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The old adage “Laughter is the best medicine” is so true. Life can be stressful and uncertain. Sometimes, the only answer is a good laugh. Below is a list of relatively inexpensive games to make you laugh.

Chonky Donkey

Buy Chonky Donkey here on Amazon

Chonky Donkey has taken the party game and transformed the judge into the reader. In Chonky Donkey, just as in many other party games with cards and a judge, players submit a card to a prompt. However, this is where there is a twist, the judge is only a reader. As they read the cards summitted my their fellow players. the reader can not smile or laugh. If the reader smiles or laughs, the player who’s card they were reading gets the prompt card and the point. Should the reader keep a straight face the whole time, the reader keeps the prompt card and they get the point.

Exploding Kittens

Buy Exploding Kittens here on Amazon

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

Not Parent Approved

Buy Not Parent Approved here on Amazon

If you are looking for something to get everyone laughing then check out Not Parent Approved. It is played in the same style as Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, with one player as the judge and the rest of the players trying to provide the best answer to the prompt card. The game has a large range of cards, and for younger players, parents may want to screen the cards for content.

Happy Salmon

Buy Happy Salmon here on Amazon

Happy Salmon is really, really stupid. But, in the best ways. This is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. You can even buy two copies (there are two different color versions) so you can get up to 8 players. That is WILD.

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers

Buy Invasion of the Cow Snatchers here on Amazon

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is also a single player game with a hilarious theme from Think Fun. In this game players are collecting cows represented by colored disks, and the red bull must be collected last. There are fences of different heights that add challenges to each puzzle.

Shaky Manor

Buy Shaky Manor here on Amazon

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

Hoagie

Buy Hoagie here on Amazon

Hoagie is a sandwich building game where each player is trying to build the perfect sandwich without any part getting spoiled by three oogies. It has a level of gross that kids and adults will find entertaining.  Hoagie is a light game that can be played with multiple ages all together making it a great game for the whole family. See the review here.

Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns is a card combat game that features whacky unicorns as you build an army. The art is adorable and gameplay loop as you pass between turns feels very similar to Magic: The Gathering (and I mean that in a good way). We enjoy it every time we play.

Go Nuts for Donuts

Buy Go Nuts For Donuts here on Amazon

Go Nuts for Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Really, what better topic for a game can you have beside collecting donuts! Player bid on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret, and at the end of the bidding players may only collect those donuts where they are the sole bidder. Each kind of the 21 kinds donut ( and two beverages) has either points it gains you, an action you can take immediately upon retrieving the card, or both. The artwork and text on the cards are fun and adorable and sure to make you smile.

What Do You Meme: Family Edition

Buy What Do You Meme?: Family Edition

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


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

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

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

Games for the Whole Family

Planted

Buy Planted here at Target

  • Card Drafting/Resource Management/ Set Collection
  • 2-5 Players
  • Age 10+

There is something very satisfying about caring for plants and watching them flourish. Planted takes the premise of collecting and caring for plants and couples it with beautiful artwork and components. This Target exclusive game had a high production value for the price. Players collect Resource Cards and Item Cards at the beginning of each of the four rounds. Then players draft their cards by picking and passing the cards to the right or left, the direction changes each round.

Planted plays over four rounds with a very simple card drafting mechanism. The game design keeps beginning players in mind. The player boards and nursery board do a great job of communicating clearly for the players. Each round players draw 6 Resource cards and 2 Item cards. Over the round players pick a card simultaneously, reveal and gather any resources based on their cards.

Planted takes some more complicated gaming mechanics and has streamlined their play as well as provided lots of visual support on the player boards, cards, and nursey board. For novice gamers this have become a great new gateway into set collection, resource management, and card drafting.

Chonky Donkey

  • Party Game
  • 3-8 Players
  • Age 12 +

Buy Chonky Donkey here on Amazon

Party games are wildly popular and easy to find, but may have a similar gameplay or theme from each other. Chonky Donkey has taken the party game and transformed the judge into the reader. In Chonky Donkey, just as in many other party games with cards and a judge, players submit a card to a prompt.

