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Every week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you are confused by and we will try to include them in future editions


The gaming definition this week is a term that is applicable to games: Cooperative Game

A cooperative game is a game where all the players work together for a common goal. Typically players are working against the board or a timer, and the players all win or all loose depending on if they can meet the win condition in time. There are games available at all levels from the youngest gamers to heavy weight games that are cooperative.

Last Defense

Examples of Cooperative Games:

  • Hoot Owl Hoot: Players are working to get the Owls Home before the sun rises
  • Last Defense: Players are working together to save the city from invading monsters, and only have 20 minutes
  • Pandemic: Players work to find a cure for four diseases before the infection level gets too high
  • Forbidden Island: Player are trying to escape a sinking island before too much is flooded
  • Smoosh and Seek Treehouse: Players are trying to find all the hiding woodland creatures before Mr. Prickles, the porcupine finishes climbing the ladder.

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

You can also look at our other video game definitions from previous weeks here!

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

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We spent some time talking about why co-op games are a great idea for your game collection and pointed out a whole host of learning opportunities that they present. Below is a list of some of our favorite Co-op games as a team. Take a look and make sure to let us know if you have any other games you think we missed in the comments.

 

Flash Point Fire Rescue

Sound the alarm and ready the hoses. In Flash Point Fire Rescue, players take the roles of firefighters entering a burning building. Random die rolls determine where smoke appears, and where there’s smoke, fire (and explosions!) quickly follow. Gameplay is tense and well balanced, and gives players the true feeling of fighting an organic and ever-growing fire. Easy to follow family rules coupled with more advanced and complicated add ons that can be incorporated ala-carte or all together give this game plenty of life for all ages of gamers.

Note: You can read our review here!

Forbidden Island/Desert

 

Our love for Gamewright games is well documented so there really wasn’t any way we could create this list without including The Forbidden games. Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are both amazing cooperative experiences that are quick to play and easy to teach. Both of these games present their players with dangerous worlds to explore that each seem to have a mind of their own.

Where each of them succeed the most is in the delivery of their themes. Forbidden Island is about the exploration of an island that is slowly sinking into the ocean. 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.

Note: Our Forbidden Island review is here. Our Forbidden Desert review is here.

Mice and Mystics

Adventure awaits as you and three other players control brave Prince Colin and his loyal court in a battle against the treacherous sorceress-queen Vanestra in this magical tale. The catch? The court magician Maginos has turned your band of heroes into mice! Mice and Mystics blends Role Playing Game elements with an engaging story in this highly thematic dungeon crawler. Each game builds on the last as players play through chapters in the ongoing story. Battle against rats and roaches, collect mice-sized equipment, like a button shield or needle rapier, and try to save the kingdom from the evil queen.

 

Pandemic

Diseases of epic proportions run rampant through the world, and only a team of CDC specialists can eradicate them before they eradicate us. Pandemic is a 2-4 player game that pits players against rapidly spreading diseases with more chances at failing the world, than of saving it.  Each player can perform the same actions, as one unique action based on their randomly selected role at the CDC. This plus the ability to control difficulty makes each game of Pandemic a unique challenge.  Expansions (In the Lab, On the Brink and State of Emergency) add players and new situations to overcome, so it never gets old!

Note: You can read our review here!

Sentinels of The Multiverse

The Earth is in peril an evil genius is attempting to pull the moon into our home planet, and only a team of superheroes can stop him from completing his diabolical plan! Sentinels of The Multiverse is a 2-5 player card game that lets you choose from pre-constructed hero decks to face an array of villains with a variety of evil plans in a slew of comic-inspired settings. In case the original set of heroes, villains and environment decks aren’t enough to keep you busy, Sentinels has quite a few expansions that change mechanics and elements of the game to keep it interesting. The sheer number of combinations makes this game incredibly unique each time you play — Even if you only ever play your favorite character.

Note: You can read our review here!

Hanabi

To a pyrotechnician, there is nothing more important than a beautiful show of fireworks for their audience, but what do you do when there is a mix-up and you’re too honorable to admit the problem? Well, the show must go on! Hanabi is a small deck card game consisting of 60 cards, in the game players work together to put on the most impressive show they can muster, without insulting the honor of their fellow experts. Hanabi is unique in that you can’t see your own hand and other players must give you limited clues for you to identify what to play! It’s a challenging and small game that keeps you wondering and guessing and hoping that you aren’t booed off the field! The game comes with a 6th suit and a few additional variations for advanced play!

Note: You can read our review here!

Castle Panic

 

Goblins and Orcs and Trolls, oh my!!! Castle Panic is a game where 1-6 players must defend a central castle from an onslaught of monsters. Each turn new monsters appear in the forests around the edges of the board and existing monsters advance towards the castle. Different cards allow players to attack monsters at varying distances from the castle, and players can trade cards, slay monsters, and defend the castle walls. If all the walls fall, the monsters win! Players work together to keep the castle secure, but the player with the most victory points gets declared the Master Slayer!

 

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Finding games that are the right fit for children aged 5 to 7 can be challenging. As they move into school age they can begin handling more in games.  Young children who are just learning to read or are beginning readers are often not ready for games with lots of reading or complex turns.  Attention spans still tend to be short so game duration is a relevant factor.

Some game in this age range are part of a movement in the game industry to make simpler versions of their games.  Ticket to Ride, and Catan have tapped into this age by creating “my first” or “junior” versions of their games.

Throw Throw Burrito

Throw Throw Burrito is a ridiculous dodgeball card game by the Exploding Kittens team. Players collect matching sets tying to be faster than their opponents . Then you throw in burritos, literally! You collect cards and earn points, however those points are lost when you get hit by the flying burritos. There are three kinds of Burrito Battles: Brawl, War, and Duel. Each has slightly different rules and nonsense ensues regardless of the the kind of battle.

Zombie Kidz Evolution

Your successes or failures affect the game in your future plays of the game, in Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a perfect first step into Legacy games. Legacy games are played over a series of sessions and what occurrences in previous sessions permanently changes the game and can influence the next events in the game. In Zombie Kidz Evolution you are working together to protect yourselves and drive off the zombies in the school. All the staff at the school zombies. The rules start off very simply, and as the game progresses new rules and abilities are added.

Shaky Manor

Shaky Manor is a game unlike any I have ever played before, where each player is given a tray containing eight square rooms each connected by doorways. Players place an meeple, a ghost, and three treasure chest cubes into the tray. They then shake the tray to try and get the meeple and the cubes into a designated room without the ghost. The first player to do it five times is the winner. The game is noisy, silly, and loads of fun!

Taco Vs. Burrito

Taco vs Burrito is a card game designed by a seven year old boy named Alex Butler. It is the ULTIMATE food fight on game night!

Game play is straight forward. Players draw cards and add wacky foods to their taco or their burrito to earn points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins. There are gotcha cards that can mess with your opponents strategy so it isn’t THAT simple. I think the theme is funny enough and the cards are cute enough to keep me interested regardless.

