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Mario, Luigi and friends are reportedly teaming up with the raving Rabbids for an RPG coming to the Nintendo Switch.

Kotaku is a video game news website with incredible sources somewhere within the Ubisoft organization. They are  reporting that an RPG that brings the Super Mario and Raving Rabbids properties together is not only being released, but it is being released very soon. The game will apparently be called Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and will be announced during the E3 Nintendo Direct and will launch something in August or September.

The report was light on details, but indicated that the game would feature turn based combat, two player cooperative play, and all of the silly humor that we have come to expect from Mario and Luigi RPGs and the rabbids games. Players will be able to play as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, or a group of rabbids that just happen to look like them.

Nintendo has had some success with mash-ups before and their Mario and Luigi RPG series is a perfect place to inject the slapstick humor of the rabbids franchise. These games have also, typically, been reserved for the handheld market, so I find it interesting that they would put this on the Switch. It definitely makes me wonder what other commonly handheld games will find their way onto the Switch.

Will you be playing Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle this summer? Sound off in the comments.

Source: Kotaku

 

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a franchise that has managed to transform a nearly forgotten 80’s toy property into a cultural icon. The cartoon, created by Lauren Faust, is about to enter its 7th season on April 15th. The toys are a massive hit and you can see merchandise everywhere. But, the franchise will be going in a bold new direction on April 21st.

My Little Pony: Tales of Equestria is an officially licensed tabletop roleplaying game that is being developed by Ninja Division. The game will release just about a week after the 7th season of the cartoon airs.

my-little-pony-tales-of-equestria-900x692

Tales of Equestria is a pen and paper storytelling game that is designed for two to six players. It will play similarly to other games in the genre. One player will take on the role of Game Master (GM) and the other players will create their own pony characters. The players will then adventure together and overcome obstacles using the power of friendship!

The game will launch with a full color 152-page rulebook that will help with character creation, provide adventure scenarios, and teach the group how to play the game. The goal is to give fans of the series a chance to bring the world to life. Players will be able to use the rulebook to create themselves as citizens of Equestria.

It’s not all rulebooks here though folks. My Little Pony: Tokens of Friendship is a game expansion that includes 12 plastic gemstones to help give the game more visual flare. It also gives younger kids something to play with while it isn’t necessarily their turn.

We don’t know a lot about how the game will play. But, I can confirm that our house is already excited to get our hands on this game. We are HUGE My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans and we getting this one right away!

Keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for more info about the game as it comes close to launch!

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Pixelkin.org. Make sure to check them out when you get a chance!

Nintendo was apparently being coy when they announced before E3 that the only game they were bringing to the show was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. They revealed a new action RPG for the 3DS called Ever Oasis a short time into their second day of streaming Treehouse Live @ E3 2016.

The game is being developed by a company called Grezzo under the leadership of Koichi Ishii. He is a long-time game developer who has participated in several Final Fantasy games, the entire Secret of Mana series, and is credited with designing Moogles, Chocobos, and the job system from Final Fantasy V which is still used in games today

Ever Oasis is a game that places the player in control of a character who, along with a water spirit named Isuna, is tasked with settling and growing a great oasis in the middle of a vast desert. Players will build shops, forage for materials, and scavenge for the tools their oasis needs to grow.

Over time your oasis will attract other characters of various races and tribes. You’ll be able to recruit these characters into your party while you venture into dangerous dungeons in search of treasure and experience. While in the dungeon you will be able to switch between the member’s of your party at will.

Ever oasis is not without a story though. The gist of the story is that the magical force of chaos has swept into the desert swept the main character’s brother away and is infecting the local animals and turning them into monsters. You need to help return the animals to normal while you are growing your oasis.

We don’t have any details yet regarding a release window yet, but this does look like a promising addition to an already stunning lineup of RPGs on the 3DS. Keep your eyes on Pixelkin.org for updates as we get closer to the release date.

