Sega kid, Sonic might be more your jam than Mario. This year, Sonic Superstars brings Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose into the Northstar Islands for a new game that harkens back to the retro originals. A 2-D side-scroller with 3-D graphics, everything you remember from the Genesis games are here, augmented with new power-ups, branching paths, and bonus levels that adult gamers will wax nostalgic about. Sonic Superstars marks the first time the Blue Blur can have four players simultaneously playing together, making this fast-paced entertainment that everyone in your household can zoom into!
Sonic Superstars is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: 1 Player
The long-awaited follow-up to one of the best games of this era, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is more of what fans loved about Breath of the Wild, but on a grander scale. ToK expands on the established lore and gameplay of its predecessor (which isn’t required to play before diving into the sequel but it doesn’t hurt), with Link freely navigating Hyrule to use his multitude of abilities once more against the minions of Ganondorf.
The game is simply beautiful, a kid-friendly fantasy sandbox game in the vein of Skyrim that lets players adventure however they choose. Whether it’s cutting down a swarm of enemies with your sword, or building machines to aimlessly drive around the land, there are no wrong answers in ToK. The campaign takes around 60 hours to complete, but it’s practically endless with how much you can do across this immersive world.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch.
Disney Illusion Island: 1-4 Players
Mickey Mouse has had his fair share of video games over the decades, but Illusion Island may have raised the bar for Disney. Fluid animation makes it feel like you’re controlling a cartoon, as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy navigate Monoth, a huge Metroidvania-style map that encourages exploration and cooperation. It’s not a small world, after all! The game is adorable, and very accessible to new players unfamiliar with this type of game, and wonderful for those looking for a new platformer that’s light on difficulty and big on good times.
Disney Illusion Island is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
Ori and The Will of The Wisps: 1 Player
The sequel to 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest, this game from 2020 has been heralded as a critical masterpiece and a beloved game by fans. Lavish open-world environments are home to Ori, a guardian spirit, who evades obstacles and enemies while solving puzzles and powering up to reach new areas previously unable to be explored.
There are few games rated for all audiences that pack this much cinematic quality as well as easy to jump into playability, but Will of the Wisps achieves this and more. Parents will have a hard time not playing this for themselves when their kids aren’t around, and we wouldn’t judge you if you did.
Ori and The Will of The Wisps is available on PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Systems.
Jumanji: Wild Adventures: 1-4 Players
As someone who grew up playing the 3-D Gauntlet games of the PS2 era, I was shocked to discover there was a Jumanji game in this same style! Based on the current movie franchise featuring Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Chris Hart, and Jack Black, this high-octane adventure game has players battling online or together in couch co-op across a wild jungle filled with creative puzzles, challenging enemies, and mysterious secrets. It’s a perfect throwback to one of my favorite party games growing up, and a raucous good time for modern audiences.
Jumanji: Wild Adventures is available on PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
Detective Pikachu Returns: 1 Player
Everyone’s favorite electric Pokemon wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat is back for another round of solving mysteries! With his human partner Tim at his side, this duo is sleuthing around Ryme City once again to unravel many smaller ruses that lead to one very big one. Pikachu can talk to Pokemon for you, but players can also recruit some of these to help solve certain puzzles using their special abilities. It’s adorable watching Pikachu climb onto Growlithe’s back to watch them sniff out a culprit, and there are plenty more endearing moments like that throughout. Detective Pikachu Returns will spark joy in gamers of all ages, and provide a more relaxed thoughtful experience from the typical action-packed Pokemon title.
Detective Pikachu Returns is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
Blanc: 1-2 Players
Aside from arguably being the most wholesome game on this list, Blanc may also be the most beautiful. A lost fawn and wolf cub band together, solving puzzles and helping other animals while searching for their own families amidst a monochromatic snowstorm backdrop. The story is told without dialogue, paired with expressive (and very cute) animals, and a striking piano soundtrack that makes this an unforgettable gaming experience. Blanc can be enjoyed by a single player, but it’s meant for two – a perfect way to play a game with a child and parent. Blanc is a bedtime story you can play, cozy and sincere, wrapped up like a warm hug.
