Little boy covering eyes of his father playing video game. Cheerful family of father and son having fun playing video games at home. Courtesy Jacob Lund/Shutterstock Courtesy Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

5 Multiplayer Video Games That Are EXACTLY What Your Family Needs Right Now

See recent posts by Josh Roberts

As I type these words, it’s day 19 of our great social distancing experiment here in Massachusetts. My kids have been out of school due to the COVID-19 situation for nearly three weeks. My wife and I are adapting to working from home together. (In case you’re wondering, the beating heart of the Family Vacation Critic media empire is now a 6×9-foot basement office filled with Star Wars LEGOs.) The dogs are getting walked, a lot. The whole world feels different than it was even a few weeks ago.

Like a lot of families, we’re muddling through it the best we can. Reading some books. Getting out into nature. Binging the Clone Wars. (It’s so good!) But there’s one thing we’ve been doing as a family that I really hadn’t expected: playing video games together on our Nintendo Switch

When the workday ends, our new Mario Kart addiction begins. Everyone filters downstairs to the big TV. My wife and I snatch our preferred controllers before the kids can get them. My 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son make a bee-line for the best seats on the couch. Then we turn on the Nintendo Switch and off we go: yelling, cheering, trash-talking, boasting, bemoaning—all together, as a family.

It’s joyful and chaotic and pretty much exactly what we need after another long day of social distancing.

Why Nintendo Switch Is the Best Video Game Console for Families

The Nintendo Switch is different than most modern gaming consoles. Not only is it the most portable for travel, it also features a lot of great games with a local multiplayer mode. That means everyone’s in the same room, looking at the same screen, playing the same game at the same time. Most games for the PlayStation and Xbox are designed for either single player or online multiplayer and aren’t conducive for a collaborative, whole-family-playing-together experience. 

Here are some of my favorite local multiplayer games for the Nintendo Switch that we’re enjoying playing together as a family. And, good news: All of these games are available for digital download immediately if you already own a Nintendo Switch console.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

This is the ultimate multiplayer racing game for kids and parents. With multiple difficulty levels, dozens of avatars to choose from, creative race tracks, and super-customizable vehicles, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a great entry point for parents who want to connect with their kids. And younger kids have a good chance of winning races, too, making it a fantastic way to bring all ages together without temper tantrums.

The Nintendo Switch comes with two controllers, called Joy-Cons, so if your family of three or four want to race against each other you’ll need an extra pair of Joy-Cons or multiple Pro Controllers. You can also buy special peripherals to turn your Joy-Cons into racing wheels (fun, but definitely not necessary).

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Ever wondered what would happen if Link from the Legend of Zelda battled Mario or Donkey Kong? In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, you can go head-to-head as various gaming icons in a free-for-all battle that’s loaded with power-ups and secret smash moves. It’s lot of fun, as long as you don’t mind being taunted by your teenage son who’s infinitely better at it than you are.

Just Dance 2020

This one’s pretty straightforward. You hold a Joy-Con and try to replicate on-screen dance moves to popular songs like “Old Town Road” and “God Is a Woman.” You can create playlists, download hundreds of new songs, set a kid-friendly mode, etc. If you like to move, Just Dance 2020 is fun and will definitely get you sweating. Great for a rainy day when going outside isn’t an option. 

Super Mario Party 

With 80 multiplayer minigames, there’s really no shortage of options for racing, smashing, jumping, and generally competing with each other all in good fun in Super Mario Party. Race tricycles, flip meat, or battle in two-versus-two or even three-versus-one mode with this game that’s fun for experienced players and casual gamers alike. 

Arms

An absolutely bonkers take on old-school boxing games, Arms lets you add fully customizable robot arms to your character and then go head-to-head in split-screen mode. It requires two Joy-Cons per player (one for each arm) so you’ll need two extra Joy-Cons beyond what comes standard with the Nintendo Switch, but it’s worth it for the two-player head-to-head combat with a wacky twist. 

Josh Roberts always races as Tanooki Mario in Mario Kart Deluxe. His debut novel for tweens and teens, The Witches of Willow Cove, goes on sale May 26, 2020, but you can pre-order it today!

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