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The Free Summer update – Wave 2 will come to Animal Crossing: New Horizons on July 30th. It will include fireworks and a new “dreaming” mechanic, but (most importantly) it will also include the ability to backup and restore your island so long as you are a Nintendo Switch Online Subscriber. Take a look at the details below!

Baby You’re a Firework!

I had a feeling this was coming when the first wave of summer DLC didn’t include fireworks. I can’t wait to see videos and pictures of the fireworks displays in our various towns.

Enjoy atmospheric fireworks lighting up the sky above your island every Sunday in August at 7 p.m. Get in the spirit by redeeming Bells for raffle tickets in the plaza to get various festive items that you can use. Put your personal spin on the fireworks display by using your own custom design pattern to see it shot in the air as a firework in the sky!

Sweet Dreams!

Players will be able to use a new Dreaming mechanic to visit other players islands or allow other players to visit theirs. The big difference between dreaming and visiting via the airport is that nothing you do while visiting in dreams will be permanent. It is, quite literally, a “dream.”

You can now choose to take a nap in any bed placed in your home.** While dozing off, you may find yourself in a strange realm where you’ll be greeted by Luna. Luna offers visits to other islands as a dream, and with her help, you can share your island as a dream with others too.*** She will grant those who share their island a “Dream Address” which players can exchange and use to visit each other’s island in a dream. In dreams, nothing is permanent because nothing you do is saved, so explore to your heart’s content.

The Island Backup & Restoration Service is FINALLY here!

The most important part of this update is Island backups. Nintendo Switch Online members will have their island data uploaded to the cloud periodically. They can then contact Nintendo Support to have their island reinstated in the event of a damaged Switch.

You cannot, however, transfer the island to another Switch. That ability will be added in an additional patch later this year.

Nintendo Switch Online members can enable the new island backup service, which automatically uploads island and user save data to the internet at certain times. If your Nintendo Switch system is lost or damaged, you may be able to recover your island paradise as long as you’ve enabled island backup. In the event of loss or damage, contact Nintendo Consumer Support about restoring the island and user save data on your new or repaired Nintendo Switch system. After your island data and individual player data is restored, you can get back to building your island community!**** Additional details can be found on the Nintendo Consumer Support page when the update goes live. The island backup feature is separate from the Save Data Cloud functionality offered for select Nintendo Switch games through Nintendo Switch Online. A function specific to Animal Crossing: New Horizons to move users and save data to another system is planned for later this year. Details will be announced in the future.                                                                         

The video also teased a fall update at the end. The teaser icon is a pumpkin and I can’t wait for the autumn season shenanigans!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Here are all the video game releases rated E-T by the ESRB that are releasing between July 26th and August 1st.

Tuesday, July 28th

  • Ageless- Switch
  • Cubers: Arena- PS4, Xbox One, Switch
  • Destroy All Humans!- PS4, Xbox One
  • Escape Game: Fort Boyard- PS4, Switch
  • Grounded- Xbox One
  • Megadimension Neptunia VII- Switch
  • Rugby Challenge 4- Switch
  • Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection- PS4, Xbox One, Switch
  • Skater XL- PS4, Xbox One
  • The Sims 4: Nifty Knitting DLC- PS4, Xbox One

Wednesday, July 29th

  • Lost Wing- PS4, Xbox One, Switch
  • Nowhere Prophet- PS4, Xbox One, Switch
  • They Breathe- Switch

Thursday, July 30th

  • Buried Stars- PS4, Switch
  • Hellpoint- Xbox One
  • Kingdom Rush- Xbox One
  • Locomotion- Switch
  • Merchant of the Skies- Xbox One, Switch
  • Sentinels of Freedom- Switch
  • Spiral Memoria: The Summer I Meet Myself- Switch
  • The Touryst- Xbox One

Friday, July 31st

  • Castlestorm II- PS4, Xbox One, Switch
  • Cat Quest + Cat Quest II: Pawsome Pack- PS4, Switch
  • Dodo Peak- Switch
  • Fairy Tail- PS4, Switch
  • FootGoal! Tiki Taka- Switch
  • Hamster Bob- Switch
  • Heroes of Hammerwatch: Ultimate Edition- Xbox One, Switch
  • Naught- Switch
  • Nicole- Switch
  • Paint Your Pet- Switch
  • Swim Out- Xbox One
  • Tiny Racer- Switch

Jeff’s Pick of the Week

As a fan of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, the 1989 comedy where Rick Moranis accidentally shrinks his children down to a minuscule size, I was very excited when this game was announced. Grounded is a first-person survival adventure game where your character has been shrunk down like the movie referenced earlier. You and your friends must defend against the creatures that live in the backyard, such as spiders, ants, and other bugs.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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To Whom it may concern,

The world needs a new cartoon or video game based on the 1992-93 animated series King Arthur and the Knights of Justice. I know. That seems kind of a shallow request considering the world is caught in the grips of a global pandemic. But, hear me out – This would provide optimistic heroism paired with the perfect amount of absurd humor.

For those of you who need a history lesson, King Arthur and the Knights of Justice is a cartoon that aired in 1992 and 1993. It had only 2 seasons with 13 episodes each. It was also very, very dumb. Camelot is in danger because the evil sorceress Morgana has imprisoned King Arthur and his knights in a Cave of Glass. Merlin cannot free them so he seeks out heroes on a battlefield of the future. His weird spell, somehow, finds a college football team called the Knights and their dashing quarterback Arthur King. The team is brought back in time, given magic suits of armor, and start fighting evil and crime.

Yes. I know that sounds impossibly dumb. But, hear me out.

Point 1 – A Framework to Hang a Story

The Arthurian legend is a classic. The story is simple. The heroes, villains, conflicts and themes can be easily boiled down to their simplest forms. That leaves all sorts of room for different window dressings. The idea of the Knights of the Round table being magical Avengers seems like a pretty great place to start. The idea of bringing a modern day football team back in time to be those super heroes is just enough Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for me.

Point 2 – The Theme Song is a Masterpiece

I present to you the King Arthur and the Knights of Justice theme song. Tell me that this isn’t amazing.

Point 3 – There Was Already Video Game

Enix released a video game based on the property back in 1995 for the SNES. It served as a finale for the show because completing the game finally let the gang go home.

You can take a look at a walkthrough of the game below. It was standard top down action RPG nonsense back then, but it would be perfect for a cool third-person action RPG now. The characters all have interesting abilities, their armor looks cool, and the enemy designs are fun.

Come on y’all! Let’s make this happen!


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts! (I call Trunk though.)

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Crosscode is a twin-stick shooter RPG that is currently available on PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. You play as Lea in the VRMMO Crosscode. Your goal is to follow the path of the ancients, which is the format the in-game VRmmo uses for progression.  It has a skill tree based leveling system that goes very in-depth. Crosscode also has Zelda-like dungeons and complex puzzles. The story is also amazing and easy to follow. 

