Jun 13, 2018
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The best free games for kids: 20 great titles for girls and boys

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Welcome to our list of the best free games for kids on both tablet and PC. These have all been carefully picked to make sure they are appropriate for boys and girls.

We’ve all heard a ton of awful things about kids playing games in the news. Back in the 1980s we were told Pac-Man would usher in the end of society as we know it – with kids roaming maze-like streets, starving for a digital fix.

Obviously, 30 years on, we know nothing like that ever happened. In these more enlightened times, however, there has been substantial research that shows gaming is – in moderation, of course – a productive activity. For instance, video games promote problem solving skills and creativity. The best free games for kids, then, are an active leisure pursuit, unlike the passivity of watching television.

Still, it’s important to make sure your kids are playing only the best games for children. This roundup is designed to highlight 20 of the best free games for kids, both boys and girls, and aged between 5 to 11 years. They’re complete as is experiences, feature no violence, and tend to combine immediacy and depth. Most of all, though, they’re fun to play – however old you are.

10 best games for kids on Android tablets and iPad

These days, kids are more likely to first experience computing and gaming on a tablet than a home computer. To that end, our tablet selection skews a little younger.

According to Google, everything listed here is rated 3+, and so should be safe for even very young children. Apple is more conservative – it rates the games 4+, apart from Super Stickman Golf 3 and Spaceteam, which are 9+. The games are also all simple to control, easy to get into, and fun to play.

A note on IAPs and ads: Free games need to make money somehow. There are several games listed here that do indeed offer in-app purchases (IAPs) for in-game currency, and some feature ads instead. In the former case, you can disable IAPs at a system level on your device before handing it over to a kid. With the latter, you should play the game yourself first to make sure the ads are OK. 

1. Sago Mini Friends

This sweet-natured set of mini-games encourages creativity, dexterity, and puzzle solving. It starts with you selecting a colorful character, who then explores a neighborhood of cartoon houses.

Knock on a door and you’re invited inside for an animated, entertaining playdate. This might involve dress-up, hammering nails into a birdhouse, or enjoying a tasty snack.

Everything’s bright and cheerful, and the game promotes empathy, with one friend looking glum if spoils aren’t evenly shared.

Get Sago Mini Friends for Android and iOS. A Windows PC version is also available. This game has no IAPs/advertising.

2. Lego Creator Islands

In all honesty, we’re sure most parents would be happier seeing kids playing with real Lego rather than virtual bricks on a tablet. But when the real thing isn’t an option, this official game’s a nice substitute.

It’s based around the titular islands, on which you collect bricks, to ‘buy’ Lego sets that are constructed with a few taps. Over time, you’ll accrue houses and vehicles, and cute blocky critters that roam about. As an added bonus, there’s no chance of painfully stepping on a plastic brick.

Get Lego Creator Islands for Android and iOS. This game has no IAPs/advertising.

3. Toca Kitchen 2

If your child regularly uses a tablet, you’ve likely already installed some Toca Boca games. They’re a smart mix of education and play, and Toca Kitchen 2 is no exception.

As you’d expect, Toca Kitchen 2 is all about cooking. This game invites you to create meals – however you prefer. Devise your own recipes and foist your creations on a colorful cast of characters, whether you’ve carefully constructed a burger, or decided to throw a watermelon into the microwave and cover it in sauce.

Get Toca Kitchen 2 for Android. This game has no IAPs/advertising. A paid version exists for iOS.

4. Llama Spit Spit

Llama Spit Spit is an oddball shoot ’em up, featuring a flying llama blasting crazy cartoon enemies with a mix of spittle and high-powered weaponry.

The controls are incredibly simple, meaning even younger players can get on board. Power-ups and collectable llamas (with their own background imagery) keep things interesting over the long term.

The one snag is it’s the spit of Shooty Skies (Android/iOS), which is the better (and more surreal) game – although the lack of ads and IAP means the llamas get the nod for this particular list.

Get Llama Spit Spit for Android and iOS. This game has no IAPs/advertising.

5. Disney Crossy Road

The original Crossy Road cleverly reworked Frogger, with blocky characters hopping across chunky endless landscapes, trying to avoid a dunk in a river or getting flattened by a train. But the masterstroke was a raft of unlockable characters.

