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Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, the newest game in the Plants vs. Zombies franchise, just came out on February 23rd and it is already receiving a content update that includes balance fixes, new modes, and even a brand new map. Take a look at the list below (provided to the public by EA) and the trailer they provided for the so-called: Graveyard Variety Pack!

 

New Features

  • Added new co-op/team vanquish map “Aqua Center” which may seem familiar, yet completely different!
  • Added night version of the Great White North map to the Turf Takeover Playlist
  • Added Hide n’ Find missions to Backyard Battleground
  • Added Bot & Pot Missions to Backyard Battleground
  • Added unique character variant images to group HUD
  • World Options now shows all friends playing the game, not just the joinable ones
  • Added classic setting in options to change primary fire button (PS4 Only)
  • Added Aim Sensitivity slider to now allow more precise control over aim speed (for PC this is broken up into both mouse and gamepad sensitivity)
  • Added ability to select between hold button to aim or toggle button to Aim
  • Added kick player option to the in-game scoreboard for easy access (player hosted modes only)
  • Added difficulty to Pause Menu for some game modes
  • Game Now defaults to common chat in Private Matches
  • Added ability to view scoreboard while vanquished

Critical Fixes

  • Reduced length of round timer between rounds in Multiplayer matches
  • Imp now properly earns XP when in Mech
  • Players can now see other players’ Backyard customizations when visiting their Backyard
  • Players can now see stats on other players stats boards when visiting their Backyard
  • Improved audio for garlic drone primary weapon
  • Setting HUD to “Light” now also hides XP Meter
  • Major improvements to hit reaction “flinching” animations
  • A plethora of quality & bug fixes

Tuning/Balance Notes

Overall

  • Improved regeneration upgrade for all characters
  • Re-tuned all hit reactions for both players and AI to reduce the flinching effect even more

Rose:

  • Completely re-tuned Rose class, bringing her back into playing as a support role
  • Reduced Rose’s health
  • Major changes to her homing abilities, ineffective at range, requires player to lead target in order to land more hits
  • Slightly reduced rate of fire for Magic Thistles
  • Significantly reduced length a victim is trapped in Time Snare
  • Changed how Goatify ability works so that damage does not break Goatify, creating a more predictable and less jarring experience, and lowered time as a goat
  • Slowed down rose variants (Fire, Ice) when charging their weapons to make them more vulnerable

Citron:

  • Slightly decreased the Party Citron laser damage

Corn:

  • We needed to improve Corn’s ability to be a front-line fighter so we increased his health and also improved his long range damage
  • Reduced Party Corn’s damage output

Chomper:

  • Decreased the digestion time after a chomp escape (i.e. your victim got away using anti-chomp ability like jackhammer)
  • Brought Chompers regeneration delay to parity with all other playable characters
  • Fixed a bug where Chomp Thing’s health regeneration didn’t match his weapon description. He now regenerates health slightly sooner and faster than default
  • Increased Unicorn Chomper’s Rainbow Warp cooldown time
  • Increased goop cooldown so it couldn’t be spammed quite as much

Cactus:

  • Zen Cactus was too damaging and needed some damage and reload adjustments

Imp:

  • Imps tuning focused on ensuring he had a bit more survivability outside of his mech, and also improved his primary weapon slightly
  • Increased Imp health
  • Fixed a bug where the Imp couldn’t receive damage while he is making his Z-Mech phone call (he’s now only invulnerable when the beam of light appears)
  • Reduced Party Imp’s damage output

Super Brainz:

  • Slight cooldown reduction to Super Ultra Ball and Super Multi Ball abilities
  • Minor speed improvement to Turbo Twister but at the cost of decreased his armor while in Turbo Twister
  • Removed the decay from Toxic Brainz legendary meter to make it more useful
  • Damage reduction to Party Brainz

Captain Deadbeard:

  • We wanted to bring Captain Deadbeard closer to damage parity with Cactus, but just slightly below since he also benefits from his close range scatter shot
  • Made some movement speed improvements to his barrel when unlit
  • Made some damage reductions to Captain Partyman
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Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is releasing on February 23rd and Electronic Arts held a public beta for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. They did this for two reasons. The first test was to   test their servers and ensure they can handle the surge of players once the game launches. The second was to give prospective customers a chance to get a look at the game and hopefully buy it.

We spent a lot of time playing during the beta and came away very happy with what we saw. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is, essentially, an iteration on the original game and that isn’t a bad thing; not even a little bit. We loved every minute that we played the first game and the sequel looks like it delivers everything we would hope for in a new game: new game modes, new characters to play, and new maps.

