Back when you were a tyke, you probably played checkers or Monopoly with your parents. But if you want to play with your kids, you’ll probably need to get your video game on. At least until the kids are teenagers and want nothing whatsoever to do with you.
Fortunately, there are a lot of games you can play alongside your kids. Not only will you be spending quality time with them, but you’ll also have a blast doing it.
Here are 10 games you can feel good about playing together:
Android, iOS, Mac, PS3 & PS4, Xbox 360 & Xbox One, Windows PC
50 million miners can’t be wrong. First released for the PC in 2009, the insanely popular sandbox game has migrated to virtually every gaming platform on earth. Even being acquired by Microsoft hasn’t managed to hurt its popularity.
Minecraft’s appeal is partly due to its openness: There are almost no rules and no end to the creativity you can employ as you dig for resources, make tools, build shelters, hunt for food, and interact with other players. You can play along with your young’uns by setting up a private server on your home network or logging onto a family-friendly one, where little ones can explore without worrying about griefers or other online trolls who want to destroy their work.
2. LittleBigPlanet 3
PS3 & PS4
Anyone who thinks side-scrolling platform games are just silly time-wasters has clearly not played LittleBigPlanet. The third installment of the popular multiplayer game features Sackboy (a sock puppet) and his new pals Oddsock, Swoop, and Toggle. All must work together to overcome obstacles and defeat the forces of evil (naturally).
Adding to the fun are celebrity voices, including Stephen Fry as the narrator, and his evil counterpart Newton, played by Hugh Laurie (TV’s House M.D.). Silly? Yes. But it also comes with incredible creation tools that let your own little sock puppets program their games, making LittleBig a whole lot more.
3. Super Smash Bros.
Wii U, 3DS
If you’re going to pick a fight, better to do it with some old friends by your side. This high-intensity brawler pits nearly the entire stable of Nintendo characters — Mario, Kirby, Zelda, Pikachu, Donkey Kong, and dozens more — in a no-holds-barred melee. Up to eight players can do battle at a time, making the action fast and furious, and the explosions nearly constant.
Super Smash Bros. also is the first Nintendo game to incorporate amiibos, its answer to Skylanders’ action figures. This frenetic free-for-all might be a little too violent for the younger brawlers in your house, but your tweens and teens will probably end up fighting over it.
4. Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved
Xbox 360 & Xbox One
Who doesn’t love The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? Meet the modern version of the Disney classic, where you remix the rhythm on the fly using your hands and the Kinect’s motion sensors. Harmonix’s $50 Fantasia transports you through a variety of virtual landscapes, featuring a soundtrack that ranges from Liszt to Lady Gaga — with stops at Bach, Bowie, and Bruno Mars along the way. You’re sure to find something to get you and your slacker kids off the couch and moving to the beat.
5. Skylanders: Trap Team
Android, iOS, Sony PS3 & PS4, Xbox 360 & Xbox One
The original toys-to-life video game, Skylanders artfully melds the real and virtual worlds by incorporating figures into the onscreen action. Take a plastic figure like Fling Kong (a flying monkey) or Shroomboom (a one-eyed mushroom), place it onto a “portal of power” attached to the console, and it’s magically transported into the game. Bring the character to a friend’s house to play Skylanders, and it retains any experience points it gained while battling the forces of darkness on the other console.
The fourth game in the series, Trap Team adds a few new twists, most notably the ability to trap bad guys and then assume their powers. It encourages cooperative play, too, and your kid would undoubtedly appreciate it if you grabbed a toy, hopped in, and starting gaining experience. At $75 for the starter pack, plus $6 to $15 for each accessory, Skylanders is a total money suck, but also a highly entertaining one.
Apple iPad 2, 3, 4; mini, mini Retina; Air
Designed for the Apple iPad 2 and later, Tangible Play’s Osmo combines the high tech and low tech worlds in a way that appeals to adults as much as kids. Place your tablet in Osmo’s sturdy plastic stand, snap a mirror over the front-facing cam, and launch the app — that’s all the setup you’ll need.
The $80 set contains three games: a hangman-style challenge where you toss letters in front of the camera to spell the names of photos shown onscreen; a game that asks you to rearrange seven geometric shapes to match a puzzle on the tablet; and one where you draw lines on a pen and paper, and Osmo bounces objects off them onscreen. Though these games are designed for 5- to 10-year-olds, you’ll find yourself unable to resist playing along.
7. Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
PC; iOS; 3DS, Wii U; PS3 & PS4, Vita; Xbox One & Xbox 360
The caped crusader gets the Lego treatment for the third time, joined by DC Comics friends Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and of course the Boy Wonder. Together they must keep evil android Brainiac from shrinking earth to the size of a pingpong ball.
Your kids will enjoy flying around inside a virtual world made entirely of puzzle pieces while getting to beat the crap out of the Joker and Lex Luthor; you’ll appreciate the irreverent humor, cooperative gameplay, and low-key violence. (When the bad guys die, they explode into an assortment of Lego bits, not blood and guts.) If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the real Batman (aka Adam West) hiding inside one of the game’s bonus worlds.
8. Mario Kart 8
The hero of countless platform games also has a serious need for speed. In Mario Kart 8, the world’s most nimble pipefitter races against other iconic Nintendo characters, including his twin brother Luigi, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong. Thanks to Mario Kart 8’s new anti-gravity engines, you can race up and over walls, across ceilings, under water, and through the air.
It’s harmless high-speed fun for the whole family — so long as your kids don’t emulate Mario when they climb behind the wheel. To paraphrase the late Tom Magliozzi of “Car Talk”: Don’t drive like my plumber.
9. Never Alone
PS4, Windows PC, Xbox One
Once you play Never Alone, you will never look at console games in exactly the same way. Based on an ancient folktale told by Alaska’s Inupiaq tribe, Never Alone follows the adventures of Nuna and her arctic fox companion as they struggle to cross a frozen landscape to identify the source of an endless blizzard.
You can play along with your child by controlling either Nuna or the fox. The story was created with the help of Inupiaq tribal members and is narrated in their native tongue, with English subtitles, making it a treat for the ears as well as the eyes.
PS3 & PS4
Don’t let the minimalist graphics fool you. This collection of four unique sports games has been winning awards since it emerged from a Kickstarter campaign in December 2012.
BaraBariBall is water polo meets Mortal Kombat — a fighting game involving water, a ball, and highly gymnastic interpersonal conflict. Super Pole Riders combines elements of pole vaulting and soccer; Hokra is Pong on steroids; and Johann Sebastian Joust is — well, you just have to play it. Sportsfriends is designed for the PlayStation’s motion controllers with multiple players in mind, making it perfect for parties and family gatherings.