Disney Crossy Road is much the same, but uses Disney characters that often radically overhaul the game’s visuals and gameplay mechanics. Over 100 figurines are there to be found, and although IAP lurks, playing and collecting coins in the in-game worlds is all you need to snag them all.

Get Disney Crossy Road for Android and iOS. This game features advertising, and has non-essential IAPs for buying new characters.

6. Frisbee Forever 2

You’d think flinging a plastic disc about would make for a rubbish video game. Fortunately, Frisbee Forever 2 is more akin to a set of rollercoasters, with you guiding your disc through gates, collecting stars along the way.

There’s a hint of Nintendo about this breezy arcade experience, with its vibrant visuals, smart level design, and a basic control system suitable for all. And although there are freemium underpinnings, you’re rewarded with in-game currency for every second played – even if an attempt at a level ends in failure.

Get Frisbee Forever 2 for Android and iOS. This game features advertising, and has non-essential IAPs for more rapidly unlocking discs and zones.

7. Fruit Ninja

In the fast-paced Fruit Ninja, your digit becomes a virtual sword, hacking pieces of fruit lobbed on to the screen in two, and attempting to avoid cutting into game-ending bombs.

It’s ideal fodder for a tablet, since you can make pleasingly large swipes across the display. But also the game offers local multiplayer, so two kids can zealously pit their fruit-slicing skills against each other.

Get Fruit Ninja for Android and iOS. This game features advertising, and has non-essential IAPs for purchasing in-game currency.

8. Mekorama

With its tiny isometric worlds you spin with a finger, and landscape-flipping mechanics, Mekorama brings to mind Monument Valley. But this game has no Escher-like optical illusions; instead, it concentrates on straightforward pathfinding as you help an ambling robot reach its goals.

It’s a charming, thoughtful, tactile experience, and on a tablet is suitable for parent/child play, with you working through the puzzles together. Once you’re done with the 50 built-in levels, you can download more from the internet, or make your own.

Get Mekorama for Android and iOS. This game features optional IAP for tipping the developer.

9. Super Stickman Golf 3

For many kids, golf won’t excite. But the Super Stickman universe doesn’t partake in normal golf. Instead, you’re thwacking balls across larger-than-life side-on courses – massive castles; laser-strewn bases; floating islands.

Although it’s a fun solo game, which makes the most of bigger screens (through you being able to see more of each course and therefore aim more precisely), it also has superb multiplayer modes. You can play turn-by-turn matches with friends, or try your hand at frenetic, madcap ‘race to the hole’ skirmishes.

Get Super Stickman Golf 3 for Android and iOS. This game features advertising, and IAP for unlocking a premium upgrade (more courses and slots for turn-based multiplayer) and in-game currency.

10. Spaceteam

If you’ve several kids with devices, Spaceteam’s a delightfully bonkers way to have them all yell at each other in a vaguely productive manner that in theory helps them work as a team. Specifically, a ‘spaceteam’ in a ship trying to outrun an exploding star, with control panels designed by a sadist.

Once devices are connected, instructions appear on your screen – but the controls may be on someone else’s. So you’ll have people yelling nonsense like “someone turn on the dangling shunter”, while figuring out if their own screen has a ‘spectrobolt’ slider. Just like in Star Trek.

Get Spaceteam for Android and iOS. This game has a single optional IAP that unlocks new features and themes

PCs are inherently more complex than tablets. Whereas even very young children can grasp how a touchscreen works, figuring out mice, trackpads and keyboards may take longer.

This is why our selection of the best free PC games for kids skews a little older, although there are still games here that’ll fit a five-year-old. Note that several titles are browser-based, although none require plug-ins. We recommend Google Chrome for these titles. 

1. Cube Slam

Pong was one of the earliest home videogames. Cube Slam is Pong in your browser – only in 3D, and you get to play against a bear (or a friend – but the multiplayer option is flaky).

You face your furry opponent, moving the bat left or right to deflect the cuboid ‘ball’, aiming to smash the bear’s shields. Win enough times and the game introduces power-ups, invisible balls, and extra blocks on the table that make the ball bounce around unpredictably.

Play Cube Slam online

2. Quick, Draw

For children who enjoy doodling, Quick, Draw should prove fascinating. The idea is to sketch – against the clock – something recognizable enough for Google’s Neural Network to identify.

In each case, you’re told what to draw. But this game isn’t about drawing photorealistic objects. Instead, you must quickly figure out the key visual clues that describe something. Which is probably a good thing, unless you can scribble a realistic rhinoceros in 20 seconds.