This is an amazing game with a couple of elements that make it frustrating at times. First, the combat system is fleshed out, with many ways of tackling every fight. You can use your melee weapon, your ranged weapon using a  twin-stick shooter style of aiming and moving, or you can be defensive with your shield. One challenge with the combat is the menu for communicating with your teammates to determine who to attack. There are three choices: attack my enemy, attack other enemies, or attack random enemies. If you have other enemies selected but there is only one enemy left, they don’t fight, at all. 

The second challenging component is the puzzles. Most puzzles use the Twin-stick ranged weapon. The challenge is that the puzzles are very precise, they have no margin for error. For example, with one challenging puzzle I had to shoot ice into a furnace to send steam down a path. The issue was I was one level higher than the ice and had to use a weird aiming system to hit it. Unfortunately, if I hit it slightly off, I had to reset the puzzle. Many times the solutions of the puzzles are not obvious. Once you figure the solution out, it still will take many tries. 

Can a kid play this game?

Yes and no, it greatly depends on the age and skill level of the player. The puzzles are hard without a guide and can get frustrating. The combat is also challenging at times. Luckily, Crosscode a  large number of assist features. You have three main options for the assists.

  • Puzzle speed: which changes how long things stay. For example: how long the platforms that are timing-based stay up, or how long until bombs explode
  • Damage taken: how much damage you take.
  • Enemy attack frequency: which changes how often enemies attack

You can change all of these on a percentage slider. I for one played with everything at 80% and still had trouble, though if you set everything to 20% it gets considerably easier.

Should a kid play this game?

Crosscode is rated T by the ESRB.

The rating summary is as follows:

This is an action role-playing game in which players assume the role of a fighter playing an MMORPG as she tries to regain her memory. From a ¾-overhead perspective, players traverse platforms, solve puzzles, and battle various enemies (e.g., rival players, robots, creatures). Characters use blaster-like weapons and melee attacks to defeat enemies; one-on-one fights and boss battles can be frenetic, with explosions and over-the-top special attacks. The word “sh*t” appears in the dialogue.

ESRB

Conclusion

All said and done Crosscode is a great game that thought is challenging makes for a fun time. The mechanics are fun to use. The puzzles are hard but fair. The game is very immersive and keeps you engaged the entire time. This is a great purchase if you like 2d Zelda games.


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Here are all the video game releases rated E-T by the ESRB that are releasing between July 19th and July 25th.

Tuesday, July 21st

  • Liquid Sunshine- Xbox One
  • Panzer Paladin- Switch
  • Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break- PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Wednesday, July 22nd

  • Aircraft Evolution- Xbox One
  • Creaks- Xbox One, Switch

Thursday, July 23rd

  • Super Toy Cars 2- PS4

Friday, July 24th

  • Mittelborg: City of Mages- Switch

Saturday, July 25th

  • Cubicity- Switch

Jeff’s Pick of the Week

Panzer Paladin looks just like an old NES action game. Jump in your mech and look for melee weapons to take down your enemy! If you do not have a Nintendo Switch, you can also play on Steam. Bash through 17 levels on your way to save the world!


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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The Engaged Family Gaming team has the mission to provide information and support families who want to play video games with their kids (and board games too). We work hard to provide parents with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their children’s gaming. To facilitate this, we help parents who might not be “gamers” themselves learn to understand the games their children are playing and help them find great video games for their kids.

The “EFG Essentials” is a core collection of games we frequently recommend across different genres. The purpose of these essentials is to provide a starting point for families to engage with high-quality games. Below are our EFG Essential games for kids on the Xbox One.

Minecraft

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Survival
  • Also Available On PS4, Xbox One, Everything that can play video games

Minecraft is one of the best selling games of all time, and one of EFG’s family games of the last decade. It is so well known that I questioned whether or not to include it here. But, it is too important of a game to leave off. 

Minecraft holds a special place in a lot of kid’s hearts because it is so flexible. It can be so many different games to so many different people. It can be a survival game, a creative outlet, a multiplayer battle game, and more. It even ends up being the equivalent of a popular TV show considering how many hours of the game are consumed globally each month (Hint: It’s a lot.)

Madden 2020

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Genre: Sports Game
  • Also Available On:PC, PS4

Madden 2020 is the singular NFL title for all your gaming needs. If you are looking for a high quality football simulation with all the applicable NFL licenses this is going to be your go to.

NBA 2K20

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Genre: Sports Game
  • Also Available On:PC, PS4

The NBA 2K games are far and away the most consistent and best performing NBA property on the market today.  This is truly a basketball simulation that allows you to play as any of the current NBA teams, customize your own, or even play as some of the iconic teams of the past.  One final note on the 2020 version is that it allows you to play as any of the twelve teams in the WNBA.

WWE 2K19

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Genre: Sports Game
  • Also Available On:PC, PS4

In WWE 2K19, you can take your dream of becoming a WWE superstar and make it a reality. With over 200 superstars from throughout WWE’s history to choose from, you and your family will enjoy laying the Smackdown on each other in a family-friendly way. You can choose from legends such as Dusty Rhodes and Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake to current superstars like Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins. In WWE 2k19, you get the opportunity to play through the career of Daniel Bryan or start up your own company in the WWE Universe mode. WWE 2k19 is the pinnacle in c

Super Lucky’s Tale

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Genre: Platform Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4

An adorable game perfect for families.  This cartoony platformer is the sequel to the original Lucky’s Tale and follows the adventures of a fox, Lucky Swiftail, as you try and protect the Book of Ages and all the characters and worlds within.  The gameplay varies from your standard open level 3D worlds to the occasional puzzle levels and even some 2D side-scrolling just to add flavor. This is wholesome entertainment great for the whole family to enjoy together.

Rocket League

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Genre: Sports Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, macOS, Linux

Rocket League is, quite literally, soccer as played by rocket-powered vehicles. It launched in in 2015 to great fanfare and has only grown as they added more game-modes like “hockey” and “basketball”

This is a great game to play (and watch) because of how wild the matches can be. There is just something exciting about watching race cars flying around a trach crashing into a massive steel ball and trying to score a goal. 

The Messenger

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Platform Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4
Click Image to Purchase

Simply put… The Messenger is a modern response to the Ninja Gaiden series from the NES era. Sabotage Studio is a team full of people who love that game and have gone out of their way to show their reverence in game form.

It isn’t an easy game, but the experience is well worth the effort. The soundtrack alone is worth spending time with the game. But, exploring the different levels AND playing with the time travel mechanics are rewarding.

This is definitely a game that needs to be on your radar.

Steamworld Dig 2

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Platform Game/Metroidvania
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, macOS, Linux, Playstation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Stadia
Click Image to Purchase

Image and Form games is a small game development studio from Sweden. They have made several games in various genres that are feature steam powered robots as the characters. Steamworld Dig 2 is all about … digging. You are constantly digging deeper into a planet in search of resources and secrets. This is a wonderful exploration game that everyone should try! (The rest fo the Steamworld games are worth a look too!)

Overwatch

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Genre: First-person Shooter
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4

Overwatch is a great alternative for parents looking to let their kids play a multiplayer shooter. It features cartoonish graphics, a diverse cast of characters, and a number of game modes that keep things interesting. One of the things we love about Overwatch is that the cartoonish aesthetic helped keep the ESRB rating down, and makes this more of an Avengers-like experience than a Saving Private Ryan one.