Outfoxed!

Outfoxed! is a cooperative game deduction game for players ages 5 and up and for two to four players where the players are…chickens. Chickens chasing clues to catch a fox that has absconded with a prized pot pie.  What family can resist working together to solve such a heinous crime? The game includes a special evidence scanner to rule out the different fox suspects by showing if the thief is wearing a particular object. On each players turn they declare if they will Search for Clues or Reveal Suspects. They then have three chances to roll the dice to get all three dice icons to match their choice. If they success they complete the stated action, but if not the culprit moves closer to escaping with the pie.

Too Many Monkeys

Too Many Monkeys A Totally Bananas Card Game is a playful, lively game is designed to appeal to young gamers and parents alike. It is a fast paced, simple game for ages 6 and up and for two to six players that subtly reinforces math concepts such as number sequencing and probability while still allowing kids to be silly and have fun.

Too Many Monkeys is played in a series of rounds. Players are dealt out 6 cards face down. Players draw from the discard pile or the draw pile and swap it face up with a card in the position that matches the number on the card they drew. The winner of the first round gets dealt one less card at the start of the next round. All other players have the same number as the previous round. Play continues as above with players’ hands getting smaller each round. You continue in rounds until one player is down to just one card and draws the number 1 card (with Primo asleep). When that happens, Primo is back to sleep and the game is over!

Slamwich

Slamwich is a fast-paced, silly, and energetic card flipping game reminiscent of Slapjack, War, Uno, etc. The game is recommended for ages 6 and up for two to six players. Taking turns, each player takes the top card of their deck and flips it onto a center pile. If a set of criteria is met, players race to slap the pile. The combinations are easy to understand. A Double Decker-If the flipped card is identical to the card directly underneath. A Slamwich– If two identical cards have exactly one card in between them (like a sandwich). Special cards like a Thief or a Muncher add unique criteria and help to make winning more random. If a player runs out of cards, they are out of the game. Whoever collects all of the cards wins.

Super Tooth

Super Tooth is, at its core, a matching card game for ages 6 and up for two to four players. Players collect matched sets of plant eating dinosaurs. Each turn includes a “landscape” of three cards on the play area. First, the player resolve event cards, such as the egg that lets the player bring back a card that had previously been discarded. Next, they player feed or chase away meat eaters, and then ultimately choose one type of plant eater from the board.

Super Tooth relies a little on luck, but it is important for players to choose cards carefully to build matched sets and not just random cards. Players cash in matching sets of cards for tooth tokens, and the more matching cards the more tokens they earn.  The first player with 3 tokens in a three or four player game wins, and 5 tokens in a two player game wins.

Toasted or Roasted

Toasted or Roasted has you building the campfire and trying to toast marshmallows without them becoming roasted. It is for two to four players and is recommended for ages 6 and up.There are several objectives to complete in Toasted Or Roasted.  First, each player needs light their campfire by playing a Fire Starter card.  Once you play a Fire Starter card you flip your Firewood Disk over to the campfire side.  Then, each player needs to try and toast 3 marshmallows to win.  

Toasted or Roasted is a great light family game.  The game has minimal reading so it can easily scale down to players even younger than the recommended 6 years old. Roasting a competitor’s marshmallows is a light “take that” element.  Young players need to be able to handle it if someone “spoils” their marshmallow.

Hoagie

Hoagie is a fast paced game for two to five players that is recommended for ages 5 and up.  Each player is trying to build the perfect sandwich without any part getting spoiled by three oogies (pictured on the spoiled food and special action cards). Hoagie’s gameplay is very easy and takes just minutes to learn.  Each player is dealt a hand if 6 cards to start the game.  On each players turn they play a card from their hand on their sandwich or an opponent’s. Several actions with the cards can occur, but only one can occur per turn. In order to win, a player must begin their turn with a perfect sandwich, which consists of bread, meat, cheese, lettuce, and bread.

Tenzi

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. 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.

Tales and Games

Iello games has produced a series of games based on classic children’s stories and fairy tales. The games look like beautiful hardbound storybooks with classically illustrated covers and spines. Each game takes about 20 minutes to play through and they all have different mechanics and designs. They and are designed to be played by players ages 7 and up.

We have included them here because they have sparked interest in the classic stories that they are based on in our household.

Ice Cool

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 Cool 2

Ice Cool 2 is the sequel to the original Ice Cool game. If you combine it with the original Ice Cool game you can play up to eight players and set up multiple layouts. These new layout options can also become a learning tool for Physics may lead to finding which setup creates easier shots and which produce more complicated shots.

Rush-hour Jr.

Rush-hour Jr. is one player, portable, colorful, and mentally wonderful for ages 5 and up. The board is small and packed with vehicles which have set directions that they can move. The goal is to move the vehicles in a particular order to get the little red car out of the traffic jam. A negative is that every piece is important. Don’t lose them! This game is great for waiting rooms or car trips as it comes with its own board and it small enough to hold in a child’s hand or lap. The junior version has 40 challenges and 15 blocking pieces

Roller Coaster Challenge

Roller Coaster Challenge is a single player STEM game focusing on engineering for ages 6.  It come with 60 challenge card in a range of difficulty.  The player sets up the posts and required pieces on the challenge card.  They then need to design a roller coaster that travels to the bottom successfully using some of the additional posts, 39 tracks.  The roller coaster is successful if the roller coaster car makes it to the end.  This was a Toy of the Year Finalist in 2018.

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero is a competitive  3-D stacking game for ages 5 and up and is for two to five players where players are building a tower of cards and moving Rhino Hero up the tower.  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.  

Rhino Hero- Super Battle

Rhino Hero- Super Battle is the sequel to Rhino Hero.  The game is for ages 5 and up and plays two to four players. This game adds three more superheros:  Giraffe Boy, Big E. and Batguin.  The walls now come in two sizes; tall and short and there is a superhero medal.  Additionally there are spider monkeys which attack. 

The gameplay has additional steps they includes: 1. Build!, 2. Spider monkey attack (place a spider monkey hanging from the floor if there is a spider monkey symbol and see if it makes the tower fall), 3. Climb the skyscraper! by using a die to determine how many floors to climb, 4. Super battle if two superheros are on the same level, 5. Superhero medal goes to the players if their super hero is the furthest up at this phase in their turn, 6. Draw another floor card.  The game ends when all or part of the tower collapses or all the floors that are playable have been used.

Monza

Monza is a racing game for ages 5 and up and plays two to six players. Movement of your race car in this game is based on rolling six color dice.  Players must utilize strategic thinking to use the colors you roll to plan the path for your car. Players can only move to a forward space and may not enter a space with an obstacle.

