Just because you have kids, doesn’t mean that you have to give up your love for online gaming. That’s not to say that you should neglect your young ones in favor of your weekly raid, but that there are plenty of ways to get your whole family in on the fun. Even more important, time spent playing games with your kids can lead to quality bonding and even teachable moments about play, competitiveness and sportsmanship. In short, it’s possible to turn your hobby into a positive experience for your immediate clan.
Choosing a good game to play is a little more difficult, and may require some trial and error before you find the right balance of fun and age appropriateness. There is a plethora of massively multiplayer games on the market, and most of them are targeted at teens and adults. Another consideration is cost. Spending $10 or $15 dollars per month doesn’t seem like a huge commitment if you only have to worry about one account, but once you’ve got the whole family online, that small cost accumulates quickly. Many mainstream games also have a hefty $50-$60 up front cost for the client software, which is prohibitive when you’re looking to get multiple people in your household playing.
Fortunately, there is a wide selection of kid friendly and free-to-play massively multiplayer games out there to choose from. To help you get started on your quest for the perfect family game, we’ve compiled a short list of a few notable titles.
1. Marvel Super Hero Squad Online
Marvel Super Hero Squad Online places you and your family in the Marvel Universe, where you can play the role of super heroes thwarting the villainous plots of a host of bad guys.
Super Hero Squad has a bubbly, cartoony aesthetic that will appeal to young fans of Marvel’s cartoon shows. You start off with a small selection of well-known superheroes to play as, but you can unlock more as you explore the world. The game has a sandbox play style that allows you to wander around stopping crimes as you encounter them.
Super Hero Squad runs in-browser as a Java applet, so there’s no need to download and install any software. The downside is that as you explore the game world, new areas and features will need to download to the client, which can sometimes take a while. But, if your young ones are die-hard super hero fans, this game may be worth the wait.
2. Dungeon Party
Dungeon Party is an interesting take on the standard dungeon crawl adventure game. The purpose of the game is to team up with friends to raid a dungeon for loot, while fending off teams of other players, monsters and deadly traps. It’s good old swords and sorcery fantasy wrapped up in a cartoonish, manic package. D.P. is a perfect game for when you’ve got your own brood of players that you want to pit against other teams. The slapstick violence and sometimes macabre imagery may not be suitable for younger kids, but if your tween is itching for a raucous brawl in the dungeon, this game may be the one for you.
3. Space Heroes Universe
Space Heroes Universe is an MMO made specifically for younger children. It explores sci-fi themes of adventure and exploration in a game client that is built to facilitate social interaction between players.
Space Heroes is less about technical game proficiency, and more about cooperative problem solving and positive interactions. If you’re looking for an environment that reinforces good net etiquette for kids, this game is a good place to start. A large part of the game is making sure your hero adheres to the “Space Hero Code,” which promotes honesty, diversity and kindness while condemning bullying and cheating. Playing this game with your kids may provide a fun way to open discussions about ethical behavior in terms your kids can understand.
Maple Story puts an interesting twist on the traditional MMO. Rather than a top-down or isometric view, it puts you in a side scrolling platformer with gameplay more reminiscent of the classic side scrolling role-playing game Ys III: Wanderers From Ys. Despite the limitation of movement to a single plane, Maple Story provides a rich world to explore and a pretty large, dedicated community.
The game’s anime-inspired graphics and highly customizable player characters make it an ideal pick for fantasy and anime fans, and its colorful two-dimensional sprite graphics may leave some parents awash in 16-bit nostalgia.
5. Puzzle Pirates
Puzzle Pirates presents an even more unique twist on MMO tropes. It features many familiar elements — customizable characters, world exploration and combat — but does so through a series of puzzles and mini games. Think Puzzle Quest meets Pirates of the Caribbean.
The game mechanics of Puzzle Pirates places it much closer to the casual gaming camp than tried and true MMOs, but its use of multi-player modes, both cooperative and adversarial, make it a good candidate for a family game. And, its use of different puzzle types — from Bejeweled-like matching games to jigsaw puzzles — helps keep the gameplay fresh and interesting.
What are your favorite games to play online with your kids? Drop a comment or check out this thread on our super rad forum.