Kingdom Hearts 3

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Action Role-playing
  • Also Available On: PS4

Kingdom Hearts 3 is the culmination of a gaming franchise that dates back to the PlayStation 2. The series is a mish-mash of Final Fantasy characters and Disney worlds that has no right to be as good as it is. The story is … complex… but visiting Disney worlds and battling evil monsters is a lot of fun. 

Stardew Valley

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Playstation Vita

Stardew Valley is a remarkable game. It is a farming and life simulator where you play as a younger person who inherits a relatives run down farm. You need to build it up, explore the surrounding wilderness, meet people, get married, etc. It is a wildly engaging game that has been a sensation since it’s release. This is a great game to relax with. 

Forza Motorsports 7

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Genre: Racing
  • Also Available On: PC

Forza Motorsports 7 is a simulation racer. It is significantly more challenging than its arcade racer cousin Forza Horizon. It is intended to provide a more authentic driving experience. It also happens to be a drop-dead gorgeous racing game that features famous race tracks from around the world. 

Forza Horizons 4

  • ESRB Rating:E
  • Genre: Racing
  • Also Available On: PC

Forza Horizon 4 is an arcade racing game that has so many cars in it, that any car person will have trouble recognizing all of them. The game has an amazing single-player campaign but an even better multiplayer. With the wide range of minigames and races to participate in you will not get bored, you can even customize and design your own cars. 

Final Fantasy XV

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Genre:Action Role-playing
  • Also Available On: PC, PS4, Stadia

Final Fantasy 15 is coming of age story, as the young prince Noctis grows from a brash teen to an adult and wielder of magic powers. His journey is assisted by three friends that are as much mentors as they are friends, each with stories in their own right. 

With a steady, fast pace in mind, Final Fantasy 15 handles action in the third person view. It has simple commands mapped to the controller ahead of time. Combat happens in real time, players can choose to pause the action for an opportunity to plan and strategize that is an anchor point of the RPG experience. 

FIFA 2020

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Genre: Sports Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Stadia

Soccer (Football for our international readers) is the most popular sport on Earth. It stands to reason then that the digital version would be wildly successful as well. If your kids play soccer, then they likely have this game on their wish lists every year. I can’t say that I blame them. FIFA does amazing work each year in crafting as authentic and fun of an experience that they can. This year’s biggest addition is the Volta football mode which celebrates street soccer. It’s wild, and exciting… everything a true fan would want to see

Ori and the Blind Forest/Ori and the Will of the Wisps

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Genre: Platform Game/Metroidvania
  • Also Available On: PC

We went ahead and put both of these games on the list because, while they are separate games, they are both great. These are a pair of Metroidvania games that tell the story of Ori, a nature spirit, and their adventures through a dangerous, magical land. These are pretty challenging games – not for the easily frustrated – but they are beautiful and would be a great additions to your collection. 

Sonic Mania Plus

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Genre: Platform Game
  • Also Available On: Exclusive

Sonic Mania is a fast-paced action/platformer that brings modern polish to a nostalgic classic. Sonic Mania features Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails (with additional characters in its most recent rerelease) battling their oldest foe Dr. Eggman. It has a very robust local multiplayer experience, with available game modes that allow for cooperation and competition. It’s multiplayer only lacks in its ability to bring all of its fully online. 

Sonic Mania Plus is an EFG Essential for anyone looking for the perfect modern Sonic Experience.

Celeste

  • ESRB Rating: E 10 +
  • Genre: Platform Game
  • Also Available On: PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
Click Image to Purchase

In Celeste, you play as Madeline on a quest to survive her inner issues. This game is a platforming game that is really difficult. Each screen poses its own challenges, of which there are 700+ of them! As you learn new skills along the way, the game becomes more complex. As you run, air dash, and climb you will learn more about Madeline and the difficulties that she must face. If you want an even deeper challenge, you can go for all of the strawberries in the level, which require your best platforming abilities. Each world also has a B-side, which is a more difficult version of that world. Overall, Celeste is challenging but is not unforgiving. Anyone who is up to the challenge of a difficult platformer should give it a try!

LEGO Games

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, macOS

From Harry Potter and Star Wars to Marvel and DC, LEGO has consistently captured the imagination of kids 0-99.  The fact that they have been able to do that with their video games has been remarkable. Most of their games follow the same basic format of providing you familiar characters to interact with your environment while collecting blocks either by battling enemies or destroying objects in the world around you.  This has proved a winning formula time and time again and has provided many many hours of entertainment to its fans.

Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Third-Person Shooter
  • Also Available On: PS4

Parents regularly approach the EFG team looking for alternatives to more violent M-rated shooters on the market. We regularly suggest the Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare series. This is the latest entry to the series, but any of them are worthy additions to your collection. 

Everything about this game is all bright colors and goofy characters.  There is even a Disco Zombie character! 

No Man’s Sky: Beyond

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Genre: Survival
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One

No Man’s Sky released in 2016 and wasn’t very well received. However, Hello Games has been releasing regular, free updates since launch. It is almost unrecognizable from its original form now. It still has the exploration on mode, but it has base building, a creative mode, multiplayer, and more!

Riverbond

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4

Riverbond is a four-player drop-in/drop-out cooperative game that is a cross between Gauntlet and Minecraft with very simple controls that consists of attack, ranged attack, special attack, pick up/throw, block and jump. You and your friends slash your way through more than 100 levels, interacting and destroying everything in your path. The combat was easy to pick up and learn while at the same time being complex enough that I think that veteran gamers will be able to stay engaged and happy for quite a long time. I think it was the simplicity of the combat as a whole that is what made this game so great.  There was no need to get used to the controls, we just picked up and played and were able to focus on the game without getting lost in the mechanics of this. This is why I chose this game as my “Game Of The Show” for E3 2017.  It hit all the marks for me.  Family-friendly, easily accessible, and endlessly playable in any environment.

Slime Rancher

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Also Available On: PC, PS4, macOS, Linux

In Slime Rancher you play a space-faring explorer who has landed on a planet filled with adorable bouncing slimes of different colors. The goal is to capture them, place them in enclosures, breed them, and collect resources they drop to expand your settlement. 

This is an adorable exploration game that is a great idea for kids looking for a temporary alternative to Minecraft. 

HALO 5: Guardians

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Genre: First Person Shooter
  • Also Available On: PC

The HALO franchise has never appeared as a recommended game on this site due to its M rating with the ESRBHALO 5: Guardians, however, is the first time in the series that has a T rating.  The conscious decision to create a game with a T rating finally brings this to our table for a larger cross-section of the population is amazing and if you own an Xbox One you need this game in your library.

Minecraft Dungeons

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Action Role-playing
  • Also Available On: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC

Take Diablo but make it Minecraft. Sounds stupid but it makes a really good game. With infinite possibilities for weapons due to the enchanting system, and plenty of different ways to tackle every problem, and a very in-depth difficulty system. Minecraft Dungeons makes a great game for all ages.

