What is the one thing most kids want for Christmas? You guessed it—video games. I must admit, I’m quite conservative when it comes to which video games my kids play and how much time they spend playing. I prefer games that are not too violent or crude. In buying video games, I try to be frugal, but I also know that usually, you get what you pay for. If a game is sure to be good, clean fun that my kids won’t tire of right away, I am willing to shell out the money for it.
What to Look for in a Video Game for Your Child
- Age appropriate. Make sure you understand the ratings system and what goes into video games of each category.
- Category. Is your child into superheroes, sports, RPG, or strategy? Make sure the category of the game you pick is one your child will enjoy.
- Value. Is this game a good value? How long will it keep your child’s attention?
- Fun. Is this game going to be fun for your child? Can you play this game with your child?
- Learning. Is there anything your child will learn from this game–maybe problem-solving skills?
Video Game Ratings
Video game ratings can be confusing. Here are the ratings set forth by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
New Video Games for Young Kids Ages 3 and Up
These are our favorite games to not only let young kids play, but these are great games to play with your kids. All of these games are either just out, or will be out before Christmas 2018.
Super Mario Party Nintendo Switch
Platform: Nintendo Switch
The Mario games take me back to my childhood when I was first introduced to video games. I love that the classic Mario storylines and elements are still the basis to Mario games, but the improved graphics and effects are amazing. My kids have been anticipating the release of Super Mario Party for a while now.
I have to say, Super Mario Party is one of the best Mario games yet. It introduces 80 minigames in addition to the regular game, and the fun just keeps on going. I love that this game can include so many people, and it is almost as fun to watch as it is to play!
The main mode is similar to a board game, with players rolling dice and moving around on different paths. Along the way, you stop and play minigames. It keeps the game so exciting and interactive. As in some previous Mario games, Super Mario Party uses 3D rumble on some of the games. You also have to use your Joy-Con in different ways (like shaking) to compete in some of the minigames.
Overall, the detail and graphics in this game are better than they have been in previous Mario games, which makes it even more enjoyable. The only real downside is that sometimes stars are awarded randomly at the end of the game. That can dramatically change the outcome, which can be frustrating. However, this game is such a fun party game to play with family and friends. It will provide hours of good, clean fun and interaction for kids and adults alike.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Pokémon was all the rage when I was young. I never imagined it would be popular again when I had children, but here we are. My kids have enjoyed collecting and playing with Pokémon cards and playing Pokémon Go! and the video games have become a favorite as well.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! are two separate games and are the latest installments in the Pokémon gaming world. In these games, the player finds, catches, and trains Pokémon in the region of Kanto. The player can ride larger Pokémon and look for hidden objects. These games are unique in that they are easy enough for new players to catch on, but they are also challenging for even the most experienced Pokémon trainers. Choose either solo play or play and battle with a friend.
In these games, you will find the original 151 Pokémon as well as the Alolan Forms from Sun and Moon and a new Pokémon named Meltan.
To make these games even more fun is the addition of the Poké Ball Plus. It can be used with the game as a controller in place of the Joy-Con. The Poké Ball lights up with different colors, vibrates, and makes sounds. In the game, throw the Poké Ball to capture Pokémon by flicking your wrist. Each Poké Ball comes with a mythical Pokemon Mew inside.
In the real world, the Poké Ball Plus even works as a Pokémon GO Plus when playing Pokémon GO. When you connect it to the Pokémon GO app, it will light up and vibrate when you’re near a Pokémon or Poké Stop.
The Poké Ball Plus is available for purchase as a package with the game and is also sold separately. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! are separate games and are each sold separately.
Let’s Go, Pikachu!
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!
Just Dance 2019
Rating: E (for everyone)
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 4, XBox One, XBox 360
When it comes to dancing in public, I am usually a wallflower. However, turn on Just Dance and I turn into a dance machine. The same can be said for most of my kids. We love having dance parties on a
Friday night in our basement. There is always the inevitable remote control to the face because kids are dancing too close to each other, but we have a great time anyway. Some of the previous versions of Just Dance haven’t been my favorite, but Just Dance 2019 has some great songs as well as some new features. There are 40 songs from artists including Bruno Mars, Cardi B., Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Maroon 5,Flo Rida and more. I love the mix of new hits with old favorites and even some classical music mixed in!
