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The best video games for kids

Although gaming was originally seen as a pastime specifically for children, the medium has grown a lot. Gritty military shooters and crime-ridden sandbox games usually end up being bestselling titles, and although they’re great for a mature audience, they don’t bode well for kids.

That doesn’t mean all video games are bad for children, though. In fact, some research suggests that video games can help improve cognitive health in children, as well as boost their learning and social skills, and our list of the best video games for kids shows that.

We’ve rounded up 30 options across PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC. If you’re shopping for a particular age group, you can jump quickly to our recommendations using the links below.

The best video games for ages 3+

Super Mario Maker 2

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

A great choice for kids who love platforming games and those with more creative ambition, Super Mario Maker 2 is an improved version of the original Wii U game, complete with more building components, a full campaign mode, and online multiplayer options. With red and blue switches and sloped hills available to build, it revolutionized the kinds of levels players could make, and we’ve seen some very creative courses thus far.

Super Mario Maker 2 is also a great choice for kids to play while an adult uses the television, as it’s actually much easier to build courses while playing in the Switch’s handheld mode. Purchasing an optional touchscreen stylus will make the process even smoother.

Read our full Super Mario Maker 2 review

Yoshi’s Crafted World

Yoshi's Crafted World review

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Yoshi’s Crafted World is arguably the cutest game on Switch. Yoshi’s Island has been transformed into a land made of cardboard and construction paper. Yoshi still has his egg tossing abilities, but this time he can sling eggs into the backdrop of stages. Yoshi’s Crafted World is a 2D platformer with depth, allowing you to explore the background of stages.

It’s an excellent choice for kids just starting out with video games. Yoshi’s Crafted World encourages a slow pace, with no time limits and little risk of death (even easier if playing on Mellow difficulty). Exploration is key in Yoshi’s Crafted World, and two players can enjoy local co-op. In local co-op, one player can hop on the other’s back at any time, which comes in handy during tricky platforming sections. Adorable, superbly designed, and full of whimsy, Yoshi’s Crafted World is a great choice for parents of young kids.

Read our Yoshi’s Crafted World review

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe uses the classic sidescrolling orientation for its Mario platforming. A collection of two Wii U games — New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi UDeluxe is one of the best Nintendo Switch games around. The worlds are exceedingly colorful and vibrant,  the platforming is excellent, and the Nintendo charm exudes with every jump.

Deluxe introduces two new playable characters, Toadette and Nabbit, each of whom makes the levels more approachable for young kids. Nabbit cannot take damage from enemies, and Toadette can pick up a crown that turns her into Peachette, who can practically fly. Additionally, Deluxe supports co-op for up to four players so the whole family can partake in the Super Mario goodness together.

Read our full New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe review

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

thanksgiving games mario kart header

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

As far as racing games go, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is both one of the easiest to play and the most fun. Featuring colorful, vibrant visuals, a simple control scheme, and all the Nintendo characters you could want in a game, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the best multiplayer games on Switch.

Its wide selection of themed tracks in combination with battle modes that make use of the game’s awesome items give it immense legs. This is the sort of game you and your family will come back to for years to come. It’s that good.

Read our full Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review

LEGO games

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone, E10+ for Everyone 10 and older

Since 2005, officially licensed LEGO games have given kids and parents awesome ways to experience hugely popular intellectual properties such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and a slew of superhero franchises. Almost all of these lovingly-crafted experiences have been worth playing cooperatively with kids both young and young at heart.

LEGO The Incredibles came out just in time for The Incredibles 2, and LEGO DC Super-Villains arrived in late 2018. With simple action gameplay, cooperative puzzles, and storylines often mirroring the movies at hand, the LEGO games are a great jumping-off point for young kids looking to get into games. The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame came out in 2019, too.

Shop Lego Games

Rayman Legends

ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older

No arms, no legs, no problem. Ubisoft’s limb-impoverished hero, Rayman, has starred in a series of great platforming games, both 2D and 3D, but Rayman Legends is the hero’s absolute best outing. This 2D sidescroller is colorful, inventive, expertly-designed, and brimming with excellent content.

It’s perfect for fans of Mario. Rayman Legends is especially good for a family game night, as it features drop-in, drop-out cooperative play for up to four players. This is the type of multiplayer experience that can be enjoyed by young kids, teenagers, and parents all at the same time. It’s available on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Read our full Rayman Legends review

Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

A three-year-old playing Untitled Goose Game is the definition of joy. Playing a game is different than playing within a game, and Untitled Goose Game showcases that. It’s a sandbox game about a self-described horrible goose set loose on the streets of a small town. No matter if it’s setting up pranks or honking a resident down the street, Untitled Goose Game is a blast to play (and watch, for that matter). It even won the BAFTA award for best family and social game, beating out Nintendo’s Luigi’s Mansion 3.