Addendum: Fortnite

At this point, almost every kid on Earth has played Fortnite. But, we wanted to include it here for the sake of completion. It is a worthy recommendation though. Fortnite is huge. It is a great alternative for more mature shooters since there is no blood and most of the action is over the top and silly as opposed to bloody and realistic.

The EFG Essential Guide Collections

Check out our other Essentials Guides for great collections of games!



What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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The Engaged Family Gaming team has the mission to provide information and support families who want to play video games with their kids (and board games too). We work hard to provide parents with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their children’s gaming. To facilitate this, we help parents who might not be “gamers” themselves learn to understand the games their children are playing and help them find great board games for their kids.

The “EFG Essentials” is a core collection of games we frequently recommend across different genres. The purpose of these essentials is to provide a starting point for families to engage with high-quality games for their kids.

We’ve made four lists – one for each major gaming console, and a fourth for board games.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

Subscribe to our Newsletter!Subscribe to our Podcast!

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The Engaged Family Gaming team has the mission to provide information and support families who want to play board games with their kids (and video games too). We work hard to provide parents with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their children’s gaming. To facilitate this, we help parents who might not be “gamers” themselves learn to understand the games their children are playing and help them find great board games for their kids.

The “EFG Essentials” is a core collection of games we frequently recommend across different genres. The purpose of these essentials is to provide a starting point for families to engage with high-quality games. Below are our EFG Essential board games for kids.

Ticket to Ride 

  • Route Building and Set collection 
  • 2-5 players
  • 8+

Ticket To Ride is the quintessential starting place for families looking for the next level in board games beyond Monopoly or Uno. This is the game that was the starting point for multiple members of the EFG team to become passionate about board games.

During gameplay, players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout the United States. Each player is working on completing their own secret routes. If another player claims a path they need, the player needs to try and find another path to complete their route, if possible. This also adds a potential “take that” element to the game.

On each turn you can only take one of 3 actions: draw Train Car Cards, claim a Route between two cities on the board, draw additional Destination Tickets. The object of the game is to score the highest number of total points. Points are earned from completing routes, and lost for incomplete route cards. Each round allows for players to plan, think strategically, and make tactical decisions.

Ticket to Ride has expansions for other geographical areas (EuropeAsiaIndia, etc), in addition to First Journey for younger players. We love the fact that this game has so many version and appeals to such a wide range of players.

  • See our review of Ticket to Ride here.
  • See our review of Ticket to Ride First Journey here.

Sushi Go

  • Card drafting 
  • 2-5 players
  • 8+

Sushi-Go takes place in the fast-paced world of a sushi chef, you must be the most creative and the fastest of all to be the best! The game comes in a cute tin and plays two to five players.

Players start with cards in their hand based on the number of players, and select one card to play before passing the rest of their cards to the next player to choose from!  The game plays in 3 rounds, where all but dessert cards are cleared from the table and scored at the end.  The strategy of the game lies in making the most of the cards passed to you, while trying to stop opponents from making the combinations they need to maximize points. The most interesting dynamic of this game is the chopsticks.  They are played in one round, and used on a subsequent turn to play two cards at once from the current hand.  The chopsticks get passed on to be used by someone else.

Sushi Go! is a fun game to play with anyone, and it is a light streamlined game that is a perfect first card drafting game.

See our review here.

Qwixx

  • Roll and Write
  • 2-5 players
  • 8+

Qwixx is a simple roll and write where all players participate in every dice roll. However, you must be strategic about the numbers and colors you select each turn. Roll and write games have a set of dice and each player has a scoring sheet. The genre of roll and write games have become more popular in the last few years, and Qwixx is the perfect game to learn the genre.

To play, there are six dice, two white, one yellow, one red, one blue, and one green. On a turn, the active player rolls and announces the total of the two white dice. All players have the option to mark any color on their sheet with the corresponding number.  The active player only has the additional option to add one white die with any one of the red, yellow, blue, or green dice to select a number on their record sheet. The more numbers you can mark off the more points you score, but players must choose carefully once you cross off a number you can not go backwards.

Kingdomino

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-4 players
  • 8+

Kingdomino, the 2017 winner of The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), and combines the universal simplicity of dominoes with kingdom building. It is a tile drafting and placement game for two to four players.  The game is played in short rounds.

First, tiles are laid out in a field and players take turns drafting tiles based on the order of the previous round. Players draw domino shaped tiles and lay them out in their 5×5 block kingdom. only one side of their domino needs to match the land the connect to, but it can gain them more points if both sides match. The goal is to sort their kingdom so that they have large contiguous terrain (lakes, forests, etc) to earn points. Points are calculated by taking the number of continuous terrain times the number of crown icons found on any domino in that terrain. The gameplay is quick, easy to teach, and the game ages down very nicely.

See our Spiel Des Jahres 2017 article here.

Forbidden Island

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • 10+

Forbidden Island puts players on an island that is slowly sinking into the ocean, and they need to work together to gather treasures then escape. Each turn is filled with tension as players flip over cards that indicate which tile will sink (and thus shrink the board). As the game progresses it really feels like the world is sinking.

The tiles are laid out in a set island pattern, and six cards are flipped from the Flood Deck. As cards are drawn from the Flood Deck, the corresponding tile on the board is flipped over to a blue tinted version of the same piece. This represents the location “flooding”. If a flooded location floods a second time (via the same flood card being drawn later in the game), that location is lost to the abyss and both the tile and the corresponding flood card are removed from the game. 

The randomness of the tile layout as the board leads to huge variety and replay value, as does the multiple combinations of adventurer play styles (especially in combination). The difficulty can be scaled to all abilities based on how high the water level starts the game, and even at the easy setting can provide a decent challenge for some of the most experienced gamers.

See our review here.

Pandemic

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • 8+

In Pandemic, two to four players take on one of several roles, such as Medic, Dispatcher, or Researcher, in their quest to cure 4 diseases before time runs out and humanity is wiped out.

Game play follows a standard turn-based approach. Each player starts their turn by drawing from an event deck to determine where the newest infections are.  Then, they use location cards to move around the globe, treating diseases to prevent outbreaks.  Finally, they draw more location cards to restock their hand.  If a player can get three location cards of a single color and can get to a lab, they can create a cure.  The cure that won’t immediately eradicate the disease. Rather, it will make the disease easier to treat.

There is one way to win (working together to cure all 4 diseases), and multiple ways to lose (running out of time, being overwhelmed by diseases, etc.)  Players can change the difficult by increasing the starting number of infections.

See our review here.

Tsuro

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-8 players
  • 8+

Tsuro is a tile laying game for two to eight players with a beautiful Asian aesthetic. In this game you are a flying dragon. Your dragon is represented by a colored carved token. Tsuro consists of tiles with twisting lines on them, a 6×6 grid on which to lay these tiles and a token for each player.

Each player has a hand of tiles. On your turn you do two things: place a tile from your hand onto the board next to your token and move your token as far as it can go along the line it is currently on. You continue to move it until it is stopped by an empty space with no tile in (yet), the edge of the board, or if you collide with player’s token. If your dragon reaches the edge of the board or collides with another player’s token, you are out of the game.

