The best games for kids 2021
Fun, kid-friendly games can be tough to find these days. That's why we've rounded up the best of the bunch right here.
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What's in this guide?
- Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
- Spyro Reignited Trilogy
- Team Sonic Racing
- Unravel Two
- Kingdom Hearts III
- Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered
- Grow Up
- Tearaway Unfolded
- Rayman Legends
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Splatoon 2
- Dragon Quest Builders
- Lego Worlds
- Minecraft: Story Mode
- Plants vs Zombies: Heroes
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
While you may know Naughty Dog for more mature pursuits, like the Uncharted and The Last of Us series, there was a time when this talented dev dabbled in the kart racing genre. And they were damn good at it – Mario Kart levels of quality. Nitro-Fueled is a remastering remix of those times, a love-letter that proves that CTR is still very much up to pace with Nintendo's genre king. Fasten your seat belt with this and you can expect fast, frenetic racing that has a tricky turbo system. Also, a lengthy solo campaign and the best split-screen multiplayer in decades.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
Three of the most beloved platformers from the PS One have been lovingly and painstakingly remastered in this value-tastic offering. Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon all stand the test of time, mostly thanks to rock solid controls and that inescapable addiction that comes from strip mining levels for collectables. Extra points must also be awarded for the option of two soundtracks (original and remastered) and a host of modern creature comforts that take the pain out of ye olde camera system. This is unmissable stuff for the young and young at heart.
Team Sonic Racing
After a long stretch of absence, Kart racers seem to be back in vogue lately (see: Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled). The grid is packed, but the blue dude with the 'tude distances himself from the pack with the buddy-system that's woven into Team Sonic Racing. In short, every race is a showdown between a number of teams of three, and every gnarly trick or skillful race move made by the individual has the potential to make the collective go faster. This leg up approach makes TSR a more accessible kart racer than most. Essentially, this is the perfect party game that can appease casuals and veteran racers alike.
It can often be a challenge when gamers from two different generations want to collaborate on a single game and both walk away from it feeling entertained. Unravel Two is the best example I've seen of a platformer that (literally) lets the older and more experienced player carry through a younger, less capable participant.
For those of you who missed the first one, Unravel Two is basically the continuing tale of an anthropomorphic piece of yarn, only this time the story is being spun by two "yarnies" joined at the hip. The unique shtick here is your ability to not only run, jump and fuse into one being, but also the cool ways in which you can use your umbilical cord to solve complex environmental puzzles. (Think: rappelling, lassoing and rigging up makeshift trampoline sling lines.) Couple the buzz of solving problems creatively with gorgeous visuals, and Unravel Two is a game that will keep you tied up for ages.
Kingdom Hearts III
If you love all things Disney, or just having your eyeballs dazzled with ludicrously over-the-top attacks and special effects in general, Kingdom Hearts III is your kinda teacup ride. Though the continuing story is not at all well recapped from the get-go, newcomers will still fall in love with the oddly serious melodrama on offer here. It's life and death stuff, with evil dimensional villains who look like they've been ripped from Final Fantasy...but also Goofy, Mickey and that sailor duck without pants.
Batshit narrative aside, the addictiveness of the action and RPG grind cannot be denied. Combat in KH III is fast, furious and showy. Expect to sit back in awe as you trigger magical attacks that fill the screen with insane damage numbers, pyrotechnics and nostalgic cameos aplenty. There really is nothing like this out there. Do your kids (and your own inner child) a favour by making a purchase.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered
An oldie but a goodie, 2011's Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch looks absolutely resplendent in its 2019 remastered form. The best way to describe it is a fusion of Studio Ghibli's anime art style, a wide open overworld, and a battle system that relies on unleashing familiars. The latter are basically Pokemon creatures that you'll find, tame and grind into cockfighting champions. All in all, that's quite a potent mix for an RPG that starts out lightweight and becomes decently taxing.
Addictiveness and challenges aside, it's the heartwarming story of Oliver that will keep you glued to your controller for 40 hours or so. He's a young boy who sets out on a cross-dimensional journey to "save" his recently deceased mother. Admittedly, that's a pretty heavy topic for the little 'uns, but it's handled delicately and those feels are quickly replaced by a sense of wonder and adventure. End result: one of the most delightful RPG experiences ever crafted.
- RELEASE DATE:16/08/16
- DEVELOPER: Ubisoft Reflections
- PUBLISHER: Ubisoft
Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
B.U.D. is back again for another cliff-climbing, leaf-gliding adventure. After coming off second-best in a close encounter with a rocky moon, the adorable robot must scour an alien planet for the broken parts of his spaceship. Unfortunately, B.U.D. isn't exactly the most stable robot ever built and mastering his wobbly gait is no mean feat. Thankfully, B.U.D.'s far better at climbing than he is at walking, scampering his way up any obstacle that gets in his path.
Climb enough cliffs and scale enough Starplants and you might even stumble across B.U.D.'s trusty jetpack…
A chilled-out chameleon and a wise-cracking bat might not seem like prime hero material, but what the plucky pair of Yooka and Laylee lack in size and strength, they more than make up for with their range of creative abilities. From stunning sonar blasts to speedy spin dashes, the ersatz heroes have plenty of tricks up their metaphorical sleeves. They'll need every single one of them, too, if they have any hope of stopping the evil Capital B from harvesting the world's books and turning them into pure profit.
With no shortage of moves to learn, challenges to complete and collectibles to, well, collect, Yooka-Laylee is a cheerful return to the classic kid-friendly 3D platformers of the '90s.
Tearaway's vibrant storybook world is under attack! Hordes of villainous Scraps are wreaking havoc on the game's poor paper-crafted inhabitants and it's up to you to restore peace by guiding a fearless, envelope-headed messenger to the portal that separates Tearaway from the real world. Not only will you have to take control of the messenger directly, you'll need to manipulate the world itself, rotating platforms, redirecting the wind and moving items around in order to solve puzzles and lead the postal protagonist to their goal.
