Tell Us Dammit: Best Games For Kids

I have a three year old and he's starting to like video games. Honest to god I have not really encouraged this but it's happening now.

Funnily enough, this is an area where I don't have much expertise. What are some of the best games for kids that age?

Games he currently plays and enjoys:

— Super Mario 3D World — Mario Kart 7 + 8 — Journey (AKA SAND GAME) — Unraveled (AKA YARNIE GAME)

Should I give the LEGO series a bash? What are your suggestions?


    LEGO games are great... in a few years. There's too many aspects that require cooperation. Lego Batman 2 at 4 years old was an exercise in utter frustration. But 5 years old is fun: we've just finished Lego Marvel, and are about to move on to Lego Batman 3.

    Other than what you've mentioned, there's:
    - Yoshi's Woolly World (playing together on "mellow" mode, and then he spends ages in the character and music test screens)
    - Super Mario Maker: just making, never really playing
    - Captain Toad: He can do the first couple of levels by himself, no sweat, and is starting to branch out into later ones.
    - The big one: Minecraft. It's a game about making your own fun, and funnily enough, kids are pretty good at that. His current fun is making "maths stories" on signs e.g. "Once upon a time, Batboy went to the shops. He bide 1 fish, then another 10. 1+10=11"

    Last edited 05/05/16 11:24 am

    If you want to be a poor Dad then yes hook them up on toys for games ;)

    Kirby's Epic Yarn.


    Dark Souls 3?

      I'd say to ease them into it. So the first Dark Souls game to start.

      Teach them that the world is a brutal place. And kicks you while you're down.

      Teach em early, 3 might be a little late...

    I have a 3 and 5 yr old. They primarily play on the Wii U

    Lego City Undercover
    Yoshi's Woolly World
    Nintendo Land
    Amiibo Festival
    Disney Inifinty
    Super Mario Maker
    Pokken Tournament
    Raymen Legends (3 yr old uses the gamepad to control the flying guy)
    Need for Speed Most Wanted (gamepad can be used by parent to assist in driving)
    Captin Toad Treasure Tracker.

    This is always interesting to me because games marketed to kids aren't always the best games FOR kids. Making games for people who lack game exposure (both kids and our non-gamer partners) is a massive game design issue (and I've posted about this before) because:

    - They lack fine motor control
    - Prone to motion sickness (they tend to "watch" the game by always looking at the centre of the screen like its a movie)
    - Not aware of common game concepts (ie POIs in the game stand out in subtle ways they may not realise)
    - They lack confidence in their ability to play

    Nintendo is pretty good as far as the first 3 goes (and Mark's recommendations tick those boxes), but they SUCK at player empowerment. If you're doing badly in a Nintendo game, you know it.

    - Mario platformer games humiliate bad players by letting them float along the leader in a bubble, making them feel useless, and this gets worse as you go through the game.
    - Mario Kart AI bully players that aren't winning
    - Donkey Kong is worse than Mario at co-op. The second player gets sidelined if they can't keep up, and the game has entire levels (ie carts) where they do nothing.

    Games that handle multiplayer well should enable player 1 to help player 2 without it being obvious. Diablo 3 is a fantastic example because the experienced player can tank without the newb player really noticing.

    With the above in mind, I'm curious to hear everyone's recommendations.

      I don't agree with you about Mario platformers and Mario Kart, those games still feel great for less skilled players.

      The bubble mechanic in the co-op Mario's works because it's a safe space they can go to if a level gets too hard (by pressing A on a Wiimote), and if they want to get back in the game they just need to move closer to get popped out. And there's lots of opportunities to help a less skilled player out without making them go in a bubble. You pick them up on your shoulders and carry them over hard jumps and through difficult sections, and if they have a powerup like a fireflower, they can still contribute by shooting while you navigate. And at the end flagpole, I'll often go ahead and wait near the pole, jumping up to boost my kids as they jump over me so they can reach the top.

      Mario Kart in particular does the opposite of bullying for players that aren't winning - it actively rubber bands them and helps they out by giving them all the best powerups. My kids love when they get the Bullet Bill powerup and zoom through a level, and that really only drops for players coming last. My wife and her family often play Mario Kart, even though they don't play any other games, precisely because it still feels good even when you're not winning.

