Games To Play When Your Children Are Around

Video games. Why do so many of the games we talk about, discuss and play have adult themes. Aren't developers and publishers aware? Don't they know we have kids now. Goddammit. I thought it might be time to create a little list of the games that are totally SFC — Safe For Children.

Because friends. The struggle is real.

To begin with: a quick disclaimer. All parents have different limits. We all make our own personal choices about what our children can and can't watch. I'm not judging. I watched Robocop when I was 8 years old! Do your own thing. You know your children best.

This is just a personal list. These are the games I've been allowing myself to play when my gobshite son is awake. Sometimes he watches me. Sometimes he gets bored. Sometimes he 'accidentally' punches me in the gonads during crucial moments. Such is the joy and pain of life as a gaming parent.

For reference: my son is currently two-and-a-half years old. He likes kicking balls (sometimes my actual balls), yoghurt and the movie Planes: Fire and Rescue. This is the literal list of things he gave me that he likes.

Okay game number one.



For me personally, this was a slightly difficult one to get past my wife.

Because it's still a game where you shoot people — technically — that might not be your bag. But for me, Splatoon is an interesting game on multiple levels. To begin with, shooting people is not the goal. It helps if you shoot at the opposing team, but the actual point of Splatoon is to cover the map with your team's colour using paint fired from paint guns.

On the one hand this is a super cool twist on the multiplayer shooter, but it also reduces the amount of actual violence shown on screen. Even when there is 'violence' — it's brief. It's cartoon violence. It's cute. No-one's really getting hurt.

Secondly, it's just such a colourful, stylish game to watch. And fits in with all the things my son is interested in right now: colours, colouring in, animals, fish. Splatoon is known as SPATOOOON or 'SQUID GAME' and really represents this middle ground. It's a game that I absolutely adore, and it's a safe watch for my son, who loves it.

Super Mario 3D World


I don't want this to be a list of Nintendo games — although Nintendo clearly makes the best, high quality 'family-friendly' games — but it would be dishonest of me to not mention Super Mario 3D World. Because I've spent so much time playing it with my son.

My son loves Mario. I don't really think he understands why he loves Mario he just does. Maybe it's one of those imprinting DNA things. Maybe my love for Mario is so strong that it's literally part of my son's genetic information. Perhaps he has the Mario gene.

Maybe kids just like things that have a lot of colour. That probably makes more sense.

In that regard Super Mario 3D World is probably the most child friendly Mario game ever made. It has a very simple, cartoon aesthetic and — crucially — it's easy to play. At the moment my son watches me play. When we go to the level selection world — where there is no danger of death or any enemies — he often grabs the GamePad and tries to play.

In the future, when he's a bit older, I totally see us playing Super Mario 3D World multiplayer together.



I'm not sure I fully approve of Spelunky. Mainly because dying in that game can be a little bit visceral, and there are a few questionable things you can do — like hit women over the head and carry them for a points reward. Perhaps I'm being a little pedantic, but that's my call.

However, I don't have too much choice in the matter. My brother in-law has been playing Spelunky with his son, who is four-years-old. My son worships his older cousin and wants to copy everything he does.

So yeah. Spelunky.

I'm not very good at Spelunky and, to be honest, it's not really my cup of tea. But I still play. Every now and then — if my son spots it on the PlayStation before I get the chance to load another game.

OlliOlli 2


I went through a solid period of time where I played nothing but Bloodborne and OlliOlli 2. Bloodborne was pretty much out when my son was awake, so I mostly just played OlliOlli 2.

Which is all well and good, but...

As some of you may know, OlliOlli 2 is a pretty testing game. Towards the end it's bloody difficult. And there's a lot of trial and error, quick restarts, etc. My son loved OlliOlli 2 but he only liked one specific part of it:


[hysterical laughter]

My son only really enjoyed watching OlliOlli 2 when I stacked it. That was an issue. Basically, whenever I was having a great run, my son would get super frustrated.


He started to learn that if he grabbed the controller from me, or distracted me, that his "MAN FALL OVER" dreams would come true. So that's precisely what he would do.

Now he just plays the game himself. He doesn't know how to 'ollie' so he basically just pushes 'X' until "MAN FALL OVER", then he starts all over again.


Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze


I don't know if my son really like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, or whether he just really likes monkeys, gorillas and things that go "OOH OOH AAH AAH!"

Regardless, my son enjoys watching me play "MONKEY KONG". Which is good news, because I think Tropical Freeze is a phenomenally underrated video game that deserves more attention — even if that attention mostly consists of my son pointing at the screen screaming "OOH OOH OOH" over and over again.