Play Quick, Draw online

3. World’s Biggest Pac-Man

Pac-Man’s one of the most recognizable gaming icons around, and the original game is simple enough that even young kids can get to grips with it. However, its single maze quickly becomes dull – hence our recommendation to instead play World’s Biggest Pac-Man.

This online effort has hundreds of thousands of mazes, which you venture between by sneaking out of exits. Other than that, the original game’s compelling mix of munching dots and avoiding a quartet of spectral pursuers remains intact.

Play World’s Biggest Pac-Man online

4. Forget-Me-Not

This indie hit takes the basis of Pac-Man and a slew of other ancient arcade games, and then smashes them into an endless bout of modern neon craziness.

Again, the basics are simple enough for any kid to understand: march about mazes, grab a key, and make for the exit. But the game’s chaotic nature (the maze’s denizens appear as intent on blowing each other up as taking on the player) ensures it’s relentless raucous fun.

Download Forget-Me-Not for PC, Mac, OpenPandora and MorphOS

5. Little Alchemy 2

It would be a stretch to call Little Alchemy an educational game, but textbook smarts may help you crack the logic at the core of this match-and-discover puzzler.

You begin with a handful of building blocks, which when combined create new things. Sometimes, discoveries are obvious – add water to more water and you get a puddle. But some are more whimsical and funny, like when metal and a pigeon become a plane.

It’s ideal fodder when your kids want to play games, but you’d prefer them to relax and think for a bit.

Play Little Alchemy 2 online. The game is also available for Android and iOS.

6. Contre Jour

This lovely physics puzzler began life on mobile, but its landscape-warping nature works well in the browser.

The aim is to get trundling protagonist Petit to a glowing exit. This involves click-dragging malleable hills to influence Petit’s movements, or using catapults and dangling tentacles to fling him about.

Petit’s endearingly grumpy demeanor, combined with great-looking visuals and clever level design, makes for a family-friendly puzzler sure to have kids scratching their heads figuring out all the solutions.

Play Contre Jour online. The game is also available in paid form on various mobile platforms

7. Escape Goat

The clue’s in the title here – a leaping bovid wants to reach the exit. But doing so requires brainpower, plenty of dextrous jumping, and the occasional help of a friendly mouse.

Mostly, you’re aiming to reach and butt switches that shift rocks and create tunnels in cunningly designed single-screen challenges. But planning’s often required to collect keys, and not get squashed when walls start moving.

Oddly, when you send the mouse on a mission, you can teleport to its position. Quite why the goat can’t teleport straight to the exit, we’ve no idea. Goats never were the brightest creatures.

Play Escape Goat online. The game is also available in paid form on Steam.

8. Spelunky

This side-scrolling dungeon crawler as a distinctly Indiana Jones feel, and this is probably why it became such a huge indie hit on handhelds – but it began on PC. These days, there are various ways to play early incarnations of the game for free.

Although this take is rougher than modern iterations, it remains engaging. You explore caves, bounding about, grabbing bling, and duffing up monsters. Each game is unique – caves are randomly generated, and a single error can bring your quest to an abrupt end, with you impaled on spikes or killed by snakes. So tread carefully and look before you leap.

Play Spelunky online, get Spelunky 1.1 for Windows, or download Spelunky 1.3 for Windows and Mac

9. VVVVVV: Make and Play Edition

One for kids who are a bit older and twitchier of thumb, this take on gravity-flip platformer VVVVVV is a special free edition. Like the paid release, it features a little chap who darts about and can leap from ceiling to floor by tapping the jump button.

His aim is to escape from a maze comprising dozens of single screens full of spikes and roaming enemies. This free edition includes maps created by fans – and the means to build your own.

Download VVVVVV: Make and Play Edition for Windows, Mac and Linux

10. Super Crate Box

This one’s also in the twitchy thumbs category, and finds a little pixelated chap leaping about, trying to grab crates. All the while, he must blast creatures spilling into the screen, lest they hurl themselves into the flames below and emerge from the top furiously angry.

The game is fast-paced, entertaining, and has plenty of weapons and arenas to unlock. And although it’s a shooter, we can’t imagine many parents will be too concerned about their kid taking a cartoon bazooka to a conga of green monsters.

Get Super Crate Box for PC, Mac and Linux on Steam


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