You'll even have to call upon your inner artist and draw objects into the world for the messenger to use. For a cute and creative adventure suitable for all ages, Tearaway is hard to fault.
Mario is usually the gold standard when it comes to 2D platformers but Rayman Legends changes all that. Unlike the more methodical Mario games, Rayman Legends focuses on speed and flow, with levels designed more like race tracks than traditional platforming stages. Master a level and you'll be able to tear through it without slowing down once, leading to a sense of empowerment few other games can match.
Casual players need not fear, though, as Rayman Legend supports up to four-player co-op, giving the whole family a chance to team up and tackle the tricky levels together.
Just be careful not to accidentally knock your teammates into a spiky pit, or your kids will never let you play with them again!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario is always a safe bet when it comes to kid-friendly games and Mario Kart 8 is no exception. Originally released for the ill-fated Wii U, the kart racer has recently been re-launched as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch, adding in all the extra tracks and characters that came as DLC for the Wii U version along with a brand new Battle Mode exclusive to Deluxe. The racing itself is top of its class, with a diverse selection of fresh tracks and remixed versions of fan-favourites from older games in the series.
Add to this the support for four-player split-screen multiplayer as well as online tournaments with up to eight players from around the world and Mario Kart 8 is a no-brainer for gamers of all ages.
It might be getting on in years but Minecraft is still one of the most popular kid-friendly games ever made. Its construction tools are simple enough for anyone to get a grip on, yet they contain enough depth for people to build entire cities, working computers and even whole new games within the Minecraft engine. There's little risk of the game going stale, either, with regular updates ensuring there's always something new to do. The latest update, entitled the Exploration Update, added the devilishly difficult Woodland Mansion to the game, along with a whole raft of other features including treasure maps, new enemies and llamas.
Yep, those kind of llamas. If you're looking for something to stretch your kid's creativity and you haven't picked up Minecraft yet, it's not too late to jump in.
The original Splatoon was one of the Wii U's most popular games, attracting an impressively large player base considering how few people actually bought the doomed console. Fortunately, Nintendo is bringing the game back to the Nintendo Switch in the form of Splatoon 2, adding in a few new weapons and maps while keeping the core turf-war gameplay intact. Two teams of up to four players each compete to spray, splash and paint their team's ink all over a wide variety of arenas.
It's a brilliant twist on the traditional third-person shooter formula, trading guns and violence for paint brushes and territory capture. For kid-friendly online multiplayer, you won't find much better than Splatoon.
Overcooked is a recipe for delicious, wholesome fun – as long as you've got at least one other person to chow down with, that is. The frantic cooking simulator tasks two to four players with preparing dishes for hungry customers, and you'll quickly discover that's a lot harder than it first sounds. Co-operation is crucial: one player might focus on chopping carrots and throwing them into a pot while the other player grills up meat and keeps an eye on the stove to make sure the carrots don't boil over.
Things only get more hectic when the game relocates your kitchen onto a rocking pirate ship, the back of a moving car and even into outer space. No matter how chaotic the cooking gets, though, Overcooked consistently serves up a satisfying meal that'll leave the whole family coming back for seconds.
Dragon Quest Builders
As popular as Minecraft is, its open-ended, make-your-own-fun play style isn't for everyone. Some players want a more structured experience, with quests to complete and stories to unfold. For them, there's Dragon Quest Builders. Taking the block-building and item-crafting mechanics from Minecraft and wrapping them in a linear progression system more akin to the Dragon Quest RPGs it spins off, Dragon Quest Builders is a novel twist on the ever-growing craft-'em-up genre.
Creative puzzles and witty humour abound, making it a game that's just as much fun to watch as it is to play.
We've already got Minecraft LEGO, so why not LEGO Minecraft? That's the basic premise of LEGO Worlds, but such a reductive description sells it short. LEGO Worlds is less about crafting and more about exploration. Each planet you fly to is randomly generated from a variety of different LEGO-themed biomes, ensuring you can never be sure of what's around the next blocky corner. Dusty Dunes, Rowdy Rainforest, Polar Plains – each environment comes with its own hazards to watch out for, its own characters to meet and its own treasures to hunt down.
And now that the game supports building your own plants from scratch, LEGO Worlds is the next best thing to a bottomless box of LEGO.
Minecraft: Story Mode
If the innumerable Minecraft books, toys and clothes have proved one thing, it's that kids can't get enough Minecraft. It's no surprise, then, that a spin-off game like Minecraft: Story Mode would exist. What is surprising is how genuinely funny and compelling the narrative adventure game is. Following the same framework as developer Telltale's other adventure games, Minecraft: Story Mode tells the tale of a new Minecraft player as they set out to find The Order of the Stone, a group of legendary adventurers in the Minecraft world.
Choices you make over the course of the game will shape how the narrative unfolds, weaving a story that feels wholly your own. Best of all, with simple controls and few action-heavy scenes, Minecraft: Story Mode is accessible even for players with little gaming experience.
Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, iOS, Android
Plants vs Zombies: Heroes
- RELEASE DATE:18/10/16
- DEVELOPER: PopCap Games
- PUBLISHER: Electronic Arts
Available on iOS, Android
The Plants vs Zombies games have always been a safe bet for family-friendly fun and Plants vs Zombies Heroes holds true to that. In a new step for the franchise, Heroes takes the memorable characters of the PvZ universe and pits them against each other in turn-based card battles. Players build up their collection by adventuring through the charming single-player campaign or by battling other players online, with leaderboards and daily quests providing plenty of challenge for those who really want to sink their teeth in.
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