Before Barbie tiptoed her way into theaters, 2023’s number one movie was an animated kid’s flick based on a video game about a plumber taking mushrooms, a primate with daddy issues, and a giant fire-breathing turtle crooning about peaches.
Sure, it sounds weird when you break it down. However, The Super Mario Bros. Movie introduced a younger generation to a video game series that’s been going strong for four decades, leading lots of younger kids to put down Roblox and pick up the Nintendo Switch their parents bought to entertain themselves during the pandemic.
If your kids (or you) are looking for age-appropriate fun on the Switch, here is a list of some of the platform’s best kid-friendly games to get you started—minus the givens (that is, all the games starring said plumber/mushroom enthusiast).
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
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Think SimCity without the disasters, taxes, and all the sociological crises, and you get the idea behind this hugely popular game. You build your dream island home with animal residents. Along the way, you fish and plant food, dig for fossils, learn about the wildlife, create furniture, and help your neighbors. The only real rule of the game is to live your best life, which is why this simulation is a Switch staple.
One of my son’s friends introduced him to this imaginative party game where players solve puzzles using a book that can conjure up anything from zombies to dinosaurs. While critics state that this edition pales in comparison to other games in the series, seeing how it tapped into my son’s creativity and problem-solving talents made it worthy of inclusion.
New Super Lucky’s Tale
Initially developed for Xbox and Oculus, New Super Lucky’s Tale would get revised for the Switch and find its audience. It’s a straightforward game that a seasoned player could run through on a Saturday afternoon, but with simple enough gameplay and plot (the titular fox must collect clovers to protect an artifact known as the Book of Ages) to familiarize little ones with what makes platform games fun.
Nintendo Switch Sports
It’s Wii Sports for a new generation! Players use the gyroscopes in their joycons to go bowling, play badminton and tennis, or golf with friends online or in person. If you’re worried playing video games will make kids inactive, have them play chambara (sword fighting) for an hour and see how tired they get.
Can a video game make you cry? Players of this visually stunning co-op about a fox and a fawn trying to find their home in a snowstorm have said they’ve never been so emotionally involved in a game. Follow the footprints and solve the puzzles to direct them to their destination. If you’re looking for something to play together, Blanc uses silence to tell its story, making it perfect for young ones just learning to read.
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain
With adjustable difficulty levels for each player, families have a level playing field to compete in puzzles and other activities to see who has the largest cranium.
Kirby’s Dream Buffet
Which Kirby can collect strawberries the fastest? Players can race through levels to meet their seeded fruit quota, gather them in simple minigames that anyone can play, or duke it out in a fruit battle royale. The more berries collected, the bigger players get, making them an easy target for other participants in this fun party game for all ages.
Disney Illusion Island
Filled with hilarious cutaways and colorful gameplay, this family-friendly action game is light on violence and heavy on team building. The Core Four Disney gang helps an island of creatures find mysterious books that keep their village prosperous. You can set the difficulty to make it challenging or make each character invincible, and plenty of multi-player controls can make this game easier for younger players.
Game Builder Garage
If your kids don’t like the video games they have, then let them build their own. This game walks them through the different aspects of programming, including input, game output, logic, and on-screen objects, to have them build the multi-player platform of their dreams or inspire them to keep trying until they get it right.