This game is more thoughtful than a straight roll and move because you need to plan your path based on the colors you roll. With a luck roll and good planning a player can move six spaces. Any die that do not correspond to a color ahead of the player on the board are discarded for that turn. The first player to the finish line is the winner.

Brandon the Brave

Brandon the Brave is a tile placement game for ages 5 and up for one to four players, where you are a knave desiring to be a brave knight like “Brandon the Brave”. Knaves prove their intuition and skills by completing tasks.  To do this players place field tiles and are trying to match colored crosses.  These crosses represent a location of a completed task and the color needs to match one color of the task card. As players lay tiles a jousting arena may be build. The player who places the sixth tiles completing the arena gets to place a task card in the center.  The game ends once a player completes all their task cards or all the field tiles are placed.

Coconuts

Coconuts is a dexterity game for ages 7 and up for two to four players where you are launching coconuts with your monkey and trying to land them into baskets in the center.  When you land a coconut in a basket you get to place the cup on your game board.  To win you need to collect 6 baskets and stack them into a pyramid on your board, but there are not enough baskets in the center for everyone to collect.  You need to try and steal from your opponent by landing a coconut in their basket. An added component is the basket are red and yellow.  Should you land in a red basket you get to take a additional shot.

The Magic Labyrinth

The Magic Labyrinth is a memory and grid movement game for ages 6 and up and plays two to four players. In this game you are playing apprentices that have lost various objects, which are now in the Magic Labyrinth.  The twist is there are invisible walls!  Players must move and remember where the wall are when they or a competitor hits a wall.  A series of wooden blocks in a grid under the gameboard create the walls.  The walls are movable so the maze can be different each time you play. The pawn is magnetic and a ball sticks to it. If you hit a wall the ball falls off an rolls to one of the trays on the side and you go back to the start corner.

At the beginning of the game players draw a few lost objects tokens and place them on their corresponding picture throughout the maze.   A players landing on the space with a token they get to keep it.  A new token is then drawn out of a bag and placed on the board.  The first player to collect five objects wins.

Catan Junior

A popular game which has been simplified for younger gamers is Catan Junior.  This is a route building  resource management game for ages 6 and up and is for two to four players.  Like the original Settlers of Catan you are collecting resources based on the numbers that  come up with each roll. These resources used to build or get Coco the Parrot cards which provide resources or the ability to build at no cost. Instead of building settlements, cities, and roads in the full version you are building pirate ships and hideouts.  The first player to build seven pirate hideouts wins.

Ticket to Ride: First Journey

Ticket to Ride: First Journey takes the formula of its predecessor and strips out several of the more complex concepts in favor of a streamlined experience that can be played by kids who are even younger! We have always said that the Ticket to Ride series was accessible to savvy kids, but this new version is even better.The map is simplified also. The game board is large, and the various cities are larger and more defined.  Each of the cities includes a colorfully illustrated image associated with it. The winner is the first person to finish six routes. This game teaches players the general flow of a game of Ticket to Ride without the burden of some of the finer details of the senior game.

Dr. Eureka

Dr. Eureka is a logic and dexterity game for ages 6 and up and is for two to four players.  It was originally published as an 8 and up game, but in later publications changed to a 6 and up game.  In this game you are taking molecules (balls) in a test tube and need to combine colors to correspond to a challenge card.  The dexterity challenge is you can not touch the balls and cannot drop them!  The round ends when one player has their molecules match the formula exactly, and they call out “Eureka”. That player gets the cards, but players do not reset their test tubes.  The players begin the next round with the configuration the ended the previous round.

This game is great for multiple ages and skills because you can scale the rules to add challenges for more advanced players, and eliminate rules as needed.  There are also several variants that add different challenges to the game.

Cauldron Quest

Cauldron Quest is a cooperative game that will fit right at home in any house full of Harry Potter fans. It is for players 6 and up and plays two to four players. Players are working together in Cauldron Quest to brew a magic potion that their kingdom needs to break a magic spell cast by an evil wizard. They do this by trying to move special barrels of ingredients from the outside of the board into the cauldron in the center. This might SOUND easy, but the evil wizard is trying to stop them by putting magic barriers in the way. Players need to get the correct three ingredients to the center before the wizard blocks all six paths.


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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Finding engaging games to play with toddlers and preschoolers that are not excessively tedious for the adults can be a challenge.  Memory, Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders are classics and likely in any collection with young kids.  I can vouch that they are in my kids’ collection too! There are many more games to choose from that are good for young players.  These games have are appealing, have cute themes, and you will enjoy playing with your preschooler.

Panda’s Picnic

Panda’s Picnic in the Park is a matching game for players age two and up. The game comes in a picnic basket and players take turns pulling items out of the basket and matching them with things on their plate. There are multiple ways to play. Learning skills include: Color and Shape. Pretend play, turn taking, gross and fine motor skills, and vocabulary building.

Guess It Get Is Gumball

Guess It Get It Gumballs is a cooperative memory game for two to four players ages four and up from Peaceable Kingdom. Players take turns picking up gumballs of the matching color from a spinner. They then guess the face on the reverse side by making that face into the mirror. The gumball is grabbed by using the suction cup on the reverse of the mirror. Players are trying to get a rainbow of gumballs before getting the stinkface. With the current awareness of Emotional Intelligence this game is great for helping young children recognize and identify feelings.

Bandit’s Memory Mix Up

Bandits Memory Mix Up is a game for two to four players ages three and up which challenges memory. This game has players take the spy glass and placed five garden tiles inside then shake it up. One garden tile is removed secretly. The challenge: remembering the removed tile. The first player to identify the missing tile wins. There are also variants which support solo and large group play. Play reinforces the skills of turn-taking, visual discrimination, and memory.

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse is a cooperative game for 2 to 4 players ages 3 and up. In this game players are working together to find all the different Woodland animals playing hide and seek in the tree before Mr. Prickles climbs the ladder. Players worked together to remember the location of the different seekers when they think they have located a seeker they state who they think it is pick up the disk and smash it into the smash to to reveal who’s hiding. If they successfully find a hide or they place a token to show that seekers has been found. Game play reinforces memory, simple strategy, cooperation and fine-motor skills.

My First Castle Panic

In My First Castle Panic players work together to defend their castle during this cooperative game. The game is for one to four players ages four and up. This is a much simpler version from the original. My First Casle Panic takes away the reading and instead incorporates the early skills of identifying colors and shapes, simple problem solving, and turn taking. The path to the castle is a single path protected by one wall. To defeat a monster a card must be played matching the location of the monster. If the players can defeat all the monster before the castle is destroyed they win.

Dragomino

The game Kingdomino took the boardgame world by storm winning the Spiel De Jahres in 2017. Now there is a My First version that is for players ages five and up, with a dragon theme. Dragonmino takes the same tile drafting and placement mechanism, and simplified it further for younger players. With each match with the tiles players earn a dragon egg and are trying to collect eggs with baby dragons inside.

