Earlier this week we published a guest blog from Andy Robertson, creator of Taming Gaming - a website to help parents and carers learn more about video games. In it, he argued that one of the best ways for grownups to become more comfortable with games is to have a go themselves. That way, games become an activity that families can enjoy together, instead of something that competes for children’s attention.
We understand that the market for games is massive and varied, so we’ve put together a list of 10 of our favourite titles. These are games that are perfect for playing together, but all of them have a PEGI rating of 7+ or less, so you can be confident that the content is appropriate for primary-aged children.
Fall Guys has taken the gaming world by storm this summer, and it’s not hard to see why. Where other Battle Royale games like Fortnite rely on killing off your competition, these challenges take inspiration from classic TV shows like It’s A Knockout. Up to 60 adorable jellybean characters compete in races and team games, until the final winner takes the crown!
Players can also buy costumes for their character using Kudos, a special currency earned by taking part in matches that can also be bought with real money. (For more info on in-app purchases, check out our blog on loot boxes here.)
Townscaper is a town-building game that takes place in an endless ocean. Click the mouse and a tiny building pops into view. Click again and the building gains another storey. Click to one side, and the building gets longer. Simple as that.
What makes it so endlessly playable is the way the buildings add extra detail as you go. Make a square of buildings and the centre becomes a courtyard filled with flowers. Delete a piece from the middle of a structure and it becomes an intricate archway. Players can spend hours building the perfect town, while the soothing noises and calm visuals make it perfect for playing with neurodiverse children.
Minecraft (Android, iOS, PC, Nintendo 2DS/3DS, Wii U, PS3/PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360/Xbox One)
There’s a reason Minecraft is the best-selling video game of all time. The simple presentation and iconic blocky visuals hide a creation tool with surprising depth. It starts with chopping down wood and mining stone, but it’s not long before you can create complex structures and even electronic circuits with the help of a material called ‘red stone’.
Minecraft is a superb tool for allowing children to explore their creativity, and with up to four players in the same room or up to 16 players online it’s a great way to spend time with family and friends.
In The Pedestrian, you navigate a stick man through a series of signs in a virtual world, running and jumping to get to the exit. The clever twist is that most levels will include multiple signs that the player can manipulate to create new pathways and solve puzzles.
Despite the slightly busy backgrounds, the simple design of the signs themselves makes the game easy to navigate, while the puzzles are great for teaching younger children logic and planning skills.
If your children have a mischievous streak, they’ll love Untitled Goose Game. You play as a naughty goose who spends a day pulling gentle pranks on the inhabitants of a sleepy English town. You’ll steal vegetables from a farmer, pull someone’s picnic into a river and lock somebody in a phone box. There’s even a dedicated ‘honk’ button.
The presentation is charming, and some of the challenges can be surprisingly tricky - luckily, the game now has a co-operative mode for two cheeky geese to wreak terror together.
In Heave Ho, your aim is to reach the end of the level by linking arms with other players and swinging each other through the air like trapeze artists - while avoiding the deadly drops and sharp spikes!
It’s a puzzle game that requires lateral thinking, cooperation, and just a tiny bit of shouting. If you fancy a real challenge, there are also competitive modes that pit teams against each other in a race to the finish.
In Overcooked, you play as chefs in a restaurant making salads, burgers and other tasty treats for hungry customers. The problem is, sometimes the restaurant is on a boat in a storm. Or you’re actually in two trucks that keep moving around on the road. And someone needs to wash all the dirty dishes…
Levels are fast and frantic, making this the perfect game to teach children about communication, cooperation and problem solving skills. Unfortunately it won’t do much to teach them how to cook!
If you’re looking for a more tranquil gaming experience, Abzu is one we highly recommend. You play as a diver exploring a gorgeous underwater landscape, which is home to all sorts of creatures and the ruins of a forgotten civilization.
While there is a story to complete, the real joy in Abzu comes from just exploring. It’s even educational - at certain moments you can sit on pedestals and observe the different fish swimming by, like an interactive episode of Blue Planet.
Mini Metro (Android, iOS, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4)
With its simple, clean art style, Mini Metro is the perfect puzzle game for mobile and tablet. You’re given a stylised map of a real-world city a little like the maps of the London Underground, and your job is to draw lines between train stations so that commuters can get where they need to go.
Each level starts off simply, and drawing lines can feel very zen, but the difficulty quickly ramps up as new stations appear and passengers become more numerous.
Video games aren’t just fun distractions - they can also be a way of starting difficult conversations about important subjects. Take Spiritfarer: it’s a game in which you play a woman who sails around in a houseboat, helping a cast of colourful animal characters.
However, the aim of the game is not to get rich or save the world, but to say goodbye - each character you help is a spirit, and once you fulfil all of their wishes you help them move on to the afterlife. The charming presentation makes it the perfect vehicle to discuss death and loss with young children.