What is the best video game to play with your kids? I get this question all the time, and the answer will vary from family to family. Gaming as a family is one of my all-time favourite things to do, and I truly believe it is just as enriching as hiking together, going to the movies together, and even having family game nights together. Video games get a bad rap because they are tied to screen time, but screen time isn’t the enemy. It’s all about how you use it!
Here is the catch though, there are so many factors to consider when you are choosing a video game to play as a family. Choosing a game you think everyone will love is a great start, but making sure you have enough time to play, or that the game is built for the right number of players can be important when choosing the best video game to play with your children!
Here are some of the most important questions to ask before you choose the best video game to play with your kids:
How many players do you need?
Making sure you choose a game that can include everyone in the family is really important. We have been in a few situations where everyone was excited about getting started, only to find we needed one more player, or perhaps had one too many. This can happen easily in a game like Mario Party Superstars that only allows up to four players, or in Mt. Minigames in the game, where only one player on a system can play.
In these cases, usually a parent will sit out, or take turns with someone else, but family game night is for mom and dad too! Make sure you figure out who wants to join in on the fun before you choose a video game to play with your kids!
What systems do you have?
Before you or your children get your heart set on a video game for family night, make sure that game is available for systems you actually have. Too many times have I been amped up for a video game, only to find out it was PlayStation exclusive, when we were an Xbox household. We have since changed that so that we have almost all the systems available, but not everyone has that option.
Games that will come up the most for family game night are probably Nintendo Switch exclusives like the Mario Party series, Smash Bros series, and Mario Kart series.
How old are the people playing?
This sounds like a pretty obvious question, but you’d be surprised how quickly it can throw off family video game night! Are the players too young for regular video games like Minecraft or Fortnite? Toddlers don’t quite have the dexterity needed to play these without frustration, meaning it could easily sour the night. On the other hand, what about older kids? If you’re always choosing games like PAW Patrol The Movie: Adventure City Calls, some people might not want to participate.
So what do you do here? Of course, compromise is always an option. One week, pick a video game for the younger children like PJ Masks: Heroes Of The Night, one week, pick something for the older kids like The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem, which can appeal to a wider audience. Another option would be to pick something that makes the little ones feel like they’re participating, even if they aren’t winning, like Mario Kart 6 Deluxe or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Do you need to play co-op, couch co-op, or multiplayer?
For parents out there who aren’t into heavy gaming, this one might be a head scratcher. Believe it or not, there is a difference between co-op, couch co-op and multiplayer. Couch co-op means you want to all play together in one room, on one system, working toward a common goal, sometimes on one screen, or split-screen. Minecraft and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga are great examples of these.
Co-op and multiplayer, however, can be on separate systems, but still play together. Minecraft can actually do this too, but so can games like Fortnite, or Halo Infinite for the older crowds. At our house, my son will play on the PC or Nintendo Switch, I’ll be on the Xbox Series X or Nintendo Switch OLED and my partner will be on the PlayStation 5!
How are co-op and multiplayer different though? I suppose all co-ops are multiplayer, but not all multiplayers are co-ops, if that makes sense. Co-op games have you working together for a common goal, and although multiplayer games like Stardew Valley can do that, other multiplayers like Gran Turismo 7 would have you competing against each other instead.
How experienced are the players with video games (this can go for parents or children)?
This ties in a little to how old are the people playing, but experience levels can vary drastically too. Just because Grandma is 65 doesn’t mean she is an expert sniper, and just because little Johnny is only six doesn’t mean he isn’t. The experience level in video games is something you have to take into consideration to make sure you choose the best video games for the family.
For newcomers to gaming, something simple like Animal Crossing New Horizons could be great for a couple members of the family. More experienced players may jump into Fortnite together to clear the island of enemies in Battle Royale, or dive into creative to battle it out. It’s all about who is playing!
How much time do you have to play?
This one can truly change the entire course of the evening. Choosing a game that doesn’t fit into your window of play time can leave you with children up way past their bedtime, or players that are bummed out because they didn’t have time to accomplish anything. Its important to know how much time you have literally, or how much time you have just based on your children’s attention spans!
If you’re short on time, hop into something like My Singing Monsters Playground, where you can complete a pile of rounds in a short period of time. If you have more time available, any game in the Mario Party franchise would be great, since you can choose from a number of different game lengths!
What genre of video game does your family prefer?
This one always feels like a trap to me, since gamers can have such a wide range of preferences. You can find some people obsessed with racing and competition, or some who love shooters. Plenty of us out there love farming, or sim games in general, while others may be looking for board games or adventure games.
Finding the right balance between each family member is going to be a real challenge, but it is important to take everyone into consideration. If the kids only want to play Forza Horizon 5 week after week, some other people might get bored. Pick a genre each week if everyone doesn’t agree, it never hurts to broaden your gaming horizons!
How to choose the best video game to play with your kids is not a science, but we have broken it down the best that we can. Taking each family member into consideration when it comes to age, skill level and preferences is so important, but we can’t forget about the hard facts like platforms and time availble before we get our hearts set on the next video game for family game night!