Most Epic Kid-Friendly Games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4
Video Games are a wonderful thing for people of all ages. With so many games out there from past and current generations, there is a wide variety to accommodate every type of gamer. The gaming industry is always evolving, so it’s important to know the boundaries in gaming and to respect the ratings made by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Since its formation in 1994, the ESRB has been the judiciary branch for the gaming industry. They enforce guidelines and ensure responsible online privacy for all video games in the North American Region. The ratings by the ESRB are assigned to each game, based on the in-game content, to ensure ethical promotion of the games.
Video games have received negative publicity in the past; from kids committing crimes because they were “inspired” by a violent video game, to the use of profanity and many other unwanted child behaviors. The problem is not with the violent video games themselves. It’s important for parents to understand what’s in a video game before they purchase it.
This article is dedicated to all the parents and adult figures out there who plan to buy their kids, or any youth they know, a video game as a gift. It will give you the tools to choose appropriate games that are fun and age appropriate for both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.
The History of the ESRB
Video Games with controversial content can be seen back as far as the 1970s. One of the most noted games of that decade being Death Race, which required players to hit gremlins with their vehicles. For each gremlin run over by the player’s vehicle, disturbing sound effects would be heard throughout the game.
Fast Forward to 1982. The Atari 2600 was a popular yet, at times, a controversial gaming system. Most of these controversial games were made exclusively for the Atari 2600 and were developed by the infamous game company, Mystique, creators of Custer’s Revenge. Custer’s Revenge was known for having a “rape simulation” on a Native American female.
The formation of the Board would not come to the surface until the 1990s. This is when video games improved graphically, as well as with their ability to implement full-motion video content. 1992 was the most important year in gaming, with controversial games such as Sega’s Night Trap, known for its sexually suggestive scenes and the popular arcade fighting game by Midway, Mortal Kombat, which was famous for its fatalities.
With major game developers and publishers being threatened by federal regulations, they formed a political trade group known as the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA). However, due to disagreements within the Association, a vendor-neutral rating system was proposed, which began the formation of the ESRB in 1994.
Understanding the Rating System
The ESRB, understood correctly, can be anyone’s best friend. They help guide shoppers by giving them a heads up about what to expect before purchasing a video game. Currently the ESRB recognizes five ratings:
1. EC for Early Childhood
2. E for Everyone
3. E-10 for Everyone 10 years and older
4. T for Teens
5. M for Mature for gamers age 17 and older.
6. A for all gamers age 18 and older
7. RP for Rating Pending for games that have yet to receive a final ESRB rating
Each time a video game is rated by the ESRB, the back of the video game cover explains to buyers why that particular video game was given that specific rating due to certain things featured in the game, such as “Mild Violence” or “Mild Language.”
Kid Friendly Games on Both Systems
The PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are both phenomenal gaming systems. Each system has its pros and cons. Regardless of which system you prefer, there are plenty of games that are perfect for kids of all ages.
Popular games on the market for both systems include tower defense game, Plants vs. Zombies with a latest installment in the franchise, Plants vs. Zombies 2: Garden Warfare 2. Perhaps your kid wants a good racing game? MX vs. ATV Supercross is a fun racing game found on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Still not seeing any popular kid friendly games peeking your interest? Try the critically-acclaimed 2D side-scroller, Shovel Knight. Or the popular Sandbox video game Minecraft (think “Virtual Reality Legos”).
Perhaps you are feeling a bit nostalgic? Not a problem! Mega Man Legacy Collection is the latest video game compilation from Capcom, offering the first 6 games in the Mega Man series.
The Toys Are Alive
The “Toys-to-Life” is a genre of video games that features physical figurines that can be used to interact within a specific video game. The figurines that belong to this genre use a near field communication or image recognition data protocol to determine the individual figurine’s proximity. A player with one of these figurines may also train them and save the data, and players can watch them grow in-game over a period of time (with in-game training of course!).
Some popular brands in this genre include, Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and Lego Dimensions, with the most expensive being Disney Infinity, which is also the best in terms of product quality.
While the Toys-to-Life genre can be an expensive investment in the long run, with some arguing it is nothing more than a form of overrated downloadable content (DLC). However, these figurines are much more valuable than digital files stored on your console as they can be held. While they can be pricey, they hold a lot of value!