The goal of the game is to be the last player left with a dragon on the board. The strategy, therefore, consists of trying to drive your opponents either into each other or off of the board while trying to extend your own route in directions that will make it difficult for your opponents to hinder your path.

See our review here.

Tenzi

  • Dice Rolling
  • 2-4
  • 7+

Tenzi is a super simple dice game for two to four players ages 7 and up that is very fast-paced. This is a great icebreaker, boredom buster, or introduction to kick off a bigger game night. The game is noisy, quick, and simple. The variations within the rules make it something that has a high replay value.

Basically, each player rolls their dice until all if them have a matching number. The first player to get all of them to match, wins. The small included instruction sheet (which tells a nice story about then creation of the game) has many different variations of the basic game, making it a lot more fun than it initially seems.

The game play is always fresh, fun, and super fast. It’s also nice the game does a tiny bit of teaching while still being fun. We found that it’s been playable by children as young as five while still being entertaining to adults.

See our review here.

Rhino Hero

  • Dexterity
  • 2-5 players
  • 5+

Rhino Hero is a competitive  3-D stacking game where players are building a tower of cards and moving Rhino Hero up the tower.  This is a great games for younger players and involves no reading.

This dexterity game directs players were the wall cards need to go on each turn.  Players have wall and ceiling tiles.  On their turn, the player first builds the wall in the place indicated on the ceiling tile and then place their ceiling tile.  Actions indicated on some of the ceiling tiles and those benefit the player, such as skipping the next player.  The game ends when the tower fall, a player places their last roof card, or all the walls are built. 

Animal Upon Animal

  • Dexterity
  • 2-4 players
  • 4+

Animal Upon Animal is a dexterity game perfect for young games, where players are stacking wooden animal pieces.  On a turn, players roll a special die to determine what happens on their turn. If the player rolls one pip they add one animal, two pips the add two animals, the crocodile image has the player place one animal on the table touching one side of the base animals, therefore further expanding the base. The hand icon has the active player choose one of their animals and give it to another player who then has to add it to the stack. Finally the question mark icon has the other players determine which animal the active player has to add to the stack.

Should animals fall off while a player is trying to add one to the stack, the player who was placing the animals takes them if there are one or two that fall. Should more than two fall one two are kept and the rest returned to the box.The game ends when a player runs out of animals to stack, and the last player to place their piece can declare victory.

Hiss

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-5
  • 4+

Hiss is a competitive game perfect for very young gamers, where players draw tiles and try and build the longest snakes.  Each snake has different colors and players need to match the colors for adjacent snake pieces.  To build a complete snake they need to have a head, at least one middle body segment, and a tail. This is a game that easily scales down to the youngster players.

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

  • Set Collection
  • 2-4 players
  • 3+

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is where you are collecting acorns to feed your hungry squirrel.  At the beginning of each turn you spin the spinner and that dictated the color acorn you can take or if another event occurs.  If a player lands on a storm cloud their acorns get blown back onto the tree. A sad squirrel means you lose a turn.  The thieving squirrel picture allows the player to steal one acorn from another player. The first person to fill their log with acorns wins.

This is a great simple game for very young gamers.

Hoot Owl Hoot

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • 4+

Hoot Owl Hoot is a cooperative game where players work to bring the owls back to the nest.  The goal is to get all the owls back before the sun comes up.  Each player has three cards dealt in front of them.  Players choose a color card to play, and draws a card to refill at the end of their turn.  With a color card the player selects an owl and move it to the next corresponding space of that color. If a player has a sun card they must play it, and the sun moves one space on the tracker. The difficulty can be increased by adding more owls to put back in the nest.

Happy Salmon/Funky Chicken

  • Party Game
  • 3-6 players
  • 6+

Happy Salmon is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. You can even buy two copies (there are two different color versions) so you can get up to 8 players. A hand of cards is dealt to the players who stand around a table.

Players draw a card from their deck and say the name of the action trying to find another player with a matching card. If no one has the same card they put it at the bottom of their deck, but if they find a match the two players perform the action and discard the card in front of them. The actions of Happy Salmon include: High 5, Pound It, Switcheroo (where players switch places), and Happy Salmon (where players slap arms together) will leave players doubled over in laughter.  The first player to run out of cards wins.

Funky chicken, which can be identified by its chicken shaped carrying case, is more or less an expansion to Happy Salmon. It includes four new moves: Swing , players will link arms and spin around, Bump , where players bump hips, Spin where players spin around in place, and Funky Chicken. With Funky Chicken players do… the funky chicken. Additionally, they have to say “Get Funky” while doing it!

Exploding Kittens

  • Player Elimination and Hand Management
  • 2-5 players
  • 7+

Exploding Kittens is one of the silliest games in our collection, and is a family favorite. There are fifty-six cards in the deck. The artwork is exactly what you may have come to expect from The Oatmeal. Characters such as Taco Cat and Beard Cat make an appearance alongside original artwork on each card. The game play is quite simple; the box claims it takes two minutes to learn. They weren’t kidding.

You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple. The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out. 

This game is a lot more fun than one might think it would be. It plays very quickly and is very easy to learn.

Check out the review here.

Evolution: The Beginning

  • Engine Building
  • 2-5 players
  • 8+

The Evolution Series by North Star Games has multiple games in this line. In the Evolution games you are evolving your creatures with various traits to help their survival. Each animal needs to have enough food or they die out and can go extinct. There is something for everyone in this series. For elementary age students you can start with Evolution: The Beginning. This is a simplified and streamlined version of the game good for ages eight and up. For older children: Evolution, Flight (which is an expansion), Climate, and Oceans.

The Evolution: The Beginnings the perfect lighter family game. It has streamlined the game elements of the Evolution series. For players new to engine building board games this gives a framework for that genre of game that is easy to understand. An engine building game is where the players are building something that will ultimately produce points for them in the game. The theme of Evolution is also very engaging to a wide range of players, and can be played with a wirde range of players.

Seikatsu

  • Tile Laying
  • 1-4 players
  • 10+

Seikatsu is, without question, one of the most beautiful games we have ever laid eyes on. The game board has three beautifully painted gardens around the outside edge and the tiles are covered with paintings of birds. The box is even prettier than it has any right to be. Sitting down in front of this game is breathtaking. It only gets better as players lay tiles and the board fills up. 

Seikatsu is a tile laying game where the players are placing the bird tiles to form a flock. Players earn more points each turn for the number of adjacent matching birds to the one they place. The tiles also have different color flowers around the perimeter. At the end of the game, from the perspective of each player’s pagoda, players earn points for the number of matching flowers in each row.

The two layers of strategy are simple to understand yet challenging to master.

Splendor

  • Engine Building
  • 2-4
  • 10+

Blending a  balance of easy to learn rules and deeper strategy, Splendor is a fantastic game for older children and grown-ups alike. Splendor is a simple and elegant set collection game for two to four players. This is a game that is easy to teach, quick to learn, and will take a long time to master. The bottom line here; Asmodee has a huge hit on their hands as this has become one of our family’s favorite games.

