Poppy is the author of A Bard's Lament and the Black Diamond series. She lives in Enoshima with her husband and young son.
Video games are enjoyed all over the world by people of all ages. If you're the parent of small children, then it can be difficult to know what types of video games are appropriate for their ages. Some games look like they'd be perfect for kids and then it turns out to be quite the opposite! Additionally, you may not want to let your children play games that contain violence, vulgar language, or excessive killing (and rightfully so).
Unfortunately, most of us don't have the time to buy a game and then play it ourselves to check that it's OK. Here is a list of 12 games I have personally played that are perfect for small children aged three and above.
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Consoles: Nintendo Gamecube, Wii, Wii U
Genre: adventure, puzzle
The Legend of Zelda has been around since the 1980s, and characters from the games such as Link and Princess Zelda can be seen in other games such as Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. Wind Waker is perfect for small children because of its cartoonish graphics and the fact it contains nothing really scary. Children as young as three years old can enjoy playing this game.
Wind Waker also contains logic puzzles. This is a great game to play together as the Legend of Zelda series appeals to adults as well, and you can read the dialogue out loud to your child.
You can get Wind Waker fairly cheaply, though it's cheaper on the Wii U as Gamecube games are considered to be rare now. Gamecube discs can be played on the Wii.
2. Crash Bandicoot
Consoles: PlayStation 1-4, Gamecube, PSP
Genre: party, platform
Crash Bandicoot is another game franchise that has been around for a long time. This cute and cartoonish character has recently been remastered on the PlayStation 4 and PC, where you can play the first three games all on one disc.
If you don't have a PlayStation 4 or the N-Sane Trilogy is out of your budget, you can easily pick up older versions on any PlayStation console or the Gamecube.
Consoles: Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Genre: party, shooter
Splatoon is a fun game that can be single or multiplayer, perfect for if you have more than one child. The first game came out on Wii U in 2015 while Splatoon 2 was released on the Nintendo Switch in 2017.
The game involves shooting each other with paint and is enormous fun for kids and adults alike! The Nintendo Switch, in general, is a great console for children as most of the games for it are kid-friendly.
4. Beautiful Katamari
Consoles: Xbox 360
Genre: action, puzzle
If you have an Xbox 360, Beautiful Katamari is a little-known but hugely fun game. Bright colors, a simple storyline, and the ability to (harmlessly) roll things up into a giant, snowball-like object make for a hilarious and oddly satisfying adventure.
If you have a PlayStation 3, Katamari Forever is a good alternative.
Consoles: PlayStation 1–4
Spyro is another well-loved character who's been gracing our screens since 1998. This cheerful dragon was recently remastered on the PlayStation 4 but, like with Crash Bandicoot, there are many other titles on previous consoles if Spyro Reignited Trilogy is out of your budget.
Consoles: Game Boy, Nintendo DS/3DS, Nintendo Switch
Genre: turn-based, roleplaying
Pokémon has been around for years, and they're always bringing out new games that involve finding, catching, and fighting with various creatures on the way to becoming Champion. The cartoonish graphics, puzzles, and collectibles make it perfect for children.
The newest titles (as of January 2020) are Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield on the Nintendo Switch, but you can pick up older titles on the Gameboy or DS such as Fire Red, Diamond, Pearl, Emerald, X, Y, Black, White, Let's Go, and more for reasonable prices. No Pokémon game contains any vulgar language or violence.
Consoles: PC, Mobile, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: simulation, survival
Minecraft has exploded in popularity since its release in 2011. It's available on many kinds of consoles and involves building and avoiding being caught by cartoonish monsters.
Players can make their own houses and cities, mine for materials, and explore. It's great for little kids because they can unleash their creativity and set their own goals.
8. Mario Kart
Consoles: Nintendo 64, DS/3DS, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo Switch
The Mario Kart games are great if you have more than one child or you'd like to play with them. Ever since the SNES, people have been racing along exciting tracks as their favorite Nintendo characters!
The latest installment is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch, but other Nintendo consoles have variations of the game as well. Just remember to pick up another controller and you're ready to go. Trust me, you and your children will love it.
9. Animal Crossing
Consoles: Gamecube, Wii, Wii U, DS/3DS, Android, Nintendo Switch
Genre: social simulation
Another Nintendo game perfect for little kids is the cute and peaceful simulation game that involves carrying out various tasks for the animal-like community. With a happy tone and simple tasks like collecting items and materials, it's a great handheld game for children.
Older versions, such as Wild World and New Leaf are available on the DS, Gamecube, and Wii, and the newest (as of March 2020) is Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Nintendo Switch.
10. Super Mario 64
Consoles: Nintendo 64, Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Genre: fantasy, platform
You may have heard of Super Mario 64, which originally came out on the Nintendo 64 and is the best-selling game on that console to date. This classic, which involves jumping through portraits to unique worlds to collect stars and eventually save the adorable Princess Peach, has been re-released several times.
Kids love this game for its creative worlds, collectibles, and challenging puzzles. You can get it quite cheaply on the Wii U's virtual console online store.
Consoles: Gamecube, PC, PlayStation 3–4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Genre: theme, action-adventure
The Lego games are great not only because they're fun and child-friendly, but also because they come in so many themes. Does your child love Harry Potter, Star Wars, or Marvel? There is a Lego game available in that theme!
These games involve collecting bricks and making your way through various kinds of levels. With zero traces of anything violent or frightening, these are perfect for kids of any age.
You can buy a Lego game on most consoles, so it's worth checking around in a theme you know your child would enjoy.
12. Ratchet & Clank
Consoles: PlayStation 2–4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: adventure, third-person shooter, platform
The Ratchet & Clank games tell of hilarious adventures in bright alien and robot worlds, involving creative types of weapons that can melt, freeze, and blast apart enemies (in a child-friendly way, of course).
There are several installments of this fun franchise on various platforms. I personally played the PlayStation 2 version and it was loved by me as well as my brother, who was a toddler at the time! Your children and teenagers will adore these games.
Children who play video games get great hand-eye coordination practice as well as the opportunity to use logic to figure out puzzles. When you play games with them, you're also creating some wonderful memories together. These 12 games are completely child-friendly and exciting to play. Have fun!
© 2018 Poppy
Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on January 06, 2019:
Hi Liz. Yes, I wanted to suggest games from many different consoles of varying budgets and ages because not all parents can afford brand new games. Thanks for stopping by.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 06, 2019:
Some of these have been around a while. Long enduring appeal is probably a good sign.