Rockin’ and Rollin’
Rhythm games are a genre of music-theme action video games that challenge a gamer’s rhythm rather than their skill with a controller. The popular kings of the throne are Guitar Hero and RockBand. While these games are both similar in concept, they are very different in terms of gameplay.
Originally, Rock Band offered more instruments than its competitor. That was true until Guitar Hero World Tour came out, evening out the instrument count. Both of these games offer a lot for all ages and are perfect for family gatherings – or even birthday parties. The two latest installments (Guitar Hero Live and RockBand 4) do not offer online play, so you won’t have to worry about your children meeting strangers while they jam out to their favorite songs!
The term “Anime” means a style of Japanese film and television animation, typically aimed at adults with some aimed to a younger age group. There are plenty of Anime games on the 8th generation that are very kid-friendly and not as violent as you may think. Most of these games are multi-platform, meaning they are available on both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Some good anime games include Dragon Ball Z Xenoverse as well as Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, two fighting games that based on animes of the same name. Another anime game is the RPG Digimon Story CyberSleuth. Sorry Xbox Owners, this Digimon game is not available on your platform.
Don’t Always Judge a Game by its Rating
Although the ESRB gives you suggestions as to what you should buy for your kids based on the letter rating, many would be surprised to know that not all kid-friendly video games have an E rating.
As I stated in the anime paragraph, most anime games typically receive a T rating. However, when you look on the back of the box, most of the content shown in the game is nothing too bad to have your kids playing. The same applies with games that are not based on an anime.
Take 343 Industries latest release Halo 5: Guardians, for example. It is the first game in the Halo franchise (known for it’s gory gameplay and M ratings) that received a T rating, because of Blood, Mild Language, and Violence. While the game is not something an 8 year-old should play, this game may be appropriate for someone who is around 15 years of age.
Or EA’s Star Wars Battlefront reboot. While the game also has a T rating, this game also is very kid-friendly, because the game features no profanity, as well as violence with no blood. It also features many iconic settings and characters from the greatest sci-fi movie franchise ever.
Sony’s PlayStation 4 offers a variety of video games for all ages. While many would argue that a young child shouldn’t be playing a PlayStation 4, there are more than enough games out there to contradict that claim.
The LittleBigPlanet series is a puzzle platformer that started out on the PlayStation 3 in 2008 and has been a popular Sony exclusive ever since. Craving something a little more fast-paced for your PS4? Then swing by to the PlayStation Store and purchase Super Stardust Ultra, a shoot ‘em up game and a remastered version of the PS3 and PSP game, Super Stardust HD.
Even if you don’t want to spend any money on the PlayStation Store, you can always download Grim Fandango Remastered, an action-adventure game originally released in the late 1990s.
Now it’s time to talk about the many fun games for kids to play that are exclusively on the Xbox One. One of the greatest kid friendly games for Xbox One owners is the video game compilation Rare Replay, which is collection of 30 video games developed by Rare and its predecessor company, Ultimate Play the Game. While some games in the compilation are not kid-friendly, such as Conker’s Bad Fur Day, there are still plenty of great games that kids will love.
Some of the best games in the Rare Replay compilation include Battletoads, Viva Piñata, Bajno-Kazooie, and Banjo-Tooie. Another Xbox Exclusive that appeals to children are the kid-friendly E rated racing games from the Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon series!
Safe Online Fun!
Playing video games online can be fun, yet very dangerous. While both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 offer their own forms of online subscriptions (Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus), it can be scary having your kid talking to both strangers and fouled-mouthed kids. Unfortunately, the ESRB has no say in online gameplay, but you and your children can practice safe online gaming.
LittleBigPlanet 3 offers online co-op so your children can play with their friends. Star Wars Battlefront, which offers online play, does not allow any chatting for in-game lobbies, allowing you to avoid hearing any disrespectful and rude comments while waiting for a new game to start. If you would like to have a party for your game chat you have the power to do it at your leisure.
While video games are a wonderful activity to enjoy, many gamers are still young. Most kids in this generation are playing many games outside their age bracket. There is nothing wrong with parents buying these games, but it is important to understand the difference between reality and virtual reality, as well as the importance of reading the ESRB rating for each game before making a final decision on your purchase.