Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 20th Mar 2020 (USA) / 20th Mar 2020 (UK/EU)

ESRB: Everyone, PEGI: 3, NL minimum age recommendation: 5-6

It's the game everyone's talking about right now (and probably for months to come). Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a slow, sedate life sim which puts you on a deserted island and encourages you to build a new life for yourself and its lovable animal inhabitants by shaking trees, selling fruit, fishing, catching bugs in a net, crafting furniture and a whole bunch of other wholesome activities.

It's a wonderful game, and the perfect tonic if you're stuck at home and in need of some fresh (digital) air to keep mind and body healthy. To get the most out of it and interact properly with all residents (and read item names) your child will need basic reading skills, although they could quite happily catch fish and bugs and run around the island without reading a word. Fun for the whole family.

One important thing to note is that while it's possible to have up to 8 players 'live' on a single island, only one player can be the 'Resident Representative' - the person who controls progress, projects and the like in the game. Other people can catch fish and do basic things, but the majority of the experience centres on the player who sets up the island at the start of the game. You cannot change the Resident Rep once you've started, either, and you can only have one island per Switch console (regardless of how many copies of the game you may own - save data is tied to the console, not the cartridge).

For many, these caveats won't matter but they're worth bearing in mind, especially if you have a single 'family' Switch use by more than one child.

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Minecraft (Switch)

Minecraft (Switch)Minecraft (Switch)
Publisher: Mojang / Developer: Mojang
Release Date: 21st Jun 2018 (USA) / 21st Jun 2018 (UK/EU)

ESRB: Everyone 10+, PEGI: 7, NL minimum age recommendation: 5-6

Let's face it, if you've got children and you've got a Switch, there's a very good chance you've already got Minecraft. A first-person sandbox game which let's their creativity and imaginations run wild, there's a reason it's been such an all-conquering hit with kids around the world for nearly a decade: it's really, really good.

The biggest drawback of getting this for your cherub is you'll invariably be called to the TV and regaled with an in-depth description of their accomplishments and various gameplay elements... and you won't have the first clue what they're talking about. It's endearing, really, although make sure you've got a half hour free should you ask for more details.

Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition (Switch)

Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition (Switch)Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition (Switch)
Publisher: Ubisoft / Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: 12th Sep 2017 (USA) / 12th Sep 2017 (UK/EU)

ESRB: Everyone 10+, PEGI: 7, NL minimum age recommendation: 6-7

Another fine 2D platformer, this time from Ubisoft, Rayman Legends on Switch is the 'Definitive Edition' of a game which first appeared on Nintendo's previous console. That being the case, it's available for a budget price, but don't let that fool you into thinking it offered a cut-price experience. This is one of the best platforming games ever made which doesn't feature Nintendo's mascot, and with gorgeous art, a host of characters to play as and a fun Kung Foot minigame thrown in for good measure, it's an excellent option for younger gamers who can't get enough of jumping on platforms.

If they devour this and want more 2D platformers, both Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze are excellent, although the latter in particular isn't for the faint-hearted and can get pretty challenging in the later stages.

Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit (Switch)

Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit (Switch)Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 12th Apr 2019 (USA) / 12th Apr 2019 (UK/EU)

ESRB: Everyone 10+, PEGI: 7, NL minimum age recommendation: 6-7

Nintendo's Labo kits are ingenious cardboard constructions that you assemble (carefully) and slide your Joy-Con (and even the Switch console itself) into to create a wide variety of toys and fun experiences which interact with the screen in different ways. The Labo Variety Kit is a great way to jump in, although the Labo VR Kit has gone down well with the kids we know, offering some fun and simple VR experiences as well as small VR mode updates for a number of other games including Super Mario Odyssey, Captain Toad and others. These kits can be found very cheaply right now, so there's no better time to give one of them a try, and replacement cardboard templates can be ordered direct from Nintendo.

For parents, there are probably two main things to consider with Labo. Firstly, you will be required to help with assembly (if not take over entirely), which can take multiple hours depending on the Toy-Con. Secondly, you will end up with an awful lot of cardboard. On the one hand, this is perfect for when they inevitably get ignored - simply crush them down and throw them in the recycling - but you'll need to store them all the while Labo's in vogue in your home.

