The 10 Best Cooperative Video Games for Families

published Jul 4, 2021
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family playing video games together
Credit: Shutterstock

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When I was a kid, family game night usually ended with someone toppling the board, hurling tokens and fake money, and stomping to their room in anger and frustration at losing AGAIN to a craftier player. (When I say “someone” I mean 4-year-old me.) Thank goodness things have come A LONG way since the days when playing against one another was the most popular mode of play. Today, many digital games allow players to go at their own pace, work together to solve problems, and actually laugh at the folly of it all, making gaming more like an experience — one designed for families to enjoy as a united front.

You’ve probably heard the expression “children learn through play.” When you interact with your kids through games, you’re not only modeling good gamesmanship, you’re acknowledging that the very act of playing is important. And spending time with your kids is never wasted. These things will make it easier for you to discuss and manage your kid’s gaming activities as they get older and choose friends to play with over parents. 

Fortunately, the trend toward family-friendly games is going strong and here to stay — as evidenced by the 10 cooperative-style games listed below. Each one is designed for families whose kids are around 4-10 and rated E for Everyone by the ESRB ratings board. Have fun!

Nintendo Switch

Credit: Nintendo

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” lets players grow a virtual civilization — following only their own whims and pace — and chillax with up to three other players on the same system. There’s gardening, fishing, and even furniture design (one must be comfy in paradise!). The in-game time mirrors the actual time of day and offers new and interesting things to discover depending on when you play.

PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One

Credit: Outright Games

Based on the phenomenally popular Disney Jr. show, “Gigantosaurus The Game” lets up to four players team up or compete against each other to solve puzzles, race on karts, and explore an enchanting prehistoric world as they work to save dinosaurs from extinction. Just like on the show, each character (Bill, Mazu, Rocky, and Tiny) has strengths and weaknesses that allow them to teach and learn from each other.

PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One

Credit: Ubisoft

If you’ve never played “Just Dance,” get it quick while your kids can still tolerate seeing their parents gettin’ their funk on. Seriously, dancing is the game we all need right now, and this version has bomb music from all the hottest artists like Ariana Grande and Blackpink. You also get eight songs and new choreographies that are totally family friendly.

Buy the game: Just Dance 2021

PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One

Credit: Team 17

Oh great, someone needs help moving. Fortunately, it’s for this madcap simulation game that blends physics, time-management, and ingenuity as you work on teams of up to four players to carry furniture all over the town of Packmore. Jobs get tougher as you go, escalating the need for diplomacy and grace under pressure (if you can manage it through the laughter).

Buy the game: Moving Out

PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One

Credit: Team 17

If your kid can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they’re ready for this chaotic cooking game, which ekes as much fun as possible out of the kitchen. Working in groups of up to four, teams must beat the clock as they prepare orders — all while avoiding wacky obstacles and managing ever-changing environments.

Buy the game: Overcooked 2!

PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One

Credit: Handy Games

Designed from the ground up as a family-friendly, cooperative game, Pile Up! is a side-scroller with simple controls that allows up to four players to work their way through open-ended levels, collecting boxes and using them in creative ways to progress. Along the way, teams will encounter puzzles and other challenges, all of which are meant to be solved together.

Buy the game: Pile Up! Box by Box

Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite

Credit: Nintendo

Using a toolkit packed with everything from swinging claws to coin-shooting cannons, players design their own Super Mario-style side-scrolling courses as they strengthen imagination, critical thinking, and even learn basic coding principles. Various multiplayer modes allow plenty of opportunities to work together or compete, providing near-limitless gameplay.

Buy the game: Super Mario Maker 2

PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One

Credit: Sonic the Hedgehog

With its motto, “play as a team, win as a team,” this kart racing game featuring the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog rewards those who work well together. Though each player controls their own character, they have to support each other and share power-ups to get ahead.

Buy the game: Team Sonic Racing

PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One

Credit: Indoor Astronaut

Borrowing elements from Lego and Minecraft, “Unrailed!” requires players to gather raw materials and build railroad tracks to keep their train from derailing. Sounds simple — but the obstacles, including unbudging cows, bandits, and hot lava — add constant challenges. Plus, you must work as a team and continually negotiate priorities, responsibilities, and strategies.

Buy the game: Unrailed!

PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One

Credit: Electronic Arts

“Unravel Two” updates the original single-player “Unravel” with two “Yarnys” — magical creatures created from a single strand of yarn that also connects the duo in an unbreakable bond. Two players control their Yarny as the pair goes on adventures, performs acrobatics to dodge threats, and solves unique challenges as they recover a family’s lost memories.

Buy the game: Unravel Two