First Orchard

First Orchard is a cooperative game where players are trying to collect all the fruit before the raven reaches the end of the path. The game has large brightly colored wooden fruit and a chunky wooden raven.  The path and orchard are easy to set up and reinforces sorting skills. This is a simplified version of Haba’s Orchard game.

Animal Upon Animal

Animal Upon Animal has slightly smaller pieces than the First Game version. This game is for ages 4 and up. Players are asked to roll to determine how many animals they are stacking or they may be asked to add a piece to the base adjacent to the crocodile.

Unicorn Glitterluck

Unicorn Glitterluck is a roll and move game with some added components for ages 3 and up.  Players move their unicorns along the path and collect crystals.  If they land on a crystal image they have to roll a special die to find out how many crystals to take.  The player to reach the sun first ends the game and players count their crystals.  The player with the most crystals wins.  The back of the game board also has a counter track so players can lay out their crystals by the player and visually see who has the most.

Go Away Monster

Go Away Monster is a re-release of a game for the younger set with new art and prettier components. The main thrust of the game is that you have to fill up your card with different puzzle pieces to make up a child’s bedroom. You do that by reaching into a blind bag and feeling around for the piece that you need. The trick is that there are monsters in the bag. If you pick a monster out of the bag then you lose your turn.

Hiss

Hiss is a competitive game 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 youngster players.

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game

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.

Educational Insights have developed a line of games with a squeezer that also include: Hoppy Floppy Happy Hunt and Sophie’s Seashell Scramble.

Spot it Jr.

Spot it Jr. is simple, inexpensive, and portable. Oh! And your Preschooler has a decent shot at beating you in it. This is a matching game with multiple variables of play.  There is one matching animal on every card so you are trying to be the first to find the matching animal.  This is great for even the youngest gamers and helps to develop their observational skills.

Happy Bunny

“In this cooperative counting game, players work as a team to help the bunny pick the best carrots from the farmer’s garden. Each turn, one player picks a number of carrots from the garden and sorts them into two piles, one for the bunny and one for the farmer. At the end of the game, everyone helps line up the piles for comparison. If the bunny’s line is longer, the players win! The durable carrot pieces are firmly planted inside the box, so the self-contained game helps little hands develop fine motor skills.”

Where’s Mr. Wolf?

“A cooperative game where everyone pitches in on the farm! Players must work together as a team to help the farm animals get back to their barns before Mr. Wolf arrives. Every time a Mr. Wolf token is found, he creeps one space closer, and every time a farm animal token is found, players must remember which barn they belong to. The cute animal tokens, 3D barns, and shared goal help children work on memory and teamwork at the same time.”

Kitty Bitty

“Kitty Bitty is a remake of the beloved Blue Orange classic, Froggy Boogie. This adorable wooden game has little minds use memory and color recognition to help their kitten make it around the yarn balls and back to the basket. Each turn, players need to find the correct mommy cat and pick up one of her eyes; if it’s blank they can move on to the next yarn ball, but if there’s a kitten printed on the bottom they stay put and it’s the next players turn. The first kitten that makes it around all the yarn balls and back to the basket wins!”

Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Snug as a Bug in a Rug is a cooperative game for player ages 3 and up.  The game is also designed with three levels of play to increase difficulty as players get older. The bugs in the game have multiple features.  They are different colors, have shapes, have different numbers of shapes, and have large or small eyes.

The basic gameplay has the players roll the specialized die to determine the attribute they are looking for in their bug and then spin the spinner to specify the attribute.  For example, if they roll the color attribute on the die, the spinner would tell them to find the blue bug.  Once they find a bug with that attribute it goes under the rug (the game board). If there are no bugs that match that feature a stink bug is placed on the rug.  The game ends when all the bugs are under the run, which means players win, or there are three stink bugs on the rug.

Count Your Chickens

Count Your Chickens is a cooperative game where you are trying to get all 40 chicks back to the coop before the hen reaches it.  On each turn, the player spins the spinner that has various pictures that correspond to picture on the path.  The player moves the mother hen to the next space with that picture and counts the number of spaces they travel.  The number of spaces is how many chicks they put in the coop. If the spinner lands on the fox one chick is taken out of the coop and put back in the farmyard.

Hoot Owl Hoot

Hoot Owl Hoot is a cooperative game 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 pla, and draws a card to refill at the end of their turn.  With a color car,d 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.

Zingo

Zingo is a bingo game with a few twists by Thinkfun.  The game is for players ages four and up and can play two to six players, and game play is quick and a game take 15-20 minutes. Zingo is a great game to have for young players.  Thinkfun has also created  multiple versions of Zingo published by Thinkfun. They include: Zingo 1-2-3Zingo Sight Words, Zingo Time-Telling, and Zingo Word Builder.  These can be great ways to develop beginning reading and math skills, and for preschool and primary students the Zingo variations are a great fit.  The random nature of the game allow for play with the whole family.  

 Build or Boom

Build or BOOM is a block stacking dexterity game designed to be played by even the youngest member of your family. Your goal is to race your opponent to complete a tower out of uniquely shaped blocks and BOOM their tower to keep them from winning. This game is absolutely playable by everyone in the family. It is designed for kids 4 yrs old and over, but is still fun and playable by the more mature members of the family. The concepts are simple to understand and no reading is required. The plastic pieces are big enough for tiny hands to manipulate and the towers are challenging for all ages.


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

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The “8 and up” game category opens up a whole new realm of gaming options. Game become less “kid games” and more “kid-friendly”.  At this age, reading cards is no longer a concern and the kids can handle more strategy and steps per turn.  The number of games at this age level absolutely explodes and there is no way to include everything.  This list includes some of our favorites, but there is so much more to play! 

Skyjo

It is a perpetual challenge to find a game that can be played with a small or large player count. Skyjo fits the niche of being played with up to eight players without being a party game. It is the first game from Magilano.

Skyjo is a set collection card game for two to eight players were your goal is to get the least amount of points per around.   The recommended age is for eight and up. The game does scale down especially once children can understand the negative cards by relating them to take away. Unknown cards in front of each player and fifteen different cards to reveal, gives Skyjo just enough suspense to provide just a bit of tension in the game.

See our review here.

Last Defense

The city is under attach from various threats ranging from Spider Robots to Space Aliens. Players take on the roll of citizens work together in this cooperative game to try and save the city, and they only have 20 minutes. The game has a companion app that is required for game play. Players clear ruble and free the scientists so they can defeat the monsters attacking. One of the unique features is that one of the playable characters is Good Dog. It is so cool to be able to play a hero that is not a human.

Drop It!

Some of the best family games are easy to learn, but hard to master. Drop It has very simple rules and can be taught in minutes, yet has enough strategy within the simple rules to keep it engaging for all members of the family. Do not be deceived by the bright primary colors of the game, Drop It is more than a kids game!