      But yeah, Donkey Kong isn't great at that though, it's definitely designed as a much more unforgiving game for people more comfortably with platformers.

      Last edited 05/05/16 11:39 am

        Thanks for the reply!

        I've found the problem with the bubble/pickup mechanics is that they work great when the difficult sections are intermittent and it's an occasional booster, but the end of the games can be extremely unforgiving. I sometimes found myself needing to carry/bubble my wife through half or entire levels, and that wasn't a good feeling for her. In that sense my main complaint is more about difficulty scaling, which is a bit better in Rayman Origins/Legends, which also has the bubble mechanic.

        For Mario Kart, it wasn't clear from your post if you were playing with AI or not, but that's what I'm referencing specifically. If you're not in the front of the pack you'll always be getting hit with items, but players with a bit of a lead on the main group only really have to worry about blue shells. This meant it was extremely easy for my wife to get hit from an AI and fall to last place, but at worst I fall to 3rd. I think this was better handled in Sonic Racing Transformed where the items are less annoying and aren't necessarily aimed at the nearest player.

          I see you're talking about playing with an adult and not kids, kids view games very differently.

            I'd love to hear your insight on that if you can elaborate. :)

              My 3 yr old isn't aware enough of the race to realise that she's coming last or that she's getting shot at in mario kart and so if she's fallen back to last place, she's still having fun driving around.
              The 5 yr old is more aware of what's going on in Mario Kart now and so will get frustrated at the AI players if she gets shot, but she still has fun with it and doesn't get discouraged.

              As for Mario and having to be carried/bubbled both kids are aware that they can't get through some parts of the levels and that they have to get Dad (me) to help them through these sections.

              I think as an adult playing these games, specially mario and having to rely on someone else to carry them through, they're not used to having to rely on someone to help them with stuff day to day, where as kids rely a lot on parents to look after them and so being helped in a game is just an extension of this.

                That last bit is actually a great point and probably the crux of the issue. I wonder how you could make a game that caters both ways to partners and kids?

                  I mostly play coop games with the wife, stuff like starbound, torchlight, diablo. Where you can't really carry the other person, but can do stuff to support them instead.

            Yeah very true, I just mentioned below how my kids love those 'helper' items that spawn in some Mario games when you're not doing very well. Adults are usually a bit insulted by them, but kids feel lucky they get to use a cool (overpowered) powerup.

          Yeah fair enough. I went through all the co-op Marios with my kids (NSMB Wii, NSMB Wii U, SM3DW) and they never really had a problem with difficulty spikes EXCEPT for the very last level of Super Mario 3D World which to this day we still can't do, that's a crazy difficulty wall.

          Another game we really enjoyed together until the difficult got ridiculous was Kirby Adventures on the Wii (Return to Dream Land in the US) - it's a great game for co-op, until it gets to the alien planet and then it just becomes brutal and not fun for little kids.

          We're going through Rayman Legends at the moment and really enjoying it, but the kids really don't like being Murphy. The bubble mechanic works well in that game also.

          I've also found my kids enjoy getting the 'noob helper' items in Mario games, like the Gold Tanooki Suit which spawns after you die too many times in a row, or using Mellow Mode in Yoshi's Woolly World. Where an adult might be insulted that it's offered to them, a child just feels like it's an awesome powerup they get to use. That's interesting the way different expectations would change how these things feel to a player.

          Last edited 05/05/16 12:09 pm

      I played Puppeteer with my nephew. He can't die so even if he isn't really doing much he can't die so doesn't lose confidence. I would definitely recommend it.

      My daughters aged 6 and 8 have been playing games since they were about 4-5.

      When they were younger (~4 years) they enjoyed Beat Sketcher (a PS Move game).
      They now like games like:
      - Kirby Triple Deluxe
      - Tokyo Jungle
      - Hatsune Miku Project Diva F 2nd
      - Hatsune Miku Project Mirai DX
      - The Adventures of Tintin
      - Gardening Mama
      - Lego Harry Potter
      - Youkai Watch
      - Pokemon X
      - Vita Pets
      - Singstar
      - Hamsterball
      - Sleeping Dogs

        I lol'd at Sleeping Dogs tucked in at the end as it doesn't really fit with the others. What's the story there?