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Hero Forge Games Ages 4-10 2-7 players Playtime 30-60 minutes TABLETOP RPG

What happens when your town is in trouble, and all of the adults are off saving people in far-off lands? It’s time for the kids to show off what they’re made of! Designed to be an introduction to tabletop pen-and-paper role-playing, Hero Kids is all about playing, well… heroic kids. The characters are the young yet capable offspring of some of the land’s greatest heroes, who have inherited their parents’ adventurous spirits and impressive talents. Whether it’s facing off against rats who have kidnapped a friend, or trying to protect the local farm from hungry wolves, these kids show that bravery isn’t linked to size.

The rulebook, which is available in print and PDF versions via DriveThruRPG , include the rules, a starting adventure, and 10 different characters to choose from. The rules are fairly straightforward; all of the actions are done by rolling a set number of six-sided dice (which you’ll need to provide), and comparing the highest outcome on each side.

Like any good roleplaying game (RPG), there are plenty of supplements available: extra adventures, new characters, the ever-important loot, and even pets. Or, for those feeling adventurous themselves, you can create your own material, using the information that comes with the basic rulebook as a guide. This will likely come in handy later, as some kids may chew through the available pre-made missions faster than new ones come out. It will also help with older kids who feel they need more of a challenge, as the basic material is a little bit more geared towards the younger end of the age range.

There’s no reading necessary on the part of the players, as there are symbols next to each of the relevant statistics (a shield for defense, a sword for attack, etc.) Math skills are fairly basic: reading a six-sided die, comparing two numbers, and the basic addition and subtraction of getting wounded and healing. The most critical skill, though, is imagination and problem solving. Beginners can be guided and prompted, but there’s a good chance that parents will find themselves surprised by how fast kids pick up on this form of make-believe. As gameplay progresses, concepts like tactics and teamwork can be stressed, helping the young heroes face ever more difficult challenges.

As with many independently published RPGs, Hero Kids does have some grammatical and spelling issues that you might need to watch out for. Keep in mind that this is a simple system, and it does lack one of the basic components of pretty much every RPG: leveling. The game is built to allow for children to easily swap characters after each adventure, with character cards are provided for ten different classes in the basic set. The full PDF bundle offers another ten characters mostly resembling cartoon characters that may be familiar to little gamers. Each character also has a corresponding coloring sheet which will allow your kids to personalize their pre-constructed characters a bit.

Older children who are ready for more complex play might enjoy the blank character cards, which are provided along with simple guidelines on how to build npp steroid your own character. Each card comes with a paper stand-up mini that matches the picture on the card for use on the maps provided with each adventure, and blank cards allow you to draw your own mini.

For gamer parents wanting to introduce their kids to tabletop RPGs, at $6-$15 ($6 gets you a PDF rulebook, while $15 gets you a PDF rulebook, coloring pages, extra features & 9 pre-made adventures), Hero Kids is a fantastic stepping stone to future gaming. For non-gamers looking for a good outlet for their kids’ imagination, this system requires very little additional investment (just a couple of standard dice), and will give your kids hours of creative entertainment!

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Storytelling is a core component of childhood which carries into a love of stories as and adult. For many gamers their love of following a story translates to playing Role Play Games. Questlings has taken that love of story and approached it from multiple directions. Their Kickstarter is live and runs until December 10, 2020, and has successfully funded.

Children’s Books

One way Questlings approached telling stories is through children’s books. Currently the book: So You Want to be a Paladin, is completely finished and ready. The outline and planning for three other books is in the works. The wirtting is complete for, So You Want to be a Mage with the illustrations in progress. The target age for the books is children ages 4-7, and feature children self discovering the ideals they look up to.

Role Play Game

The Questlings world in the books is also the setting of a Role Play Game. This game has a unique feature that I have not seen in other games, the player is actively playing two different characters. The two characters are the child and the inner hero. The child character is the primary character, and when they face a challenge, the inner hero come out. The recommended age of the Role Play Game is eight and up.