However, this is where there is a twist, the judge is only a reader. This game has question cards and answer cards. First the reader flips an answer card and all the players (except reader, who is in “the hot seat) submit a question card that they feels goes with the question, or is just ridiculous. As they read the cards summitted my their fellow players. the reader can not smile or laugh. If the reader smiles or laughs, the player who’s card they were reading gets the prompt card and the point. Should the reader keep a straight face the whole time, the reader keeps the prompt card and they get the point.

Ticket to Ride 

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

Buy Ticket to Ride on Amazon!

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

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

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

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

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

Sushi Go

  • Card drafting 
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Sushi Go on Amazon!

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

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

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

See our review here.

The Crew

  • Trick Taking, Cooperative Strategy
  • 3-5 players
  • Age 10+

Buy The Crew on Amazon!

Multiple award winner, the 2020 Kennerspiel Des Jahres and 2021 American Tabletop Casual Game, the Crew combines two unique gaming styles, cooperative game play and trick taking. Players take on the roll of a space crew trying to complete missions. The rule books tells the story of each mission as well as the conditions players need to follow to succeed. Once a mission is completes successfully players can move on to the next mission. The game has 50 mission, which increase in intensity both within the story and in the requirements needed to be successful.

The Crew does a great job of adding small elements to each mission to make the difficulty increase. It is done in a gradual way that keeps the game approachable for families. For a small game, and modest number of components there is a lot of game packed into the small box.

The Crew Mission Deep Sea

  • Trick Taking, Cooperative Strategy
  • 2-5 Players
  • Age 10+

Buy The Crew Mission Deep Space

If you like The Crew, another adventure is available. In The Crew Mission Deep Sea, players search for the lost city of Mu beneath the ocean depth with in this sequel to the award winning game, The Crew. Using an easy to learn cooperative trick-taking gameplay the players take on different missions to tell the story. Completing each hand under certain conditions completes each mission and advances you through the story on your search for Mu. Just like in its predecessor, as you complete each mission additional rules and conditions might applied to future missions.

Abandon All Artichokes

  • Deck Builder (Deck Deconstruction)
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 10+

Buy Abandon All Artichokes on Amazon!

Winner of the 2021 American Tabletop Early Gamers category, Abandon All Artichokes has you build your hand of garden vegetables by deconstructing your deck of artichokes. In Abandon All Artichokes, players start with a hand of all artichoke cards. The goal is to abandon their artichoke cards and create a hand with other vegetables from the garden.

This is a great deck builder game for players new to that style of game, and has been referred to as a “my first deck builder” While the game is rated for age 10 and up this is a game that can scale down to slightly younger players. The non-artichoke vegetable cards have text with the actions the card allows. Young players being able to read the cards is helpful.

Qwixx

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

Buy Quixx on Amazon!

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

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

Kingdomino

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Kingdomino on Amazon!

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

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

See our Spiel Des Jahres 2017 article here.

Forbidden Island

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 10+

Buy Forbidden Island on Amazon!

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

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

The randomness of the tile layout leads to huge variety and replay value. The difficulty can be scaled to all abilities based on how high the water level starts the game. Even at the easy setting can provide a decent challenge for some of the most experienced gamers.

See our review here.

Pandemic

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Pandemic on Amazon!

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

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

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

See our review here.

Tsuro

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-8 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Tsuro on Amazon!

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

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

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

See our review here.

Zombie Kidz Evolution

  • Legacy/ Cooperative
  • For 2-4 Players
  • Ages 7+

Buy Zombie Kidz Evolution on Amazon!

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

Zombie Teenz Evolution

  • Legacy/Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Zombie Teenz Evolution here on Amazon

The zombies are causing trouble around the town and you must work with your friends to find all the ingredients for the antidote to save them. Zombie Teenz is another game in the same world as Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a stand alone game which can also be combined with Zombie Kidz Evolution. Just like in its predictor, this is a cooperative legacy games and evolves as you play. If your family likes Zombie Kidz Evolution, the this adds just a little more complexity and challenge for players.

Happy Salmon

  • Party Game
  • 3-8 players
  • Age 6+

Buy Happy Salmon on Amazon!