The biggest (and best) addition to the game was the new hub world map that each of the two factions has. Each side has a home base of sorts where they players can explore, play mini-games, and look at stats for the different characters. These hub worlds are great for younger or inexperienced players because they provide a chance to practice movement and targeting in low stress environments and without other players. My youngest son spent more time in this mode than he did fighting in the different multiplayer modes and enjoyed the simplicity of running around the maze-like streets.

The new characters are awesome, too. Each side of the this epic struggle has three all new characters and we were able to try them all out over the course of the beta.

The plants have Citron (a slow moving orange that comes equipped with shields and a laser cannon), Kernel Corn (A heavy weapons specialist), and Rose (a support character). The zombies, on the other hand, have the Imp Zombie (a mobile character that can summon a massive mech to fight in), Captain Deadbeard (a sniper), and Super Brainz (a melee focused character that can do some serious damage).

Cintron
Kernel Corn
Rose
Imp Zombie (With Mech)
Captain Dreadbeard
Super Brainz

These six new characters added a huge amount of variety to the game by bringing the total number of characters to fourteen. The various combinations of characters made every fight drastically different and really kept everything interesting. Any concerns that I we had about the game drying out and getting boring were wiped away as the beta passed.

We are less than a month from release so we don’t have much longer to wait. Keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for more info as we get closer to release.

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Microsoft just wrapped up their 2015 E3 press event and while there was a LOT of amazing news the biggest announcement for parents was the impending release of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2!

The first game in the series was a surprise hit for Electronic Arts based on the popular PC and mobile game Plants Vs Zombies. The followup appears to follow the same family friendly shooter formula, but this time it takes place in what appears to be a dystopian future and includes plants and zombies that we included as part of Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time.

The original title is currently available at no cost to EA Access members. The sequel is slated for release in Spring 2016.

Are you and your family as excited as we are?

 

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Privateer Press/Bodger Games
Ages 8+
1-6 Players
45+ Minutes
COOPERATIVE

 

Holed up in the walls of a besieged brownstone, our heroes defend their lives, and the lives of their friends, from the shambling, leaping, and running hoards of undead.   Building massive contraptions of zombie destruction, they tinker to avoid their own demise – or worse, infection.  Who are these brave and brilliant souls who are the last line against a terrible foe? Goblins.  That’s right, Goblins.

Zombies Keep Out is exactly what you’d expect from a Goblins vs Zombies cooperative game,which is to say, a lot of fun for children with an impressively complex gameplay to keep adults entertained as well.  OK, so maybe that’s not what you’d expect, considering that it’s not likely you’ve actually thought about a game pitting these two completely separate factions of under-the-bed creatures against one another.  I assure you, it’s worth expanding your imagination’s boundaries to accommodate this unlikely rivalry.

Like most cooperative games, there are MANY ways to lose and only one way to win. 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 (ZKO) 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.  Adding zombies, moving zombies, infecting characters, and even more problems must be chosen by the current player without consulting other players.

To make it worse, a player cannot choose an action that cannot be completed at that time, so as the game progresses. “Terrible Things” become “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” Things.

Players get a trade and a single action on their turn. They can repair damage to parts of their building, to protect the much-needed contraptions from destruction. They can defend against zombies, flinging spare parts at the oncoming horde. They can tinker with a device to work on completing it. Or, they can scrounge for parts. It is crucial for players to act together, as completing contraptions requires an exact sequence of cards. Once a contraption is completed, it adds another action called… “Press the button!” which activates the contraption’s special abilities!

As the pool of zombies (it is actually a literal swimming pool full of zombies) depletes the option of being bitten becomes more and more probable.  Biting adds a very kid-friendly scale of terribleness. The first bite takes away your ability to trade with other players and makes you speak more slowly and sickly. The second bite brings you even closer to the precipice of undead-dom (yes, that’s a word) by making your words even less intelligible, and removing your ability to take a tinker action.  A third bite will render you completely unable to speak beyond the iconic zombie groan, and will make you BLINDLY select an option (using hand signals, of course) from each “Terrible Thing” you draw on your turn!  Finally, any bite past the third will turn you into a full fledged Zombie, groaning continuously (to add to the atmosphere of mostly primary colored, large headed monstrosities), and you now have your ability to take actions replaced by drawing another “Terrible Thing”, as you assist your brain-dead brethren in their quest to consume the ever popular delicacy that is green brains. Kermit beware!

