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13 Perfect Video Games to Gift to Younger Kids

Want your gifts to arrive before Christmas? Download them.

The gloomy forecast about supply chain shortages is all too real. If you’re not planning to shop by Black Friday or Cyber Monday (from, ahem, our Very Best New Toys of 2021 list), you’re likely to run into some trouble — especially if your kid has a specific toy request. Last minute shopping this year won’t look like it has since, well, ever and you’re going to have to ask the family to be flexible. Fortunately, it’s 2021 and a fantastic video game is but a click away. There’s just one thing missing: A package under the tree. That’s why we paired each video game here with a toy — a small, easily obtained accessory — you can give as an appetizer to the main course. Keep in mind downloading a game isn’t instantaneous, so be sure to do it a day or two before Christmas morning.

Nintendo Switch

The racing classic on the Switch is perhaps the strongest outing yet: 48 tracks including some from the franchise's past make up this jam-packed edition. It’s called Deluxe for good reason — and the whole family can get involved.

Stick this in their stocking. The Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit Mario Set is the closest your kid will get to actually driving in a kart. The tiny camera above Mario’s head turns the RC car into an AR race track that you watch, and control, on the Switch.

This might feel like a gift for yourself, with the classics you grew up with like Super Mario Bros. 3, Double Dragon, Metroid, and Ninja Gaiden. But with so many two-player games, like Ice Climber, Tennis, and Ice Hockey, there are plenty of chances to get your kids hooked on it too. The initial download is free but you'll need to kick in for the Switch Online subscription.

Stick this in their stocking. The Nintendo Super Mario Brothers Game and Watch is a unique handheld version of SMB that is also a clock. So, it can occupy busy hands for a bit and then rest on a nightstand or desk as a beautiful piece of decoration that, occasionally flashes with 35 different animations, including appearances from Mario’s friends and villains. 

Remastered and faster than ever, Ages, takes arguably the greatest Sonic vintage game (Sonic the Hedgehog 2), and breathes new life into the classic.

Stick this in their stockingSure, Sonic is fast. But how fast is he in a car? Leave that mystery up to your kids to figure out with the fun Nkok Team Sonic Racing RC Car, complete with a turbo boost.

Quite possibly the biggest and best Super Mario game yet, Odyssey finds our Italian plumber in new worlds with new abilities to stop that evil Bowser one more time. He's got a fancy new hat — Cappy — that gives him moves that go way beyond just running, jumping, and headbutting bricks.

Stick this in their stocking. Bowser unleashes havoc on Mario in Odyssey all while flying in a pirate airship. Now your kid can recreate the battle scenes on the couch with the Nintendo Super Mario Bowser’s Deluxe Airship playset.

Let kids relive the importance of living and giving in a small digital village all while being neighbors and friends with cute anthropomorphic animals. You inherit an island getaway full of resources where you'll build a personal getaway and customize characters, homes, decorations, and landscapes.

Stick this in their stocking. This raccoon, a NPC (non-player character) in Animal Crossing, is perhaps the most recognizable figure from the game. He’s loved or hated, so your kids can either smash or squeeze this 15-inch Club Mocchi Mocchi Tom Nook stuffy after he hires you in the game.

You know, on paper, Nickelodeon characters brawling in a video game sounds odd at best, but it works. Taking a page out of Super Smash Brothers with cartoon violence, All-Star pits the likes of TMNT, SpongeBob, Ren & Stimpy, and more in over-the-top cartoon mayhem. Also available on PS, Xbox, and PC.

Stick this in their stocking. This two-piece Nickelodeon SpongeBob SquarePants set joins the 7-inch tall famous yellow brick with a 6-inch tall Plankton in all the squishable, loveable goodness you’d expect from a plush.

While you can revel in your 80s pixelated glory by playing the old school Legend of Zelda on the NES download for Switch, this version is a great introduction to the franchise for kids. Link explores a strange island where animals talk and monsters live and along the way you’ll meet a cast of funny characters.

Stick this in their stocking. This small Nintendo Link The Legend of Zelda push is perfect for keeping kids company while they play and he comes packing his famous shield on his back.

PlayStation

This racing game combines over-the-top cars on fantastic tracks that twist and turn through life-size backgrounds — like a bedroom or library — with an almost Toy Story like vibe. Unlike Mario Kart you’ll have the chance to create a course and drive a mix of Hot Wheels cars and real ones, like a Mustang or Ram pickup truck, if controlling a dinosaur-shaped racer isn't your thing. Also available on Xbox, Switch, and PC.

Stick this in their stocking. Die-cast metal cars were made for stuffing stockings and while there are tons of funky rides in the game, with names like Surf ‘n Turf and Dragon Blaster, the Hot Wheels Night Rider K.I.T.T in super pursuit mode is take-it-to-school-and-show-it-off level cool.

XBox

For ten years (yes, seriously) Minecraft has captivated audiences with its rough cubes and unique game style where players are allowed to build whatever they want. Also available on Switch, PC, iOS, and Android.

Stick this in their stocking. Name a better duo than Lego bricks serving up a Minecraft Skeleton Defense playset, with a pickaxe wielding Steve and a skeleton armed with bow and arrow.

iOS or Android Tablet

This free game (with in app purchases) for iPad and iPhone lets players be whatever they want in a virtual universe and build mini-games within the game, creating an enormous digital community. You'll want to keep an eye out as your kids play online against others for things like language. Also available on Xbox and PC.

Stick this in their stocking. From the Roblox game Strucid, the Nerf Boom Strike Dart Blaster not only allows for dart slinging fun, but also comes with a redeemable code to download an item from the game.

Daniel Tiger and the entire PBS Kids roster are here to save the day with their free app that centers on unique games centered around science, math, and creativity from nearly every PBS Kids show. The games also work on a web browser.

Stick this in their stocking. Spend the day in the land of Make Believe with the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Figure Set, which includes the whole gang, around 2 1/2-inches tall with moving heads and arms.

Catch every Pokémon ever and go for a walk. Pokémon Go not only encourages character collecting, but you have to go outside in public places in order to play, which might make for interesting strolls around the neighborhood.

Stick this in their stocking. Pokémon cards have their own supply chain block, so aim for this Battle Figure eight-figure set, which includes Pikachu, and a few of the bigger characters are posable.  

Toca has created a deep variety of game apps to satisfy any type of kid. From salon school and culinary class to playing with train sets or a game on plants, Toca has something for every type of curious kid with plenty of open-ended play experiences.

Stick this in their stocking. Keep up the curiosity going with Gund Toca Life Blind Box — it’s one boxed surprise filled with a keychain-ready plush toy of a character from the game, like the Sloth, Octo, Midge, or Pasta.

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