Games for Grandparents and Grandchildren: Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks

Want some suggestions for games to play with your grandkids, or games to entice your grandparents to play? Look no further!

“I just don’t understand those, whatchamacallit? Damgummed vidja games you play. They don’t make any blasted sense to me.”

One of my grandparents once told me something not too far removed from that sentence. My cousin and I were sitting down playing my brand-new copy of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on my still shiny, purple Gamecube. (Oh yeah, I am going wayyyy back to 2002.) My cousin and I did our best to explain video games to the bewildered, older person, but our eleven-year-old selves couldn’t convince the grandparent that games were anything other than the preconceptions they held.

You tell those young whippersnappers!

You tell those young whippersnappers!

Just fourteen years later, I have met several grandparents and older adults who either play video games with their younger family members or have expressed an interest in the idea. With that in mind, here's a list of somewhat recent titles that might be starting points for grandparents who want to play games with their grandchildren. Who knows? Maybe you will be playing one of these games and it will catch your grandparent’s eye like no Bingo game ever could.

This is a varied list. Some of these games will be more difficult to play than others, and some of these games are aimed more at mature players than others. I've included descriptions with each entry so you have an idea of what the game is before scurrying off to entice your victim loved one to play.

Let’s get started!



Available on Steam, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360.

Can two players play at the same time?  Yes 

Control complexity?  Minimal

Juju is an extremely cute platformer ( a game where you navigate obstacles and collect floating, shiny things) starring a pink panda bear and his best friend Peyo, who just so happens to be an anthropomorphic snake. (Because video games okay?) Juju and Peyo get into some trouble and wind up releasing an evil bat that kidnaps Juju’s dad and places some dark magic on Juju’s home forest. It’s up to Juju and Peyo to save the day!

The gameplay is almost as simple as the plot for this one. Players control their choice of the two characters, and their partner controls the other. Players navigate levels filled with obstacles, enemies, and tons of floating, shiny objects to collect! The game goes out of its way to entice newcomers to play. The character of Peyo has skills Juju does not, and he is also less targeted by enemies, allowing his player to simply enjoy the game.

The controls in Juju are also simple. You control your character and have buttons to jump and perform an attack. There are five buttons used at most, making this ideal for all newcomers.

Juju’s novice-friendly design makes it a great choice for either enticing grandparents or younger grandchildren. If you want more information about the game, I actually wrote a review about it here! (Shameless self-promotion for the win!)


Yoshi’s Woolly World  

Available on the WiiU.

Can two players play at the same time?  Yes

Control complexity?  Minimal

Much like the aforementioned Juju, Yoshi’s Woolly World is a platformer where you navigate obstacles, defeat enemies, and collect shiny objects. What separates the two is the degree of difficulty and art style. The world of Woolly (the full title is a mouthful) is presented as living yarn, and yes, it is as adorable as it sounds. The art style makes the game appealing to players of all ages and can bring a smile to the face of the most cynical of players, such as myself.

The cute is strong with this one.

Players have the options of four different controllers for playing this one. You have the option of the Wii U Gamepad, the Wii U Pro Controller, the Wiimote, and the Classic Controller. As with Juju, there are essentially five buttons used in gameplay. When playing with another person, both people can also use different controllers, depending on their preference.  


Woolly is also more difficult than Juju. If Juju’s difficulty was rated at a 1 on a scale from 0-10, Wooly would fall somewhere between a 2 or a 3. Just something to keep in mind for newer players. The game allows two people to play simultaneously, so grandma can help you snag all of those collectibles!


Katamari series

Available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

Can two players play at the same time? Depends on the game from what I can gather. 

Control complexity? Moderate

The Katamari series is an example of simplicity done beautifully. The objective of the game is to roll around large environments and collecting everything into a large ball of, well, everything. There is some story about replacing the stars, but all you need to know is you can collect virtually anything into your giant roving ball of objects. It’s a game that is simple to grasp and enjoy.

Here’s the game in action.


The controls are slightly more demanding than the previous titles mentioned, but they don't take long to become comfortable. The controls are similar to controlling the treads on a tank. If you want to go forward, you move both sticks forward. If you want to turn, you push the stick forward on the side you wish to turn. It's slightly more complicated, but not enough to completely alienate people. You can see more of the controls here.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band  

Available on Playstation 3&4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One

Can two players play at the same time? Two and more!

Control complexity? Depends on your difficulty and instrument, but minimal to difficult.

The Guitar Hero and Rock Band series are unique as they can provide an enjoyable experience for newcomers and experts alike. The Rock Band games have modes where you cannot fail, and instead, can simply enjoy the music and your attempts to play it. If your grandparents don’t have the dexterity for the guitar, let them beat the drums to death. If drums aren’t their thing, give them a mic and have them wail to the classics they know and love!