Gameplay Incorporates Seven Steps

  • Spotlight a player
  • Move the party, where the Spotlight player choses to move the party one space.
  • Spotlight Discussion, where the Spotlight player askes questions about the new location
  • Challenge Roll, is performed by the Spotlight player when they come to a challenge
  • Fantasy Transition, where the Inner Hero is called upon
  • Team Roll, each player describes how they interact with the challenge and roll
  • Resolution, a discussion occurs about the challenge, and characters collect new items

Safety Tools

To support the comfort of all players on each player card there are three faces to denote how the player is feeling. With these faces, the players can point or speak the color they are feeling to inform the Game Master guide the storyline. One example of this tool in play occurred when the Game Master had a dragon appear and a player pointed to red. The game immediately paused to check in with the player to see what detail they found too intense. The Game Master then changed the size of the dragon to tiny, and the player was then comfortable to proceed. With such young players, this safety tool allows easy communication of what they like, are uncertain about, and what makes them uncomfortable.

Final Thoughts

Questlings provides a familiar world for young gamers to begin exploring the world of role play games. The Questlings two mediums of story books and role play game allows the youngest kids to become familiar with the world. Then, and as they get a bit older the game allows players to explore that world as duel characters. This book and game set may be the prefect fit for families looking to delve into the world of role play games with their kids.


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 holidays are approaching quickly and some amazing new games have come out 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 wish list creation!

It’s All About the Video Games!

The best place to start is with the games. Our fancy consoles are just paperweights without them.

Multi-platform Games

Some of the most popular video games in the world are multi-platform games. This means they are made to be played on more than one of the major consoles. Below are some of the best multiplatform games released this year:

Minecraft Dungeons

Minecraft is probably the biggest game in the world. Minecraft Dungeons is a spin-off that features an isometric action RPG like Diablo. It was one of our most anticipated games coming into the year and it did not disappoint. Dungeons is particularly note worthy because it is a great multiplayer game that families can play together.  It is worth mentioning that this is a digital game unless you purchase the “Hero Edition” for Switch, Xbox One, or PS4.

Hades

Hades is one of the biggest surprises in gaming this year. Super Giant has made great games in the past, but Hades really is something special. 


You play as The son of Hades as you attempt to battle your way out of … well… Hades. The action is wild. The weapons are cool. And the rogue-lite elements are well designed. Every time you die you are sent back to the main hub to get a bit of story content before you are thrown back into the action.

It is worth mentioning that this is a digital-only game, so the only way to purchase it for anyone is to get them a gift card for their console of choice. 

Star Wars: Squadrons

Star Wars is a perennial favorite. I know some “fans” say it is dying, but there are ALWAYS going to be people, especially kids, that are hungry for more Star Wars stuff. Squadrons is great for three reasons. First, it is a great fighter pilot simulator where you alternate control of imperial Tie Fighters and Rebel X-Wings. It does a great job of being modern, while also respecting the nostalgia for classic space shooters like Rogue Squadron and X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter. Lastly, it is a budget title with free content updates planned (It’s only $40 compared to the usual $60!)

Console Exclusives

One of the major factors that influences what brand of console people choose is the slate of exclusives the system has. Below are some of the noteworthy console exclusives for each system.

Nintendo Switch

Super Mario 3D All Stars

Super Mario 3D All Stars is a collection of three Mario games from the past: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64), Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube), and Super Mario Galaxy (Wii). Not much has been done to remaster them (if anything at all), but they are all great games in their own right and this is a great way to get them into your kids’ hands! This collection is only available until the end of March, 2021 so don’t let this one slip away!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

What can be said about Animal Crossing: New Horizons that hasn’t been said already? This game was a cultural phenomenon this year, in part due to its wholesome nature and relaxing gameplay. If your family has a Switch (or is getting one) and doesn’t have this game yet, then I would put this right at the top of the list!

Clubhouse Games 51 Worldwide Classics

When this was announced I was VERY skeptical. This reminded me of a LOT of the Shovel-ware that was released en-masse during the Wii era. But, I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that Nintendo has lovingly crafted this collection of minigames and board game experiences. This is a great game for families that enjoy light board games like Yahtzee (called Yacht Dice in Clubhouse Games). The low price point ($40) doesn’t hurt either.

