Gift Guide 2015: Video Game Gifts For Small Children

Gift Guide 2015: Video Game Gifts For Small Children
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Yes, yes we get it: video games aren’t just for kids.

But sometimes video games are for kids. And what do you buy then?

The other week a colleague approached my desk with a question. There was a seven year old in her life. His parents wanted to buy him a console, but didn’t want to buy a Wii U. What should they get? What games should they buy?

It was a tough one to answer. A PlayStation 4 I guess? But what games?

In partnership with the Toshiba Radius 12 — where every feature is its best — Kotaku’s Gift Guides will help you pick the best present for your loved one

The reality is this: video games, particularly the ones we talk about, are targeted at adults. I have a child. I’m getting to the age where buying video games as a gift is a thing I’m planning to do. As someone who spends the majority of his professional life thinking and writing about video games, you’d think that would be easy, but it kinda isn’t.

So consider this a journey. I’m thinking about this and learning as I go. Here are some video game related gifts that might work for the children in your life.

An iPad Mini 2

Wait, an iPad Mini 2?

Aren’t we on the iPad Mini 4 already? Yes, yes we are. But I’ve decided to buy an iPad Mini 2 for my son, who turns three in a matter of weeks.

I think the reasoning is pretty simple. To begin with: the cost. There’s no way I’m buying a three year old child a cutting-edge piece of technology that will be dropped, covered in saliva and sticky with every kind of foodstuff you can imagine within weeks of purchase. In a lot of ways it’s sort of crazy to buy such a young child an iPad to begin with but I think learning those sort of motor skills, alongside understanding how technology works from a young age, is a pretty important part of a child’s development these days. Your mileage may vary.

Also — the idea of ownership, of taking care of things. These are skills I want my kid to develop.

Also also — Metamorphabet looks amazing on the iPad.

I’m getting my son a reconditioned iPad Mini 2. So it’s cheaper, still worthwhile, and great for all the games he enjoys.

Nintendo 2DS/3DS

If I’m a child in 2015 and I don’t have a Nintendo handheld, I am upset. I’m whinging to my parents. I’m looking at my 3DS/2DS owning friends with a dark, brooding jealousy.

Point being: if you have a kid and he doesn’t already have one, buy the poor bastard a 2DS/3DS.

If he’s under 10, I’d recommend the 2DS. Mainly because it’s a little cheaper, cool design, and 3D on the 3DS isn’t really that big of a deal. I haven’t used it in years. If he’s over 10, maybe consider a 3DS XL of some kind. It’s a great, sturdy piece of kit.

The truth is the 3DS is approaching the end of its prime. There aren’t too many new games coming out for it, and I expect Nintendo so announce some sort of successor in the next year or two. That being said, it has an incredible backlog of child-friendly games. In fact it might have the best backlog of child-friendly games ever (outside of the original DS of course).

Seriously — you buy a kid a 2DS with Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, Luigi’s Mansion 2, A Link Between Worlds and Pokemon X and Y? You’re providing that child with a lifetime of memories. Do it. Do it now.

Wii U

I’ve heard people say that 2015 is the year where the Wii U became a must purchase. I feel as though it’s been there for far longer. I love the Wii U and I think it’s still the idea console to buy for kids.

For a number of reasons: firstly, the games.

Super Mario 3D World
Nintendo Land
Mario Kart 8
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Super Mario Maker
Super Smash Bros.
Pikmin 3

That is a powerful list of games, and in terms of child-friendly game, I don’t think the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One can come close to matching it.

The Wii U has a lot going for it when considering children. It’s a family centered console that puts multiplayer at its core. Games like Nintendo Land, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros., and Super Mario 3D World are games that you can play with your kids or family. In many ways that’s sort of the idea. The ability to play games on the Wii U GamePad is also a boon, it allows your child to play while you use the main TV for something else entirely. Here’s something I’ve been doing: letting my son watch his favourite Netflix shows on the Wii U GamePad while I play the PlayStation 4. GENIUS.

In partnership with the Toshiba Radius 12


  • We had a WiiU on the cards for the kids…but after seeing Xenoblade Chronicles X it’s now for Dad 🙂

    • Haha nice; I’m so pumped to play that game on boxing day as well!

      … If you’re getting a Wii U for the kids though, always get Nintendo Land! It is no doubt the best party game of this decade so far – almost as good as those old ones for the Gamecube :O

      That, and Smash Bros if they’re old enough.

  • Wii U and 2DS all the way, with a side of old laptop running Plants vs Zombies and Minecraft.

    You’ve missed Yoshi’s Woolly World on the Wii U list, too. My 4 year old son and I played that through to completion together.

      • Oh oh oh! Wow!! Thanks…

        *runs off to check*

        Yessssssssss! Only 2 years too late.
        But no inventory on the game pad 🙁
        Just for off screen playing.

    • My goodness, you sound exactly like me!

      My 4 year old boy and I are playing yoshi at the moment, in between splatoon (I can’t recommend this game more, get it!! He and you will love it, the sound track is fantastic as well.), smash bros and Kirby.

      And a side of pvz2 on the ipad/phone/tablet.

      Minecraft, my older girl plays this to the point of paying for access to servers and stuff. Loves it.

      My middle girl, well she doesn’t game that much. Need to inspire her with something. Zelda perhaps.

      They all have a 2ds or 3ds.

      When is a child old enough to play pokemen?? There is a lot of writing right? I have never played pokemon 🙁 ever.

