The Nintendo Switch is an awesome portable gaming console. It’s a portable system that still looks and plays great on a TV, and with so many different controllers and controller schemes, it’s given video game makers a lot of room to be creative. That means there are a ton of different games to choose from, and it can be tricky to know where to start.
Whether your child is looking for a challenge, feeding a cinematic passion, or even taking his or her first steps in the digital realm, there are tons of great options available.
But first, an explainer: A game’s ESRB rating only touches on how appropriate for kids its content is vis-à-vis sex and violence. What’s also important is picking a game that’s a good fit for a young gamer’s skill level. Some games have complexity great for the middle ages. Others cover a range of skill levels, allowing younger children to have fun while older kids can pursue its secrets and, ultimately, its mastery. And a few are a great first step for a first-time gamer.
See more: Best PS4 Games for Kids and Parents
All of these games have an Everyone or Everyone 10+ rating from the ESRB, so you can rest assured that all they include only family-friendly content. But once that baseline is established, we break down each, offering guidance on the kinds of gamers to whom they’ll most appeal.
The latest from the Mario universe, Yoshi's Crafted World, released at the end of March, is an all-ages game that’s predestined to become a favorite. This plane-shifting 2D-style platform game hearkens back to the Super Mario Worlds of yore, but with full use of the Switch’s fully modern tech.
Pros: YCW has the same deceptively simple gameplay that launched the modern franchise on the Nintendo Entertainment System: a series of jumps and traverses across obstacles while avoiding or stomping on baddies. Old vets like you will instantly recognize its charming style. But where this Nintendo Switch game differs is through certain three-dimensional elements, which allow you to move through the backgrounds, opening up multiple planes for exploration. There’s not so much new that heritage players can’t have fun, while youngsters will be sucked into its magnetic world.
Cons: Older, core gamers may either be immune to its bloodless charm or race through it, yawning for more. While Easter eggs abound, it doesn’t have the edge that your transitioning tween is likely yearning for. But for everyone else, it’s great, family-friendly fun.
One of the most popular rhythm games for mobile devices gets the Nintendo Switch treatment. Gameplay is beautiful and intuitive, and there are three difficulty modes so kids can start wherever they're more comfortable playing.
Pros: The game is compatible with the separately-sold Nintendo Labo Piano, an accessory that adds another dimension to gameplay that kids will love. There are over 100 different songs included in this game, which means there are plenty of hours of gameplay.
Cons: It’s not trying to replicate the Guitar Hero and Rock Band experiences, but it is something of a drag that the songs you play as part of this game aren’t commercial hits.
- Create relationships with other Yarnys in local co-op or as a single player
- Foster friendship and support as you solve challenges together
- Chase the spark of adventure through stunning landscapes to watch your surroundings blossom with new life
Pros: This game looks great, from the texture of the yarn that makes up the eponymous characters to the lush scenery of the island. Its themes — cooperation and friendship — are also decidedly family friendly, and the puzzles you need to solve to beat the game are decidedly more stimulating than button-mashing games.
Cons: We wish there were options to play with more than just two at a time.
Your kids probably hadn’t been born with the original Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy was release in Aughts. It won’t matter. This updated version of this Playstation classic release is as charismatic as the original, and your kids will fall in love with is just like you did.
Pros: Adding a custom Nintendo Switch aspect ration and an HD overhaul on graphics, Sphinx doesn’t feel dated. As its protagonist demigod, you explore a three-dimensional world rife with Egyptian mythology allusions and a very famous golden king. While it may be a little complicated for young children, those in the second half of their first decade will have a blast.
Cons: Some complained that its save points were far apart, making it a distinct possibility to lose 20 to 30 minutes of gameplay (around two decades in video game life). Still, it’s a worthy platform game, and your kiddo will probably navigate this and other hurdles with ease.
For the budding hippophile in your house, My Little Riding Champion brings the horses indoors when he or she can’t make it to the barn.
Pros: You start as a young woman who inherits a relative’s equestrian center and one of his horses, and your role is half tenant, overhauling the property, and half trainer, working your horse toward competition. While there’s a clear storyline for you to follow with this Nintendo Switch game, young horselovers will find plenty of opportunities to gallop around without rush, exploring the digital space.
Cons: With a female lead character as the only playable option, your son may have difficulty fully locking in with the story. Ditto for your one option of horse at the start. We found it amazing that while the middle of the game offered so many options, its beginning seemed incredibly constricting. But if your growing horse girl is passionate about her riding lessons and her Switch, this is an easy choice.
For those who are passionate How to Train Your Dragon fans, the third movie’s tie-in game will be a lot of fun. But for those on the fence or indifferent, they may not find enough here to love.
Pros: Solidly in the style of the top-down dungeon crawler, the Nintendo Switch game begins with you as the amnesiac trainer Scribbles and his dragon Patches. Together, you two embark on a journey to foil a sinister plot and discover the secrets the protagonist can’t remember a la a (much more basic) Memento. It’s fast-paced and action-focused, with minimal text as you toggle between the two characters. There are puzzles to solve and an interesting means of upgrading armor and weapons. It’s enough to keep a young fanatic plenty busy.
Cons: Small issues of gameplay—the vulnerability of your non-playing character, for one—irked some critics. But really, this game should be viewed through the lenses of a fan of the franchise, and your young dragon trainer will love it. With others, it’s a toss-up.
It may seem strange to feature two Mario games in one list, but New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a worthy inclusion. Frequently included in lists of the best games of 2019, it offers a wide appeal for kids of all ages and interests.
Pros: Based off a previous release on a former platform, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, as its name suggests, includes the original Nintendo Switch game with a new, expanded universe, displayed in tack-sharp high def. A traditional two-dimensional platform game, it’s easy for young children to pick up, while older kids will enjoy the challenge of mastery, secret levels, and other assorted Easter eggs long associated with the flagship franchise. A four-player cooperative mode is a lot of fun when your son or daughter’s friends are spending the night.
Cons: Like the other Mario title, does Deluxe have the edge to capture your growing son or daughter’s interest? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s a trusted brand that has captured multiple generations’ interests, and this is more of the same.
If you’re anything like us, the first LEGO Movie came out of nowhere to be the biggest movie of the summer and an often-played feature for your child. With its sequel, your son or daughter’s renewed passion has been an all-consuming flame. Time to feed it with The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame.
Pros: Travel from planet to planet, collecting bricks and completing quests, while a fast-paced story unfolds. If uninterested, just roam free, as there’s plenty to do outside the fixed storyline. It has a feel similar to Lego Worlds, the 2017 console game that received positive reviews.
Cons: Like other branded games, without a near-obsessive passion for the source material, the game’s cracks show through. Some noted its choppy frame rate, while others complained of a too-basic combat system. But odds are, you’ll know if your kid will like this or not based on how many times you went and saw the sequel in theaters.
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