This game is immensely enjoyable and the cartoonish characters will be a quick favorite of most children.  It’s an easy game to modify for younger players, by allowing the group to decide the “Terrible Thing” for each card drawn.  Smaller children can build their strategic planning skills individually and even advance to figuring out what’s best for the group as they choose their own actions.

Adults will find themselves questioning decisions and calculating moves as zombies shamble ever closer to devouring their most precious asset… their contraptions.

ZKO is basically the answer to the question on all of our minds: what happens after Pandemic?

Zombies Keep Out! will be available April 23, 2014 from Privateer Press! If you’d like to add more fun to your already awesome ZKO game, Privateer Press has just announced Zombies Keep Out: Night of the Noxious Dead will be released Late Spring 2014!  Adding Glow in the Dark Zombies to the swimming pool near you!

Love cooperative games?  Check out our other reviews here!

Big Zombie Fan?  Here are all our Zombie reviews!

 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor-In-Chief

PopCap Games

Rating: 9+

August 13, 2013

Available on iOS/iPad

Overall Review:

There are occasions where you anticipate a game so much that it can’t help but disappoint you when it finally arrives. This is one of the more tragic things that can happen to game fans like me. It has happened so often in the past that I have trained myself to just expect to be disappointed. There was no need for that when it came to Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time. Every single part of this game was a joy.

This is a sequel that builds upon the original just enough to make improvements without being such a vastly different experience that it feels alien. The same core game play elements are there, but they are given a new coat of paint in the form of sharper and more detailed animations. Everything feels more alive and more colorful. 

The game is more challenging than the original, which is exciting because it forces players to use out of the box strategies for different levels and challenges as opposed to relying on a single strategy throughout.

The biggest complaint against this game so far has been the free-to-play model. But, I have to say that I hardly notice it. The game can be played from start to finish without spending a dime, and even if you went out and purchased all of the one time unlocks, it would amount to a little more than $20. This game is well worth at least that, and purchases aren’t even required.

Family Gaming Assessment:

Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time is all about cartoon zombies and bad vegetable puns. The zombies are cartoonish and lack any of the gore that one would expect if they were “realistic.”

There is really nothing to be concerned about here unless your kids have a serious fear of zombies. (At which point god help you… because they are everywhere in the media right now!)

Playability Assessment:

We’re talking about a very challenging strategy game that belies its cartoon aesthetic. Kids will likely find it very challenging unless they spent a lot of time with the original. Parental assistance may be required even then.

The real charm of Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time is that kids might not even care if they are losing since the game play is so entertaining.

I do have a word of caution for the challenge stages though. These stages will be particularly challenging for kids because they will force them to change their strategies for each challenge.  You know your child better than I do. If they don’t enjoy that type of activity, then you might want to moderate their play.

Conclusion:

Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s about Time is free to play. There are in app purchases, but it is entirely possible to have an engaging experience without spending a dollar. This makes it really hard to think of a reason why anyone SHOULDN’T download this game.

I feel strongly enough about this experience that I would be able to recommend it if it cost $14.99 or more. There is a lot of content here. Since the game is free to play, there is no reason not to try it out with your children.

 

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PopCap Games announced on its blog that they are releasing the highly anticipated follow-up to Plants Vs. Zombies in Australia and New Zealand first. They explained that they are doing this “soft launch” to help perform a stress test on their servers and to help put some of the final touches on the game before release.

This is a reasonable step for them to take. The original Plants vs Zombies has grown in popularity significantly over the years. It has slowly evolved into one of the most popular mobile titles available. The demand for a sequel is massive. They would just be asking for trouble if they didn’t add to that the fact that the sequel will be free to play. The last thing they want is to miscalculate things and fail to deliver their product to their fans.

This process can only mean one thing: The release day is imminent. We’ll post an update as soon as the game goes live and will follow-up with our full review shortly thereafter!

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Those of us who were waiting patiently for the long-awaited follow up to Plants Vs Zombies will have to wait just a little bit longer. PopCap Games confirmed via the franchise’s official Twitter account that the game is being delayed until later on this summer. The title was originally slated for release on iOS on July 16th.

This is definitely a disappointment as it was one of my family’s most anticipated games, but a few more weeks are a small price to pay if this means the game will end up being more polished by the time they release it.

We don’t know a whole heck of a lot else about the game so far. But we have been able to find a few interesting bits of information.  

