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.
As the video game industry has matured, so too have the games being made. Violence, strong language and adult themes are now no less common in games than they are in movies or on TV, requiring parents to be just as mindful of what their kids play as what they watch. Fortunately, plenty of games deliver top-quality entertainment without crossing into mature themes or graphic violence, and many even promote creativity and imagination to boot. Whether you're looking for a game you can confidently leave your child unattended with, or you're after something the whole family can sit down and play together, you've come to the right place. Here are the best kid-friendly games to play on consoles, PCs, phones and handhelds:
Good old-fashioned kart racers are something of a rarity these days, especially if you don't own a Nintendo console. Thankfully, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is the exception to this rule, with the game available on just about every platform aside from the PlayStation 4. Featuring over 20 characters from popular Sega franchises like Crazy Taxi, Super Monkey Ball, and of course, Sonic The Hedgehog, the colourful kart racer challenges players with tracks that transition between land, sea and air.
With vehicles that can transform from standard karts into speedy boats and zippy planes, and tracks that can change their layout mid-race, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a refreshing take on a classic genre.
The Skylanders games have seen tremendous success in the last few years, creating a whole new genre around the idea of incorporating real-life toys into digital video games. Purchasing physical figures and playsets to add extra content to the games has proven to be much more than a passing fad, and the latest entry in the series shows just how creative the concept can be. Skylanders: Imaginators gives players the ability to design their own playable heroes by combining body parts they discover throughout the course of playing the game.
These characters can be saved to physical Creation Crystals, taken to friends' houses and brought into their copies of the game too, letting players show off their creations with ease. Best of all, Imaginators' focus on creating your own characters makes buying extra figures even less necessary than in previous games.
After the success of Skylanders, it's no surprise LEGO decided to enter the toys-to-life market with its own game. LEGO Dimensions shakes the concept up by having players build physical LEGO characters and vehicles to solve puzzles in the game, making for a wholly unique experience that encourages creativity both inside and outside the game itself. With characters and worlds taken from franchises like The Simpsons, Scooby-Doo, The LEGO Batman Movie and many, many more, LEGO Dimensions is just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids.
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.
Read our full review of Yooka-Laylee here.
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.
Available on PlayStation 4, PS Vita
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 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.
Read our full review of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe here.
Available on Nintendo Switch, Wii U
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.
There's a good chance you'll start seeing Wii Us going cheap in the near future now that its successor, the Nintendo Switch, is selling like hotcakes. If you can pick one up for a good price, one of the first games you'll want to grab for it is Super Mario 3D World, and not just for your kid's sake either. Mario games always do a fantastic job of appealing to players of all generations and Super Mario 3D World one-ups its predecessors by allowing four players to leap through the levels together.
Co-operative play makes the traditional Mario experience even more delightful, as do a number of new power-ups like an adorable cat suit that transforms Mario into a wall-climbing kitty. As far as approachable video game design goes, Super Mario 3D World is miles ahead of the pack.
Available on Wii U
If there's one guaranteed way to keep a kid entertained for hours on end, it's the Pokémon games. Easy-to-understand rules and a light-hearted tone have led the series to phenomenal success, with the latest games, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, selling more than 3.7 million copies in America alone within two weeks of their release. Collecting and battling monsters might not sound like the most kid-friendly of activities, but the games go to great lengths to depict it all as friendly competition, one that the Pokémon themselves engage in willingly.
In Sun and Moon especially, plenty of time is spent debating the ethics of Pokémon battles, balancing the fun of the games with the real-world implications of what they depict. For that alone, both Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are great additions to any kid's collection.
Available on 3DS/2DS
Golf's probably not the first sport you think of when it comes to kids' games. Real-life golf is often slow, pensive and quiet – all things that kids tend to avoid like the plague. This is where Mario Golf: World Tour comes in. With crisp, colourful visuals, boisterous personalities like Bowser and Waluigi, and quirky items like bounce pads and rocket boosts, World Tour adds a layer of zaniness to regular golf that makes it accessible to all players regardless of their affinity for the sport.
Between its 54 regular holes, a hefty collection of challenge maps and a full suite of online multiplayer modes, Mario Golf: World Tour will keep your kids swinging for a good long while.
Available on 3DS/2DS
Giant robots are a perennial favourite among kids and it's not hard to see why. Smashing and stomping stuff is fun no matter how old you are, which is what makes Kirby: Planet Robobot an ideal game for kids and adults alike. Along with Kirby's trademark ability to inhale enemies and absorb their powers, Robobot introduces massive mech suits for Kirby to pilot, giving him the strength to crush heavy obstacles and defeat normally invincible enemies. All this is rendered in the cheerful art style the Kirby games are known for, making Kirby: Planet Robobot a delightful side-scrolling adventure for kids in body and kids in spirit alike.
Available on 3DS/2DS
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.
Available on Nintendo Switch
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.
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.
Available on PlayStation 4, PS Vita
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.
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.
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.
Available on iOS, Android
Download Plants vs Zombies Heroes
Most fighting games veer too far into blood and violence to be kid-appropriate, but Transformers: Forged to Fight avoids this by keeping the battles strictly PG. The titular Transformers shed no blood and lose no limbs as they clash with each other and their boxy, toy-like appearance reinforces the unreal nature of it all. Beyond that, the game does a top-notch job of designing a fighting game to work on mobile, with responsive touch controls and plenty of quick-hit missions to play on-the-go.
Available on iOS, Android
Latest gaming headlines
If you're looking for the next great couch co-op game, Brief Battles is well worth considering, though its lack of an online mode is a bit disappointing. Read more…
We spoke with Jeremy Crawford, lead designer for Dungeons and Dragons, about how the upcoming Stranger Things set aims to bring new fans into the D&D fold. Read more…
This punk-infused post-apocalyptic shooter gets the adrenaline pumping, but its forgettable story and empty world will leave you wanting more. Read more…
Sonic and the gang return for another lap around the track, and they've brought plenty of new features to keep you burning rubber all night long. Read more…
The full release of Red Dead Redemption 2's online mode brings with it a slew of new activities for aspiring outlaws to partake in. Read more…
A fresh coat of paint and some extra goodies don't quite hide the wrinkles in this aging shooter's face. Read more…
The 11th entry in the Mortal Kombat franchise delivers more gore than ever before, but a troublesome economy keeps the title from achieving greatness. Read more…
Bend Studio's pedestrian ride into the post-apocalypse stalls from a range of technical issues. Read more…
Crafted World offers saccharine sweet visuals, diverse worlds and great 2-player co-op action in abundance Read more…
The CTR Remake for PS4 races towards the glorious renaissance of local multiplayer. Read more…
If your chief desire is battle royaling when out and about, the new Razer Blade Stealth will prove to be a cut above the portable competition. Read more…
The Division 2 everything we loved about the original and elevates it into becoming the shared-world shooter to beat in 2019. Read more…