Luigi's Mansion 3 (Switch)

Luigi's Mansion 3 (Switch)Luigi's Mansion 3 (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Next Level Games
Release Date: 31st Oct 2019 (USA) / 31st Oct 2019 (UK/EU)

ESRB: Everyone, PEGI: 7, NL minimum age recommendation: 7

One of the best looking games on the Switch, Luigi's Mansion 3 puts Mario's lanky brother in the spotlight as a ghostbuster, of sorts. Armed with a vacuum cleaner and a torch, it's up to Luigi to rescue his big brother in this brilliantly spooky sequel.

The game's light comic peril and spooky setting might not be every kid's cup of tea (we have younger relatives who have put it on the shelf for when they're a bit bigger) and its control scheme might take a while to get to grips with, but this is an utterly delightful game enhanced by a co-op mode that's available once you've unlocked Luigi's goo-based counterpart, Gooigi, after an hour or two. Throw in a host of minigames and Luigi's Mansion 3 is the perfect game for getting in the Halloween spirit without scarring your poor child with bloodied axes or hockey masks. And if you're having trouble vacuuming up those last few gems or Boos, we've got guides that'll help you out.

ARMS (Switch)

ARMS (Switch)ARMS (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 16th Jun 2017 (USA) / 16th Jun 2017 (UK/EU)

ESRB: Everyone 10+, PEGI: 12, NL minimum age recommendation: 7

Big, colourful, cartoon-y visuals combine with simple and intuitive motion inputs to create a true contender for your kids' attention. ARMS is a boxing game where your two upper limbs are mapped to the motion-controlled Joy-Con, so it has the added bonus of burning off some of your little ones' energy while they play. As an energetic and competitive game, you may want to keep an eye out and make sure bouts don't get overly fraught, but otherwise it's an excellent way to get your kids off the couch and moving.

Pokémon Sword and Shield (Switch)

Pokémon Sword and Shield (Switch)Pokémon Sword and Shield (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: 15th Nov 2019 (USA) / 15th Nov 2019 (UK/EU)

ESRB: Everyone, PEGI: 7, NL minimum age recommendation: 7

With various concessions to convenience and a bold, bright presentation, Pokémon Sword and Shield is the perfect introduction to the Pokémon universe for slightly older children. While we'd recommend Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu! and Let's Go Eevee! for younger gamers, this full-fat traditional Pokémon game features a huge number of Pocket Monsters that's set to grow even further with extra content coming later this year.

The main campaign is relatively easy to get through even if you're not the best Pokémon strategist, but there's a ton of post-game content once you've become Pokémon Champion. Then, of course, there's the series' slogan to consider: Gotta catch 'em all! With that in mind, Pokémon Sword and Shield should keep your little ones occupied for a long time.

Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)

Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 28th Jun 2019 (USA) / 28th Jun 2019 (UK/EU)

ESRB: Everyone, PEGI: 3, NL minimum age recommendation: 7

Another great option if your kid exhibits a flair for the creative, Super Mario Maker 2 enables them to craft their very own Mario levels in one of five different styles, from old-school NES pixel Mario up to his modern HD guise. The game enables some bewilderingly complex creations, but it's just as easy to build a simple course and populate it with '?' boxes and a few Koopa Troopas. A solid single player mode helps teach the basics and demonstrate the creative potential of the toolset. We'd have killed to be able to build our very own Mario levels as kids, so this is an excellent choice for the biggest Nintendo fan(s) in your household.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch)

Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch)Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch)
Publisher: Ubisoft / Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: 16th Oct 2018 (USA) / 16th Oct 2018 (UK/EU)

ESRB: Everyone 10+, PEGI: 7, NL minimum age recommendation: 7-8

Starlink: Battle For Atlas is a planet-hopping, dogfighting, space exploration game that works in conjunction with real-life toys. You strap ships to your controller via a special clamp and attaching/removing various weapons has them appear in the game. The Switch version of this multiplatform title is undoubtedly the best thanks to its exclusive Star Fox content.

For parents who want to minimise the amount of plastic toys in the house, avoid Starlink like the plague. However, you can pick the game and the ships up for next to nothing these days and if your child is intent on accumulating plastic rubbish anyway, you may as well make it quality plastic rubbish that works in conjunction with a cracking video game, no?