Gaming with Kids: Elena’s Picks

It’ll be some time before my daughter, now a toddler, can share in Mama’s big-girl toys—the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and other consoles. But they say time flies and kids grow up all too fast. If so, it won’t be long before I revisit these lists I’d like to introduce to her: multiplayer games and single-player classic series.

Multiplayer Games

I think Little Miss S can handle most of these games in elementary school, or at least by upper-elementary age.

(from top to bottom) Overcooked, Towerfall, and Helldivers — three action party-games.

First, action games we could play with Papa or friends as a group: Overcooked is a great appetizer to start with, if my kiddo takes after me. Some people find this cooking game a little stressful, but I think it’s great for practicing teamwork. Moving Out has a similar concept but is less frantic.

Towerfall might be a hit with school friends, who can either team up or compete as bouncy little archers. When Miss S gets older and hones her controller skills, I’d love her to team up with me in shooting aliens in Helldivers. It’s one of my favorite co-op games (chaos, friendly fire, screaming), but rarely gets played with guests because it’s a little tough.

Kids’ songs on Just Dance.

If we want lighthearted and funny, I know two great party games. Jackbox Games’ Drawful 2 is an excellent drawing/guessing game, particularly with 5+ players. Just Dance will get you smiling and moving, and if the family loves it, it’s worth subscribing to the large online database of Just Dance songs. Kids’ Mode curates songs that are appropriate for the young and impressionable.

If Papa isn’t around, Miss S and I could bond over two-player games. Hard not to love Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for its ultra-cuteness and short, not-too-hard puzzles. Likewise, Luigi Mansion 3 is pleasing to the eye and good for two, though bosses can be frustrating.

Captain Toad and his rotating, isometric puzzles.

Now, won’t someone make a new Bomberman game? I’m sure Miss S won’t mind old games, so I’ll also boot 20th century titles on the PC. Like Worms Armageddon for cutesy, turn-based warfare. Or Lode Runner: The Legend Returns to enjoy a mix of puzzles, fleeing mad monks, and designing our own levels.

When Miss S is an older teen, I’d love to try a serious co-op RPG with her. Perhaps the Divinity series? Though instead of a lengthy time commitment, we might prefer to play board games instead. Even if she goes off to college, we can continue playing online, as there are many websites for playing board games free-of-charge.

Worms battle it out in Worms Armageddon with bazookas, banana bombs, and deadly sheep. (Image from mobygames)

Classic Series (single-player)

Being a reader and story-lover, I’m partial to video games with a strong focus on storytelling and good writing.

I played point-and-click LucasArts adventures between the ages of 9 and 12. Chock-full of humor in between puzzle-solving, you can’t go wrong with any of these: Secret of Monkey Island 1 & 2, Curse of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, or Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. I also enjoyed Full Throttle, The Dig, and Loom, which were more serious in mood and occasionally had a scary/violent moment. Most of these are only available on PC currently.

Enjoy top-notch pirate comedy and silliness in the Monkey Island series. (Image: Curse of Monkey Island, third game in the series.)
Your oh-so-cool and formidable opponent in Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright.

As for console games, the Ace Attorney series which was originally on the Nintendo DS has now been ported to the Switch. I hope Miss S has no “OBJECTION!” to trying at least the first two Phoenix Wright titles, because they’re rather funny and will hone her attention to detail.

Next, you can’t go wrong with Final Fantasy. Sure, there are FF haters, but I don’t recall hating a game when I was a kid. Back then, I just wanted to consume and try everything (minus horror games). Now that many modern FF games are on the Nintendo Switch, Miss S can enjoy their sprawling, grand tales without hunting for an ancient console.

The original FF7 is a must-play in my books, even if the Remake version looks miles better. FF9 is less known than FF10 but just as good. Any of these three titles are good starting points. And did you hear that Square Enix plans to remaster the first six games for PC and mobile?

Unleash your inner house-decorator in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

All of these series are narrative-driven and pretty linear. So if Miss S just wants to build and be creative, she could dive into Animal Crossing. Won’t it be nice to gift each other with fruits, furniture, and fancy flooring? I know a few moms and daughters playing AC: New Horizons together and think it’s so sweet. But I should mention that one daughter, after dozens of hours building the island with her mom, deleted it all because she wanted to pick a new island name….

Lastly, SteamWorld games aren’t “classics” or household names but are pretty good. They consist of different genres but share a robot theme in common. Manageable in length and difficulty, each SteamWorld game is a good entry to the following genres: Dig and Dig 2 are puzzle-platformers in a cowboy setting; Heist is turn-based strategy in outer space; SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamesh is a medieval, light RPG with card game elements. They’re all-rounders, not only having great gameplay but also excelling in art and music.

SteamWorld Dig 2 got me enjoying platformers, a genre I don’t usually play.

A Word from Papa

For the record, Papa will give his two cents. He would like his daughter to try an older Pokemon game, one he grew up on, like Pokemon Red/Blue. Alongside real-life critter hunts and gardening, he hopes “to cultivate a love for animals and exploring the world.”

Please don’t grow up too fast, Miss S. But if you do, that’s alright too—fun and games await you.

We love to hear from you!