First, and most important, is that the game will follow a free-to-play formula. They have indicated that you will be able to play every level and earn every plant without spending a dime. Now, before any of you cheer too wildly, you have to remember that free-to-play games often have features hidden behind a paywall. In this case, I’ll bet that unlocking different plants will require spending coins that you find on the field with the option to just spend cash to unlock them faster. This is actually a great system. Those people who don’t want to pay anything will be able to play through the game that way. Everyone else will be able to pick and choose their purchases.

Second, we’ve been able to confirm that the game will involve time travel this time around. We don’t really know what that means yet since they have been very cagey with the details. But, we can assume that this will result in a wider variety of zombie opponents to deal with like knights, cowboys, etc.

This game looks like it could be one of the highlights of the summer. How excited are you for this one? Sound off in the comments section!

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EA opened their press briefing at E3 2013 with a huge surprise. PopCap Games came on stage and announced a spin-off title for their immensely popular Plants vs. Zombies series: The third-person class based shooter Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

I’ll be honest with all of you. I missed the gag in there until my oldest son started giggling. “Dad, its like Modern Warfare…. but in a Garden.” (Well played PopCap. Well played.)

They only showed a brief trailer of a co-op “horde mode” that would be part of the game. Four players controlled each of the different plant classes that were available and fought against waves of zombies while trying to plant a garden. The casual grid-based strategy gameplay was stripped away in favor of fast-paced action. The four plant classes shown were as follows:

Peashooter: This plant appears to be an all-around character. He has a reasonable long range attack and could plant other peashooter drones to lay down cover fire.

Sunflower: This was a healer/medic class. They didn’t get into to many details about what this class can do, but I can say that parents of younger kids wanting to play this game should get used to the idea of playing this support class. (I’m wicked excited!)

Piranha Plant: This was a close range brawler. What adds some challenge to this class is that, just like in the original title, whenever the piranha plant eats a zombie it can’t attack again for a while. This requires a lot of advancing and retreating in order to stay safe.

Cactus: The cactus is a sniper. One thing that I liked the most is that each of the snipers shots leave a red trail of dust. This might seem insignificant, but when playing a team based level like that the ability to know where your lone sniper is feels pretty useful.

We don’t have a confirmed release date yet, but PopCaps website has confirmed that the game will release for Xbox360, Xbox One, and PC sometime in early 2014.

If you happen to be one of the many people who just can’t wait that long for more PvZ action, then you are definitely in luck as the official sequel Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time will be released on July 18th.

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

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

Minecraft

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

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

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

Madden 2020

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

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

NBA 2K20

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

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

WWE 2K19

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

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

Super Lucky’s Tale

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

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

Rocket League

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

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

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

The Messenger

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Genre: Platform Game
  • Also Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4
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Simply put… The Messenger is a modern response to the Ninja Gaiden series from the NES era. Sabotage Studio is a team full of people who love that game and have gone out of their way to show their reverence in game form.

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

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

Steamworld Dig 2

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

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

Overwatch

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

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

Kingdom Hearts 3

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

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

Stardew Valley

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

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

Forza Motorsports 7

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

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

Forza Horizons 4

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

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

Final Fantasy XV

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

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

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

FIFA 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Sonic Mania Plus

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

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

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

Celeste

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

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

LEGO Games

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

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

Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville

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

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

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

No Man’s Sky: Beyond

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

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

Riverbond

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

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

Slime Rancher

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

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

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

HALO 5: Guardians

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

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

Minecraft Dungeons

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

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

Addendum: Fortnite

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

The EFG Essential Guide Collections

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



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

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

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The Engaged Family Gaming team has the mission to provide information and support families who want to play video games with their kids (and board games too). We work hard to provide parents with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their children’s gaming. To facilitate this, we help parents who might not be “gamers” themselves learn to understand the games their children are playing and help them find great 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 2020

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

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

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 2K20

  • 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 on the 2020 version is that it allows you to play as any of the twelve teams in the WNBA.

WWE 2K19

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • 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.

Steamworld Dig 2

  • ESRB Rating: E 10+
  • Platform Game/Metroidvania
  • Also Available On: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, macOS, Classic Mac OS, Linux, Playstation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Stadia

Image and Form games is a small game development studio from Sweden. They have made several games in various genres that 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
  • 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 2020

  • 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. This year’s biggest addition is the Volta football mode which celebrates street soccer. It’s wild, and exciting… everything a true fan would want to see

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 ...
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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 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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