I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember. I used to play a ton of point-and-click adventure games, like Myst or King’s Quest. As I’ve gotten older I’ve picked up a number of different styles of games. The games may change, but the sense of joy, excitement, and challenge never does..
Like books, video games come in a wide variety of genres that range from action-adventure to real-time strategy. Whatever your preferred platform and genre, video games have seen a lot of controversy. Many parents are concerned that video games will negatively impact their children. To be fair, there are a number of video game releases that are wholly unsuitable for children due to violence, blood, language, and adult situations.
Just as there are games for teens and adults, many games have been released that are suitable for a younger crowd. With fun graphics, engaging stories, and often innovative mechanics, these are games you can let your children play without feeling obligated to be in the room with them. Here’s my list of the top 7 kid-friendly games that might actually be good for them to play.
7 of the Greatest Kid-Friendly Video Games
Minecraft (2011, Mojang): I cannot extoll the virtues of this 16-bit goldmine enough. This open-world sandbox game has seen unprecedented success since its release, including several awards and use in schools as an educational tool. The game boasts several gameplay modes: a survival mode where players must gather and manage resources, creative mode with unlimited resources for building, and adventure mode where players can run through maps created by other players. There is a thriving community for it, building and sharing mods, maps, skins, and structures. The real beauty of Minecraft, however, isn’t its gameplay modes or awards, it’s what children can learn while playing it.
Minecraft lets kids explore a number of important concepts that will help them throughout their lives. They’ll discover cause and effect, develop creative problem solving, and explore their creativity. Because the game can be run for multiplayer servers, children can develop their social skills and promotes collaboration. Keith Stuart, at PC Gamer magazine, extolls Minecraft for “introducing [kids] to everything from physics, geology and ecology to architecture and agriculture.” They can even learn the basics of programming. Even with all this learning, Minecraft is just plain fun!
Portal 2 (2011, Valve Corporation): Kids may be mesmerized by the shiny graphics and the awesome Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (portal gun), but don’t let this game fool you. Portal 2, like the original Portal, is a
massive brain teaser that has met with incredible critical acclaim. Not only does Portal 2 reprise the physics-based puzzle solving of the original game, it introduces new features that add different levels of complexity.
Portal 2 is a game designed around creative thinking and problem solving. The single player campaign is well-designed and challenging. But it is really in the multiplayer setting where this game shines. Two players must work together to solve the maps, developing players’ strategy and collaboration. The game’s multiplayer mode also includes tools for players to build and test maps of their own, which can be shared with other people. All in all, Portal 2 is sure to bring out the critical thinking skills in anybody willing to brave the Aperture Science test chambers.
Plants vs Zombies (2009, Popcap Games): If you haven’t picked up this delightful tower defense game before now, you really should. It is available on multiple platforms, including PC, console, handheld gaming devices, and phones. The art style is wonderfully cartoonish, colorful, and silly. While it seems like just a silly time waster, children can actually learn a lot from it. They’ll have to overcome the challenges of resource management and tactics. They’ll be forced to not only strategize, but think on the fly. Success comes from a combination of careful choice of units, strategic placement, and the ability to adapt. Plants vs. Zombies is a must-have for any gaming library.
Splatoon (2015, Nintendo): Don’t let the third-person shooter aspect of this game put you off. Splatoon is an area control game exclusive to the Wii U console. There’s a singe player campaign, but the game really shines in online multiplayer. Teams compete against each other to cover the floor in colored ink, which is accomplished using various weapons and abilities. The application of each weapon requires different strategies and players must be adaptable. Because there is no voice chat option, players must be able to analyze situations, adapt, and work together to achieve victory. Splatoon is probably the best competitive game on the market right now.
Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire (2014, Nintendo): The original versions of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were released in 2003. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are updated versions of the previous games, with various improvements including updated graphics, an updated story, and new mechanics. Like its predecessors, Pokémon ORAS is a roleplaying game with elements of set collecting and turn-based strategy. These games are great for children of all ages and offer more than just the single player campaign to keep you coming back.
Mario Kart 8 (2014, Nintendo): The latest installment in the long-running series, Mario Kart 8 is a fantastic game for everyone. With its colorful graphics, intuitive gameplay, and environmental variety, anyone can pick up a controller and have fun. Mario Kart 8 supports 4 players locally, as well as 12 player online matches. While there probably isn’t as much hidden educational content, playing Mario Kart will teach children that life isn’t fair. Some items are more helpful than others and some players are better at controlling their carts and getting bonuses than others. Overall, though, Mario Kart 8 is fast-paced fun that appeals to a wide crowd.
Lego games (2005-present, various publishers): It started with the release of the Lego Star Wars game in 2005 and has built from there. Now it seems like a Lego game has been made for just about every major movie and superhero franchise. They’ve received overwhelmingly positive reviews over the years. Legos are about as kid-friendly as you can get and parents should never have to worry about what their children are seeing or doing in these games. They are goldmines of exploration and teamwork and if you haven’t picked one up by now, what are you waiting for?
Video games are more than the violent, gory shoot-em-ups that parents fear them to be. There is a lot of potential for learning in games, even in shooters and war games. So the next time your kids ask for a game, pause before you automatically say no. Think about what it might be teaching them.
What are your family’s favorite kid-friendly video games? Share them with us in the comments below. Swap.com even has a great variety of video games and accessories available!