In Drop It, each player has a collection of shapes in one color, and players drop them down the vertical game board to try and score points. The challenge come in meeting the criteria to score points. Along the side and the bottom there are colors (or shapes depending on the set up you select) and if your piece touches the side of the same color it does not score any points. Pieces also may not land touching another piece of a matching shape or color. The player with the most points when they run out of shapes wins.

Dungeon Drop

Dungeon Drop achieves this simplicity in an elegant and clever way: it skips the entire concept of a game board.

The titular “Dungeon” in Dungeon Drop is created by dropping an assortment of colored cubes onto the play surface. Each colored cube represents a different object ranging from grey pillars (which help form the rooms) to orange keys, and green Boblins. On their turn, each player sprinkles a few more cubes into the playing field to mix the dungeon up a bit, uses a player power based on their race or class, and “loots a room” by choosing three grey pillars in the play area and collecting all of the cubes inside the triangle that creates. This simple gameplay loop can be taught in a few minutes and gameplay is fast.

See our Kickstarter Preview here.

What Do Meme Family Edition

What Do You Meme is a hilarious game that invites players to create funny memes using a stack of funny pictures straight from the deepest corners of the internet and a huge deck of caption cards. The problem is that the original version of the game is a bit… grown-up for our tastes. The good news for all of us is that there is a bespoke Family edition of the game that replaces the sex and drugs with fart jokes (which just makes it all around better in my opinion). Just look at the box. It’ll all make sense. This is the definitive edition of the game!

Starlink

Try and seal your victory in Starlink by creating constellation. This party style drawing game is engaging and can play three to six players. Players draw a secret word and on their turn they need to try and draw the secret object by connecting stars. Players earn bonus points for fitting their constellation inside the telescope circle.

This Game Goes to Eleven

This Game Goes to Eleven is a perfect light family game. While recommended for ages eight and up, the game scales down for younger children that can do simple computation up to eleven. The game is extremely easy to teach at has very few rules. Players on their turn merely have to select one of the three cards in their hand to play and try to strategize with those limited choices. This is a good fit for young gamers or non gamers with simple and streamline rules.

See our review here.

Timeline 

Timeline is a competitive game for two to eight players that takes about 15 minutes to play. Players begin with at least four cards to start, and reveal a single card. Each card is two-sided, with a matching picture on each side, however; one side has a caption describing the picture like “The invention of the Electric Iron” and the other has the year “1882”.  In order to play the game players must find the correct place on the timeline for their card without seeing the year printed on the back.

If you place your card correctly, it is revealed and becomes part of the timeline. If not, it is discarded and you draw a new card.  A round ends when a player places their final card correctly.  If any other players also place their final cards correctly that same round, a new round is played.  Rounds continue until only one player finishes a round with no cards.

See our review here.

Dixit 

Dixit, a storytelling game for three to six players.  It requires that you come up with a description of your own surreal card that also leaves your opponents guessing. First, each player is dealt six incredibly beautiful cards. The storyteller (active player) chooses a card and describes it with a word or phrase. Your opponents then select one of their cards that matches your description, trying to trick the other players into voting for their card. The Storytellers and the other player cards are shuffled and displayed face up.

Players secretly vote for the card they think is the Storytellers using color-coded chips. If everyone guesses your card, all your opponents gain 2 points and you gain none. However, if no one chooses yours, your opponents all gain 2 points and you still get 0!  Should one or more person guesses my image I get 3 points and they get 3 points, plus a bonus for anyone choosing their card.

See our review here.

Kingdomino

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

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a beautiful science-themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. The game plays two to four players and takes 45 minutes to an hour to play. In Photosynthesis the sun moves around the board three times and players plant and progress trees through their life cycle to collect points.  The trees are three dimensional and provide a beautiful visual as the forest “grows”.

Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Standard play is three rounds. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase.   Each tree that is not in the shadow of another tree earns Light Point  You then earn a scoring token based upon their location on the board, which represents the richness of the soil.

The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board.  Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unused light points.

See our review here.

Tsuro

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 last player left with a dragon on the board is the winner. 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.

Evolution the Beginning

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 wird range of players.

Roll For It!

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.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket To Ride is a two to five player game with a nicely designed heavy cardboard map of North American train routes. 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.

See our review here.

Dragonwood

In Dragonwood players take on the roll of adventures traveling and defeating creatures, collecting items to help on your adventure.  This all occurs while players deal with events cards as they come up and ultimately earning the most victory points.  Dragonwood incorporates set collection and hand management and is for two to four players.

At the beginning of the game five cards from the Dragonwood deck are laid out in a landscape.  These cards include the magical creatures, enhancements, and events.  On their turn players may draw an adventurer card or  try to capture a card from the landscape by striking, stomping, or screaming.  Players collect sets of adventurer cards and can play them to earn the number of dice equal to the number of adventurer cards they use. Players then roll to see if they can roll a total number equal or greater to the number on the card for the attack they selected. The game ends once the adventure deck has been played through twice or the two dragons in the deck are captured.  The player with the most victory points wins.

Go Nuts For Donuts 

Go Nuts For Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game for two to six players where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Since there is no sharing in this game, player are bidding on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret and at the end of the bidding only can collect those donuts with a single bidder.  This brings in an element of  strategy with bidding. 

Each kind of the 21 kinds donut ( and two beverages) has either points it gains you, an action you can take immediately upon retrieving the card, or both. The kinds of donut cards available to players increases with the player count. The game ends when there are not enough cards to complete another round of bidding and the player with the most points wins.

Sushi Go

 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 hands, 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 pass to be used by someone else.

As is, Sushi Go! is a fun game to play with your children or even with your adult friends, even if you don’t like sushi!

See our review here.

Sushi Go Party

Sushi Go Party takes the best of  Sushi Go and adds more. It plays two to eight players,and comes in a bigger tin that shows off more cute sushi rolls. The main gameplay difference is that players spend the first bit of the game choosing which cards to include in the deck that everyone drafts. There is no established rule in the book for determining which cards are selected either. The rule book includes eight deck suggestions, and players can come up with their own interesting combinations.

Sushi Roll

Sushi and dice are a winning combination you will not find on any menu, and Sushi Roll takes the popular game Sushi Go and instead of card drafting players draft dice. The game is for ages eight and up and can play two to five players. Like it predecessor it is easy to learn and quick to play.

Sushi Roll is a great game to learn the mechanic of drafting. The game has a very simple drafting mechanic using dice. In card drafting players need to remember what cards they saw as the hands were passed. With the dice, the information about available dice is open to all. This open information allowed for more coaching to new or younger players while learning the game.

Monopoly Gamer

Monopoly Gamer is a must see for any Nintendo fan.  Nintendo elements infuse through the game, and the gameplay is vastly different.  Power-ups give players the ability to collect coins, force opponents to drop coins, and move forward. Coins replace the paper dollars, and are used for everything. Passing Go now has player activating Boss Battles, and these Boss Battles will reward the victor with additional coins for the end of the game, as well as some fun treats like a free property, or stolen goods from an opponent.