Blanc is available on PC via Steam and Nintendo Switch.
Pikmin 4: 1-2 Players
Pikmin has been going strong since 2001, but this sixth edition offers a bevy of changes for improved gameplay in many ways. For the first time ever, players can customize their character, along with new species and modes that add to the expeditions. In Pikmin 4, the player takes control of different units of these tiny dudes to explore, find treasure, and seek out new life and civilizations while finding creative ways to overcome obstacles through swapping out different types of Pikmin. This real-time strategy game exclusive to the Switch is like a playable version of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and requires a keen eye to manage all the resources, but holds the hands of new players to keep it from becoming too overwhelming.
Pikmin 4 is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons: 1-8 Players
Animal Crossing: New Horizons takes the fun of Minecraft, but shrinks the sandbox into something more manageable for young players, removes the threat of dungeon-exploring and hostile encounters with enemies, and replaces it with planting fruit trees and building a community of happy neighbors. Upgrade your home, dig for fossils, catch bugs with a net, or even help a ghost, Animal Crossing is always a relaxing experience that never rushes anything. Other than a few plot points early in the game, players are free to take their time and do whatever they desire. Visiting other islands is encouraged to make new friends, but this latest game allows eight players to hang out together on the same island for the first time ever. The perfect way to unwind while scratching that gamer itch, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a classic that keeps the chill tradition alive for a new generation.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
Fae Farm: 1-4 Players
If Animal Crossing is too calm for your little gamer, Fae Farm is a spectacular next step for sim RPG fans. Explore the lush island of Azoria while you farm, cultivate, cook, create lasting bonds with fellow neighbors (including romance), and learn magic spells to restore harmony in your community. Fae Farm ups the ante with customization and options, making it a faster-paced action sim, but never loses sight of the coziness that players come to with games like this. An enchanting experience that’s hard to put down, Fae Farm will do the trick for gamers of any age.
Fae Farm is available on PC via Steam and Nintendo Switch.
WarioWare: Move It! 1-4 Players
The second installment of the WarioWare series on Nintendo Switch is all about getting up from your couch and shaking your butt – sometimes literally. Players use their Joy-Cons and move their entire bodies to play over 200 mini-games. Up to four players can engage in a story mode, competitive board game, or just mess around and enjoy the silly Wario humor. Shine a turtle shell, squat like a sumo, race dodo birds through an obstacle course, and try all manner of inane tasks come to life in the palms of your Joy-Con filled hands. It can take some time to understand the mini-games, requiring lightning-fast reaction time to succeed, but once you figure them out, WarioWare: Move It! is frantic fun for the whole family.
WarioWare: Move It! is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
Overcooked 2: 1-4 Players
One of the older games on this list, Overcooked 2 holds up as one of most stressful and fun party games a group can play. Overcooked 2 continues the chaos from the first game, where players cooperate to cook delicious meals for denizens of The Onion Kingdom under duress of quick time limits and obstacles that restrict your teamwork. Have you ever tried making a triple-decker cheeseburger on a boat with moving platforms and pits of fire? The game is utter madness in the best way possible, and will have even the quietest player freaking out at the top of their lungs after a few minutes!
Overcooked 2 is available on Steam for MacOS and PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
Party Animals: 1-8 Players
Imagine a pile of cute critters circling each other in a battle royale setting, with the winner being the last player left standing. Party Animals allows gamers to take control of different animals like cats, dogs, rabbits, dinosaurs, otters, sharks, and more to compete in a physics-based 3-D fighting game, with opponents turning into ragdolls when knocked loopy. Four players can easily dive into combat locally (or eight online), engaging in furry fisticuffs that will have everyone belly-laughing for hours.
Party Animals is available on PC via Steam and Xbox systems.
Just Dance 2023 Edition: 1-6 Players
Just Dance has always been a favorite for families, embracing physical activity with video games, and the latest version keeps the music playing. This rhythm and movement game has players follow the sweet moves from the game to feel like they’re part of a real music video. The 2023 edition allows your family to dance along with the hottest chart-toppers like songs from BTS, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, and more, along with a new online multiplayer mode that allows up to six players to virtually dance together.