Just Dance 2019 brings back Kids Mode, which makes it easier for younger players to keep up. Simplified choreographies for 8 songs will help even the littlest player dance to the beat.
One of the fun things about this version is that the game will track your dance habits and suggest songs you might enjoy. You can choose a pre-made playlist or have the game suggest one for you.
I love that Just Dance 2019 is a game my entire family can enjoy together. We can play it at large family gatherings or I can use it by myself as an exercise option. The songs are exciting, and there are new modernized dance moves that’ll keep you on your toes! Even if you are less coordinated (like I am), Just Dance 2019 is a fun way to get moving and enjoy dancing without feeling like everyone is watching.
If you have Nintendo Switch there are even two-handed choreographies available! You can also get the Just Dance Controller app on your smartphone to include even more players! Want to learn some dance, check out some dance lessons near you.
New Video Games for Kids Ages 6 and Up for Christmas
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, XBox One, iOS, Android
I am a basketball junkie and always have been. Growing up, my friends would go watch the ballet while I went to an NBA or college basketball game. I loved debating sports with boys at school because I always knew more than they did, especially about basketball. My own boys are getting to the point they can almost beat me on the court, and sometimes they can beat me on the screen. It is fun that they are finally competition!
NBA 2K19 is a great game. It’s not quite real NBA basketball, but it’s close. I always love to see how the newest version improves on the previous one. 2K19 has some fantastic features that the novice or expert will enjoy.
The Create-A-Player Tool is improved. It allows you to choose the hairstyle, facial hair, even the DNA of your player. My kids love this tool. It is almost as fun to them as the game itself.
The AI in this version is much more challenging than it has been previously. We love the 3-on-3 mode Triple Threat. It allows you to pick your three top (or favorite players) to face off against someone else’s (or against the CPU).
There are so many options with this game. Not only is it a regular basketball game, it also has streetball and minigames including dodgeball and slam ball (basketball on trampolines).
One of my favorite things about this version is that you have draft access to players throughout NBA history (with the exception of some due to licensing).
If you are looking for a great video game for a basketball fan, look no further than NBA 2K19!
Madden NFL 19
Rating: E (Everyone)
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
The Madden games have been a favorite in my family for what seems like forever. I remember my brothers playing the very earliest versions, and it sure has come a long way since then. However, the concept is the same. Choose your favorite NFL team and try to beat the opposition. With new technology and exceptional graphics, this is the best Madden game yet.
This year Madden creator EA Sports has introduced its new technology Real Player Motion (RPM) in all of its sports games. This technology makes the game more responsive and makes the players look more realistic in their movements. It is definitely an improvement, as players are more effective at cutting and moving quickly.
With this version, the computer is a better opponent than it has been in the past. That means even if you are playing on single player mode, you can still have good competition.
My kids have enjoyed this game, even those just learning the rules of football. It is a fun game to play together, whether on the same team or playing against each other.
Forza Horizon 4
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, XBox One
This latest installment in the Forza Horizon series is car racing at its finest. The visual effects in this game are stunning, and the racing is fun.
Choose to play online or offline, or switch between the two without losing progress. There are options to pause or rewind in both modes.
This game is played 4 maps representing each of the 4 seasons. Each season has its own challenges as you deal with weather and other obstacles. The setting for the game is historic Britain, and you will encounter the beautiful British countryside, complete with animal life.
As you play, you earn in-game currency which can be used on vehicles and upgrades. With over 450 vehicles available, you can collect all your favorites and try them all out. Each vehicle has its own unique sound effects.
Race on-road or off-road against other cars, trucks, or even a bomber jet.
Live online events and daily challenges keep the game engaging and exciting. Earn prizes as you participate in these events.
Best Console Games for Kids Ages 10 and Up for Christmas
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Rating: E 10+
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a game which has been long anticipated and much talked about by Mario fans everywhere. This game takes the best from previous Mario games and many other previous Nintendo games and combines them into one “ultimate” gaming experience. There are over 65 characters in the game, mostly from previous games, but with a few new characters added. Including beloved characters makes the game even more exciting. Not only are these characters in the game, they have also been upgraded from their original versions. That means their weapons are more powerful and their moves are better.
