Quick guide to 10 popular kids’ video games

    9 mins
    kids video games cute icons

    From Roblox and Minecraft to Fortnite and FIFA, online games seem to be occupying kids’ time more than ever.

    You may be surprised to hear that there are real benefits to gaming; it can teach perseverance, social skills, and problem-solving. It can also be an excellent way for parents and kids to bond.

    But as a parent, there are certain things you should be mindful of—like graphic content, online gameplay with strangers, or the lure of in-game purchases (and whether your credit card is linked to the gaming account).

    Read on for our take on the most popular online kids’ games so that you can make the best decisions for your family.

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    Blocking or restricting in-game purchases for online kids’ games

    In-game purchases are sometimes called microtransactions. It’s an apt name for something designed to appeal to a demographic who understands money but not value. “But it’s only $2!” they’ll cry as they plead for your credit card details.

    This is the time to avail yourself of the parental controls on your devices and make sure any purchases require your authorization; we’ve all read horror stories about parents being billed thousands of dollars in gaming purchases!

    To avoid frustrations for you and your child, you can check whether there’s an in-app currency that’s purchased with real-world money (rather than earned through gameplay), and also try to figure out whether it’s a “pay-to-win” game. If it is, your child is probably going to be relentless in their requests to buy skins, weapons, upgrades, and other resources required to progress in the game.

    Read more: Top 6 video games that will change how you view privacy

    Fortnite

    kids video games fortnite
    Fortnite is essentially a third-person shooter game (meaning you can see the character and watch the gameplay over their shoulder). There are three game mode versions: Save the World, a cooperative shooter game where players join together to battle zombies; Battle Royale, where players battle each other to be the last one standing; and Creative, where players have the freedom to create their own worlds and battle arenas.

    Suggested age: 13+ (rated T for teen)
    Content: Violence
    Parental controls: Yes
    Online: Fortnite is an entirely online experience. However, parental controls allow you to set restrictions around interactions with other players.
    Platforms: PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Windows, iOS, Android
    In-game currency: V-Bucks (1 USD = 100 V-Bucks)
    In-game purchases: You can buy outfits, weapons, and Battle Passes with V-Bucks, but these are not essential for gameplay.

    Minecraft

    kids video games minecraft
    Minecraft is a 3D sandbox game; players have the creative freedom to set their objectives and interact with their surroundings. There are a variety of game modes, with Creative being most suitable for younger players and the higher stakes of Survivor or Adventure modes suiting older players. Gameplay is incredibly diverse; younger kids may build their dream home and spawn some cows, while more dedicated gamers have recreated things like Hogwarts Castle and the Game of Thrones world.

    Suggested age: 10+ (rated E10+ for everyone over the age of 10)
    Content: Fantasy Violence
    Parental controls: Yes
    Online: You can play online or offline once you’re set up.
    Platforms: Windows, iOS, Android, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Fire Devices, Oculus
    In-game currency: Minecoins (1 USD = approx 150 Minecoins)
    In-game purchases: You can buy maps, skins, worlds, and more from the Minecraft Marketplace. These are optional and don’t impact the gameplay.

    Read more: Not just a game: How Minecraft fights for digital freedom

    Among Us

    kids video games among us
    An online, multiplayer game, Among Us takes place on a spaceship, with players assigned tasks as Crewmates. There are also Imposters among the group; their mission is to sabotage the ship and kill Crewmates without being detected. Players must vote to decide who they think the Imposters are before throwing them off the ship. Games are short, graphics are simple and non-threatening, and despite the violent concept, Among Us is essentially a fun “whodunit.”

    Suggested age: 10+ (rated E10+ for everyone over the age of 10)
    Content: Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood
    Parental controls: Yes
    Online: Among Us is an online experience. However, you can set up a local offline game with friends on the same Wi-Fi network.
    Platforms: Android, Windows, Xbox, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation
    In-game currency: Stars (1 USD = approx 10 Stars)
    In-game purchases: You can buy maps, pets, and other cosmetic items with Stars, but they are not essential for gameplay and do not impact how the game is played.

    FIFA 21

    kids video games fifa 21
    This football simulation game can be played as either single-player or multiplayer. There are various modes, including Ultimate Team, Career Mode, and VOLTA Football. Graphics and sound are hyper-realistic, and you can participate in drills and training sessions as well as real matches.

    Suggested age: All ages (rated E, generally suitable for all ages)
    Content: NA
    Parental controls: Yes
    Online: Online and offline play are possible. If you’re playing offline, you may still need to connect briefly for any required updates.
    Platforms: Windows, PlayStation, Xbox
    In-game currency: FIFA Points (1 USD = approx 100 FIFA Points)
    In-game purchases: You can use FIFA Points to buy Packs or enter the Ultimate Draft. They are not essential for gameplay.

    Grand Theft Auto 5

    kids video games gta5
    This GTA iteration is a single-player story following a bank robber, a gangster, and a drug dealer/gunrunner. Players switch between the three characters as they commit heists, with gameplay involving plenty of shooting and driving. One of the missions involves a torture sequence that caused some controversy, and GTA has been accused of misogyny over the years for its depiction of women and violence against them.

