Gamers who grew up on arcade classics or Atari 2600 or Nintendo 64 can resist the pixelated march of video game progress, but they cannot deny that video games today are far more sophisticated than they used to be. And that’s very good news for parents who like cooperative games. Every major console out now is loaded with innovative gameplay options that allow for different sorts of shared experiences — the new Nintendo Switch doubly so. For moms and dads that means playing a kid-friendly game doesn’t have to feel like a homework assignment. Video game developers have made major titles more fun, simpler and entertaining for all ages.
Sitting side-by-side with your kid on the couch in a competition or in a cooperative effort is a fun bonding experience that really can’t be achieved on a bike ride. Plus, gaming is a sport now, so maybe the littlest second player will become a next-generation athlete.
Here are the best cooperative games for kids to play at home right now.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, Wii U
Gameplay: The most ambitious Zelda game yet is also the first open world map for Link. Breath provides nearly 40 hours of content for players and has no official right way to play. Instead, Nintendo lets players choose either exploring the vast game land or go through the traditional story mode.
Why it rocks: Your kid will probably just want to ride a horse and climb mountains in the beautiful Switch game, but considering the huge open world, you can explore Zelda together on the couch, switching between those difficult battles and open world moments on horseback.
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS
Gameplay: It’s an action puzzle but it’s really quirky. You and your kid play as Snip and Clip who need to cut and paste onto each other, literally, in order to solve imaginative puzzles.
Why it rocks: The cooperative game was made to problem solve as a team, so you’re guaranteed more fun if you talk out the game’s interesting problems, like slamming into each other to create a bathtub to collect water.
Console: Nintendo Switch
Gameplay: Nintendo’s latest racer combines the elements of classic racing games like Wipeout and F-Zero to create a beautiful game that looks like a Star Wars podrace but without Jar Jar Binks.
Why it rocks: Despite the slick graphics, the core of the cooperative game is a traditional racer. And there’s nothing better than trash talking on the couch during a high-speed race.
1, 2, Switch
Console: Nintendo Switch
Gameplay: Go face-to-face in this battling duel game. You can either have an old fashion western shootout, have a dance-off, or play a tennis match. The point of the game is to outdo your competition and not focus on the screen, which probably gets weird when you play the cow milking contest.
Why it rocks: This is weird for Nintendo, but the cooperative game was built around couch co-op so there’s no other way to play it. Plus, you wouldn’t have a cow milking competition in real life, would you?
Super Mario Maker
Consoles: Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
Gameplay: Create your own custom Mario world in any Mario era (8-bit Nintendo or SNES style) or download and play levels built by gamers.
Why it rocks: The cooperative game is creation-based, so go in wanting and knowing you have to build before you play. That being said, it’s a great change up for Mario veterans and inspires creativity to make either the easiest or craziest Mario levels your kids can dream of.
Little Big Planet 3
Console: Playstation 4
Gameplay: This puzzle platform game channels the old-school platform games of Super Mario. You play Sack Boy, who lives in a tiny world where he jumps over buttons and thimbles. It’s endlessly cute and perfect for younger children who are very new to gaming.
Why it rocks: Planet 3 like the others before it stresses creating and creativity. Although you play as Sack Boy, you can edit the appearance to extreme detail from wigs, eyes, clothes and tongue color. Plus, like Super Mario Maker, you can build your own levels and share them online.
JackBox Games Party Pack
Consoles: Playstation 4, Xbox One
Gameplay: It’s a board game on the big screen. The Jackbox Games Pack includes a variety of editions all with different games each incorporating unique elements like drawing in Tee K.O., mad libs style lying in Fibbage and Quiplash to a multiple choice quiz in Trivia Murder Party.
Why it rocks: No extra controllers needed. JackBox cooperative games can let anyone play — all you need is a smartphone or tablet to join in.
Consoles: Playstation 4, Xbox One, OS X, Linux
Gameplay: It’s a car soccer. No seriously, you play in a giant area where two teams of multiple cars attempt to put a giant ball into the net. Of course, there are over the top car stunts and flips adding more insanity to an already brilliant idea.
Why it rocks: Rocket League is pretty addictive, spawning a category in eSports. Its easy pickup and play mechanics allow anyone at any level have some fun.
Gameplay: The game follows supervillainain Lord Vortech who — wait for it — attempts to take control every possible universe. That means every Lego hero from Batman, Superman, Marty McFly, Frodo to even Scooby Doo have to team up and save the Legoverse.
Why it rocks: It’s a mega-crossover and kids will get a huge kick in seeing Superman next to Scooby Doo. The cooperative game also incorporates specific Lego toys to advance certain character stories. That’s all you need in your house—more Legos.