Peggle 2

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

One of the simplest and most satisfying games ever made, Peggle 2 is a puzzle game masterpiece from PopCap Games. You simply aim your shot, press a button, and watch as the metal ball pings around blue, green, and orange pegs. The objective is to clear all of the orange pegs within ten turns. You could call some of it luck, but aiming properly is the name of the game.

We know this premise may sound boring, but it truly is one of the most addicting puzzle games around. Bright, colorful visuals, awesome sounds, and local multiplayer make this a great game for kids to play — no matter how young they are. It’s simple to pick up and incredibly hard to put down. Peggle 2 is available to download on Xbox One and PS4.

Read our Peggle 2 hands-on

Sonic Mania Plus

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Sonic Mania is the reincarnation of old-school Sonic, complete with retro visuals and, of course, lightning-fast platforming gameplay. It gives parents a chance to relive their childhood and lets them introduce a game they played when they were young to their children of all ages.

It even features remixed versions of classic Sonic levels. Even better, you can play split-screen couch co-op, so there’s no need to pass the controller. Sonic Mania Plus is available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

The best video games for ages 5+

Super Mario Odyssey

ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older

Super Mario Odyssey is one of the best 3D platformers ever made. While Mario games have always leaned to the accessible side, Super Mario Odyssey has a really great feature for kids: Assist mode. With Assist mode activated, Mario’s health doubles, falling off the map doesn’t lead to instant death, and a marker always guides you to your objective. Since Odyssey‘s planets are rather large and densely populated with stuff to look at and do, Assist mode removes some of the challenges and distractions for young players.

You can also have one player control Mario while the other takes hold of Cappy, Mario’s sentient hat. Playing as Cappy is ideal for players five and younger who have little to no experience with controller-based video games. Or you could always swap the controller each time someone finds a moon. No matter how you play Super Mario Odyssey, it’s a pure delight for both young kids and parents.

Read our full Super Mario Odyssey review

Sackboy: A Big Adventure

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

If you just picked up a PS5 and want a game for your kids to play, look no further than Sackboy: A Big Adventure. It’s a PS5 exclusive from Sumo Digital, set in the world of LittleBigPlanet. Instead of a 2.5D puzzler, Sackboy is a full 3D platformer fit with the same charm as the LittleBigPlanet games. The game supports couch co-op for up to four players, too, and it’s a PS5 launch title, offering a full, child-friendly experience separate from Astro’s Playroom. 

Although Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a relatively short experience, it earns the “big” tag. Levels are fairly straightforward, balancing decently challenging platforming with light, cartoonish combat. Levels have a lot of replayability, however, littered with secrets and collectibles. Getting through the game is easy enough, but discovering all of the secrets will take some time.

Minecraft

ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older

By now, everyone has heard of Minecraft, the sandbox game that has become a worldwide phenomenon over the past decade. What’s particularly great about Minecraft is that it’s a game that evolves with you. Young kids may not be able to create elaborate worlds at first, but as they age and learn more, they can add to them, and see the fruits of their labor pay off.

Whether you’re playing Creative mode to simply create your own world to hop around in or fighting off Creepers in Survival mode, Minecraft is a fun experience that gets both kids and adults to push their imaginations and ingenuity to the limit. Plus, it’s available on just about every device — home consoles, PC, smartphones, and tablets.

Read our full Minecraft review

Rocket League

thanksgiving games rocket league

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Rocket League is a mesmerizing mix of extreme sports, racing, and soccer. In practice, it’s just cars driving around a field hitting a large ball into a soccer net, but that neat, curious experiment has captivated millions, thanks to its consummate depth and penchant for surprising hilarity.

It has an arcade-like feel, making it easy to pick up and play, and it’s ideal for both young kids (probably as young as five) and parents. Seriously, try to play Rocket League without getting hooked. Rocket League is available on Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC, and it’s going free-to-play soon.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Link hero shot | The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening review

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

A complete remake of the original Game Boy game, with a new art style that turns Link into a little wooden figurine, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a simpler and easier-to-learn take on the series than Breath of the Wild. With several dungeons to explore, secrets to find, and items to unlock, it’s classic Zelda adventuring all wrapped up in an adorable package. The tranquil music is a huge bonus, too.

Link’s Awakening isn’t an outright easy game, however, so we’d suggest keeping the very youngest players away from it in order to avoid frustration. Once you become accustomed to the controls, though, it isn’t tough to get the hang of it.

Read our full The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening review

Luigi’s Mansion 3

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

The sequel to one of the best games on 3DS, Luigi’s Mansion 3 sees the series return to home consoles, and it just might be the best one yet. Taking place in a massive hotel rather than an actual mansion, the game sees Luigi searching for Mario, Peach, and two Toad friends after they’re transformed into paintings and kidnapped.