With all of these added features and a significantly faster pace, Monopoly Gamer feels like a game Nintendo and Parker Brothers can be proud to have their names on. The ability to add additional player characters is also a great way to add replayability to this one.

See our review here.

Potion Explosion

Potion Explosion is a game that will fit right into any household dominated by Harry Potter fans. Two to four players take on the role of wizards who are trying to make potions. They take turns pulling marbles out of an (ingenious) game board to collect resources. If marbles of the same color are touching when they pull out their first marble, then they get those as well. Both the look of game board and the matching color component is very reminiscent of mobile matching games.  The concept is straight forward and the puzzle-like mechanics will keep everyone engaged.

Players work to complete two potions at a time on their “work station” , and earn points for each complete token. Once players complete the potion components they have the option  to “drink” them potion.  Drinking the potion give the player a single use ability. Using up all the skill tokens or the potion cards ends the game. Points earned from completing potions determines the winner.

King of Tokyo

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 specialized dice. 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

Food Fighters

Food Fighters is a 2 player game. This game is a player elimination style of game with some fun dice rolling mechanics as well as a bit of card drafting and component collecting opportunities. The rule booklet is fun and well laid out. The game mechanics are clear and well balanced(though the power cards initially felt uneven, further game play changed our opinion).

On their turn, each player completes three actions- a) Roll for Beans or Swap fighter tiles or Attack b) Spend Beans to buy a tool from the pantry c) Allow opponent to repair their formation. After these actions are complete, play passes to the opponent. The ultimate goal is to be the first player to knock out three matching enemy fighters. This is great strategy battle game that plays quickly and is easy to learn and explain to other players.

See our review here.

Azul

Azul is an abstract game for two to four players, and won the 2018 Speil De Jahar. Players are working to replicate the design on their board.

At the beginning of each round players select tiles from a factory display represented by  circles with four tiles on each or the center discard pile. Players each take one design and discards the rest to the center pile. The selected tiles are placed in pattern lines. There are one to five spaces for tiles in each pattern line. Extra tiles are placed on the floor line and score negative points at the end of that round.  Players score points as  they place their tiles.  Adjacent tile or completing a column or row on their “wall” earn additional points.  The game ends when one or  more players have completed a row by the scoring phase of a round.

Zombies Keep Out

Zombies Keep Out is a cooperative games for one to six players. Like all cooperative games there are MANY ways to lose and only one way to win. Players must collect parts and build 3 contraptions while facing nearly insurmountable odds as each player’s turn increases the urgency of the situation! The interesting dynamic that Zombies Keep Out has that sets it apart, is that the player who draws the aptly named “Terrible Things” card must choose between 3 options of many possible occurrences that do their title justice.  As the game progresses. “Terrible Things” become “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” Things.

The pool of zombies (it is actually a literal swimming pool full of zombies) depletes, and the option of being bitten becomes more and more probable.  Biting adds a very kid-friendly scale of terribleness. The bitten player looses the ability to speak normally and their decision making is increasingly hindered with additional bites. Any bite past the third will turn you into a full fledged Zombie, groaning continuously.

This game is immensely enjoyable and the cartoonish characters will be a quick favorite of most children. Zombies Keep Out is basically the answer to the question on all of our minds: what happens after Pandemic?

See our review here.

Hanabi

The game is simple.  Hanabi is the Japanese word for Fireworks, and you are pyrotechnicians who have accidentally mixed up all of the parts of your fireworks display and now — THE SHOW MUST GO ON!  You have to work together to create the best display you possibly can despite your myriad of mistakes! The kicker is, you can’t look at your own hand!

Your teammates can give you limited information about your hand as their turn, but if you misunderstand and play the wrong firework, it can be disastrous!

The game is immensely challenging, and really makes you consider every move!  While the recommended age is 8+, this game mechanic seems to lend itself to older players.  It requires patience, reading your team-mates and figuring out how best to convey half (or less) of the picture to your fellow “fireworkers”.  Hanabi teaches simple strategy and teamwork in a somewhat high pressure environment where you don’t have access to all of the variables at play.

See our review here

Santorini

In Santorini players take on  the roll of builders to create beautiful towers with two to four players.  On each turn, players move one of their two builders to an adjacent space. Players are then required to build on a neighboring space. Players are trying to complete a three level building and have a worker standing on top of it.  The first player to accomplish this wins the game.  Buildings may be complete it with a dome, and that blocks players from placing their worker on it.  

Santorini also incorporates god and hero powers into the game in the form of Greek gods and heros.  These god card allow for special actions or a change in win conditions. The god cards add a unique variability to the game.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a medieval France themed tile laying and area control game for two to five players. Players are trying to build features and have their followers (meeples) on features to score points.

Players take turns taking a tile and placing it against a matching feature, such as city, road, and fields. There are also monasteries, which sit in the middle of fields. Players score points for: completed roads, completed cities, surrounded monasteries, and completed fields.  When players run out of tiles the game ends and players get partial points for incomplete features.

Carcassonne is well know for its many expansions and versions.  The current base game now include two mini expansions: the River and the Abbott. At the time of this writing the Z-Man Games website had 8 expansions for sale.  There also is a big box versions which contains the base game and 11 expansions. Additionally, there are three stand alone games with different settings and themes.

Pandemic

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.

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

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The holidays are approaching quickly and some amazing new games have come out this year. The EFG team was fortunate to have been able to see most of these games in person at New York Toy Fair early this year. There are so many more games than we can fit into one article, so if you need more ideas check out the links at the bottom to other articles that may inspire your gift shopping or wishlist creation.


Games for the Whole Family

These games are easy to learn, and perhaps hard to master games that can be enjoyed by a wide range of players. These games are great for multi age game play and less experienced gamers.

Dungeon Drop

The titular “Dungeon” in Dungeon Drop is created by dropping an assortment of colored cubes onto the play surface. Each colored cube represents a different object ranging from grey pillars (which help form the rooms) to orange keys, and green Boblins. This simple gameplay loop can be taught in a few minutes and gameplay is fast.

Ship Shape

If you are looking for a unique and engaging game, Ship Shape is a great choice. It is a 3-D puzzle game where you take on the roll of a Captain trying to fill the hold of your ship with  treasure, cannons, and contraband to try and get the most coins for the visible contents. With the recommended age beginning at eight years old, this is a game that is great for so many members of the family.

Starlink

Try and seal your victory in Starlink by creating constellation. This party style drawing game is engaging and can play three to six players. Players draw a secret word and on their turn they need to try and draw the secret object by connecting stars. Players earn bonus points for fitting their constellation inside the telescope circle.