It's clearly penetrated the far reaches of his tiny little brain.

My son goes to daycare and each day the teachers write-up a little report of how the class went that day. One day I arrived and there was a photo of my son sitting on the lap of one of the teachers, clearly in the middle of giving some sort of presentation to the rest of his class.

The note read: "Quinn told everyone in the class about the adventures of Monkey Kong and everyone enjoyed it very much."


    Pretty much anything Nintendo is safe, except of course the M/MA rated games.

    My kids do walk in on me playing GTA V online with my brother, and they understand that it's not real and fake. I mute the game sound though so they don't hear the swearing.
    They find it amusing when I crash a bike in the game and the character goes flying.

    I've been playing Sniper Elite III lately which I totally pause when one of the kids comes in.

    If your son enjoys super mario, he'll love Yoshi woolly world, both my girls play that on their own and have a ball with it. (2.5yrs and 4.5yrs old)

    The girls also play Splatoon 'against' each other, they call it Squids game.

    Last edited 01/07/15 1:09 pm

      My 2.5 year old loves Mario and MK8 (She calls Mario "Go Go Go" as this was her firs contact with him), and knows all the characters pretty much.
      I'm yet to pick up Wooly world, can the 2.5yr old manage it?

        She can walk and jump yoshi around, her older sister ends up getting her yoshi to eat the other one to get her through sections.
        So yeah she hasn't got the coordination to jump at the right time, it's more random jumping to get through areas.

        They play Mario kart as well

        Last edited 01/07/15 1:54 pm

      These are all the reasons why I highly value my Wii U.

      Sure I've had memorable moments on the PS4. But nowhere near the amount of good times as I've had on the Wii U with y kids.

      Picking up old 2nd hand Wii games for a few bucks is great too. Spiderman - Shadow of Dimensions.......AWESOME WII GAME!!

        Yeah I've got most of my Wii games as well.

        Although the wiimote is a bit harder for my kids to get used to since they've been using gamepads for as long as they could hold something.

    DINK: the game. Whatever you want. All the time.

    Sorry parents :p

      You're the guy who puts in a positive review of "well it's not happening to me, game runs fine" when everyone else has negative reviews of poor performance.

    You can swap the damsel in Spelunky to a hunky dude, a pug or (as an easter egg) a sloth. So the next time you beat up a helpless woman in order to use her blood to feed your kapala, remember: it could be a puppy.

      Speaking of puppies, my kids (7 and 5) love playing Tokyo Jungle on co-op. Dressing up wild animals in puffy jackets and hip-hop bandanas? Definitely yes. It's awesome that when the animals mate it fades out (albeit with a wolf howl sound effect)...

      Other notable gaming WITH kids include Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn, Playstation Allstars Battle Royale, Johann Sebastien Joust, Pole Riders, Singstar (Frozen!), Beat Sketcher.

      Playing while kids are watching - pretty much anything because I mute the sound. I am careful with Witcher 3 because I want to avoid any sexy times, but generally even GTA5 and the like are OK, as long as there is not too much gore involved.

    I wonder if Halo multiplayer would make the list. I mean when it's all said and done it's not really a violent game. It doesn't glorify the violence or shove it in your face. You shoot and you kill but nothing really connects. It's not like Gears of War where you chainsaw guys in half, you just sort of shoot lasers at them and they flop around in hilarious ways. Even the marine weapons don't look like what kids consider guns. It's sort of like Star Wars. There's monsters, thousands die, explosions happen but it's still not really inappropriate for kids.

      No blood in Star Wars though, I assume there is blood splatter in gears?

        There was blood in Star Wars, before the Special Editions...

        Gears is all about blood splatter, but I'm talking about Halo where it's pretty much just Stormtrooper on Stormtrooper action. I think there might be alien blood at some points but for a game that centers around death matches, shooting each other, etc it's really not far from GI Joe's deathproof warzone. It's not a game that springs to mind as kid friendly and I wouldn't consider it ok for kids to play, but if you like multiplayer shooters but don't want to play them around kids I think it's worth considering.

          Kids are pretty OK with violence if there isn't any blood. Just watch any of the stuff that is 'kids' shows like say Power Rangers.

            There is a difference between the Power Rangers and other violent movies and games though... As far as violence goes, PR is on the low end of the scale, even compared to things without blood.

        You can saw through peoples bodies with chainsaws in gears so yes blood :P

      Yeah, Halo multiplayer gets an outing with the 10yr old + girls at our place, and most of my friends seem to play it on the couch with their 10 and up boys.
      Of course, you won't be doing that in Halo 5 because, you know, Microsoft greed, but the older games are great fun split screen with the slightly older kids.