In addition to being a clever action and puzzle game, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is often laugh-out-loud hilarious, and it includes several multiplayer options for when more than one kid wants to get in on the fun.

Unravel 2

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Unravel 2 is a gorgeous side-scroller published by Electronic Arts under the EA Originals indie umbrella. Starring Yarny, a sentient being that is, yes, made of yarn, Unravel 2 is meant to be played co-op. Each of its puzzles requires two Yarnys to solve, whether played solo or with another player.

Unravel 2’s puzzles are slightly more challenging than those seen in LittleBigPlanet 3, but it’s a very suitable game to play with your young kids. Its aesthetic is cute and cartoonish and the puzzles are clever and insightful. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, Unravel 2 is a great co-op game fit for kids and parents alike. It’s available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Part puzzler, part platformer, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was born from brief mini-games in Super Mario 3D World. The adorably dressed Toad and Toadette set off on an adventure. This isn’t a typical Mario platformer, though.

Most levels take place on a small square platform that can be tilted or turned. Neither Toad or Toadette can jump, so making your way to the end of each level requires manipulating the environment. Enemies and other obstacles make that simple objective harder.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is great for fans of Mario games and puzzlers. Treasure Tracker is available on Switch, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U. A recent update for the Switch version added full couch co-op play for two people and paid DLC was released in early 2019.

Read our full Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker review

Pokémon mainline series

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Pokémon RPGs have been going strong since 1996, and there really isn’t a better RPG for kids to start with than one of the many iterations available across Nintendo handhelds. These turn-based RPGs follow a young kid on a quest to become the very best Pokémon trainer in the world. Along the way, you capture Pokémon to train and use in battle against other trainers.

On Nintendo 3DS, there are three sets of excellent Pokémon adventures to choose from: Pokémon X and Y, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, and Pokémon Sun and Moon. If you have two 3DS (or 2DS) handhelds, you can battle against one another to see who’s the best of the household (your kid will probably win).

Pokémon: Let’s Go, while technically not a mainline entry, is also a great choice. It’s a remake of Pokémon Yellow, infused with some Pokémon Go catching mechanics for Nintendo Switch. If you want the most recent entry, Pokémon Sword and Shield are on Switch, too.

Read our full Pokemon Sun and Moon review

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a lot of things, but at its core, it’s a social simulation game (an incredibly cute one, at that). Like Minecraft, it’s a game that emphasizes creativity. More than that, though, New Horizons tasks players with setting goals and achieving them. From watering plants to keep them healthy to collecting rare materials to earn in-game rewards, New Horizons sets players in a loop of creating a goal and reaping the reward for completing it. It’s perfect for friends, too. Players can visit each other’s islands to see what their friend group is up to.

Read our Animal Crossing: New Horizons review

Terraria

ESRB Rating: T for Teen

In broad strokes, Terraria is Minecraft but as a 2D sidescroller. Set in a randomly generated world, your job is to explore, gather resources, and defeat enemies both small and large. It’s more objective-based than Minecraft, though, as each task you complete, you can bring in new villagers to the buildings you have constructed.

Since it’s randomly generated, Terraria plays out differently for each user. In terms of longevity, Terraria has enough here to keep you playing for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours. There’s always something to do in the pixelated world of Terraria, and it’s a constant pleasure. Terraria is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch, mobile devices, and legacy consoles.

The best games for ages 10+

Kingdom Hearts III

ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older

Kingdom Hearts III is a perfect game for a 10-year-old. What the series does so effectively for kids is bridge the gap between childhood and the pre-teen years. By mashing together popular Disney franchises with an over-the-top action RPG, Kingdom Hearts III is familiar without blatantly catering to younger children. The overarching story is pure nonsense without playing the other games, but Kingdom Hearts III offers enough of a narrative from moment to moment to keep players engaged throughout the campaign.

Read our Kingdom Hearts III review

Overcooked 2

Team17 Digital

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Overcooked 2 is one of the most exhilarating and frustrating co-op party games around. The reason why we recommend this fast-paced cooking simulator for families is pretty simple. It requires constant communication and teamwork, essential skills for kids to master.

Overcooked 2 is also just plain fun, with outrageous moving kitchens and hilarious hijinks. Its predecessor is also a great time, but Overcooked 2 is a more robust experience. Overcooked 2 works best with two to four players, so it’s a decidedly co-op experience tailor-made for the whole family.

Overwatch

ESRB Rating: T for Teen

Overwatch is rated Teen by the ESRB, so the popular hero shooter is recommended for kids 13 and up. It features some cartoon blood and of course violence, though it doesn’t have the realism and gore of Mature-rated first-person shooters.

Overwatch’s objective-based modes, diverse characters, and strategic gameplay make it a multiplayer shooter that parents can enjoy with their teenagers and tweens. It’s truly one of the best competitive shooters around. If you don’t want your kids playing Call of Duty or Battlefield just yet, Overwatch is a good substitute (many will tell you that it’s better than those franchises anyway).