Just Dance 2023 Edition is available on Nintendo Switch, PS5, and Xbox Series X and S.
Super Bomberman R2: 1-64 Players
Bomberman has been around for over 40 years, and his games never get tiresome. Super Bomberman R2 celebrates this anniversary by allowing up to 64 players to compete online in an enormous fast-paced high-stakes battle royale. For those playing at home, up to eight can join in on the multiplayer fun. This arcade-style game moves fast, with the bombs and hijinx flowing aplenty. A first glance to a novice appears like this game is all about hurling explosives at bricks, but there’s quite a lot of strategy involved to become adept at Bomberman games, and they act as a solid way to start educating younger games on those concepts.
Super Bomberman R2 is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: 1-8 Players
Mario Kart is a classic when it comes to competitive racing games, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the best in the series. A wide roster of Nintendo characters hit the speedways across a multitude of circuits from all of the past games and some brand new ones for Switch to battle in revved up races that hit the land, air, sea, and even space!
For Switch owners who have a premium online subscription, you can access the latest expansion set, which includes the final set of playable tracks and new characters this iteration will have. Now is the best time to hop on board and drive away with Mario Kart, a perfect game for couch co-op or online playing.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
Lego 2K Drive: 1-6 Players
Drivers hit the tracks in BrickLandia, bringing not only a racing game with the cars made out of Lego bricks, but vehicles that transform into whatever their specific locale requires. One minute, you’re speeding along in an F1 racer, and the next you rebuild into a plane, speedboat, or whatever - anything is possible with Lego!
Players can fully customize their vehicles as well, combining the fun of racing games with the play pattern of Lego brick sets. It wouldn’t be out of ordinary to spend more time changing blocks than burning rubber, but no matter how you play, this game builds some fast and furious fun times.
Lego 2K Drive is available on PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series X and S.
Rocket League: 1-8 Players
Racing is great, but sometimes, going in circles isn’t the most riveting thing. Rocket League isn’t your average racer, as this game uses explosive cars to play soccer, with the goal not to run laps around the opposition, but to score goals across the field. Going strong since 2015, Rocket League is the only game on this list that’s actually free to play! While the game arrives at a cost of zero, in-app purchases are part of the deal, primarily include cosmetic customization options, so the likelihood of having to make a purchase here or there is not mandatory, but may be an eventuality. Even without buying the add-on’s, it’s endless fun, with a maximum of two teams of four players able to battle online with and against each other.
Rocket League is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
So, far, most of the games on this list are ideal for seven to nine-year-olds, but for the slightly older kids headed into their teens, there are plenty of options before they fall into the ultra-violence and mature themes of games like Mortal Kombat and CyberPunk 2077.
Dave the Diver: 1 Player
If your kid loves all things Pokemon (and already own last year’s Pokemon Scarlet and Violet) or love RPG’s, consider Dave the Diver. When he isn’t running his sushi bar, Dave is scuba diving in the vast oceanscape beneath his eatery to hunt down the latest catch. This hilarious action-RPG has tons of engaging subplots, nuanced (and often bizarre) characters, mini-games, and a delightful main story that includes merfolk and Eldritch horrors from 20,000 leagues beneath the sea.
Super Mario RPG: 1 Player
Speaking of RPG’s, Super Mario RPG has just been added to the Nintendo Switch catalog as a full-on remake. Refurbished 3-D graphics complement this epic tale from 1996 that teamed Mario up with old pals, enemies like Bowser, and even a few new characters to collect the seven-star fragments and take down a new baddie. For many gamers of the 90’s generation, this was their entry point into RPGs and holds up as a must-play for anyone interested in adventures like it.
Super Mario RPG is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
Solar Ash: 1 Player
For those who like fast-paced platformers, Solar Ash is a colorful exciting 3-D experience with gravity-defying mechanics centered around the protagonist, Rei, trying to save her world against the odds. This follow-up to Hyper Light Drifter is all about gliding through momentum-based challenges, soaring through an open world while battling enemies trying to keep you away from the massive anomalies hurting her planet.