        It's an interesting question then... if no blood splatter = acceptable... what about COD multiplayer where there's pretty much zero splatter?

          Also with COD you have the added benefit of them being able to play with people their own age.

    I've play GTA around my kids only it turns into a driving simulator rather that a criminal adventure. Sometimes when I really want them to think grand theft auto is boring I like to get out of the car and make it a nice slow walk simulator. Sometimes I pretend you have to say hello and other pleasantries into the microphone for extra points.....

    I often play the Zelda games with my 7 year old Nephew. He's not quite old enough to "get it" himself but I ask him to help out with puzzles and what not. Good times.

      He's about the age the Zelda games are aimed at though.

    In between my Destiny addiction, I've gotten back into Trove. My boy loves it and he's "helping" me reconstruct my British red telephone box I lost in the beta wipe.

    I was trying to teach my daughter about "birds and the bees" using Fallout Shelter. "See Pumpkin, the couple are dancing and if they are ready and willing, they might try to make a baby" but then one of my characters said "I really enjoy hanging out with family" and I quickly realised that the characters were in fact, brother and sister (or worse, father and daughter) and I immediately smashed my iPad, and desperately waved my arms in from of my daughters face in an effort to delete the whole thing from her memory.

      Someday she'll be telling that story to a psychologist.

      Actually, that should be a reinforcing tool.

      If you'd waited around, you'd have discovered that anyone who's a blood relative can't 'dance' with each other and they just stay in that room saying, "It's great having some family time," forever, no babies.

      Exactly as family should. With the possible exception of super-hot model cousins. Damn them.

        Sounds like you have an interesting family dynamic, I'd very much like to meet your cousins Transient :p

      That line by itself doesn't mean much. I don't know the character you are talking about, but that line could be refering to him/her liking to hang out with his/her family, and likes having their partner over.

    The Wii-U pretty much gets a pounding when the kids are around or have friends over, and that includes the older teens.
    Nintendo still understands that people have the most fun when all playing at once, *in the same room*, so splitscreen Mario Kart 8 with 4 or more players, and Super Smash Bros with even more players leads to many fun hours with no-one missing out.

    Other games the kids have enjoyed are Journey on PS3, and some of the old arcade games, and uncharted series with the older ones.

      Nintendo seem to be moving away from 4 players though.

      Splatoon is 2 player.
      Yoshi Woolly World is 2 player.

        I think most companies have moved away from the 3 or more players on one console thing, but Splatoon does support more than just two players if you have multiple consoles involved.

    Rayman Legends is one of the most kid friendly games, especially on Wii U.

    It's easy for them to play Murphy on the GamePad for about half the levels (the other half requires Murphy to be controlled by someone who knows what they are doing. Plus at the end, kids love to scratch the scratchie.

    Wonderful 101 is also a great game for serious gamers that is colourful and cool enough for kids. (though there are one or two rude bits to watch out for).

    Hrmm.. Skateboarding and snowboarding games are generally the genre I go for when my son (20 months old.. who incidentally also likes kicking balls and eating yoghurt). There are certain TV shows I thought would be ok but then realise that there's more swearing than I thought or more violence than I realised etc

    Most things Wii U are fine for him to watch and/or play:
    - Smash brothers is one that he can play quite happily with you or by himself (if you can get wife clearance for the level of violence)
    - Mario Kart 8 is fine, they have loads of fun racing round on their half of the screen until you finish the race and then IT DOESN'T AUTOMATICALLY END AFTER THE FIRST 11 RACERS ARE DONE! Doesn't matter if they've actually gone into negative laps, you need to finish it for them.
    - Super Mario 3D World: Let him learn the art of the bubble in the levels. Feels like he's playing, but is (mostly) actually out of harm's way
    - Kirby Rainbow Thingy: The second player can run around and stab stuff
    - Yoshi's Woolly World: The new obsession, which is good for him to try and play cos it has an easy mode and no lives.

    Also Trials (aka "Bikes"). Good fun, up until the part where they learn how to count, and start counting up your faults on the extreme levels. Thanks, kid, I know I suck!

      Oh yeah, trials definitely. My 5 year old son loves the first few levels before it gets too hard.

      Also....Rayman Legends.

      2nd on Yoshi's Woolly World. I play it with my 4yr old boy. Turning down the difficulty on the jumps is a great feature :)

      I had this exact thing about 15 minutes ago on inferno 4..... 15, 16, 17.... Thanks dude, that's not annoying at all (especially as that 15, 16, 17 was to go past my best at 16 on the last ramp......)