Happy Salmon is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. The rules also suggest being creative for a silent mode in locations where shouting is too disruptive. Each player gets 12 cards in their personal deck with three of each action card and the players who stand around a table. Each player shuffles their deck and flips it over so only one card is visible.

Once play begins, all players simultaneously say the name of the action on the revealed card. They are trying to find another player with a matching card. If no one has the same card the card moves to the bottom of their deck. If they find a match the two players perform the action and discard the card in front of them. The actions of Happy Salmon include: High Five, Fish Bump, Switch it up (where players switch places), and Happy Salmon (where players slap arms together) will leave players doubled over in laughter.  The first player to run out of cards wins.

Exploding Kittens

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

Buy Exploding Kittens on Amazon!

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

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

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

Check out the review here.

Evolution: The Beginning

  • Engine Building
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Evolution: The Beginning on Amazon!

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

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

Block Ness

  • Area Control/Basic Resource Management
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Block Ness on Amazon !

Loch Ness Monsters are taking over the Loch, in Block Ness by Blue Orange Games. Players are vying for the limited space and trying to make their monster the longest before running out of room. To keep space limited and challenging at all player counts the number of players impacts the size of the loch (play space).

Each player gets 12 segments of their color monster, including a head and tail. Each segment is slightly different, they vary both in length and height. As players add to their monster, they can place a new piece horizontally or vertically only. Monster pieces can also (and eventually will need to) go over other monster pieces. The must be taller than the existing piece to cross over.

Block Ness is a great family game, and it plays well multi generational. The rules are very easy to learn and only takes 15 minutes to play, making it a great addition to family game collections.

Splendor

  • Engine Building
  • 2-4
  • Age 10+

Buy Splendor on Amazon !

Splendor

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

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

Check out our review! 

Skyjo

  • Set collection
  • 2-8 players
  • Age 8+

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

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

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

Check out our review here.

Drop It

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

Buy Drop It on Amazon!

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

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

King of Tokyo

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

Buy King of Tokyo on Amazon!

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

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

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

See our review here.

Fire Tower

  • Area Control and Hand Management
  • 2-4 Players
  • Age 14+

Buy Fire Tower on Amazon!

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

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

See our preview from when this was on Kickstarter here.

For Young Gamers

Rhino Hero

  • Dexterity
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 5+

Buy Rhino Hero on Amazon!

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

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

Animal Upon Animal

  • Dexterity
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 4+

Buy Animal Upon Animal on Amazon!

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

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

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

  • Set Collection
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 3+

Buy Sneaky Snacky Squirrel on Amazon!

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

This is a great simple game for very young gamers.

Hoot Owl Hoot

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 4+

Buy Hoot Owl Hoot on Amazon!

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


The EFG Essentials are reviewed and updated every few months to make sure we have the most current information for our readers.


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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Live-streaming, whether it be video games, cooking, or conversations, has never been more popular. More and more of us, and our kids, are hopping into live stream channels every day on websites like Twitch and YouTube or in apps like TikTok and Instagram.


These live streams are more akin to like concerts or sporting events than they are watching a movie at home. There are standards of behavior to follow when you are out in public. It is our job as parents to teach our kids how to behave in these virtual spaces.


Don’t worry though. We’re not going to lay that responsibility at your feet and walk away. That would be super rude and not our style. Instead, we’ll talk about what live streaming is and give you some tips on how to guide your kids.

What is Live-Streaming Anyway?

Live streaming is the practice of streaming live video across the internet without it editing. Technically speaking, when you watch Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime… you are live streaming that. Those types of broadcasts have happened for a long time. They may be live, but they aren’t (often) very interactive.


Twitch.tv launched in 2011 and changed everything.


Now, individual “streamers” can broadcast just about anything. Twitch streams include everything from playing video games and recording podcasts to baking cookies and painting miniatures. It isn’t only a broadcast though! Viewers can interact with both the streamer and each other! This allows communities to form and turns each stream into a live performance.


This technology is everywhere now. Creators can start live streams on dozens of different platforms including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and even TikTok.

How Interactive are Live Streams?

In short: Very. That’s the entire point. It gives viewers an increased level of access to the streamer and a chance to communicate with them as well as their other viewers and fans.


