Though video games are still a young and evolving medium, their popularity has skyrocketed relatively quickly. Over the past 50 years, video games have gone from shameful children’s hobby to the world’s most profitable entertainment industry. Now that gaming is finally “cool,” a lot of families are getting into it as a group activity. But it can be difficult to find family-friendly video games that are both content appropriate and fun for all skill levels.
The Penny Arcade Expo is a great place to find the latest and greatest games. That’s why I dedicated my time at PAX East 2018 to finding the best family-friendly video games. Many parents already know about the Entertainment Software Rating Board, or ESRB. The problem is that, while ratings gauge content appropriateness, they don’t convey how much gaming experience is necessary to play. So the following list of family-friendly video games was made for inexperienced parents and young gamers.
Don’t forget to also check out our list of family-friendly board games from PAX as well.
The Best Family-Friendly Video Games from PAX East 2018
The bottom line? These games are perfect entry points for parents and kids who have never played a video game before. All of them are cooperative or multiplayer, meaning parents and children can play together. Of course, these suggestions also work for parents with experienced gamers looking for something new (and appropriate) to play.
Release Date: TBD 2018
Platforms: PC (confirmed), Consoles (expected)
Description: Phogs is about a double-ended dog, meaning it has heads at both ends of its body. Though it can be played alone, Phogs is much more fun with a partner. In co-op mode, each player controls half the dog with the ability to stretch and bite objects. The game is about using these abilities to solve environmental puzzles and collect bones. Puzzles gradually get more difficult, but the game is easy to play. The world is colorful and adorable, and the funny abilities the dogs have are super creative. For instance, if one end attaches to a water spout, the other end of the dog will shoot water. Phogs is the first professional project of a young development team based in Dundee, Scotland.
More Info: Visit the developer’s (Bit Loom) website, or follow them on Twitter for updates.
Yoku’s Island Express
Release Date: Coming Very Soon
Platforms: PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Description: Yoki’s Island Express is an interesting blend of platforming and pinball. Though the game is technically single-player, the fast-paced nature of pinball makes it perfect for controller-sharing. In this adorable adventure, players meet Yoku the Dung Beetle, the postman for the island of Mokumana. Yoku’s job is to deliver the mail throughout the large island, and must navigate through pinball puzzles to do so. The beautiful art and simple controls make Yoku’s Island Express fun for everyone.
More Info: Visit the Team 17 website (the game’s publisher) or follow the game on Facebook.
Release Date: TBD 2018
Platforms: PC , PS4, Xbox One
Description: Riverbond is made to be a cooperative experience. It features drop-in/drop-out 4-player couch co-op. This means you can join in or exit the game at any time; perfect for parents who want to split time between playing games with their kids while doing chores. The “hack and slash” game — i.e. it involves a lot of combat — features cute voxel visuals and destructible environments. (It even includes real-time physics.) The adventure comes complete with a campaign, for gamers who also enjoy a story with their monster slaying.
More Info: Visit the Cococucumber (the game’s developer) website, or follow the team on Twitter.
Release Date: January 30, 2018 (Steam Early Access)
Platforms: PC (via Steam)
Description: Battery Jam was described to me by its developers (Halseo) as Bomberman meets Splatoon. The objective of the game is to, through “competitive territorial mayhem,” capture as many tiles as possible. Tiles are captured by using the “boombox” to smash opponents. When boomboxes explode, they release paint that covers tiles. The player who has the most tiles painted in their color at the end of the round wins. Battery Jam is a local multiplayer game for up to 4 players. It’s fast-paced, colorful and simple to play.
More Info: You can learn more about the game on the official website. If you’d like to buy an early copy of the game during development, you can do so on Steam.
The Adventure Pals
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Platforms: PC (Steam, GoG), Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Description: Last but most definitely not least, The Adventure Pals is an incredible game for parents and kids. As far as family-friendly video games go, this one has it all; adorable animals, exciting adventure elements and couch co-op so two players can enjoy the experience together. Players have a versatile giraffe companion who assists them with the platforming segments. Thanks to the giraffe, characters can glide, swim and rope swing across large chasms. The game is the perfect mix of charming and challenging for gamers of all skill levels.
More Info: Visit the official website for details, or follow @MassiveMonsters on Twitter.
As some final thoughts before closing out this list of family-friendly video games, I have two more suggestions. For a game that’s already out, be sure to look into Overcooked by Ghost Town Games. It’s a 4-player co-op game about preparing, cooking and serving meals. As for something on the horizon, keep an eye out for Guacamelee! 2 by Drinkbox Studios. This action-platformer allows up to four players to engage in lucha libre style-combat. Plus, you get to turn into a super powerful chicken sometimes so, you know, the kids will love it.
Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Vinny Parisi / Best of NJ
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
Bit Loom / Phogs
Villa Gorilla / Yoku’s Island Express
Cococucumber / Riverbond
Halseo / Battery Jam
Massive Monster / The Adventure Pals