    Puzzle type games are always pretty good. Mr 4 asks me if I want to play "The Blocks Game" aka Thomas Was Alone. He likes watching me do the puzzles. Also games like Plants vs Zombies, Peggle, and Angry Birds all get excited attention. But the WiiU is the king, and Nintendo have him hooked on 'miibos. At least we know now what to tell Grandparents to get for Christmas this year.

    Spelunky gets a downvote from me because @batguy does too much swearing when he plays it.

      Not my fault it's a fucking stupid game.

    - Shovel Knight
    - Yoshi's Woolly World
    - Any Spider-man game
    - Any Lego game
    -, wait.

    - pretty much any game on the WIi U. Which is perfect if you have kids. Combine that with cheap as chips second hand Wii games.....and you're laughing.

      Lego games definitely. My son and I have had some great times arguing over who caused both of us to fall off the ledge when we play multiplayer!

      Last edited 01/07/15 3:03 pm

    My 2 yr old loves watching the little players run around on the terrible Football Manager game engine.
    Otherwise Minecraft - that's crack to my 4 yr old.

    My nephew loves watching me play Lego Batman.

    It's pretty good for my ego too. "Uncle Smurfy, you're the best at computer games ever!" :D

    Last edited 01/07/15 3:01 pm

      I know, my 5-year old daughter often asks for help getting past bits in Kirby on the 2DS. I feel like a total boss :-)

    I'm reminded of the Buzz games we used to play on PS2 when my son was little. Hours and hours of Junior Jungle Party ... and I think there was a dinosaur version too.

    I agree with many others, the Wii U definitely gets the tick for family friendly games!

    Last edited 01/07/15 4:45 pm

    Minecraft! Oh so much Minecraft.

    Then try and get the kids off it too. Just.One.More.Brick!

    Like SmurfyDog, I love playing Lego games with my kids (3 and 5). I recently bought all of them through the steam sale, and I quite enjoy them as well.

    Bit the bullit after my 3 year old kept walking in on me butchering/having sex with people in Witcher 3 and asking is this sootbulll? Hmmm your 3, this is 18+... no, no it's not suitable

    could always just play minecraft and show your kids the wonton destruction of man over nature purely for the sake of curiosity ^_^

    I've got two brothers. The fve year old loves playing motorbike games - specifically Trials Fusion (or, as he puts it, the fourth motorbike game. No idea why). He's actually okay at it, too - he can do all the levels up until the fifth world, and that's plenty of variety for him. He just loves doing backflips.

    The seven year old saw me play Borderlands 2 recently (oops) and he's begging me to play it with him. I considered it, as there is an option to censor any an all gore, but the dialogue was obviously inappropriate, among other things. So, instead, I hooked him up with Splatoon. He still aims down towards his feet to cover ground and this GREATLY INFURIATES ME AS A SPLATOON FAN but he's getting the hang of it thanks to the Splat Roller.

    Also, both of them love Mario Kart 8. Even though the younger one comes last every time and we have to wait for him, he sees great delight in "coming first, as he puts it. And of course, we have to do the "motorbike track" every time.

    Considering letting them try Yoshi's Woolly World next time they come over.

    Scribblenauts Unlimited with my three year old daughter! She has to think of creative ways to solve problems and I get her to enter the words which has been great for her identification of letters and her spelling!

    You forgot the Pokemon franchise xD. But then again, I'm going to play that even if I don't have kids.

    As for MA/R rated games *shrug* If a kid enters the room the computer is in when I'm playing, it gets paused and they are told to go watch TV or something. Not that I have kids, yet... but that's future planning.

    Puppeteer is really good especially because the second character cannot die and can feel like they are really helping out.

    Rayman.... that game is nasty hard toward the end too to get all the blue things so the difficulty is there too
    Brotherhood of Max.... that was good to play with the boys as they liked the story.
    Zen pinball...... It's pinball - whats not to like (5 yr old loves the Avengers table as you can choose which avenger to use)
    Geometry Wars 3- multiplayer may give you a fit from too many flashing lights, but thats Geometry wars for you (new levels in single player are pretty hard too)
    Trials.... (Must say trials in every game post I make...) Trials has a unicorn in the new DLC later this month. What kid doesn't want to drive a unicorn???

    I think the key thing is transitioning them slowly into more advanced concept games. I see so many young kids who play COD and Mortal kombat and games that just do not need to be in their heads. The better we are at getting kids to enjoy kids games the less griefing we will see on MP games from people not ready mentally to play them.

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