In Splendor, players take on the role of Renaissance jewelers who are working to build their prestige and attract the attention of wealthy noble patrons. They do this by gathering resource tokens and spending them on development cards that represent new designs, tools, mining operations, and store fronts. The game is essentially a race to fifteen prestige points. Players acquire gems in order to buy mines, which in turn provide more gems (and ultimately points). While the gem-dealer theme may feel thin at times, the card drafting mechanic and  engine-building gameplay will quickly make this a family game night staple.

Check out our review here

Skyjo

  • Set collection
  • 2-8 players
  • 8+

Skyjo is a great addition to any game collection. It supports of wide range of players and scales well at all player counts. Being able to support up to eight players is a huge asset. It is challenging to find a game, which is not a party game, that supports such a high player count. Skyjo’s rules are simple and easy to learn. It fits a casual gaming and multi generational gaming setting.

Players receive sixteen cards face down at the beginning of the round they reveal three cards. On their turn a player can either draw a revealed card from the discard pile, or they can take a card from the draw pile. If a player selects a revealed card from the discard pile, they must use it either for one of their face up cards or flip over a card and use it there. Should they choose an unknown card from the draw pile, then players can either substituted for a visible card or flip a card as well.

The round ends when 1 player has revealed all 16 of their cards. One final turn occurs for the remaining players. Finally, players reveal their remaining cards and calculate points. There is a risk to ending the round, because that player must have the lowest score or their points are doubled. Additional rounds are played until one player meets or exceeds 100 points. The player with the lowest score wins the game. There is one special condition in the game.

Check out our review here.

Roll for It

  • Dice rolling
  • 2-4 players
  • 8+

Roll for It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play. The game players two to four, however by purchasing both the red and purple sets, you can increase the number of players to eight.

Game play is quite easy and takes mere minutes to explain to new players. On their turn the player completes three actions.

  1. Roll for it! The player rolls dice once per turn
  2. Match it! The player then matches the results of their roll with the dice images shown on the three face-up Roll For It! cards, ignoring results that don’t match any images.
  3. Score it! Players score a Roll For It! card as soon as they’ve matched all of its die images with dice of their own color. A card is worth points equal to the number printed at the bottom.

See our review here.

Labyrinth

  • Tile laying
  • 2-4 players
  • 8+

Experience an aMAZEing treasure hunt through an ever shifting board with Ravensburger’s Labyrinth. Players attempt to acquire each of the treasures in their hand of cards by moving around the board. Each turn, players will alter the board by sliding in a new Labyrinth tile, shifting an entire row or column of the board, and changing the available pathways. Labyrinth has rules for play for younger children as well as more advanced players, and it’s simple yet tactical gameplay make it a favorite for all ages.

King of Tokyo

  • Push Your Luck 
  • 2-6 Players 
  • 8+

Attacking Aliens, Rampaging Lizards, Giant Robots, Mutant Bugs, and Ferocious Gorillas: this game has them all! King of Tokyo is a game for two to six players that combines a board game, a dice game and a card game. You play as one monster whose main goals are to destroy Tokyo and battle other monsters in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo!

At the beginning of the turn, each player rolls six dice. The dice show the following symbols: numbers 1, 2, or 3 (representing Victory Points that can be earned), a lightning bolt (representing Energy that can be earned), a heart (representing Healing), and a claw (representing Attack). The player with the most Attack dice goes first (the fiercest). Each turn consists of 4 steps: rolling and re-rolling the dice, resolving the dice, buying cards and using their effects, and the end of turn decision.

The fiercest player will occupy Tokyo, and earn extra victory points, but that player can’t heal and must face all the other monsters alone! When you add in cards that can have a permanent or temporary effect, like growing a second head, body armor, nova death ray, etc., you get a VERY exciting game. In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 victory points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended.

See our review here.

Letter Tycoon

  • Set Collection
  • 2-5 players
  • 8+

Letter Tycoon, by BreakingGames, is word game for 2-5 players that can best be described as a cross between Scrabble and Monopoly. Players take turns forming a word using a seven-card hand and a three-card community card pool, scoring money and stock rewards based on length and letter strength in their word. When enough of the alphabet has been claimed, players finish the current turn, then score all money, stock and letter patents owned. The game has an awesome antique look and style that really appealed to my family. The mechanics were easy to understand and fun to play, but our younger players had difficulty competing with adult players. The aesthetic really appealed to us more than other games in this genre and encouraged discussion about some of the historical and antique aspects mentioned in the game. 

Ice Cool/ Ice Cool 2

  • Dexterity
  • 2-4 players
  • 6+

Ice Cool is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. Players take turns flicking their penguin pawns through the halls. The goal is to get your pawn through open doorways to catch fish  and earn points. This is more complicated because each player takes a turn as the hall monitor who’s objective is to catch the other players. Ice Cool is more fun than I expected and the kids love it. The game board designed allows for some really interesting trick shots like flicking your penguin pawn so that you have a decent spin going and having it travel in an arc through multiple doors. You can even try to send your penguin OVER walls if you like.

Ice Cool2 is the sequel to the original Ice Cool game.  It is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. The game is for two to four players ages six and up. If you combine it with the original Ice Cool game you can play up to eight players and set up multiple layouts.  New to this game there are: Tasks on the 1-point cards, Fish-moving power on the 2-point cards, and there are optional tournament scoring.  This takes a silly flicking game and adds even sillier components to it.

Dragoon

  • Area Majority/Influence
  • 2-4
  • 13+

Dragoon, by Lay Waste Games, is a game where players take on the role of mighty dragons that are competing to build their treasure hoards on a remote island. Dragoon is a game that squeezes a lot of strategy out of a very small rule set. The game board is a cloth map and the components can come as metal or plastic. the Metal pieces are stunning and give the game a unique elegance.

A game of Dragoon takes place over a series of rounds. Each of these rounds has three different phases: Populate, Action, and Tribute. The goal in Dragoon is to be the first player to accumulate more than 50 gold at the end of the turn. Players do this by moving around the gorgeous map and choosing to either claim or destroy the settlements that pop up across it. Claiming a settlement gives a chance for gold each turn based on a die roll. Destroying it grants an immediate gold increase.

See our review here.

The EFG Essential Guide Collections

Check out our other Essentials Guides for great collections of games!

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The Engaged Family Gaming team has the mission to provide information and support families who want to play video games with their kids (and board games too). We work hard to provide parents with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their children’s gaming. To facilitate this, we help parents who might not be “gamers” themselves learn to understand the games their children are playing and help them find great video games for their kids.

The “EFG Essentials” is a core collection of games we frequently recommend across different genres. The purpose of these essentials is to provide a starting point for families to engage with high-quality games. Below are our EFG Essential games for kids on the Nintendo Switch.

Minecraft

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Survival
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One

Minecraft is one of the best selling games of all time, and one of EFG’s family games of the last decade. It is so well known that I questioned whether or not to include it here. But, it is too important of a game to leave off. 

Minecraft holds a special place in a lot of kid’s hearts because it is so flexible. It can be so many different games for so many different people. It can be a survival game, a creative outlet, a multiplayer battle game, and more. It even ends up being the equivalent of a popular TV show considering how many hours of the game are consumed globally each month (Hint: It’s a lot.)