Abandon All Artichokes

Build your hand of garden vegetables by deconstructing your deck of artichokes. In Abandon All Artichokes, players start with a hand of all artichoke cards. The goal is to abandon their artichoke cards and create a hand with other vegetables from the garden. This is a great deck builder game for players new to that style of game.

Back to the Future

The story of Back to the Future comes to life in this cooperative board game. Just as in the movie, you need to fix the 1955 timeline by repairing the DeLorean, getting the clock tower ready, and keeping Marty’s parents love on track before the picture fades. Back to the Future-Back in Time features some unique touches including the dog Einstein as a playable character, and the clock tower doubling as a dice tower.

If You Like…

So many games are released each year. There are some old favorites that publishers re-imagine, and many times these games can become our new favorites.

Marvel Splendor

The Marvel Universe has been merged with Splendor. This new version included new tactics, new updates to the rules and new win conditions. Players need to gain infinity points using the Infinity gems. They use these to recruit heroes and villains, and when the right moment arrives, claim the Infinity Gauntlet.

Tsuro Phoenix Rising

Tsuro Phoenix Rising add some great new components to the classic Tsuro game. In Phoenix Rising, players now have double sided tiles that sit in a special tray so they can be flipped over during gameplay. Unlike the original, if you are sent off the board, it does not mean you are out. Instead you can be reborn from the ashes once per game, and continue playing.

Dragomino

The game Kingdomino took the boardgame world by storm winning the Spiel De Jahres in 2017. Now there is a My First version that is for players ages five and up, with a dragon theme. Dragonmino takes the same tile drafting and placement mechanism, and simplified it further for younger players. With each match with the tiles players earn a dragon egg and are trying to collect eggs with baby dragons inside.

Dragon’s Breath the Hatching

Dragon’s Breath The Hatching fits into two categories: Games for Young Gamers and If You Like. Haba took the popular Dragon’s Breath game, which is a great game for young gamers, to the next step. The Hatching is a versatile addition to any family’s game collection. It can be a stand alone game, or expansion to the original Dragon’s Breath game. As an expansion it adds a fifth player.

Games for Young Gamers

Duck Duck Dance

Duck Duck Dance is a movement game for players age two and up. There are three simple steps to the game. First roll the over-sized dice to reveal dance moves, perform the dance moves, then flip card on the board to reveal an audience member. The game ends when all audience members are revealed. Duck Duck Dance incorporates many skills needed for toddlers: Gross Motor, Sequencing, Counting, Imitation, Turn Taking, and Vocabulary building.

Panda’s Picnic

Panda’s Picnic in the Park is a matching game for players age two and up. The game comes in a picnic basket and players take turns pulling items out of the basket and matching them with things on their plate. There are multiple ways to play. Learning skills include: Color and Shape. Pretend play, turn taking, gross and fine motor skills, and vocabulary building.

Bandit’s Memory Mix Up

Bandits Memory Mix Up is a game for two to four players ages three and up which challenges memory. This game has players take the spy glass and placed five garden tiles inside then shake it up. One garden tile is removed secretly. The challenge: remembering the removed tile. The first player to identify the missing tile wins. There are also variants which support solo and large group play. Play reinforces the skills of turn-taking, visual discrimination, and memory.

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse

Smoosh and Seek Tree house is a cooperative game for two to four players ages three and up. In this game players are working together to find all the different Woodland animals playing hide and seek in the tree before Mr. Prickles climbs the ladder. Players worked together to remember the location of the different seekers when they think they have located a seeker they state who they think it is pick up the disk and smash it into the smash to to reveal who’s hiding. If they successfully find a hide or they place a token to show that seekers has been found. Game play reinforces memory, simple strategy, cooperation and fine-motor skills.

2020 Award Winning Games

Pictures

The 2020 Spiel Des Jahres  winner Pictures is a unique party game that takes place over five rounds. The game begins with a field of 16 photo cards placed in a four by four grid. Then each player uses a series of unique items to best represent one picture. Items include: 2 Shoelaces, 6 Wooden, Building Blocks, Wooden cubes and Picture frame, picture cards in a hand drawn style, and 4 Sticks plus 4 Stones.

Once the pictures are recreated, each player guesses which pictures the objects represent. Players earn points by correctly guessing, and having your picture correctly guessed. Materials pass, allowing all players to use all five different materials, and the creating beings again.

The Crew

The 2020 Kennerspiel Des Jahres, the Crew combines two unique gaming styles, cooperative and trick taking. Players take on the roll of a space crew trying to complete missions. The rule books tells the story of each mission as well as the conditions players need to follow to succeed. Once a mission is completes successfully players can move on to the next mission. The game has 50 mission, which increase in intensity both within the story and in the requirements needed to be successful. For a small game, and modest number of components there is a lot of game packed into the small box.

For More Gift Ideas

To support families during the unique times we are in, we put together some articles this spring. These articles suggest some great games that would also make great gifts. Plus the EFG Essentials is our “go to” collection of games that we recommend.


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 at Engaged Family Gaming, we love to talk about how teachers and homeschool parents alike can use games to teach different subjects. We have already talked about board games that can help you teach math and board games that can help teach reading. This time we are going to talk about board games that can be used to help teach history.

History is a tricky subject to teach using board games. They, generally, are too abstract to be able to realistically represent events that took place in the past. However, they can help teach the subject in two ways. On one hand, some of them are great at helping people memorize important dates, events, and historical figures. On the other hand, there are also games that are designed well enough to help capture the theme of a historical event. Both of these approaches can be a big help when trying to teach children about a given historical event.

Take a look below and see eleven games we found that can be used to help teach history in one of those two ways.

Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark is a game themed around the adventures of the two famous explorers of the same name. This is a period of American history that is often glossed over so having a fun tool to help explain what exploring what was an undiscovered country at the time is a good thing!

“The year is 1803. Take on the role of a team of explorers tasked by President Thomas Jefferson to chart the American West. Befriend the natives, live off the resources the land provides and be the first to set up camp on the Pacific coast. Players will have to manage hands of cards representing characters who will help to gather resources, recruit Indians and move forward in this race to discover the route from sea to shining sea. Beautifully illustrated, Lewis & Clark will have players reliving the exciting voyages of some of the most famous explorers the world has ever known”

Timeline Series

Timeline isn’t a single game. Instead, it is a series of games that features all sorts of different categories like Music & Cinema, Americana, American History, etc.

Gameplay is straightforward. Players are each given a hand of cards that have events on the front and their corresponding dates on the back. The goal is to slowly create a timeline of events. Players do that by taking turns placing their cards in the correct place on the timeline in relation to other events. If they guess correctly, then the card stays. If they do not, then the card is discarded and they have to try again.

This mechanic helps to reinforce players’ knowledge of when events happened in relation to each other.

The Grizzled

There is a lot of attention placed on World War 2. It is regularly studied in class. It is the subject of nearly countless movies and numerous video games and board games. World War I, on the other hand, is not often given much attention at all. This is in spite of the fact that it is a fascinating war that took place across several continents and featured cavalry, navy, air combat, and trench warfare.

