When it comes to buying games for younger kids, you want to make sure they’re going to be a good balance of fun while not being overly challenging. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, especially if you’re unfamiliar with games on the whole. But don’t worry, if you have a little one who is receiving a Switch this holiday season, these are some safe bets on games to get them.
Super Mario Odyssey (7+)
As the latest mainline entry in the Mario series, Odyssey is predictably designed to be enjoyed by gamers of all ages. However, the game’s simple controls, open-ended level-design, and accessibility options make it particularly kind to younger players. Odyssey rarely forces the player down a designated path; if a challenge is too tough, they can go back to exploring the fun and colorful worlds to find something else to do.
If the game is continuing to prove too tough, the aforementioned accessibility options can make the game easier by removing the threat of bottomless pits and guiding players towards the next main objective. There’s also a limited two-player mode where the second player can help with certain obstacles, while the main player controls Mario as per usual.
Super Mario Odyssey - Nintendo Switch
A colorful adventure as everyone's favorite plumber.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (7+)
Mario Kart is always a great time—the series is well-known for its easy-to-understand but extremely enjoyable racing mechanics. And 8 Deluxe features over 40 bright and imaginative courses, tons of fun characters to play as, and some great multiplayer options both offline and online. The game’s items system means new players still have a shot at victory, and the battle mode is a fun distraction from the core racing.
This entry also features some accessibility options, including automatic acceleration and smart-steering—it makes sure the driver doesn’t plummet off the edge of the track.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - Nintendo Switch
A simple racing game that's sure to provide many hours of rubber-burning fun.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 (8+)
Luigi’s Mansion 3 keeps a spooky atmosphere throughout, but it never makes an attempt to actually scare the player. Giving off some mild haunted-house vibes, the player plays as Luigi as he explores an abandoned hotel full of ghosts. There are plenty of things to collect and puzzles scattered around that never get too taxing. Even if they do though, there is a two-player co-op mode where the second player plays as “Gooigi” and can help out in some of the game’s more challenging sections.
Luigi's Mansion 3 - Nintendo Switch
A spooky adventure where the player must help Luigi explore a haunted hotel.
There’s a decent chance you’ve already heard of Minecraft—it’s one of the most popular games of all time after all. The free-form nature of this game makes it the perfect digital sandbox for many kids. Once a world is booted up, players are allowed to morph it into whatever they want whether that means building a peaceful farm or a massive city. There are very few limitations to creativity in this game, and the more challenging aspects like needing to collect materials, deal with hostile enemies, or eating food can all be disabled to make the game more peaceful.
Minecraft is also a great cooperative experience. Players can join each other’s worlds over the internet, and the split-screen co-op mode means up to four-players can play off of the same system at once. (You’ll want to make sure you’re hooked up to a decent-sized screen though.)
Minecraft - Nintendo Switch [Digital Code]
An open sandbox that can be morphed into whatever the player wants.
Pokémon: Let’s Go Games (7+)
While the Pokémon series has evolved and expanded over the years, Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee aimed to take things back to basics—which means they’re both great for younger players. The number of Pokémon was cut back to the original 151, capturing Pokémon now involves a fun little minigame, and your Pokémon even follows you around while traversing the map. The game keeps the difficulty low but not non-existent, and catching all the various Pokémons should prove to be a fun challenge to overcome.
The differences between the two games are fairly minimal: Eevee or Pikachu will serve as companion creatures throughout the game depending on the version, and each version has 11 species of Pokémon exclusive to it. You can also play with your kid as a second Pokémon trainer exploring the map and helping out in Pokémon battles.
Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee!
Scaled-back versions of the Pokemon formula many gamers love.
Kirby Star Allies (6+)
The Kirby series has always positioned itself towards younger players with its adorable visuals and forgiving difficulty level. Star Allies is never that challenging, but the large collection of levels and bonus challenges available means it should keep your kid’s attention for a while. Kirby is able to copy the abilities of enemies, so there’s plenty of experimentation to be had when it comes to solving the simple puzzles found in each stage. There’s also offline four-player co-op for everyone to partake in.
Kirby Star Allies - Nintendo Switch
A forgiving 2D platformer that can be enjoyed by players of all ages.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (6+)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is all about peacefully building up an island town. The player befriends a colorful cast of animal villagers as they decide where to place buildings, plants, and furniture. It’s not all about decoration though, as players can also earn in-game money to upgrade parts of the town or their house, and collect various species of bugs and fish to donate to the museum. It’s a chill game, and with no real way to fail or lose, it’s great for players of any age.
There is a limited four-player co-op mode and multiple people can live on the same island at once. It’s very important to note that only one island can exist on each console, so if there are multiple people using the Switch they will have to share.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Nintendo Switch
A relaxing title about peacefully building up a remote island town.
Rocket League (9+)
Rocket League is a simple game about ramming oversized soccer balls with cars to win each match. It’s a fun concept that leads to a great time while playing, and while there’s room to be very good at Rocket League, the game’s core mechanics are simple enough that slightly older kids shouldn’t have much trouble grasping it. This game does have a large focus on playing online with strangers though, with a natural competitive element included. You can fully disable all forms of communication with other players, though, if you prefer.
You can also play in offline mode or online matches solely with friends as well— it’s a great time when enough people get together. Rocket League is also free-to-play, so there’s no harm in trying it out.
This is the newest release here, and Ninjala is another free-to-play online competitive game. In this colorful world, you play as Ninjas competing in team-based tournaments. The player can choose from a variety of weapons to knock their opponents around the stage, with various items thrown in for more variety. With a heavy emphasis on player customization and a generally lighthearted tone, this is a great game for kids to sink their teeth into.
The LEGO Games (+7)
There are quite a few LEGO games kicking around on the Switch, but they all share the same core gameplay. These games are all about collecting items, unlocking characters, and solving simple puzzles. The gameplay is simple and fun, there’s a great offline two-player co-op mode for every game, and the stories are told in a way that prioritizes cartoony humor over all else.
Most LEGO games are based on preestablished franchises like Jurassic World, The Incredibles, Harry Potter, or The Avengers. Because of this, it’s best to just look at the list of currently available LEGO games and choose whichever one matches your kid’s interests the best.