PlayStation

There are several PlayStations out there right now (I discuss them below), but the good news is that most of the biggest games will be playable on all of them. Here are two great suggestions for PlayStation games for families:

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Marvel’s Spider-Man was our Game of the Year the year it came out. It was an amazing game that nailed what it would feel like to Switch through New York fighting crime (at least as far as we can tell. ;)) Miles Morales is a follow-up that takes place on the same map, save that it takes place over the Holidays, and features Miles Morales on a journey to figure out how to be Spider-Man. This is a shorter experience than the first game (I finished it in about 10 hours), but every second of it is intense and the payoff at the end is well worth it.

The PS5 version is $70, but it includes a download for Spider-Man Remastered. This is a great chance for a newly minted PS5 player to experience the original if they missed it.

Falls Guys: Ultimate Knock Out

Fall Guys came out earlier this year and took the world by storm as a fun social game to play before Among Us ate its lunch. Regardless, this is an adorable multiplayer game that combines the action of silly physical challenge game shows like Knockout with the battle royal format. This game is a LOT of fun and the rounds are short enough that your family can take turns passing the controller and laughing at the hijinks.

Xbox

This is a tough one to write this year. Xbox really didn’t release any new exclusives this year that should be included here. They are building for the future with all of the studios they bought in the last 2 years, but those investments haven’t paid off yet.

That isn’t to say that the Xbox is bereft of great games though! The best recommendation we have here is to take the price of a game you WOULD have bought for the Xbox and buy a game card for Xbox Game Pass. Giving Xbox game pass is giving the gift of unlimited access to hundreds of games on the service.

Which Console To Buy?

Nintendo Switch

New consoles are here!!! Nintendo doesn’t really care though. The Nintendo Switch has been the best selling console for the last 23 months running and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. There are two variations on the Switch console to choose from. The pros/cons are below.

Switch

This is the original Switch. The system has been available and going strong since 2017. It retails for $299.99 and the big bundle this year comes with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (which is amazing). This version of the Switch can be put in its charging dock and used on the family television, while also taken out of the dock and played in handheld mode. If you think your family will take advantage of both modes of play, then this is the Switch to get.

This is also the right Switch to get if you think multiple people will want to play. Nintendo games are great for multiplayer gaming (Mario Kart, Mario Party, Smash, etc) and the original Switch is the right way to go to support that.

Switch Lite

The Switch Lite is a great little device. It eschews the dock and the ability to play the game on the television in favor of being more compact, and cheaper (by $100!) This is a great option for kids who have no interest in playing games on the TV, or for a secondary Switch if you already have one and you want a second so two people can play different games.

Sony PlayStation

Sony has three different options available right now. Two of them are different models of the PS4, the third being the brand new PS5.

PS4/PS4 Pro

It seems like the whole gaming world is excited about the next generation of consoles, but now is a GREAT time to pick up a PS4 if you don’t have one already. Sony is going to continue to release games for PS4 for years (including games like Horizon Zero Dawn: Forbidden West). The library of amazing games is massive (and getting less costly as time goes on).

PS5

The PS5 is an amazing piece of hardware. It is fast. It can pump out some insane visuals. The Dual Sense controller is very, very cool. The problem is going to be availability. They are exceedingly hard to get your hands on this holiday. Sony simply could not make enough to accommodate the demand considering the manufacturing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Xbox

Xbox One S

The Xbox One is a great console that has been around for a very long time. But, it is still a great time to pick one up. The Xbox One S should be readily available and very inexpensive throughout the holidays. It will be a great home console for kids who was excited to play Minecraft with their friends.

Xbox Series S

The Series S is designed to be the least expensive console in the new generation. It comes in at $299.99 and is more powerful than the Xbox One S, but less powerful than the Xbox Series X. This is a very small console that is a great entry point into console gaming for families who don’t have, or aren’t in the market for a 4K television.