The key lesson to remember is that while live streaming does create a more personal connection between a streamer and their audience that doesn’t mean that the streamer is their audience’s “friend.” In fact, they don’t have a relationship at all (at least not in the way we think of them).


The term “parasocial relationship” was first used all the way back in 1957 in a paper involving people who felt they had personal relationships with radio and television personalities. The phenomenon happens with streamers all the time.


At the end of the day, they are not much different from a radio DJ or a TV weatherperson. The difference is that they have an easier time responding to people thanks to the technology they use. That ease of response can give viewers a sense of comfort in the stream’s chat. This can lead to some embarrassing results.


Guidelines for Watching Live Streams

Below are some guidelines for how to interact with streamers that you can give to kids.

No Real Names

Don’t call a streamer by their first name unless they tell you that you can. This implies a level of familiarity that your child doesn’t have. You should encourage your child to use the streamer’s screen name or handle instead. This goes both ways though. Your kid should be using a screen name as well.

Subscriptions

Many live-streaming services allow viewers to subscribe to a channel. You need to make sure that your kids know that subscriptions buy entertainment. They do not buy access. There are those on the internet that believe that subscribing to a channel on Twitch or to a user on Patreon should grant them more access to the content creator. Sometimes they even think that it makes them “friends.” This isn’t the case. A Twitch subscription grants you access to more content from the creator, but it doesn’t mean that they should give you more access to their personal life.

Read The Rules

The very first thing your child should do when they start to watch a new stream is read the rules. This will let them know what kind of channel they are in, what the expectations are of them, and what the environment will be like. This will be a great way for your child to know if the chat will be safe for them. You should tell your child to be wary of streamers with no rules. These streamers can have pretty toxic communities.

Don’t Be a Moderator

Every channel has different rules for how to behave there. If your child spends time in those channels they will learn those rules. They should not, however, try to enforce those rules unless they have been chosen to be a moderator by the streamer. This can add to the confusion in the chat and make it harder for the moderation team to do their work and interrupt the stream for everyone else.

Talk to Everyone (Except the Streamer)

Teach them to interact more with the chat than they do with the streamer. The streamer is performing for a group of people and shouldn’t be expected to talk to everyone. Instead, the community is supposed to form around the streamer and talk amongst themselves.

The below video is a panel hosted early on during the pandemic in 2020. It features a diverse group of streamers with years of experience. They talk a lot about how users should behave while watching streams and talk a lot about the experiences they have had. It is an enlightening video for anyone who watches regularly.

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!

The EFG Essentials

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One thing that a LOT of homebound families have been doing these last few weeks is puzzles. I’ve seen so many pictures of happy families smiling over completed jigsaw puzzles I could burst! But, I know a lot of families out there might be getting frustrated! Some of those puzzles are tough.

Puzzles are a big deal in our family. My mom would ALWAYS have a puzzle on the dining room table if she didn’t need the surface for other things. She loves to build puzzles with her kids and grandkids so I thought to myself, “Who better to consult with than the master?”

So, without further delay, here are some tips from the puzzle master herself!

  • Place all pieces on the table face up
  • Sort for outside edges.
  • Figure out the main color themes of the puzzle
  • Sort the pieces by color (this is a great job for younger puzzlers!)
  • Fit all outside edges together to make a frame if you can
  • Work on large swaths of color or obvious shapes
  • Keep completing shapes until you feel like you have most of the obvious ones put together
  • Sort those shapes by size
  • Consult the picture on the box when you get stuck
  • Look for clues – letters, straight edges, faces
  • When you get stuck? Move on and try another area.
  • Share the experience and work as a team!
  • Don’t give up! All puzzles have a solution!

Did these tips make you want to grab a puzzle for yourself? Head to this Amazon link and grab one (or ten)!


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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PlayStation Now has been retired. The benefits (most of them listed below) have been rolled into the newly updated PlayStation Plus service. Head over to our guide if you want to see what PlayStation is offering as part of its premium subscription service.

We’ll leave the content up for archival purposes though so people can see what PlayStation Now WAS.