Super Mario Odyssey

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Platform Game
  • Exclusive

Super Mario Odyssey is a great Mario game that just about anyone can play and enjoy. In this edition, you can throw your hat at enemies to take control of them and you take over their bodies to use their powers. There is plenty of content here and collecting all 999 power moons is a challenge that does not get old. This is a must-buy for all Nintendo Switch owners

Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Racing
  • Exclusive

The Mario Kart series has slowly grown to be the biggest game in their stable of exclusives. Ever iteration is met with thunderous excitement and delivers fun that the entire family can enjoy! Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive version of the very best that the franchise has to offer.

Every track is masterfully created (or recreated) and the music is jazzy and fun in all the right ways! Not only that, but the deluxe version includes the DLC that introduced Link and Isabelle to Mario Kart and made the case for the next game to just be called, “Nintendo Kart.”

This is the first game I recommend to families who buy the Nintendo Switch. It is an absolute must own.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Action Role-playing
  • Exclusive

Long time EFG fans will know that this is one of my favorite games of all time and that means that the games above it have to be pretty significant in order to leave Breath of the Wild in the 4th spot. That isn’t to say that this isn’t one of, if not THE, best video games Nintendo has ever made though.

Breath of the Wild was our game of the year in 2017 and it faced stiff competition from Horizon: Zero Dawn.

It earned its place because it took the Legend of Zelda franchise in a bold new direction by eschewing the linear path of item collection and temple dungeon completion in favor of an open world that could be tackled in any order. Open world games are by no means new, but this was a welcome addition to Zelda and I can’t wait to see where they take it next.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Puzzle Game
  • Exclusive

Captain toad Treasure tracker is a simple puzzle game that can be challenging but is very accessible. This was originally a minigame in Super Mario 3D World that was so in-depth they made it into a full game. We love spending time solving these puzzles.

It’s a top-down puzzle platformer without a jump button. Your goal is to get to the star usually at the top of the level, so you have to figure out how to get to the top. Definitely a fun time for all Puzzle game fans.

Super Smash Brothers Ultimate

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Fighting Game
  • Exclusive

The phrase, “Let’s settle it in Smash!” is very common in our house, and I can’t imagine that it is uncommon elsewhere.

The Super Smash Bros. series has been around since the Nintendo 64 era and it continually grows in scope and in popularity. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to his name and its fan base is huge as it is the best selling fighting game of all time. There are obviously members of the Super Smash Bros. community that prefer earlier games like Super Smash Bros. Melee. But, as far as we’re concerned it is the best game in the series.

It’s often difficult to recommend fighting games to anything other than fighting game fans. Smash is the exception I can recommend this game to anyone that owns a Nintendo switch and feels comfortable that they will enjoy it.

Super Mario Maker 2

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Platformer +
  • Exclusive

Super Mario Maker 2 is one of the best creative tools for young and adult gamers alike. This game lets you create Super Mario levels using art styles and mechanics from across the history of Nintendo. It has a well-made tutorial that offers plenty of new ideas. Players can browse player-made content by individual creators or select an endless mode that selects levels based on difficulty. Super Mario Maker 2 is easily the best level creation experience for the Nintendo Switch.

Pokemon Sword and Shield

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Role-Playing
  • Exclusive

Pokemon Sword and Shield are great Pokemon games and are great RPGs. With a team of six Pokemon, you will travel the Galar Region on your quest to become the champion. Though the campaign is short the post-game content is enough to last hundreds of hours. You can catch all the Pokemon, make a competitive team, and participate in online tournaments, or you can battle your friends. 

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Platform Game
  • Exclusive

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is one of the best 2d platformers available on the Nintendo Switch. This is actually a rerelease of the original game that was available on the Wii U. It has been polished, and a new gameplay mode featuring Funky Kong has been added to help make the game more accessible to newer/younger players. Funky Kong moves through levels on his surfboard so he doesn’t take damage from spikes and can hover while he comes down from jumps. 

New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Platform Game
  • Exclusive

The 2.5D side-scrolling port of the Wii U original has been updated for HD and includes all the original maps and the New Super Luigi U DLC.  Nintendo has also included a new playable character, Toadette, for the Switch version. This is a hidden gem because so few people bought a Wii U that the original game went unnoticed to all but the most hardcore of fans. It is definitely worth a look.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Simulation
  • Exclusive

Animal Crossing New Horizons is a life sim game where you move to a deserted island with a group of animals. The goal is to spend time on your island making it beautiful, befriending other animals on the island, and earning money (bells). The available tasks change with the seasons, but there is always something to do. This is a must-have for Switch owners looking a relaxing game.

Adventure Pals

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Platform Game
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC

The Adventure Pals from Armor Games is an absurd jaunt through a bizarre world where almost nothing makes sense. Turtles can do backflips. Whales complain about “hashtag body shaming.” The hero’s best friend, Sparkles the giraffe, can use his tongue like a propeller to slow their collective fall. The villain wants to turn everyone into hot dog monsters. Every single one of those sentences is true. And here’s one more: This game is just as fun as it is ridiculous.

Shovel Knight Treasure Trove

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Platform Game
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Wii U, 3DS

This wily Kickstarter from 2013 is still alive and kicking. Shovel Knight does an amazing job of taking all of the things that we love about old school platformers like Mega Man, Duck Tales, and even Castlevania and smashing them together into a wonderful, cohesive whole.

Shovel Knight is a fun protagonist whose adventures are silly more often than not, but packs some serious challenge. The other games in the treasure trove are all wonderful and feature different knights from the first game in their own wild adventures; each with their own mechanics and stories.

It’s hard to find a better value than Shovel Knight Treasure Trove and it is easy to recommend it to anyone, especially folks looking for an old school challenge!

Super Mario Party

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Party Game
  • Exclusive

The most recent update to the Mario Party franchise brings back to 4-player board game mode that has been so beloved as well as introducing a 2 vs 2 mode with grid based maps.  You can test your skills against the others in your living room as well as see how you stack up against others across the globe in the new Online Marathon feature.  Nintendo has also leveraged the ability to link two Nintendo Switch systems side by side on a table to play arena games or mini baseball.  This is going to be the party game that you want for game night.

Snipperclips

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Puzzle Game
  • Exclusive

Snipperclips is a two-player puzzle game where players each take on the role of different shapes. The goal is to overlap parts of each other’s “bodies” and “snip” off the overlapping pieces. This will let you complete challenges like creating a bowl-like shape to carry a ball across a playing field. This is a fully cooperative experience that is unlike anything else that you’ve seen before. 

Rocket League

  • ESRB Rating:E
  • Sports game
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Rocket League is, quite literally, soccer as played by rocket-powered vehicles. It launched in in 2015 to great fanfare and has only grown as they added more game-modes like “hockey” and “basketball”

This is a great game to play (and watch) because of how wild the matches can be. There is just something exciting about watching race cars flying around a track and crashing into a massive steel ball and trying to score a goal. 

The Messenger

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Platform Game
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Simply put… The Messenger is a modern response to the Ninja Gaiden series from the NES era. Sabotage Studio is a team full of people who love that game and have gone out of their way to show their reverence in game form.

