Video games can be an overwhelming prospect for some families: how much screen time is too much? How violent is too violent? Who is it OK to play with? And are there really any redeeming benefits for children to play video games?
Luckily, we’re continuing to learn, and more research is being done on video games. Video games can be good because some might improve problem-solving, reading, and visual-spatial skills. Some teachers are beginning to purposefully integrate video games into their lessons to build on some of those factors.
Video games can also be good for children who struggle socially because it might be another way to connect with other people. As a parent, you can also use that to your advantage. There are plenty of games that are intended to be social, many of them also family friendly. You can use this as an opportunity to just have fun together, or you may use gaming as a way to show interest in your child’s hobby.
If you’re still worried about video game addiction or that your child might be spending too much time parked in front of a screen, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids spend no more than two hours a day on a screen. You can also watch for if your child is having trouble transitioning from a video game and back into the real world. Here are six family-friendly games to consider bonding with your kids over:
Chances are, you may have played Mario Kart with your own parents when you were growing up, so the racing classic is well poised to become a generational trend. The current Mario Kart on the market is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch and is rated age 7+. You can have up to four players.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is also made for the Nintendo Switch. Capable of being a two-player game, the story follows Luigi as he embarks through a haunted hotel. The game is heavy on solving puzzles and is rated for ages 8+.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Animal Crossing was the game to have, and it continues to hold up over time. This iteration of Animal Crossing is played on the Switch. While technically a one-player game, a parent can easily be involved as the purpose of the game is to design an island with a focus on exploration (catching bugs and fish and finding other natural resources) and making friends. Children can connect online with one another to visit each other’s island or you can stick with the in-game characters who can both visit your island and be invited to live there. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is rated age 7+.
Overcooked 2 is another game that can be played by up to four players and is played on the Nintendo Switch. You travel around a kingdom preparing meals, which sounds deceptively simple: you have to follow recipes and deal with complex obstacles while trying to make your meals. (Think throwing plates over a raging river.) This game is another one that is good for problem-solving and also requires significant communicating as a team to successfully complete a level. Overcooked 2 is rated age 8+.
Minecraft is a great game for endless amounts of creativity and an enduring classic. There’s a version on nearly every platform available, including on the Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox 360. The entire point of the game is to explore and build using blocks in a 3-D environment. (Many reviewers compare it to Legos.) This game has multiplayer options as well as online options. Parents of younger children may want to keep a close eye on what they’re interacting with online if allowed to access online content. Minecraft is rated age 8+.
Super Mario Maker 2
Common Sense Media dubbed Super Mario Maker 2 one of the best kids’ games of the decade. Another Switch game, Super Mario Maker 2 takes all of the aspects we’ve come to know from Mario over the decades and lets your kid control them. The entire purpose of the game is to design video game levels, which allows for unfettered creativity and teamwork while teaching basic game design. Super Mario Maker 2 is rated age 6+.