Read our full Overwatch review

Sea of Thieves

Sea Of Thieves Hands-on Preview | Helmsman turning the ship

ESRB Rating: T for Teen

Sea of Thieves is rated Teen by the ESRB, like Overwatch. If Pirates of the Caribbean is okay, though, Sea of Thieves should be, too. It’s a open-world pirate game that, above all else, emphasizes teamwork. Piloting a ship takes multiple sailors, each manning different stations to keep the vessel on its path and free of danger. It’s a social game, one that’s perfect for kids and their friends to team up to take on the high seas. Plus, there’s nearly an endless stream of content, offering dozens of hours of pirate-themed gameplay.

Read our Sea of Thieves review

Fortnite: Battle Royale

Fortnite Food Fight LTM Gameplay

ESRB Rating: T for Teen

Fortnite: Battle Royale is a worldwide sensation. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re already well-aware of Fortnite‘s massive popularity. Perhaps your child has even played it. If you’re wondering what the buzz is about, we suggest playing duos or squad alongside them.

This battle royale game has a great loop and uses cartoonish visuals which help it stay within the realm of a game that’s not too mature for your kids to play. Plus, the building aspect of the game helps teach creativity and who knows, maybe it will jump-start an interest in engineering or architecture in your young ones. Best of all, Fortnite is free-to-play on consoles, PC, and Android. Downloading Fortnite on Android takes a bit of work, though.

Read our full Fortnite: Battle Royale review

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Ratchet & Clank

ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older

A reimagining of the 2002 PS2 classic, Ratchet & Clank is one of the PlayStation 4’s best exclusives. If you happened to see the awful 2016 film adapted from this game, please don’t let its sheer terribleness deter you from playing the truly excellent game. The story of how a young Lombax and a robot became friends and saved the galaxy from certain destruction is both inspiring and, more importantly, incredibly fun to play.

With eye-popping cartoon visuals, hilarious weapons, great boss battles, and platforming sequences, Ratchet & Clank never misses a beat. The only downside is that it can only be played solo, meaning that you’ll have to sneak a session in after your kids are fast asleep. Yes, Ratchet & Clank is great for kids of all ages (it has animated blood and violence), but you’ll want to play it, too.

Read our full Ratchet and Clank collection review

Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2 review hero in paint
Nintendo

ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older

Splatoon 2, the sequel to the surprise Wii U hit, is easily one of the most engaging and charming multiplayer “shooters” around. Armed with a paint weapon — blaster, brush, roller, etc. — your main goal is to cover each map with as much paint as possible. Essentially, it’s all about territory control, which also leads to some paint firefights with the opposing team.

This lighthearted Nintendo game stars squid-kids (Nintendo should really make a cartoon about Splatoon’s game world). There’s also a single-player campaign and a cooperative variant called Salmon Run. The unfortunate thing is that you need two Switch consoles to play local multiplayer, but it is a game that both parents and kids can get hooked on.

Read our full Splatoon 2 review

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older

The bizarre Mario/Rabbids crossover is an oddly wonderful take on turn-based strategy combat of XCOM. It also happens to be one of the funniest games to release in recent years. Each level takes place on a grid-based battlefield. Each turn, you move your three characters — standard Mario characters or Rabbid versions of them — in an attempt to clear the area of Rabbids.

As a strategy game, it’s probably not suitable, on average, for kids under the age of nine or ten, though you can play co-op with two players. Customization options let you make each battle easier, so it’s not as hardcore as the typical turn-based strategy game. If your kids enjoy checkers or chess, chances are they will love Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle on Nintendo Switch.

Read our full Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle review

Stardew Valley

ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older

A spiritual successor to the Harvest Moon franchise, Stardew Valley is delightful farming and management sim with a whole bunch of heart. At the start of the game, you move to your grandfather’s farm in Pelican Town to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Much like Animal Crossing, you collect resources and interact with townsfolk. Stardew Valley also features combat, though, so it’s not all humdrum living. It’s a bit deeper and more complex than Animal Crossing, though if your child is a solid reader and has an interest in management sims, Stardew Valley is one of the best independent games in recent years. Plus, it’s only $15 on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

Rare Replay

ESRB Rating: M for Mature

This one requires a bit of setup. Technically, the ESRB rates Rare Replay as M for Mature (only suitable for those 17 and older). That’s because Rare Replay is a collection of 30 games, and a select few of them — namely Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Killer Instinct — are Mature titles. The majority of the games are not, though. From Battletoads to Banjo-Kazooie to Viva Piñata, the collection is stuffed to the brim with games perfect for kids. As long as you stay away from the few Mature titles, Rare Replay is a family-friendly blast that bundles a whole lot of games into a single package.

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