Best Family Video Games
Soccer, go-karts, hedgehogs and haunted hotels.
Getting together with family for the holidays is about catching up and reconnecting. But sometimes that requires a little something extra — a hearth, of sorts, to gather around. Generations ago that meant a literal fireplace, but today we have even more dazzling options … like video games.
Here are eight of the most family-friendly offerings, all of which are sure to delight and engage players of every skill level. Gather around the game console and enjoy the holidays!
1. FIFA 23 (2022)
With all the recent excitement about the World Cup, your family is sure to appreciate the subtleties and detail of this, the latest in the FIFA soccer series, which is not only fun to play, but a joy to watch. The sweeping green grass, the lifelike teams, the sounds of chanting crowds and observant announcers — this is as close to participating in an actual soccer match as there is in the world of gaming. Various modes allow players to face off against soccer power teams like Chelsea and Arsenal or nations like Brazil, France or Germany, matching up against the computer or playing against an opponent live or online. FIFA 23 even features Women’s Club Football, the first in the series to do so. Preview it here.
2. SONIC MANIA (2017)
Designed to resemble the popular Sonic games of the 1990s, Sonic Mania is bright, fast-paced, nostalgic and fun for all ages. Along with his compatriots Tails and Knuckles, Sonic maneuvers through 13 side-scrolling levels, picking up rings, bouncing off springboards and earning gifts by smashing televisions — all in a day’s work. But the main objective remains the same: defeat the elusive Doctor Eggman (aka Doctor Robotnik). Preview it here.
3. LEGO BATMAN: THE VIDEOGAME (2008)
Batman is one of the most beloved fictional characters and Lego is one of the most adored toys, so why not combine them in a video game? The mystery of Batman and the familiarity of Lego provide a gaming experience that is both involving and a bit silly (in the best of ways). Every family member will want a turn. Play as Batman, with your trusty sidekick Robin, as you seek to thwart your classic enemies, from the Riddler to the Penguin to the Joker and more. Lego has put out similar games based in popular movies like Star Wars, Jurassic World and Harry Potter, but the Batman game is the first with an original plot. Preview it here.
4. OVERCOOKED! (2016)
This title provides all the fun and chaos of trying to put together a feast … but without the stress of having to feed your actual family and clean up afterwards. Playing as chefs rushing around a kitchen (the layout of which changes for each level), you cut up ingredients to prepare a meal in a short window of time. You may get a warning that your dirty plates are piling up and someone must stop what they’re doing and wash dishes, but just like in a real restaurant, you’ve got to keep up! This multi-player game requires lots of teamwork. Just what families are best at, right? Preview it here.
5. MARIO KART 8 (2014)
The most recognizable character in video game history may be best known these days for his go-kart racing games, and with good reason. The Mario Kart series doesn’t disappoint. Each multiplayer title is brightly colored and features some of the most familiar faces in gaming, including Princess Peach. But while some Mario titles offer traditional levels and puzzles, Mario Kart 8 is simpler, plus it was also the first in the series to offer anti-gravity racing. Players race around a track, playing solo or against other family members, all while having to dodge spinning turtle shells and fireballs shot out by their opponents. Preview it here.
6. SUPER MARIO PARTY (2018)
Sticking with our favorite digital Italian plumber, this title is a perfect example of a “party” video game that’s meant for groups of people. Super Mario Party was both a reboot of the series and a return to the turn-based gameplay of prior titles. Several secondary multiplayer games are included here, but in the main one, each player navigates the board, rolling dice and moving the corresponding number of spaces, with each space impacting the players differently, such as taking away or giving coins. After each turn, players play a “minigame,” which involves the others, too. Preview it here.
7. LUIGI’S MANSION 3 (2019)
But enough about his older brother — it’s time to dive into Luigi’s world now. This is the third in the Luigi series, which resembles the Ghostbuster movie franchise. Here, players walk around a haunted hotel as the green-clad Luigi, climbing floor to floor via the hotel’s spooky elevator. The goal? To rescue friends who were tricked into visiting by the ghosts that inhabit the place, vacuuming the apparitions up as you go. Preview it here.
8. ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS (2020)
In this, the fifth in the Animal Crossing series of “life simulation” games, players travel to a deserted island to develop the area as best they see fit — gathering items, harvesting berries, chopping wood and constructing dwellings — with the goal of building a happy community of human-like animals. The world is yours in this video game, but be sure to work in unison with the natural resources, changing seasons and animals on your team. Players can also earn the chance to visit neighboring islands and invite those villagers to their homes, if they so choose. Preview it here.