It seems like everyone is starting their own premium gaming service these days. It can be tough for parents to be able to tell the difference between Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and all the others. We can’t let that stand here at EFG so we wrote up a big ol’ guide for all of the premium services so our readers can tell them all apart and understand the costs and benefits of each one.

Take a look below for our guide to PlayStation Now!

The Pitch

PlayStation Now (PSNow) is a Netflix-esque streaming service for PlayStation 4 and PC. Subscribers have unlimited access to stream a collection of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games over the internet on their PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, or PC.

How Does it Work?

Subscribers have access to the massive catalog of games for as long as their membership lasts. The majority of the games are streamed online like the shows we watch on Netflix or Disney +. There is a selection of around 300 games available for download through the service.

How Much Does it Cost?

PlayStation Now (PSNow) can be purchased in 12-month, 3-month, or 1-month increments.

12 Month Subscription – $99.99

3 Month Subscription – $44.99

1 Month Subscription – $19.99

Advice

Some of the value of PlayStation Now (PSNow) is dependent upon the strength of your internet connection. The games are streamed over the internet so they will run poorly if you can’t get a good enough connection. Sony customer support recommends that your internet service has a download speed of at least 5mbps (megabytes per second) to use the service. Tests performed by other sites like ArsTechnica have shown that it takes closer to 9 mbps to really take advantage of it.

There is a collection of games you can download. You can even play them in up to 4k resolution if you play it on your PS5 or PC.

Troubleshooting

Sony technical support has provided a few tips for folks who have the recommended download speed and are still experiencing issues with the service:

Use a Wired Connection

Many homes have their consoles hooked up to the internet via a wireless connection (wifi). This does hamper the quality of the connection between your PS4 and the modem. One way to correct this is by using an ethernet cable to connect your PS4 to the modem directly. This may not be possible for everyone, but it is at least worth mentioning.

Reduce the Number of Applications Using the Network

Your home network only has so much data that it can download from the internet at once. Applications that are sharing that download speed and can hinder each other’s performance. Its like traffic coming into your house. We’d get everywhere faster if we were the only car on the road.

Some applications you might consider shutting down are:

  • Streaming video applications (Netflix, Hulu, YouTube)
  • Cloud backup or sync applications (Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud)
  • Content downloads (BitTorrent, software, games, movies, or music)
  • Video/audio communication apps (FaceTime, Skype)

Try Off-Peak Hours

Your download speed can also be hurt if you try to use a shared (or public) connection during the busiest hours of the day. Try using the service during off-peak hours like evenings and weekends so there may be fewer people using the service.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Live Gold

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origin’s Access


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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Updated 08/14/2022

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Sony has released an upgrade to the PlayStation Plus program. The new version of the program offers a number of features and benefits that are sure to appeal to parents and gamers alike. In this article, we will discuss all the details of the new PlayStation Plus program so that you can decide if it is right for your family. We will cover topics such as price, content, and how the program works. So whether you are already a PlayStation Plus member or are just considering signing up, read on for all the information you need!

PS+ has been around since 2010. During that time it has delivered a ton of free games and discounts to subscribers.

The program has always been optional, but it was a requirement for anyone who wants to play online multiplayer games on their PlayStation console. The vast majority of PS+ members are happy with the service and don’t mind paying $60/year for it, but there are some that feel like they’re being forced into it. Forced or not… PS+ is a key part of the PlayStation ecosystem so you need to know how it works in order to make the most out of your console.

  • Classics Catalog
  • Game Trials
  • Cloud Streaming

PlayStation Plus is divided into three tiers: Essential, Extra, and Premium.

PlayStation Plus EssentialPlayStation Plus ExtraPlayStation Plus Premium
Monthly Games Monthly Games Monthly Games
Online Multiplayer Online Multiplayer Online Multiplayer
Exclusive Discounts Exclusive Discounts Exclusive Discounts
Exclusive Content Exclusive Content Exclusive Content
Cloud Storage Cloud Storage Cloud Storage
Share Play Share Play Share Play
PlayStation Plus Collection PlayStation Plus Collection PlayStation Plus Collection
Game Help Game Help Game Help
Game Catalog Game Catalog
Ubisoft Classics Ubisoft Classics
Classics Catalog
Game Trials
Cloud Streaming
This chart shows a quick view of the benefits of each tier.