Xbox Series X

The Series X is purported to be the most powerful console on the block right now. There aren’t a lot of games that push it to its limits yet, but is a very impressive piece of technology. This, like the Series S and the PS5 will also be pretty tough to find this year.

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

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

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

The “EFG Essentials” is a core collection of games we frequently recommend across different genres. The purpose of these essentials is to provide a starting point for families to engage with high-quality games. Below are our EFG Essential games for kids on the PS4.

Minecraft

  • ESRB rating: E 10+
  • Survival
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, and Everything that has an electronic signal

 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.)

Marvel’s Spider-Man

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Action-adventure
  • Exclusive

Spider-Man was our game of the year in 2018, and would easily hold its own against other games of the year that we’ve announced in the past. Insomniac Games was the perfect developer to bring the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to life. They were able to capture the true essence of what makes Spider-Man a fun hero to watch and to play: the traversal.

Swinging around New York City looking for backpacks, finding crimes to fight, and battling with super villains was a blast from the very first second until its emotional end.

Madden 2021

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Sports Game
  • PC, Xbox One

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.

MLB The Show 20

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Sports Game
  • Exclusive

The exclusive Major League Baseball property across all platforms, MLB The Show 20 is an exceptional baseball simulation.  For the first time in the fifteen game series, the game includes all the actual Minor League Baseball teams and actual player names.

NBA 2K21

  • ESRB Rating E
  • Sports Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, Google Stadia

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
  • Sports Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One

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 sports entertainment video games and is a great addition to any gaming library of wrestling fans.

Rocket League

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Sports Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, macOS, Classic Mac OS, 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+
  • Platform Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

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.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Platform Game

LittleBigPlanet gave the world a gift in Sackboy. Sony didn’t really have a mascot until he came along and he finally gets his own dedicated game in Sackboy: A Big Adventure.

Overwatch

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

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.

Ratchet and Clank

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

Playing as anthropomorphic feline carrying robot pal as a backpack whilst laying waste to your enemies with a Sheepinator, never gets old.  The latest installment released in 2016 remains a high-quality installment to the family-friendly platforming game genre, even 4 years after the fact. 

Kingdom Hearts All-in-One

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Action Role-playing
  • Also Available On: Xbox One

The Kingdom Hearts All-In-One package includes 10 different Kingdom Hearts experiences dating back to the PlayStation 2. This is an amazing value for Disney fans who are looking for an Action RPG series to sink their teeth into. Once you finish this amazing collection you can pick up Kingdom Hearts 3. 

Stardew Valley

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Simulation
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, 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 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. 

Final Fantasy XV

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Action Role-playing
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One, Stadia

The Final Fantasy Series is a benchmark in which all role playing games are weighted against. Final Fantasy 15 is one the best stand alone role playing games of the PS4/Xbox One era.  The Final fantasy series incorporates fantasy and futuristic elements into a compelling story.  

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. 

The Final Fantasy Series represents a collection of stories through gaming history. All of the games are great in their own right, and everyone has a favorite that can be endlessly argued

FIFA 2021

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Sports Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, 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.

Tetris Effect

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Puzzle
  • Also Available On: PC, Oculus Quest

Just like the original Tetris, Tetris Effect requires you to place tiles in order to clear lines.  This update though adds themes and music through different levels based on the beat of music.  It also adds a mechanic that allows you to place several blocks at once and a VR compatibility which varies greatly from your standard Tetris game.  This is a high quality addition to one of the most popular gaming titles ever.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Action Role-playing
  • Also Available On: PC

Horizon: Zero Dawn is an open world action and adventure title that takes place in land so far removed from a global catastrophe that civilization has reset again in the ruins of ancient cities. The game encompasses a rich story, beautiful landscapes, and solid voice acting.  In addition there is the thrill of hunting giant robot dinosaurs.

The Story of Horizon: Zero Dawn centers around Aloy, a young woman raised as an outcast, and her struggles to navigate and explore the lands beyond her home. She discovers a small piece of technology, advanced to the point of magic for her. What comes of this technology is a sprawling narrative that links her world to a distant past, which is better described as our distant future. 

