These are some of the most popular, and most fun, games kids are playing today.
With so many games aimed at kids and teens, it can be hard to know where to start. These are some of the very best right now, and the ones your kids probably want to play.
(PC, Mac, all consoles, all mobile devices) | ESRB Rating: E
Originally released back in 2011, Minecraft lets players mine cubes, gather resources, craft items and build pretty much whatever they can dream up. It’s available on every platform under the sun and has been spun off into several cool side projects, including an adventure game (Minecraft: Story Mode) and a classroom-ready educational tool (MinecraftEDU). Whether your kids are reconstructing Hogwarts, trying to take down the fearsome Ender Dragon, or glued to a Minecraft YouTuber like Stampy or CaptainSparklez, they’re probably thinking about Minecraft right now.
Appropriate For: 6 and up. Minecraft can be scary – monsters come out at night – so consider confining younger kids to the game’s nonviolent “Creative” mode.
(iOS, Android) | ESRB Rating: Not rated
If you’re reading this story on your mobile phone, there’s a 50/50 chance your child is pestering you to hand it over so they can trap the Magnemite sitting on your shoulder. The augmented reality phenomenon lets players hunt, trap and train digital critters by wandering around the real world. It’s still going strong – over 300 critters have been released since Pokemon Go dominated the summer of 2016. It can be fun to track and trap Pokemon together, and Go’s real-world exploration gets kids off the couch and out of the house. Make sure to be aware of your surroundings while you walk, however.
Appropriate For: 8 and up. Since it’s best played while out and about, parents should consider it a parent-child cooperative game at least until their kids are old enough to roam around unsupervised.
(Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC) | ESRB Rating: E10
EA’s Madden series might get more headlines, but NBA 2K is technically a more popular game. The second best-seller of 2017 (behind only Call of Duty) also happens to be a gorgeous, fun, and deep simulation of NBA basketball, featuring every current team, player and coach along with a host of NBA legends. It’s particularly hot right now as the NBA nears the end of the regular season and kicks into the playoffs.
Appropriate For: 10 and up. The controls can be tricky and some content in the single-player Story mode touches on adult themes.
(PC, Mac, Xbox One, iOS, Android) | ESRB Rating: E10
What if one of your kids loves playing games and the other enjoys making them? Enter Roblox. It’s somewhere in between Lego and Minecraft, a massively-multiplayer online game that lets players build (and play) their own games. Kids with a penchant for programming will love it, as will tech-savvy parents thrilled to see their little ones code. It’s prone to toxic online behavior, however, and while Roblox does a good job keeping servers clean, it’s a persistent problem.
Appropriate For: 8 and up, provided you keep close tabs on the games they’re playing (and creating).
Super Mario Odyssey
(Switch) | ESRB Rating: E10
The portly plumber is back in yet another outstanding action adventure. In addition to Mario staples like coin-collecting and Goomba squashing, Odyssey introduces a clever new mechanic in a talkative magical hat that lets players control enemies. A cooperative mode lets one player control the hat, too, a perfect recipe for parent-child couch bonding.
Appropriate For: 7 and up. The 3D controls are complicated, and some of the game’s large boss creatures, such as a huge dragon, can be a little scary.
(PC, Mac, iOS, Android) | ESRB Rating: Not rated
The most popular of the ubiquitous .io games, Slither.io is incredibly simple: players try to grow a snake by gobbling up colorful orbs and dodging bigger snakes. It’s also harmless fun. Players can’t communicate at all, and the straightforward goal of becoming the biggest serpent on the block is easy for younger minds to grasp. Tearing them away from their massive snake for dinner? Way less easy.
Appropriate For: 7 and up. The game itself is free to play, but it tends to show pretty racy advertisements and pushes players to pay to get rid of them.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
(Switch) | ESRB Rating: E10
Nintendo struck gold with the handheld/console hybrid Nintendo Switch game system, and much of that is due to Breath of the Wild. This open-world take on the long-running Nintendo franchise lets players explore a sprawling fantasy world at their own pace. Though the combat and creatures can get a little intense for the wee ones, it’s still family-friendly Nintendo fare (no blood, no gore). If there’s a Switch in the house, the kids are playing Zelda on it.
Appropriate For: 8 and up. Younger kids will love the look and feel, but might be scared by some of the game’s larger creatures. The controls are also fairly complex.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
(PC, Xbox One, PS4) | ESRB Rating: T
This creative shooter’s main mode encourages players to think strategically as they build fortifications and work together to defend against waves of nefarious enemies. The real star of the show, however, is the free-to-play “Battle Royale” version. Inspired by the equally popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Fortnite: Battle Royale drops 100 players onto a huge map. The last one standing (usually atop a giant self-built tower) wins. So big it recently warranted its very own GMA segment, Fortnite’s unpredictability has turned it into one of the world’s most popular games with teens and, yes, their younger siblings.
Appropriate For: 13 and up. Though it rewards strategic thinking and its violence is much more cartoonish than mature games like Call of Duty, Fortnite is still a pretty intense online shooter.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
(Switch) | ESRB Rating: E
A multiplayer stalwart for over 25 years now, Mario Kart remains the go-to racer for kids with a competitive streak (ie. basically all kids). Though Mario Kart 8 was originally released for Nintendo’s lackluster Wii U console, this Switch version is bigger, faster and perfectly portable. It’s also the perfect game to play with your child, though you have to promise to not get mad when they nail you with a blue shell right before you cross the finish line.
Appropriate For: 6 and up. It’s-a Mario!
(iOS, Android) | ESRB Rating: Not rated
Nearly 2 billion downloads have turned this slick endless runner into one of the biggest mobile games in the world. Players guide a graffiti artist down subway tracks as they outrun the authorities, dodging trains, collecting coins and even hopping on hoverboards. While it’s free to play, it can quickly suck up funds via loads of optional upgrades (to be fair, the Teleporter board is pretty awesome).
Appropriate For: 6 and up, but be sure to vigilantly monitor those microtransactions!
Do you have a favorite kids game we should include? Let us know in the comments section below.