  • My eldest daughter is starting primary school in January (she’s 5) and the school actually has compulsory iPad lessons, even in kindergarten (which necessitated buying an iPad Air). Gaming wise, aside from kinectimals, she mostly prefers to watch my wife play Pokémon than do it herself (she was obsessed with them after we watched the cartoon on Netflix). When she’s a little older, might look into Disney Infinity or Lego Dimensions (already have the first 2 Lego Batman games for the 360 and Marvel Lego for XBOne.)

  • My Daughter just turned 4 and is super into everything Star Wars. Been thinking of Disney Infinity 3.0 as she also like most things Disney.

    I’m open to thoughts & suggestions

  • Don’t forget that the wiiu has virtual console and complete Wii backward compatibility.
    In addition to those games you are getting slightly upscaled versions of.

    Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, the metroid prime trilogy. The origional xenoblade, the last story, new super Mario bros 1-2 punch out, little kings story, the Lego Star Wars trilogy, all for close to or under 20 bucks if there is a sale. Classic games like super Mario 64, the donkey kong country trillogy, ocarina of time and 4-5 different versions of Mario kart. Are also availiable as well as some of the best indies.

    If someone was really set on a ps4/Xbox. I’d say get a ps4. Ratchet and clank + rime, fifa, rocket league with cross play. No mans sky coming soon. Give it a better selection of kid friendly games

    • PS4 is by far more family-friendly than an Xbox One, for sure. Though, even Knack, R&C, LittleBigPlanet etc. aren’t much compared to Nintendo’s family-friendly games.

  • I also bought our 3 year old a reconditioned iPad Mini 2, pretty good piece of kit for $300 and I get to play Hearthstone and Monument Valley on it 🙂

    The two ABC Kids apps are a big hit in our house, as well as YouTube Kids. For some reason he loves watching videos of adults opening various toys, rather than actually picking up the exact same toy that is sat 2 meters away!

    • That ABC Kids App is like a little drop of heaven when you want to play vidya games but the kid(s) need a Ben and Holly fix.

  • My girls have been using my old NDS’s since they were 3 and are pretty decent gamers (my eldest plays EDF4 on Inferno with me). They’re getting their own 3DSXL for Chrimbo, my eldest is keen on Majora’s Mask, but not sure what to pick up for her sister. Any other suggestions for a 6yo? She’s not quite Inferno-level yet.

      • She gave that a go on the Wii, didn’t hold interest. She finished New SMB when she was 4, Super Princess Peach not long after. Definitely something she can tackle at her own pace, where my elder one enjoys racing and sniping spider drop-ships and ant hills as they appear. So proud.

        • Try Disney infinity. Or little big planet. As both have creative building elements. Splatoon lets you play dress up.

          • Splatoon is great because while at high levels it is one of the most frantic and intense competitive shooters around. At lower levels and when not playing ranked modes, you can still positively contribute to your team without doing Much.

            No voice chat is a huge bonus as you know that no one will be swearing at your kids online.

    • From experience with my little sister, these games she actually played when she was little – Animal Crossing (this one is a real winner), Style Boutique (probably for people a bit older), Mario Kart, Nintendogs, Smash Bros, Kirby, Mario Party and Go Vacation! (this is one of the Wii’s hidden gems)

      • Woah, almost forgot to mention PokePark – this one is a hit with little kids who watch the TV show but don’t have the attention span for RPGs. Never underestimate the power of Pokemon spin-off games to captivate children!

  • Woah dude, these are way to expensive. Families more than likely know already if their children want the latest games console or gadget. What would make a much more informative list would be stuff that most kids of whatever recommended ages would enjoy, that adults might not have discovered, and most importantly: has a pretty average price for a present.

    • Agree, I came here looking for “games” as opposed to devices. My girls are getting 3DSXL’s that have been on lay-by for 6 months…

      • Also really important is to tell us about what games we could give to kids based on the expert experiences of the games writers here. They get to play a lot of different games and spend a heck of a time analysing them.

        I’d like to see that because if you ask me: kids games these days are few or terrible in comparison to my Mega-Drive to PS2 days. Sure there’s old Nintendo classics like Mario, Zelda, Pokemon et. al. and there’s excellent picks like Minecraft and the Lego games – but I know of little else. Kids always want to play the more ‘grown-up’ games than their age and I’d like to satiate them to encourage their own exploration of game types/genres/styles and impress on them that they are maturing.

        • Oh I know this feeling all too well. I remember being that ‘uncool Nintendo kid’ in primary school while everyone was playing shooters on their Xbox and PS2. And now developers are too scared to even make original mascot platformers (remember Spyro, Crash, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, Tak etc?) because kids are trying to be ‘mature’. Not to mention all the obscure Nintendo games I used to play (Kirby Air Ride, Mario Superstar Baseball etc.) that just don’t seem to be made anymore.

          If you asked me for (fun kid-friendly games these days, the only ones I would think of are the Wii U games I play with my little cousin, and they’re 80% Mario.

          • Damn right. Almost every game I could play on my Mega-Drive, PSX, N64 was age appropriate and damn good to boot. Don’t forget classics on GCN or PS2. Wicked cool platformers, adventures, third-person action, and racing games. Heck even FPS had the goods: instead of CoD or some other gritty shooter, we could be playing Timesplitters, Metroid Prime or Tron 2.0

  • Minecraft and Pokemon are both good choices as well as the Lego games.
    The Wii U is fantastic for young kids, my son is obsessed with Mario Maker atm.

  • The WiiU is seriously great if you have kids. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Full backwards compatibility shouldn’t be over looked.

  • Why don’t we go and buy them all heaps of coke and fanta while we’re at it and let them get the true experience of the gamer. This is a pretty sad article considering all the research into how over exposed our kids are to these things. At least a token mention of the 2hrs max screen time or something.

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