Families are big business for video game makers and each year there are hundreds of games promising to deliver experiences that children will love and parents will happily pay for. However, the real gems are games that get the whole family playing together. These can be harder to find so here’s a comprehensive list of games that will be important to families in 2017.
Knack 2 (PS4)
This is an action platform game where the player can absorb different broken materials to gain new abilities. The first game’s brash arcade action wasn’t a big hit, but Knack 2 will feature more abilities and a fresh villain to defeat. More importantly for families the original’s pseudo-multiplayer is upgraded to a fully featured co-operative mode where each player has their own Knack character to control.
Sea of Thieves (Xbox One, PC)
Drawing on the gaming pedigree of Rare Studios, Sea of Thieves is an action strategy game where players team up online to pilot huge pirate ships. What starts out as simple matter of getting on board your vessel soon turns into a challenge of collaboration and communication. For families it’s a great chance to work together in a game that is not only frantic and fun but also highly strategic.
Lego Dimensions (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U)
The physical-virtual cross over game for Lego has a number of expansions announced for its second year already. These include The Goonies, Sonic The Hedgehog, Teen Titans Go, Lego City Undercover, Knight Rider, The Powerpuff Girls, Gremlins, Beetlejuice and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
The combination of big brands and Lego game-play will remain popular for families. However, more interesting will be to see where the game goes beyond this additional content. As in previous years we are likely to get further packs announced and additional game-play features to keep the Skylanders-competitor current.
Skylanders 2017 (PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360)
With the Skylanders Academy cartoon recently launched on Netflix and Skylanders Imaginators offering children the ability to design their own characters it will be interesting to see where Activision take the franchise that started the toys-to-life trend in 2017.
Although there are plenty of rumours and speculation online about the series’ future (or lack of one) we don’t have an official announcement. However the next release of the game plays out Activision will be looking for ways to earn the franchise new players and get their game on new platforms. I’d expect to see some novel ideas for Skylanders on the upcoming Nintendo Switch console as well as updates to the Skylanders Battlecast card game.
Gran Turismo Sport (PS4, PSVR)
One for the petrol heads in the family. This takes the highly realistic Gran Truismo series in a more eSports competitive direction. Its live and scheduled tournaments will be a great way for family racers young and old to hone their sills.
Gran Turismo Sport also provides support for PSVR to offer a fully immersive driving experience. Whether you play on the screen or with a headset the real cars and circuits make for a great entry point into the world of competitive virtual racing.
Coming from Insomniac games, who make the Ratchet & Clank series, this is more than a movie tie-in. With a provisional PEGI 12 rating this is one for slightly older children with the high impact combat and web-slinging city traversal.
Although not a lot of the game has been seen it’s interesting to note that this offers an original narrative created in collaboration with Marvel. Visually impressive and cinematic in feel it promises to tick all he right boxes for the Spidey fans in your family.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
With the Zelda series closing on 30 years, this is a game many parents have grown up playing. As with Twilight Princess this Zelda game will launch on two systems, the Wii U and upcoming Nintendo Switch.
Not resting on its laurels, Breath of the Wild’s open world, crafting, cooking, exploration and huge landscapes will appeal to a wider set of players. Zelda dungeons will of course feature heavily and offer families an opportunity to team up and solve each puzzle. However it’s the grand scale and poignant in-engine storytelling that will appeal to old and young alike.
Light Seekers (iOS, Android)
This is a new game that combines fully articulated toy figures with detach-able weapons and a deep role play video game experience on tablets and smart phones. It takes the Skylanders toys-and-games formula in a new direction by offering more tech in the toys and a wider range of on-screen ways to play.
The toys look impressive and with good reason as developers Play Fusion have partnered with Tomy as the master toy maker on the project. Provided the integration between the characters, weapons and on-screen action is well delivered Light Seekers has a good shot at bringing toys-to-life players to tablets rather than consoles.
Portal Knights (PC)
Looking not dissimilar to Minecraft but with a brighter pallet and more detail, Portal Knights combines open world exploration with impressively deep combat strategy. However, play it for a while and you soon realise it’s more like Terraria and Zelda than Microsoft’s juggxrnaught mining simulator.
Each world is different each time you visit it and offers a variety of unique environments, creatures and resources for crafting. It’s the combat that really makes this game stand out. Depending on whether you play as Warrior, Mage or Ranger you must accrue abilities and gear to defend yourself in battle. Younger players will enjoy the ability to mine and craft like Minecraft along with the farming aspect of looking after your homestead.
Best of all for families it can be played in 4-person cooperative multiplayer online. This enables players to work together in different locations to build structures, explore dungeons, and overcome enemies. All we need now is a version for console with split screen and it’s plans for world domination would be complete. It’s currently available in Steam early access with a full launch coming soon.
Animal Crossing & Fire Emblem (iOS)
Although not everyone is a fan of Super Mario Run, Nintendo’s first foray into proper mobile games, for the youngsters this has hit the spot. Perhaps most exciting about Nintendo’s first iOS game is how it lays the path for its next two releases — Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem.
Although we are yet to have full details on these titles, they are due for release in 2017 and likely to follow a similar format — bottling the handheld game-play in quick to play form with simple tap controls. By the time these games launch the Nintendo Switch will be out which may enable them to include some cross-system compatibility.
Alto’s Odyssey (Android iOS)
If you’ve not played Alto’s Adventure in your family you are missing one of the most enjoyable and beautiful endless runner style games on the market. Alto’s Odyseey promises to update the simple one-tap gameplay formula in 2017.
Developer Snowman hasn’t released full information yet apart from a screen shot that suggests we may be piloting balloons through an eastern environment rather than downhill skiers. Either way check out the original game ready for this follow up, and impress your children with the news when it releases.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (PS4 and PC)
This is a game from a small studio and offers an unusual take on an open world adventure. Its cell shaded cartoon world is fully explorable with a day-night cycle. You play a character who has been washed up on the island of Gemea which is under the spell of an evil murk.
As you work through the environment, collecting and crafting items your aim is to help residents. You do this by contributing to village life like farming, making, cooking, fishing and brewing — each of which take the form of a different mini-games.
There is a lot of fun here for different age groups in the family. Children may well just enjoy collecting different materials and chopping trees while older players will be more systematic at helping the villagers dispel the murk.
Football Manager Touch
Football Manager is a hugely successful (and addictive) football management simulator. In mobile form you get all the features from the Desktop but playable on a tablet or smartphone. It does take a while to figure out exactly what’s going on but once you have your head round it it’s an ideal game to fit in around family life.
If you’ve got children who won’t play anything but FIFA then this is a good option to not only broaden their gaming diet but get them thinking about the mechanics and business of football in a new way. You can even synchronise the game with your PC to keep playing at your desk.