The Grizzled is a cooperative game that helps right that wrong by putting players in the combat boots of soldiers trying to survive trench warfare until Armistice. The emphasis of this game is on avoiding the hardships and pitfalls that soldiers would have dealt with. If even one member of the team died, then the game is lost.

This is by no means a “light” topic, so parents and teachers should tread carefully. But, then, World War I is as tragic and terrifying as it is interesting in a historical sense. So if you are going to teach it, you may as well go all in right?

7 Wonders

7 Wonders is a drafting game where players take on the roles of seven great ancient civilizations. Gameplay is divided into three “ages” that help demonstrate the development of human civilization through antiquity.

The game may not depict actual historical events, but it does a fairly good job of explaining how civilizations develop and the interdependence between resources and great scientific or artistic achievements.

Twilight Struggle

I’m 35 years old. So I don’t remember the vast majority of the decades-long standoff between the United States and Russia. Twilight Struggle is a game that uses clever mechanics to help illustrate the delicate balance of power and aggression between the two nuclear powers.

This game is a bit on the long side and can take a long time to teach, but you would be hard-pressed to find a game that is better at helping visual and tactile learners understand one of the more pivotal periods in modern world history.

Memoir ’44

Memoir ’44 is hex based miniatures combat game that thrusts players into battles that mimic historical events during World War II. This is done using units, tactics, and victory conditions that mimic some of the famous skirmishes that took place throughout the war.

There are multiple expansions as well that include different sections of terrain and different parts of the war.

This likely isn’t a game that will teach much about World War II on its own. But, it is a great game to play while talking about some of the reasons behind the war and how it ended. Memoir ’44 illustrates that sometimes the best job a game can have is to keep the students interested while the real teaching is happening elsewhere.

Axis and Allies

It is impossible to talk about board games that can be used to teach history without at least mentioning Axis and Allies. A&A is a strategy war game where two to five players take on the roles of either a member of the Axis (Germany or Japan) or a member of the Alliance (United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union). It isn’t just about battle though. Players control both the military for their chosen country AND its wartime economy. Victory is given to the country that captures major cities across the world.

Axis and Allies presents a historical scenario and encourages players to change history over the course of a few hours!

Ticket to Ride – Multiple Editions

I know. We probably put Ticket to Ride on every one of these lists, but we can’t really help it. The game is almost universal in its appeal and in its applications.

Ticket To Ride is not going to be a history lesson in and of itself. But, several of the expansions are ties directly to the expansion of the railroad system that crisscrosses the entire country. Besides, you likely already have the game anyway for other reasons (or at least you should) so why not have another reason to pull it out and use it?

Catan Histories of America: Trails to Rails

Catan is a classic euro board game. This version includes a fixed board that is a reasonable facsimile of the United States. The same rules apply here as in the standard version with a few exceptions. The biggest among them being that the win condition is the delivery of all of your goods across railways.

This is a great game to help discuss the westward expansion of the population of the US and the rise of the Railway system and its importance to the US economy at the time (and now)!

Sapiens

Sapiens is a game where players take on the role of a clan chief that is exploring a fertile valley looking for a new home for their people. This is a tile-laying game with an exploration theme. The art style is bright, colorful, and engaging in a way that will keep players interested as you talk with them about the challenges that faced early man as he fought for survival.

Founding Fathers

Founding Fathers is a strategy game that takes place during the dawn of the United States. Players take on the role of famous political figures like George Washington, John Adams, and others all the up through Abraham Lincoln. Players work together to solve problems like war, financial panics, and eventually the division between the North and the South.

This is an excellent way to help reinforce the struggles of forming and guiding the United States. This is not a game for early gamers, but is rated for players age 8+.

For Additional Games to Support Learning


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 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.

Zombie Kids Evolution

  • Legacy/ Cooperative
  • For 2-4 Players
  • Ages 7+
  • 5-15 minute playing time per session

Your successes or failors affect the game in your future plays of the game, in Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a perfect first step into Legacy games. Legacy games are played over a series of sessions and what occurrences in previous sessions permanently changes the game and can influence the next events in the game. In Zombie Kidz Evolution you are working together to protect yourselves and drive off the zombies in the school. All the staff at the school zombies. The rules start off very simply, and as the game progresses new rules and abilities are added.

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

  • 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.

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.

Drop It

  • Dexterity/ Abstract Strategy
  • 2-4 players
  • 8+

Some of the best family games are easy to learn, but hard to master. Drop It has very simple rules and can be taught in minutes, yet has enough strategy within the simple rules to keep it engaging for all members of the family. Do not be deceived by the bright primary colors of the game, Drop It is more than a kids game!

In Drop It, each player has a collection of shapes in one color, and players drop them down the vertical game board to try and score points. The challenge come in meeting the criteria to score points. Along the side and the bottom there are colors (or shapes depending on the set up you select) and if your piece touches the side of the same color it does not score any points. Pieces also may not land touching another piece of a matching shape or color. The player with the most points when they run out of shapes wins.

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.

Fire Tower

  • Area Control and Hand Management
  • 2-4 Players
  • 15-30 minute games
  • Ages 14+

Most fire fighting games are cooperative, but in the game Fire Tower, you compete with other players to protect your fire tower from the fire and spread the fire to your opponent’s tower.

Players are working to defend their Fire Tower, the nine squares in the corner of the board, and to breach their opponents. In the Fire Tower squares fire can spread, but water and fire breaks can not be used. Players take  a range of actions depending on the card they play. There are Fire cards that spread the fire regardless of wind direction.  Water cards put out the fire in a small area. Fire Break cards create areas the fire is unable to burn, but may not be added to adjacent spots with a Fire Break. Once fire reaches the orange square in the corner that player is eliminated. The player with the last unburned tower wins.

See our preview from when this was on Kickstarter here.

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 Essentials are reviewed and updated every few months to make sure we have the most current information for our readers. Last updated 3/27/21.

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!

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 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 Bros. 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. 

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Platform Game
  • Exclusive

One of the best games from the Wii U can now be played on your Nintendo Switch! This includes the original Super Mario 3D World and adds in a whole new adventure with the Bowser’s Fury add on. Bowser’s Fury is an open world type Mario Game that people of all ages can enjoy. If you have a little one, you can even have them play along with Mario as Bowser Jr.

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.

The 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 Essentials are reviewed and updated every few months to make sure we have the most current information for our readers. Last updated 03/27/2021


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!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Subscribe to our Podcast!

2 comments
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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 2021

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

Madden 2021 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 2K21

  • 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, for the second year running 2K21 will 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

New 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 2021

  • 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.

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 Essentials are reviewed and updated every few months to make sure we have the most current information for our readers. Last updated 11/7/20.

The EFG Essential Guide Collections

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



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