The controls complexity depends on the difficulty you decide to play. Each difficulty adds a new button for the guitar and drums. For singing, it makes some notes harder to hit and adds more difficult pitches and sections. There's a reason these games have become hit party games though. There is a difficulty level for all players to enjoy!

With a large library of songs included with the base game and a huge selection of songs available to download, there’s bound to be some songs your grandparents enjoy. These games can provide an evening of fun for the whole family to enjoy. Before you know it, you’ll have a garage band and participate in the local battle of the bands.

 It may or may not make your grandmother a badass metalhead.


Mario series

Available on the WiiU

Can two players play at the same time? Two and more!

Control complexity? Minimal

Gaming’s most iconic mascot has been the star of countless games that have entranced beginners and veterans alike for years. His newest games are no different. The newest titles on the WiiU are a step up in difficulty from the prior entries on this list, but they also have various modes for beginners and support for more than two players. Now grandma and grandpa both can get in on quashing Bowser’s plans!

 The Mario series is one of the longest-running and most iconic game franchises of all time, yet has managed to retain its charming simplicity throughout all of the years. The controls are simple to learn and easy to master, using six buttons at the most. The challenge comes not from the controls but being precise. However, the series has always been friendly for newcomers and remains welcoming to all.


Super Smash Bros

Available on the Wii U

Can two players play at the same time? Two and more!

Control complexity? Moderate

Now this might be a confusing entry. The Smash series is known for its depth, and the skill displayed by pros at tournaments is mindboggling. The game still remains inviting for newcomers. I have hooked several unbelieving friends with a few rounds of Smash. The game is more complicated and has more controls than some entries here, but it remains a simple one to learn and enjoy.

This is easily the most complex game mentioned here in regards to controls. The game only uses about eight buttons (no matter which of the four controllers you choose to use), but there are multiple uses for many moves tied to these few buttons. Despite that, the game remains a frantic and enjoyable experience, even if you aren't sure exactly what is going on onscreen (which is me when playing most fighting games).

With all of the sheer chaos occurring onscreen, you may not be exactly sure what just happened, but you know it looked awesome and can’t wait to continue playing. The game allows up to eight people to play, and players can customize the amount of zaniness in matches and adjust things accordingly as needed. Just don’t complain when Great-grandma Anita wipes the floor with you.


Madden games

Available on anything. These games are literally available everywhere on every platform.

Can two players play at the same time? Two and more!

Control complexity? Moderate 

Now before you question this choice, hear me out. During some summers, I would visit my cousin, and we generally ending up playing video games. One day my uncle expressed interest in playing. Giddy with excitement, we naturally started him with the worst possible choice, Mass Effect. He called defeat with a few short, but oh so hilarious, minutes.

Next, we tried Call of Duty, he fared a little better, but he could not grasp the concept of operating two joysticks simultaneously. After my cousin met many a death at the hands of his dad’s grenades, we admitted defeat. My uncle then laid his eyes on Madden and being the football fanatic he is, asked to give it a whirl. My cousin and I decided it couldn’t be any worse than the other games, so we gave it a shot. We have regretted it ever since.

My uncle’s knowledge of football outweighed his lack of gaming skills, and he managed to defeat us over and over again. Things got to the point where he was asking us to play him because he wanted to try more advanced tactics.

I mention this story because you never know which games newcomers will do well when first introduced to gaming. If your grandparent has any interest in football, give Madden a shot. The controls are relatively simple, and the commands are usually posted on the screen for quick reference. Plays are assigned to a button so you know which play you are picking. Actions such as running, stiff-arm, and juking are all tied to individual buttons which are usually displayed before the ball is snapped. Each receiver is also assigned a button, so you know which receiver you are throwing the ball to with every play. 

You can also play the game together on the same team to help ease newcomers into the game. It’s a great idea for those who love sports, and an excellent starting point for the world of games.


There are plenty of games grandparents can play with their grandchildren, or can be used to entice your grandparent to give the world of gaming a shot. Star Fox Zero for the WiiU has an invincibility mode for newcomers. Pikmin 3 for the WiiU allows two captains to cooperate and attempt to salvage their spaceship to escape a hostile planet. Rocket League is a more advanced title, but for those who want a challenging and entertaining cooperative experience, look no further. For the truly awesome grandparents, look into Portal 2 for some cooperative, puzzle-solving goodness!

All of these titles I’ve mentioned are barely a drop in the ocean of family/grandparent-friendly games available.  Give these titles a shot, and see what happens. You never know. Maybe your grandparents have mad player skills waiting to be unleashed! After all, I can count the number of times I have beaten my uncle in Madden on one hand. Do not underestimate your opponent!

Do you have any games you play with your grandparents or grandchildren? Let us know in the comments below!


Published May. 3rd 2016
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