    Suggested age: 17+ (rated M17+ for ages 17 and up)
    Content: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
    Parental controls: No
    Online: Play GTA Online for (you guessed it!) online play, or GTA5 for offline play. GTA Online is a separate world, and you get access to the game when you purchase GTA5.
    Platforms: PlayStation, Xbox, Windows
    In-game currency: Shark Cards (1 USD = $33,000-$123,000, depending on quantity purchased)
    In-game purchases: You can buy a high-end car, gamble at the casino, or purchase properties. Purchasing or earning in-game currency will improve online gameplay.

    Genshin Impact

    kids video games genshin impact
    This game takes place in a fantasy world called Teyvat and follows a character named the Traveler who is searching for their lost sibling with the help of a sidekick. Genshin Impact is what’s known as a gacha (toy vending machine) game; players are encouraged to spend real-world money on random items, much like a mystery vending machine.

    Suggested age: 13+ (rated T for teen)
    Content: Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence
    Parental controls: No, you’ll need to use the device parental controls.
    Online: Genshin Impact is an entirely online experience.
    Platforms: PlayStation, Android, Windows, Nintendo Switch, iOS
    In-game currency: Genesis Crystals (1 USD = approx 80 Genesis Crystals). There are multiple currencies in this game, but Genesis Crystals are the only ones you can purchase with real money. There’s also a first-purchase bonus, where the amount you buy gets doubled.
    In-game purchases: You can convert your Genesis Crystals into many other currencies, allowing you to buy wishes, unlock events, upgrade weapons and outfits, etc. Purchases are not technically essential for gameplay, and you can earn currency along the way, but kids are likely to find this frustrating.

    Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield

    kids video games pokemon sword
    Follow a young Pokémon trainer as they attempt to become the Pokémon Champion. The player must catch and train various Pokémon and then battle against other trainers. As your Pokémon win battles, they learn new battle techniques and sometimes evolve into a more powerful Pokémon.

    Suggested age: All ages (rated E, generally suitable for all ages)
    Content: Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence
    Parental controls: No, but you can use the Nintendo Switch parental controls
    Online: You can play this game entirely offline, join local Wi-Fi with friends, or play online to trade and join battles.
    Platforms: Nintendo Switch
    In-game currency: No
    In-game purchases: No, but users may be prompted to purchase a Nintendo Switch Online membership if they don’t already have one (necessary to trade and battle online).

    Animal Crossing: New Horizons

    kids video games animal crossing
    Welcome to Animal Crossing, a village inhabited by friendly animals. Play in this game is open-ended, and there are no real objectives other than interacting with the island and its residents. Customize your appearance, decorate your house, and sell items that you find for Bells, which allow you to buy more furniture and clothes or even renovate your home.

    Suggested age: All ages (rated E, generally suitable for all ages)
    Content: Comic Mischief
    Parental controls: No, but you can use the Nintendo Switch parental controls
    Online: You can play this game entirely offline. Join local Wi-Fi or play online to visit friends’ islands (your friend will need to share the island code).
    Platforms: Nintendo Switch
    In-game currency: Bells are earned through gameplay rather than purchased with real-world money.
    In-game purchases: No, but users may be prompted to purchase a Nintendo Switch Online membership if they don’t already have one (necessary to play online).

    Splatoon 2

    kids video games splatoon 2
    Join the Turf War in Inkopolis, and become one of the squid kids (known as Inklings or Octolings). This third-person shooter game features both a single-player story-driven mode and various online multiplayer modes. Grab a paint gun and prepare to claim as much territory as possible by covering it in colored ink. Morph between kid and squid, and battle the evil Octarians in Hero Mode.

    Suggested age: 10+ (rated E10+ for everyone over the age of 10)
    Content: Cartoon Violence
    Parental controls: No, but you can use the Nintendo Switch parental controls
    Online: You can play this game completely offline, join local Wi-Fi with friends, or play online.
    Platforms: Nintendo Switch
    In-game currency: Coins are earned through gameplay, not purchased with real-world money.
    In-game purchases: Use coins to purchase gear and weapons to use in multiplayer battles.

    Roblox

    kids video games roblox
    Roblox hosts user-created games, which kids can play for free. Roblox Studio allows kids to create their own video games, and in fact, the majority of the existing games have been made by children. This is alternately regarded as empowering for kids and exploitative by the Roblox Corporation. Game quality and content varies, and games can reflect more adult content, such as the Roblox version of Squid Games.

    Suggested age: 10+ (rated E10+ for everyone over the age of 10)
    Content: Fantasy Violence
    Parental controls: Yes
    Online: Roblox is an entirely online experience. However, parental controls allow you to set restrictions around interactions with other players.
    Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Amazon Devices, Xbox, Oculus, HTC Vive
    Robux (1 USD = approx 80 Robux)
    In-game purchases: You can buy lots of things with Robux, from whole games to specific items within games, or bonuses and items to help you with gameplay. While these are not strictly essential for gameplay, they do have an impact.

    Can a VPN help keep kids safe online when gaming?

    Your first line of defense should always be parental controls. However, a VPN can:

    • Ensure that your real IP address is secure—an IP address can reveal your country, city, and the ISP you use.
    • Protect your internet connection from potential snoops by encrypting your online traffic.
    • Increase your protection from hackers through vulnerabilities, such as the Log4j flaw discovered in a version of Minecraft.
    • ExpressVPN’s Threat Manager feature prevents a gaming app or website from communicating with third parties known to track activity or engage in malicious behavior.

    Ratings and content advisory sourced from the Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB)

    Read more: Best sites to get free games online

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