          I was playing it and the kids thought that Wei Shen running down the street randomly jump-kicking passers-by was hilarious. They also chastised me for stealing vehicles until I showed them the vehicle-to-vehicle hijacking maneouvre - then they started egging me on! "Do the hijacking thing, Daddy!" they cried gleefully with a murderous glint in their eyes.


    My 4 and 6 year old love playing the following games:

    Super Mario 3D World (AKA "Cat Mario")
    New Super Mario Bros Wii U (or any of the co-op 2d marios)
    Yoshi's Woolly World - they love Mellow Mode (easy mode, you get wings) and not having a timer.
    MineCraft (4 y/o has a little trouble sometimes and needs help, but it's perfect for the 6 y/o, mainly creative mode as survival is too scary) (little free web/mobile game, easy to play, great fun)

    Oh yes, almost forgot: SUPER MARIO MAKER - they love making levels for each other, best game ever.

    Last edited 05/05/16 11:28 am

      I only just picked up Super Mario 3D World this week and the kids are already calling it Cat Mario just from the cover.

      I'll second Super Mario Maker - except in my case I only have one Little Pointer (who just turned 6), so she makes levels for *me* to play. She also really enjoys Minecraft.
      how fun is that game.
      i only found out about it a few weeks ago, spent a few hours in it already.

    I've deliberately tried to limit my gaming for when the young bloke isn't around. Of course this doesn't always work but he's limited to mobile gaming at the moment. That will change when the NX is released and I can't hide my gaming from him.
    I suspect a stronger bond during gaming than when we have a kick or go for bike rides, but that's just a hunch.

    Well, Lego City Undercover isn't a 'usual Lego game' but then again neither is that Lego Universe Toys to Life one either. I reckon Lego City is great. I haven't touched the regular Lego games myself.

    Lego Universe sort of died out it seems.

    Minecraft is its own thing. There are shows on Youtube based on nothing but Minecraft assets. A lot of young folk play less Minecraft but watch more Minecraft content. I still think Microsoft were kind of under-served at the time it bought Mojang, it was a smart move!

    Just get him a 3DS, Mark.

    Some other ideas:

    Transformers by Platinum seems the goods.

    Co-op Star Fox Zero I hear is alright, maybe even the preferred method of grappling with that game.

    Captain Toad Treasure Tracker.

    Goat Simulator is a big hit in our house right now.

    Now, just a quick note about 'mature' games:

    With the right amount of PG (parental guidance) and fostering your children's attitudes towards gaming in the way you see fit, stuff like Red Dead (open world and cowboys), Skyrim (fantasy and exploration), and the like are going to be played by kids that are too young to play them anyway, so as a parent the best thing you can do is carefully introduce and acclimatise them when you feel the time is right.

    Never GTA though. Because stuff GTA. Why would you even think that.

      Why can't Captain Toad be multiplayer! D:

      i would never let a child under 15 play red dead or skyrim
      too many mature themes that are unavoidable. and blood. and violence.

        I played soldier of fortune when I was 10 and I only have a short list of things that are wrong with me.

          i thought about my comment after i wrote it, and im pretty sure i played some games like that too. also watched Ninja Scroll as a 10 year old.
          although, im far from what you would call mentally sound, but i dont blame what i was exposed to entirely.

    If I had children I would get them started on the older consoles like NES and SMS and as they get older they would progress to SNES and Megadrive then finally N64, PS1. After that the choice is theres but I would steer them towards PC gaming.

      I told myself that as well, but soon gave in because of all the amazing kid friendly games on Wii U. My kids don't mind going back and playing older games though, at least in terms of graphics - just because they've seen the latest 3d graphics doesn't stop them loving pac man and NES games... but older games can also be a regression in terms of controls and playability, and that's where being brought up on newer games can spoil them a bit.

    Games my younger kids love:
    Lego Everything
    Disney Infinity 2.0
    Super Mario 3D Land
    Doritos Crash Course
    Trials Fusion

    Games my older kids (10, 12) currently play:
    5 Nights at Freddys
    Dark Souls II
    Dark Souls III
    The Sims
    Shovel Knight
    Star Wars Battlefront
    Banjo Tooie
    Sonic Adventure 2

    My 4 and 8 year old are really into pvz gw2 but i got them started on racing games or Lego marvel, The youngest doesn't really do missions he just cruises around.