This game also features puzzling environments to climb and explore, and colossal robot beasts to hunt, all while using weapons and tools primitive in construction featuring futuristic materials.

Rocket League

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • 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. 

Hollow Knight

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Platform Game/Metroidvania
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, macOS, Linux

Hollow Knight is an independently developed action game that blends the best of Castlevania and Dark Souls into a beautiful and family friend title. You take on the role of a wanderer who is brought to the entrance of The Hollowness from unknown circumstances. 

The Hollowness is an interconnected dungeon with multiple entrances and exits to each beautifully crafted zone. Every part of the Hollowness is built to be both journey and destination, with levers and gates revealing back tracking paths to the surface, and many difficult challenges focusing on platform based movement and fair, but brutal combat. 

Hollow Knight is built to unfold by itself in a very organic path. Exploration and curiosity open up alternate paths and entire sections of the world. Your skills and the story are shown rather than told and are left for you to discover through environment and inference rather than straight and simple exposition.

LEGO Games

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • 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.  That they have somehow managed to consistently do this with their video games titles is somewhat 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 tens of thousands of hours of entertainment to its fans.

Plants vs Zombies: Neighborville

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Tower Defense
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One

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! 

Everybody’s Golf

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Sports Game
  • Exclusive

The latest installment in the series “formerly know as Hot Shots Golf” published specifically for Sony platforms.  Everybody’s Golf is a cartoony arcade style golf game that allows for single player or online multiplayer game play.  The gameplay is refreshing and simple allowing for easier accessibility to players of all ages. In keeping with the theme Sony has also decided that if you need a break you can feel free to drive your golf cart anywhere you like.  This is typically frowned up by the “establishment” for those that would like to know and infinitely entertaining.  Go out, play golf with everybody, and have a great time.

Journey

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Adventure Art Game
  • Also Available On: Playstation 3, PC, iOS
Journey Video Game Review - Video Game Review of Journey on ...
Click the image to purchase

Journey is one of the best games to come out in the last decade. It is a relatively short experience where you guide a cloaked wanderer through a desert, but the way that this game handles multiplayer will take your breath away. 

No Man’s Sky: Beyond

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • 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 have the exploration mode, but it has base building, a creative mode, multiplayer, and more!

Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Role-playing
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS

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.

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 11/7/20.


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
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestRedditEmail

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

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

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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!

This week we are going to define the game design term “gameplay loop.” This is, admittedly, a heavier word than we have defined before, but understanding what a gameplay loop is will help understand the games that our kids (and we) play a great deal!


A Gameplay Loop is a game design term that is used to describe the repetitive activities that a player will take while playing a game. It, essentially, defines what the player DOES while playing. Every level you complete in Super Mario Run, Pokemon you catch in Pokemon Go, and level you gain in Final Fantasy XV is an example of one (or more) gameplay loops.

Example

One gameplay loop example from a shooting game might work like this: (Shout out to Morten Grauballe for the killer example.)

  • a target appears
  • you aim at the target
  • you pull the trigger
  • the projectile moves towards the target
  • you hit the target
  • the target loses life

This is a “core” gameplay loop because, with a shooter, this is the activity that a player will be doing most often. It is worth noting, though, that games will often have more than one loop going at the same time. This is especially true in more complex games like RPGs.

Take a look a this example of a gameplay loop you might take from the game World of Warcraft. This is very complex game so each of these steps might include several other smaller loops that players would complete in the process.

  • You enter a new zone
  • You gather all of the quests from all of the different NPCs in the first quest hub
  • You move around the zone completing quest objectives
  • You return to the quest hub
  • You turn in all of the quests you have completed and collect your rewards
  • You move to the next quest hub
  • … and so on.

Thinking critically about the games our kids play and the way that our kids play them provides great insight. It is also a great way to connect with them. You’ll understand the games they enjoy better. You might even enjoy them a little better too!

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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