One thing that has improved with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the graphics. It is a better-looking game than previous versions. It is a faster, more technical game, so experienced players will find it challenging and fun. However, newer players can enjoy it as well. The action is smooth, with no delay.
This game has new stages as well as overhauled stage and arena favorites. Players can choose to play in 2-4 player battles or play against the computer.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is sure to be a favorite among tweens, teens, and adults. It is available on Nintendo Switch and will have online capabilities as well. TV mode, Tabletop mode, and Handheld mode make it even more accessible.
Mega Man 11
Rating: E 10+(Everyone 10+)
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
If you like the classic Mega Man games, Mega Man 11 is one you will enjoy. It combines features from the classic versions with better graphics and more fun levels. In this version, the player is trying to keep the evil Dr. Wily from using a Double Gear system. To do so, the player goes through 8 different stages which can be completed in any order the player chooses. At the end of each stage, the player will be required to take on one of Doctor Wily’s Robot Masters, who include Impact Man, Acid Man, Bounce Man, Tundra Man, Blast Man, Block Man, and Fuse Man.
One of the upgrades of this game is the Double Gear system, which gives Mega Man Power Gear and Speed Gear. Power Gear improves the power of Mega Man’s weapons, and Speed Gear slows down time so Mega Man can get around his opponents easily. If Mega Man’s health gets low, he can use both gears together for one large force that can be used once. However, using both Power Gear and Speed Gear together will leave Mega Man weak.
Like Mega Man 10, this new Mega Man 11 has difficulty settings. This version has Newcomer, Casual, Normal, and Superhero modes. If you play on Nintendo Switch, there is Amiibo support that will unlock items in the game.
Kirby Star Allies
Rating: E 10+
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Kirby Star Allies is the latest in the Kirby dynasty. This version brings in elements and characters from previous versions. When Kirby has 3 allies, they can work together to perform “Friend Actions” on some stages. Kirby can work with his allies to combine their abilities, making them even more powerful.
The Dream Friend system allows players to use characters from previous versions as downloadable content. Kirby can use the Star Allies Sparkler to defeat the final boss in 3D, which is unusual in a Kirby game.
The story takes place on the planet of Jambastion, where a dark crystal heart explodes and sends Jamba Hearts throughout the universe. Kirby and his friends must defeat various enemies and explode the prison Void Termina before heading back home.
While Kirby Star Allies isn’t as challenging as many comparable games, it is still a lot of fun. The soundtrack is fantastic, and kids love listening to it even when they’re not playing the game. This game can be played with other players or alone (with the game controlling the companion players).
LEGO DC Supervillains
Rating: E 10+
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, XBox One
If your child likes the LEGO games, LEGO DC Super-Villains is a must-buy. This game is so much fun, possibly the best LEGO game yet. All the DC villains show up in this game, and the heroes are there too. The premise of the game is that you are a villain who teams up with the Super-villains to take over the world.
One of the most fun aspects of this game is that you create your own character. There are 30 different voice options, and you choose your personality, powers, and costume. As you continue through the game, your character receives upgrades and becomes stronger. More character options unlock as the game progresses, and you can change your character selections as you go.
Each of the Super-Villains has its own special moves, which makes the game exciting. With 150 total characters, including villains and heroes, this game is full of fun, surprises, and evolving excitement. The colors and graphics in LEGO DC Super-Villains are incredible, and the details are unbelievable.
New Christmas Video Game for Teens Age 13 and Up
Platform: PlayStation 4
Marvel’s Spider-Man takes players on a 15-hour adventure with Spider-Man/Peter Parker. There is a small learning curve, but soon players are swinging, diving, and webbing their way through New York City. In fact, it is so fun to feel like Spider-Man that you might forget about the game and just have fun swinging around!
In addition to the regular game, there are side missions which are every bit as fun. Spider-Man, in addition to his webs, has weapon gadgets to use against his opponent. Players enjoy trying out all these new gadgets.
Players can customize Spider-Man’s suit depending on where they are in the game. Different suits have different powers and can be changed to suit the current challenge.
While players enjoy the excitement of being Spider-Man, there is also a softer element of the Peter Parker story within the game. Unlike in many other games, players can develop an emotional attachment to the characters in this game.
Overall, this game has incredible graphics and scenery. The boss battles can feel a little repetitive, but the game itself is challenging and enjoyable. Being Spider-Man is better than expected!