It isn’t an easy game, but the experience is well worth the effort. The soundtrack alone is worth spending time with the game. But, exploring the different levels AND playing with time travel mechanics are rewarding.

This is definitely a game that needs to be on your radar.

Stardew Valley

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Farming Simulator / RPG
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mobile
Click the picture to purchase on the online Switch Store.

Stardew Valley is a remarkable game. It is a farming and life simulator where you play as a younger person who inherits a relative’s run-down farm. You need to build it up, explore the surrounding wilderness, meet people, get married, etc. It is a wildly engaging game that has been a sensation since it’s release. This is a great game to relax with. 

Tetris 99

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Puzzle Game
  • Exclusive

Tetris is an all time classic, but Tetris 99 surprised us by adding in a HECTIC battle royale mode. You play Tetris against 99 other players in a frantic race for survival. 

I have spent hours playing this game and building my Tetris skills. Everything moves at a desperate pace so the games move very quickly as well. Its definitely worth a look. 

Dragon Quest Builders 2

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Role-Playing
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC

The Dragon Quest Builders series paints itself in a much lighter tone than the Dragon Quest series.  Specifically, Dragon Quest Builders 2 integrates co-op multiplayer that shows promise for both epic exploration, combat, and construction to put it in league with Minecraft in terms of its possibilities. Unlike Minecraft though, the story of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is meant to also serve as a tutorial and narrative focus for its block based construction.  This is in contrast to the much more open world that is traditional Minecraft. The play dynamic will give some structure to keep the sprawling options presented in a meaningful way and keep the more casual fan engaged in the gameplay.

Kirby Star Allies

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Platform Game
  • Exclusive

Kirby Star allies is a simple platformer that anyone can enjoy. The game is fun to play, and if you want to 100% the game then you will have plenty of things to do, with many hours of play. Plus with the ease of access to local play and with controls that work well with all control schemes, it makes a great multiplayer game for all ages. A must-have for all switch owners.

Sonic Mania Plus

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Platform Game
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Sonic Mania is a fast paced action/platformer that brings modern polish to a nostalgic classic. Sonic Mania is features Sega’s iconic Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails (with additional characters in its most recent rerelease) battling their oldest foe Dr. Eggman. 

This game features levels that are blend of remixed classic Sonic from the Sega Genesis Era, and original locations built to make the 12 zones as a whole feel like breaking new ground while keeping it harmonious with the classics. Sound track and Art style are deeply inspired by the 16 bit era, but benefit from complex remixes and smooth flashy animation thanks in part to modern processing power. Controls differ depending on which character you play, everyone has ‘gotta go fast’, but each features different movement options to make each character’s traversal through the levels a distinct experience. 

Sonic Mania has a very robust local multiplayer experience, with available game modes that allow for cooperation and competition. It’s multiplayer only lacks in its ability to be bring all of its fully online. 

Sonic Mania Plus, Sonic Mania’s most recent release, solves some of the imbalances during gameplay by rebalancing boss difficulty and turning Bonus Stage content from a counterintuitive 3D experience to a send up of Sonic Pinball.  The Plus Edition also introduces “Encore Mode”, a new game plus style experience where both art and item placement have been remixed to provide a newer experience. 

Sonic Mania Plus is an EFG Essential for anyone looking for the perfect modern Sonic Experience.

Yoshi’s Crafted World

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Platform Game
  • Exclusive

After Yoshi’s Wooly World, Nintendo has done it again and added a cute aesthetic to a Yoshi’s Island game. This time around the levels look like a child made them out of craft supplies including cardboard, paperclips, paper cups, and tape. While you traverse the levels, there are the typical Yoshi collectibles, hearts, flowers, and red coins. The collectibles are what really make this game a challenge. You can go through the levels, or you can try and collect everything. At certain points during the game, you will need to replay levels to search for certain items in the background and foreground. Each level also has an opposite view where you much search for a Poochy puppy. While the game can be tedious with replaying levels, sometimes multiple times with different objectives, this is a great stepping off point for your young children to play a platformer.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition S

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Role-Playing
  • Also Available On: PS4, PC

Dragon Quest XI is the most recent edition to an ongoing series of role playing games by Square Enix. The series is known for the art style of Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball.  Dragon Quest is a series that consistently comes out with a reliable turn-based combat system that has seen nothing but simple improvements. 

Its place as an EFG essentials is based on its ease of entry in an ongoing, fantasy story. The fantasy elements that many other games work off of got their start here with a chosen warrior of light and a band of friends and heroes rally to fight the darkness. 

Dragon Quest has had a consistent following in Japan since its first incarnation on the NES in the 1980’s. That following was earned by creating a game as much storybook as turn/quest based game.

Luigi’s Mansion 3

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Action Adventure
  • Exclusive

Luigi doesn’t get the spotlight very often. That honor is normally reserved for his brother Mario. The Luigi’s Mansion series is the exception. These spooky adventures feature Luigi while he tries to rescue his lost brother from King Boo. Luigi’s Mansion 3 and includes a lot more variety in the environments than previous editions because it takes place in a massive haunted hotel. This will be a great game for kids who love to explore and solve puzzles. (Note: This game is definitely more silly than it is spooky so don’t be super concerned about kids getting scared.)

Addendum: Fortnite

At this point almost every kid on Earth has played Fortnite. But, we wanted to include it here for the sake of completion. It is a worthy recommendation though. Fortnite is huge. It is a great alternative for more mature shooters since it there is no blood and most of the action is over the top and silly as opposed to violent.


The EFG Essential Guide Collections

Check out our other Essentials Guides for great collections of games!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Here are all the video game releases rated E-T by the ESRB that are releasing between July 12th and July 18th.

Monday, July 13th

  • One Dog Story- Xbox One

Tuesday, July 14th

  • Neon Abyss- PS4, Xbox One, Switch
  • Pangeon- Switch
  • Rocket Arena- PS4, Xbox One
  • Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town- Switch
  • Void tRrLM();// Void Terrarium- PS4, Switch

Wednesday, July 15th

  • Bossgard- Switch
  • Ooblets- Xbox One
  • REZ PLZ- Xbox One, Switch

Thursday, July 16th

  • #Funtime- Switch
  • Bounty Battle- PS4, Xbox One
  • Caretaker- Switch
  • Dunk Lords- Xbox One
  • Home Run High- Switch
  • Never Breakup- Switch
  • Radical Rabbit Stew- PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Friday, July 17th

  • Paper Mario: The Origami King- Switch
  • Ultra Hat Dimension- Switch
  • Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus- PS4, Xbox One, Switch

For the Grown-Ups

  • Ghost of Tsushima- PS4 (Friday, July 17th)

Jeff’s Pick of the Week

I love the Paper Mario series, and was really excited when this game was announced back in May. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is my favorite game on the GameCube. Paper Mario games have been a disappointment since Super Paper Mario on the Wii. Sticker Star and Color Splash were a disappointment in fans’ eyes. Even the crossover with the Mario & Luigi series on the 3ds could not save Paper Mario from its critics. That being said, I am ready to play this game and I am hoping it reminds of why I enjoy this series.

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