    Nintendo Land is fairly god for the young ones especially the mario running game.

    If you don't mind a little early 90's cartoon violence, the Streets of Rage games.

    I used to play this a TON with my nephew when he was a young'in. Chuck it on Easy Mode, grab a second controller and you're set. We very nearly finished the game together, and he would have been all of 4, maybe 5 at the time.

    Postal 2
    Chicken Little: The Game

      Was waiting for this post.

        Yeah, I was a little late. Went to GYG for lunch. $5 Burritos, that's right $5 Burritos.

    Definitely minecraft but be warned, if you thought 1 more block addiction was bad in adults wait till you see what it does to young kids.

    I've also stated playing D3 on X1 with my 5yr old. He absolutely loves it as he can basically get away with button mashing. I personally don't have an issue with the cartoonish gore but others might.

    My 4 going on 5 year old loves Captain Toad and Yoshi's Woolly World. She liked the art style in Kirby's Rainbow Paintbrush, but found the control scheme too difficult.

    She has also taken up an Exploding Kittens addiction, and she's actually pretty good at it!

    Well Tiglet (coming up on 2) has been very interested in watching me play puzzle quest games but doesn't grasp the concepts. She does like the *HULK CLAP* though and I get her to open all the tokens to get new cards (She has so much better luck than me)
    We have just bought her a series of games from the Teddy floppy ears series and she has loved the mountain adventure game. Giggles uncontrollably every time you take a photo. Totally violence free point and click adventure. I have also got the spy fox, putt putt, pj sam games for when she is a bit bigger, although I might play through them with her on my lap like we do with Teddy floppy ear.

    Although one of the best gaming experiences I had with Tiglet was Dark souls. She woke up while I was playing just before dinner. We had 20 minutes so we spent the entire time running up and down the staircase at the giant blacksmith. Hitting the wall with my club and saying knock knock. Spinning the camera and playing peek a boo behind the shield. Boing, boing, boing backstepping down the stairs. Didn't go near an enemy in the 20 minutes that we played but so much laughter.

    Haven't played it with her but a friend of mine was thinking about this and recommended audiosurf. Music that you can set, bright colours and all the kid needs to do is move the mouse left and right.
    Although it was fun when Tiglet was helping me play rocket league. I was controlling the car and the buttons, she was controlling the camera. We didn't score well.

    Minecraft for DAYS. My younger sister (8 years old) has been playing minecraft since she was like 4 and saw me playing it. She doesn't play survival mode all that often but she still has loads of fun projecting stories into the world (she has a farm where she spawns animals in different pens in one world, and in another she has racks of armour and she goes out monster-hunting). I think it's the ideal game for kids since there are no game-set obstacles. They understand the fundamentals of building structures hopefully from things like lego and even if they don't, the game doesn't punish them for that. It also lets them discover things at their own pace as they look through the mountain of items available to them in creative mode.

    I find it too difficult playing things like super mario bros or lego games with my sister because they have "complex" mechanics (having to remind a 4 year old to shake the wiimote when they're in a bubble so they can get popped faster every single time is super annoying).

    Dwarf Fortress. Fosters imagination, creativity, good sportmanship, real life lessons about the world, reading skills and problem solving. Look at all the pretty letters running around!

    My little girl is only 6 months old. I'm considering holding onto my WiiU just so she can play Mario Maker when she is a bit older. I think that this would have to be one of the best games for kids as I believe that it has real value in terms of their cognitive development.

    Mine is 18 now, so we didn't have all these new-fangled Wii games when he was a lad, but on PC he loved the Freddi Fish series. It's about an *cough*annoying*cough* anthropomorphic fish who solves mysteries. It was actually a pretty good series of games - mostly involved point and click interaction. I think they are on steam now.

    He also loved Zoombinis and Baggin the Dragon which were both educational games (the latter was maths I think). Then there was Spyro the Dragon, Banjo Kazooi, Crash Team Racing, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (not the lego one) on PS1 and XBox.

    He still loves them and other older more retro games. Sorry I can't suggesting anything newer for a younger kid, but hey it's never too early to give kids a sense of video game history with older games.

    Although I'm not a parent myself, I have younger siblings and nephews and sometimes we'll have a race in Forza Motorsport with the AI on easy.

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