PlayStation Plus Essential

“Enjoy all the core PlayStation Plus benefits: join your friends in online multiplayer, add new games to your collection every month, get incredible deals from PlayStation Store, and more.”

  • Monthly Games
  • Online Multiplayer
  • Exclusive Discounts

PlayStation Plus Essential also includes:

  • The PlayStation Plus Collection*
  • Share Play
  • Game Help*
  • Cloud Storage
  • Exclusive Content

PlayStation Plus Extra

“Get all the great benefits included in the PlayStation Plus Essential plan, as well as access to the Game Catalog, featuring hundreds of games from genre-defining blockbusters to innovative indies, with new titles added regularly.”

  • Game Catalog
  • Ubisoft+ Classics

PlayStation Plus Extra also includes:

  • Monthly Games
  • Online Multiplayer
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • The PlayStation Plus Collection*
  • Share Play
  • Game Help*
  • Cloud Storage
  • Exclusive Content

PlayStation Plus Premium

“Enjoy all the core PlayStation Plus benefits, hundreds of games in the Game Catalog, as well as exclusive benefits like game trials, cloud streaming, and the Classics Catalog.”

PlayStation Plus Premium also includes:

  • Game Catalog
  • Ubisoft+ Classics
  • Monthly Games
  • Online Multiplayer
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • The PlayStation Plus Collection*
  • Share Play
  • Game Help*
  • Cloud Storage
  • Exclusive Content

How Much Does PlayStation Plus Cost?

1 Month3 Month12 Month
PlayStation Plus Essential$9.99$24.99$59.99
PlayStation Plus Extra$14.99$39.99$99.99
PlayStation Plus Premium$17.99$49.99$119.99
This table shows the subscription price for each tier of PlayStation Plus.

Advice

If you own a PlayStation 5 and want to play games online (with a few exceptions like Fortnite), then you’ll need to buy one of the plans to do so.

At that point, it is just a matter of choosing which of the three plans you want to buy into. The Essential plan works just like the PSPlus did at launch. It grants access to online play, discounts, two free games a month (determined by Sony), the PlayStation Plus Collection, and a few other minor benefits.

The Extra plan is an extra $5 a month (or $40/year). That extra cost gives you everything from the Essential package but includes access to a catalog of PS4 and PS5 games at no extra charge.

The Plus Premium plan is only a few dollars more a month and adds access to the classics catalog. This is a collection of older PlayStation titles like Dark Cloud and Ape Escape. This is a great move if you have nostalgia for these older PlayStation titles, but have gotten rid of your older PlayStation consoles.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Live Gold

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now


The new PlayStation Plus program is definitely worth a look if you are in the market for a gaming subscription service. With its low price and wealth of content, there is something for everyone in this program. Not to mention, the added features make it an even more appealing option for families. Be sure to check out all the details on Sony’s website so that you can decide if PlayStation Plus is right for you! And don’t forget to let us know what you think about the new program in the comments below.

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Update – 08/14/2022

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The Engaged Family Gaming team has the mission to provide information and support to 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 for both the PS4 and PS5.  We have chosen at the moment to include both of these systems on to one list as there are currently very few PS5 exclusives at the moment and even fewer that would fall under the “Family Game” umbrella.

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 kids’ 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 supervillains 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 21

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Sports Game
  • Exclusive

The exclusive Major League Baseball property across all platforms, MLB The Show 21 is an exceptional baseball simulation.  This year’s version brings two changes to the classic game. First, there is now a ballpark creator mode that allows you to custom-build your own ballpark to whatever specifications you desire.  Secondly and we believe more importantly this is the first time that this is not a Sony Exclusive and instead has been released on both the Playstation and Xbox platforms, allowing access to the game to a whole slew of players that could only look on from behind a Sony sized wall.

NBA 2K22

  • ESRB Rating E
  • Sports Game
  • Also Available On PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5

Buy NBA 2K22 on Amazon.

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. 

WWE 2K22

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Genre: Sports Game
  • Also Available On PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series

Buy WWE 2k22 on Amazon.

In WWE 2K22, 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.

