It's tough keeping the littl'uns occupied at the best of times. But if you're stuck at home for any reason, finding ways to keep the kids busy becomes a necessity. Fortunately, video games fill that need pretty darn well. There's a ton of kid-friendly options to choose from, but picking out the best ones can be more difficult than it might seem.
That's why we've put together this list of the best games for keeping the kids entertained at any time. They're all good for any age, and none can be completed quickly.
We considered Yooka-Laylee one of the best PC games for kids a while back (and it's made it on almost every list for kids we've done since it released).
But we can’t deny Playtonic improved the formula even more with Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. It foregoes the original’s devotion to the 3D collect-a-thons of old and combines Donkey Kong Country style platforming with top-down exploration and puzzle-solving inspired by 2D Zelda games.
It’s gorgeous, it’s colorful, and there are enough hidden collectibles and secrets to encourage multiple playthroughs. In short, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is just plain fun. Even better, it’s available on all modern platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Pretty much any Lego game is worth trying out if you’re interested in the franchise. But for sheer breadth of content, you can’t get any better than Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. This isn’t the new Lego Star Wars, though; it’s the 2009 Complete Saga, which means Episodes 1-6.
Aside from meaning you’ve got six Lego games to play through in one package and more playable characters than you can shake a lightsaber at, it also means basically any computer can play it. There’s co-op play involved as well if more than one person wants to join in the fun. With character customization, hidden bonuses, and challenge modes, busy you and your younglings will be for a long time.
A Hat in Time is another product of the 3D platformer renaissance, but it’s far from derivative. Hat Kid travels through space — until she doesn’t anymore. She’s lost all her space fuel and must explore all the worlds she can reach to find more. Fortunately, Hat Kid gets special powers from all the hats she creates, so there’s never a dull moment on her travels.
Whether you’re solving The Murder on the Owl Express or dealing with the ruthless Mafia of Cooks, the worlds are absolutely stuffed with things to do and uncover. It’s cute and funny, plus a little bit chaotic when it needs to be. There really isn’t anything quite like A Hat in Time.
LittleBigPlanet 3 or Super Mario Maker 2 are tied to PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, respectively. But if you have either of those systems on hand, both titles offer a mind-boggling amount of content to keep the kids busy and encourage imagination. Maybe they'll learn a thing or two along the way.
Both games have a story mode of sorts, traditional platforming adventures that put your skills to the test. They’re really just for getting ideas for the main attraction, though: level building.
At their cores, Little Big Planet and Super Mario Maker 2 are level creators. You’ll choose from a vast array of tools and themes to design anything you can imagine. Obviously, Super Mario Maker 2 is all about making Mario levels, but Little Big Planet really lets your imagination run wild. Plus, both have multiplayer modes so you can play together or with friends.
You might have heard about Temtem when it entered early access back in January. It’s pretty obviously inspired by Pokemon, but there are some key differences that make it worthwhile even if you’ve caught ‘em all elsewhere.
Temtem is essentially an MMO — designed to play with others and explore together — while Pokemon is essentially a single-player experience. Temtem takes place on a brightly colored archipelago, too, and really cranks up the Indiana Jones feels: the sense of exploring a strange, magical new world.
And there’s even more, though. Developer Crema Games has a host of new content additions planned for the next year. These are designed to flesh out the end-game content and provide even more ways to enjoy the game.
If you’re looking for something more traditional, though, Pokemon Sword and Shield on Nintendo Switch would definitely fit the bill. The latest Pokemon games don’t shake the formula up that much, but they’re fresh, fun, and full of life.
Cities: Skylines is one for the older kids. It’s an incredibly deep, immersive simulator-strategy game where you’re in complete control of your very own... well, city. And we mean “complete. control.”
You’ll determine everything from road layout and economic strategy to sewer maintenance and development zoning. Every choice you make determines how your city grows — or collapses in a spectacular mess around your ears.
Cities: Skylines has a number of well-realized expansions, too, adding even more content. Some focus on nightlife, while others focus on industry and parks and recreation. Still others focus on tourism and alternative energy production.
It’s on the Switch and PlayStation 4 as well, though the PC and Xbox One versions are the only ones that allow for modding. Also, note that the Switch version doesn’t always perform the best.
Of course, you could always go old-school and pick up the ultimate classic, Sim City 2000 on Good Old Games. It's perfect for any age group.
Minecraft is a pretty obvious choice for games to keep your kids entertained. Heck, they (and you) might even be completely sick of it by now. If that’s the case, fear not. There’s still plenty more you can do with Minecraft. Multiplayer games, either of your own creation or on dedicated servers, are always an option to shake things up, as are survival games.
Minecraft has countless excellent creative servers for building themed or guided worlds as well and frequently demos new “snapshots” of upcoming features on PC (like the Busy Bees trailer above). Basically, Minecraft never stops, and there’s always something new to try — even if it’s just venturing into a new world.
But if you're absolutely fed up with Minecraft, there are other alternatives. Roblox is one, a combination of world builder and game designer where you can create your own games within the game. Dragon Quest Builders 2 is another, offering a more guided take on the "build anything" idea, a story, and tons of the series' trademark charm. Even though it's not as open as Minecraft, you can still create pretty much anything you can dream of.
Speaking of Dragon Quest, If monster-catchers and MMOs aren’t really your kids’ thing, then Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age fills that RPG niche very well indeed. It’s the latest and arguably one of the best in the long-running Dragon Quest series. It’s brighter, more colorful, absolutely jam-packed with things to do, and as always, the localization is some of the best in the industry.
You’ll do the usual RPG things — gather a party of misfits, journey around the world, and try to save it from evil — but like all Dragon Quest games, XI offsets the familiar with a huge heart and plenty of character.
Despite being the 11th title in the series, you don’t really need any prior experience with Dragon Quest to appreciate it, though references to earlier games mean fans get the most out of it. Better yet, it’s available on every platform except Xbox One. The Switch version has added content, but the base version on PS4 and PC is still a modern classic and an excellent single-player experience.
The most recent Madden game, Madden NFL 20, packs enough content to keep any football fan busy for a long, long time. Its story mode, Face of the Franchise, lets you create a career football player and follow them through the college divisions all the way to the top of the NFL. It might not be quite so engaging the further you get into it, but it’s still a very solid experience. The real magic is on the field in normal matches, though.
Madden 20 introduces a new feature to the formula with X-Factor Superstar Abilities. These are unique to star players, created with their own real-life strengths and abilities in mind that shake up how you execute your plays and approach each situation. Madden 20 also offers challenge modes, dynamic Playbooks, and basically anything football lovers might want in a Madden game.
Unfortunately, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is only an option for Nintendo Switch owners. If you’ve got one (or more), though, then you’re in luck. It definitely earns the “Ultimate” part of its name with the amount of variety and content on offer here. There are over 70 characters to choose from, along with every stage from the series’ history.
It offers several robust single-player options if you aren’t keen on online matches, plus plenty of co-op options. But if online is what you’re looking for, it’s usually top-notch as well. The ranking system means you typically won’t get matched with someone way out of you league, so everyone can enjoy their time with Smash Ultimate.
If you're looking for another brawler for other systems, Brawlhalla is another great choice — and it's a lot like Super Smash, but in the best ways possible.
Whatever the reason you need to keep the kids entertained and out of trouble, these games should give you plenty of options. Let us know what your fail-safe games are for keeping the kids busy, and be sure to give us a like and share on social media if you enjoyed what you read!
Be sure to check out these other awesome kid-centric games in case you didn't already find what you were looking for: