A SuperParent guide to Microsoft's best-selling game console.
Scenario #1: You have an Xbox One at home, and your kids finally realized that, that nondescript black box under the TV holds an incredible power within -- the power of video games -- and they want to tap into that power, immediately. Scenario #2: Your kids have been begging for an Xbox One forever, and you’re finally giving in. Now you find yourself here, wondering what types of games your kids can play on that thing. Wonder no more -- here are six of the best kids games for Xbox One.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2
Good for: Kids who love superheroes, Marvel, action games, free-roaming games
If you have kids, it's no surprise that our list starts with Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. All Lego games are fantastic for kids; this one stands out because it’s as big of a celebration of all things Marvel as the current blockbuster movie hit Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel favorites big and small all appear in this game, and kids can step into the suits of Iron-Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Black Widow and other heroes to save the city of Chronopolis. Gameplay revolves around using different heroes’ superpowers to solve puzzles, fight bad guys and save the day. There are plenty of side missions as well, and there’s always the option to just run around the environment and smash up Legos to collect studs, which serve as the in-game currency.
Some new Marvel movies or TV shows get added to the game as extra content, available to download for a few bucks, or $15 gets you a "season pass" to all this year's add-ons.
Another great feature in Lego games is the easy drop-in, drop-out multiplayer mode, which means if two kids are playing together, and one decides they want to take a snack break, it's easy to exit the game with the press of a button -- and the other kid can keep playing without interruption. Also, as a parent, this feature is great because if your kid gets stuck on a difficult puzzle or big battle, you can hop in, offer some help and then hop right back out.
This is a must-have for any superhero fan (especially kids) with an Xbox One.
Good for: Creative problem solvers and budding architects
Even seven years after its initial indie release, Minecraft has staying power. Kids and families cannot get enough of the pixelated block punching, fortress building and monster hunting game, all of which lives in an open world that caters to the imagination.
Minecraft for Xbox One has an adventure mode -- which gives the open world game a story and some structure. Kids can make potions, breed animals, farm crops and cast enchantments, all leading up to a fight with the fearsome Enderdragon at the end of the game. Then there’s the creative mode, which is where you can make your own YouTube-worthy creation -- and, I mean sky’s the limit -- check out this video of awesome Minecraft creations.
If you have younger kids who want to play Minecraft, keep in mind that there is a learning curve. Monsters come out at night (unless you're playing on the game's Peaceful mode), and the controls and menu system are complex. It’s best if you sit with your kids and help them learn how to play Minecraft to avoid any tears of frustration and controller throwing (speaking from personal experience). If you need help in order to help your kid start playing this game, check out this Minecraft getting started video on YouTube.
Once they get going -- your kids will officially join the ranks of the Minecraft majority, which involves playing the game for hours, watching other people play for hours on YouTube, then back to playing some more. Kids can either play solo, with up to four people in the same room or up to eight people online via Xbox Live. As always, make sure you familiarize yourself with the online gaming experience for Xbox One and pay attention to who your kid is playing with online, setting limits when necessary.
Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection
Good for: Animal lovers, theme park fans, would-be entrepreneurs
Time management, money management, crisis management -- and zoo animals -- it’s all here in this new rendition of a classic video game series.
The goal of this management sim game is to create the zoo of your dreams, attract a large customer base and then keep everything in balance. This is accomplished by expanding your zoo with new buildings, adopting and breeding animals and keeping customers happy by always upping the wow factor, while simultaneously ensuring there are enough restrooms and concession stands.
And therein lies the challenge of this game. You’re basically tasked with running a virtual business, and like all businesses, you need to spend money to make money, keep everyone happy, and, in the end, figure out the perfect balance to make it all work.
Fortunately, you can choose how easy or complex running your zoo will be. Training mode is a must for new players and will get you started learning the basics of zoo management. Freeform is great for younger kids and new players and will let you build the zoo with unlimited money, unlocking new animals and items as your zoo’s fame increases. In Challenge mode, zoo owners start with limited funds, and you must expertly manage your zoo to keep it going. Campaign mode is similar to Challenge Mode, but has specific scenarios that must be completed in a set amount of time.
Our favorite part of this game is toggling between the Tycoon view and the exploration view of the map. The first gives you a top down view of the zoo, where you build and manage your attractions. The best part is when you actually get to walk through your zoo, visit and interact with animals and drive a buggy from one side of the zoo to the other. It’s such a zen experience, and is really a part of the game that will appeal to the youngest in your family.
The biggest frustration with this game is the complex menu system, which can be challenging for anyone, especially a kid who is not used to using an Xbox controller. Depending on the age of your child, you might need to stay close to offer assistance when they’re first learning to navigate this interface.
Just Dance 2018
Good for: Kids with energy to burn, music fans
Just Dance -- it’s kind of like karaoke, but for dancing. This game sets the gold standard for rhythm and dance games, and the selection of new and old pop hits and funky moves will inspire the entire family to get up and get their groove on in front of the TV.
Here’s how it works: Up to four players pick a song and then copy the dancers on screen to the best of their ability. Each move you perform is rated Good, Super or Perfect, and at the end of each round, one person is declared a winner. It’s a game that your kids will keep coming back to, and you might even be inclined to turn it on the next time you have a fun-loving group of guests over. There’s the regular challenge mode, an online mode where you can face off against people around the world and a kids mode that features slower songs and easier moves to help littles get acclimated with the game.
To make this game work, you’ll either need to have an Xbox Kinect camera or download the Just Dance app on your smartphone, so the game can track and score your dance moves. Using the Kinect camera is the best experience, though if you don’t have one, you’ll have to think hard if you want to buy one for around $80, plus a $60 adaptor that allows you to use it with the Xbox One S and X. The phone app works fairly well, held in your hand and tracking your moves through the phone's accelerometer, but you have to make sure your kid doesn’t accidentally fling your phone into the wall while dancing.
Just Dance 2018 comes with 44 new songs -- our family favorites are “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars and “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran. If you want more songs -- and your kids definitely will -- there’s a three-month free trial of “Just Dance Unlimited,” a streaming music service with 300+ more songs. After the trial is over, you can pay extra money to keep your access for 24 hours (good for parties), a month, three months or a year.
Whether you decide to go all out and buy everything, or just stick to the basics, this is an excellent game that is fun for everyone (even grandma!) and keeps your kids off the couch and on the virtual dance floor.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Good for: Action game fans who aren't old enough for Halo or Call of Duty
Plants vs. Zombies started out as a super addictive strategy game series, which gradually evolved into this third-person shooter that is action packed, yet maintains all of the same sense of humor and charm that will appeal to kids of all ages.
In this game, zombies have taken over a town called Suburbia, and the heroic plants must use whatever means necessary to return the town to normal. This story sets up a series of multiplayer cooperative and competitive games -- with up to 24 players online and up to four players on split screen -- where players can choose sides and step into battle. Garden Warfare 2 also has a solo mode, where you go head-to-head against computer-controlled opponents. It’s fun; it’s addictive, and it’s likely you’ll find yourself playing this game after the kids head to bed.
Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is a shooter, but don’t let that term frighten you -- this game is filled with cartoon humor and silly puns that have that eye-rolling "Dad joke" quality to them. Instead of the usual guns and knives found in traditional shooters, all weapons in GW2 are plant based, e.g. a sunflower spits seeds and a pea pod shoots peas. There’s no gore either, though a legalist may point out that zombies, when defeated, fall apart in a cartoony way and shed a tiny speck of green goo.
Since this game can be played online, there is a chat functionality, which means your kid will be able to talk to other players -- friends and strangers -- while they play. Depending on your level of comfort, you can choose to leave it on or turn it off.
Good for: Soccer fans, kids who can't wait to get behind the wheel
It’s soccer! With Cars! In this online sports/action game, players must try to move a giant ball into a goal using nimble, rocket-powered cars. It plays just like soccer, though there are no formal positions and very few rules.
The game’s straightforward controls, which include steering, boosting and a bunny hop jump, are simple to learn, but can be combined to create astounding feats of aerial gymnastics. Novices will consider it a win if they get a clean hit on the ball; elite players will leap, flip and swoop through the air as they bang the ball back and forth across the spacious arenas.
The game has a standard 3 vs 3 setting, but there’s also a number of variations on the game which are nods to basketball, ice hockey and the classic video game Breakout. Players can deck out their buggies, trucks and race cars with paint jobs, flags, hats and other items.
Younger kids will love customizing their cars and driving around the game’s Freeplay mode, and older kids can learn how to work the game’s physics system to score game-winning goals. The best part, parents don’t have to be too concerned with the in-game chat, which consists of pre-scripted phrases and typed text that’s subjected to a stringent language filter.