2K20 was remarkably bad. So bad in fact that they took a year off from publishing in order to refine the game engine. 2k22 is a return to form for the franchise.

This year’s entry gives you the chance to relive highlights from the brilliant career of Rey Mysterio Jr. Some of his biggest highlights are missing because the opponent isn’t in the game. But, it is a fun ride through history nonetheless.

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 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: Rift Apart

  • ESRB Rating:E 10+
  • Platform Game
  • PS5 exclusive

The sixth installment of the wildly successful Ratchet & Clank series, Rift Apart leverages the capabilities of the PS5 to provide exceptionally smooth gameplay and stunning visuals that were not possible on the previous versions of the Playstation.  This game stays true to the themes and style of the previous Ratchet and Clank installments; it introduces plenty of new twists and turns such as the “Rift Tether” that allows the player to instantly change worlds, and the introduction of Rivet, the first playable female character in the franchise.

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 against which all role-playing games are weighted. Final Fantasy 15 is one of 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 a 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 many mentors as they are friends, each with stories in their own right. 

With a steady, fast pace in mind, Final Fantasy 15 handles the 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 which is an anchor point of the RPG experience. 

The Final Fantasy Series represents a collection of stories throughout 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 as 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 the music.  It also adds a mechanic that allows you to place several blocks at once and a VR compatibility that varies greatly from your standard Tetris game.  This is a high-quality addition to one of the most popular gaming titles ever.

Horizon: Forbidden West

  • ESRB Rating: T
  • Action Role-playing

Buy Horizon: Forbidden West on Amazon

Horizon: Forbidden West is an open-world action and adventure title that takes place in a 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 great voice acting.  In addition, there is the thrill of hunting giant robot dinosaurs.

The Story of Horizon: Forbidden West continues the story of Aloy, a young woman raised as an outcast, and her struggles to navigate and explore the lands beyond her home. This time around she is recognized everywhere as a hero who has already saved the world. She has to face the ramifications of that newfound fame while trying to save everyone from a dangerous blight that threatens to choke out all life. This takes her to new regions and introduces her to new tools, new people, and new robot beasts to fight.

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 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-friendly 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 backtracking 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 with 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 known as Hot Shots Golf” was published specifically for Sony platforms.  Everybody’s Golf is a cartoony arcade-style golf game that allows for single-player or online multiplayer gameplay.  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 upon 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 was released in 2016 and wasn’t very well received. However, Hello Games has been releasing regular, free updates since its launch. It is almost unrecognizable from its original form now. It still has 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 essential 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 1980s. That following was earned by creating a game that was as much a storybook as it was a turn-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 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 4/10/2022.


The EFG Essential Guide Collections

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

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

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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 and the Forgotten Land

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

Buy Kirby and the Forgotten Land on Amazon.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is, without question, the best game in the franchise. This time around Kirby takes his adventure into 3D and it is a LOT of fun. When it was first revealed everyone assumed that it was going to be an open-world game like Breath of the Wild. It becomes clear very quickly that it shares more in common with Super Mario Odyssey. That’s not a bad thing though! Each level in Forgotten land is beautifully crafted with all manner of secrets to find and challenges to complete.

Kirby games have always been on the easy side and Forgotten Land is no different. It’s perfect for younger kids who are easing into gaming.

Pokemon Legends Arceus

  • ESRB Rating: E
  • Platform Game
  • Exclusive

Buy Pokemon Legends Arceus on Amazon.

Pokemon games have shared the same formula for twenty-five years. Arceus bucks that trend by taking players back in time within the Pokemon Universe and serving up an action game. Players go on a wild adventure in the ancient Hisui region during a time before Pokemon trainers were common. Some might think that a break from the norm would be a problem, but Arceus ends up being a refreshing change of pace for longtime fans.

The core gameplay loop in Arceus is very fun. You venture into one of several different biomes within the region and run around capturing pokemon. You do this by sneaking up on them in tall grass and throwing pokeballs. You can even do it on the run! Once you run out of Pokeballs (or your bags are filled up with other materials) you return to base to get credit for the work you have done. Then you resupply and head back out! It’s a great 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 on 08/01/2021.


The EFG Essential Guide Collections

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

https://engagedfamilygaming.com/parent-resources/efg-essentials-great-video-games-for-kids-on-xbox-one/

https://engagedfamilygaming.com/parent-resources/efg-essentials-great-video-games-for-kids-on-ps4/

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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Video games have never been bigger. The industry is growing in leaps and bounds and is showing no signs of slowing down. Our kids play them, talk about them with their friends, and even watch people play them on YouTube and Twitch.

This is a great opportunity for us to connect with our kids, and we definitely think you should take it. Below is a list of three reasons why you should!

You Can Learn About the Games They Play


Showing an interest in the games our children play allows us to build new connections and experiences through play. Kids love to share their favorite things with people and they will definitely want to share their games with you. This is a great way to connect with them and build lasting memories.

Games are a great form of personal expression, and you can learn a lot about someone by the kinds of games they play and the way that they play them. Learning about the games your kid likes to play opens a window through which you can view their interests and examine their inner workings better than conversation ever can.

You Can Keep a Better Eye on the Content

Sometimes it is tough to know what kinds of content are included in a video game without playing it for yourself. Showing an interest in what your child is playing will give you greater access to the games they play.

Knowing what is in the games they play will also help you understand what to look for in other games and will help you give constructive feedback on the games they want to play. This way you can suggest alternatives to what your child wants to play than outright banning them. Being able to suggest Fortnite over Call of Duty: Warzone and have a real explanation for why because of your personal experience is a great way to overcome objections to your decisions relating to acceptable content.

You Might Even Like Them!


There is nothing more amazing than finding a new joy or interest by accident. Games have changed so much that they are hardly recognizable now from even a handful of years ago. There are even new genres that would not even be thought off when we were growing up that are now commonplace for younger gamers.

You only get the chance to find these surprises if you play video games with your kids! So get in there!

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!

The EFG Essentials

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Video game publishers are constantly experimenting with ways to earn additional revenue for the games they release. One of the most common methods we see them use is a model where the base game is free to play, but some features are locked behind purchases (that can vary in size). In many cases these purchases are small (some are a dollar or less). We call these Micro-transactions. Some of these purchases are quite large and can be more than a full-price console release. We call those macro-transactions. 

The features hidden behind these transactions can be anything from experience boosts (that help players gain power faster) to cosmetic items that change the way a character, their weapons, or attacks look. 

Sometimes though, these transactions include the ability to directly increase your character’s power and improve their chances of winning against other players who haven’t spent money. These are often called “Pay to Win” mechanics (or p2w) by the gaming community at large.

This is very common in mobile games, but can easily find its way into console games as well (it is just more rare). The gaming community at large is very quick to call out companies for including these types of mechanics in their games (you can look up the commentary on the launch of Star Wars Battlefront 2 if you want to see what some players said). 

Most recently, these mechanics have found their way into the newly released Pokemon Unite. This is an interesting case because the Pokemon brand is incredibly strong with kids (and adults), and the game is free to start. This means it is very easy for our kids to get into the game and start playing with people who have spent a large sum of money to be more powerful than everyone else. 

This isn’t a problem by itself as long as our kids are having fun, but p2w mechanics do create some situations we need to be careful of.

First, p2w mechanics encourage kids to want to spend money on the game. They do this because the more money they spend the more of a competitive advantage it gives them.This can help them win more matches, and will be especially important if they intend to play in the game’s ranked mode. 

Second, it also means your kid is likely to come across a player who has spent a LOT of money in order to be as powerful as possible. This will make it difficult to complete against those players and can make it frustrating, 

 I think it is worth noting that this doesn’t mean these games can’t ever be fun, but we, as parents, do need to be vigilant and make sure we help our kids identify these mechanics and make good decisions. 

The best way to do this is to ask our kids questions when they ask to spend money on a game (especially one that was free to begin with). We should ask them things like, 

“What exactly are you buying?”

“What will that currency you are buying be used for?”

“Are you buying something that will make you stronger in the game?”

These types of questions will help your family make better decisions and will help your kids think about what they are doing. You can even have real discussions about whether or not these are the kinds of games they want to play. This will likely save you and your family time and money in the long run. 

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!

The EFG Essentials

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