The Ten Best Family Games of 2019

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It’s the calm before the storm as we head into 2020, with with a pair of next-gen consoles looming on the horizon from Sony and Microsoft. This year was more than an afterthought for games, however, and Nintendo continues to release smash hits for the Switch.

Gaming families had plenty of excellent choices this year, though you’ll definitely want to own a Switch if you don’t already have one – nearly half the games on our list are exclusive to Nintendo’s excellent handheld hybrid. Here is the (alphabetical) list of our favorite family games of 2019.

Doraemon: Story of Seasons

You may not have heard of classic 1970s anime and manga series Doraemon, but chances are the words Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley will excite you. Doraemon: Story of Seasons infuses the enjoyable farming gameplay of Harvest Moon (now called Story of Seasons) with the youthful characters of Doraemon, including the titular time-traveling cat and his helpful gadgets.

Platforms: PC (Steam), Switch

Dragon Quest Builders 2

Dragon Quest Builders mashed up two great tastes that taste great together – the colorful enemies of venerable RPG series Dragon Quest, with the building, crafting, and blocky world of Minecraft. The result was an instant hit. Dragon Quest Builders 2 adds online (and local network) co-op multiplayer, and is available on Nintendo Switch.

Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch

Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts fans had to wait an eternity for the return of Sora, Donald, and Goofy with this beloved mash-up series of Disney and Final Fantasy. While the gameplay in Kingdom Hearts 3 is still firmly rooted in its original early 2000s PS2 era, there’s an undeniable joy playing within the Disney and Pixar worlds like Frozen, Toy Story, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Nintendo knocked it out of the park with this excellent follow-up to the Luigi’s Mansion series, turning the haunted mansion into an entire ghost-filled hotel. Luigi is armed with more ghost-busting abilities, such as cloning himself as Gooigi, which can also serve as a family-friendly local co-op mode. On top of a fun campaign, up to eight players can play competitively or cooperatively in various multiplayer modes.

Platforms: Switch

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

It’s been ten years since we last enjoyed a Marvel Ultimate Alliance co-op brawler, and The Black Order more than satisfies our need to punch, blast, fry, and zap henchmen and villains. We love mixing and matching our team of different Marvel heroes from a roster of over 30, including Avengers, X-Men, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Platforms: Switch

Planet Zoo

As a full park sim Planet Zoo is geared more toward teens and adults, but thanks to the excellent animal AI, robust creation tools, and focus on animal conservation, it makes an excellent game for families to work together to learn about animals and their complex habitat needs. A lengthy campaign help introduces the park tools and management systems while offering a wonderful variety of biomes and locations, then you can try your hand at building your own zoo from the ground up in sandbox or franchise modes.

Platforms: PC (Steam)

Pokémon Sword and Shield

There’s little doubt that a Pokémon game will grace our list of best family games. Even with the somewhat mixed results of Pokémon Sword and Shield, there’s no denying that it provides hours and hours of catching hundreds of Pokémon and battling through the UK-inspired Galar region. The free-roaming Wild Area alone is worth the price of admission for Pokémon’s eighth generation.

Platforms: Switch

Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker was a phenomenal game when it released on Wii U in 2015, finally giving us the power to create our own 2D Mario levels. The Switch sequel is basically more of the same, plus tons of new features like new enemies, components, day/night and biome themes, and  the Super Mario 3D World tileset. All that along with a much improved single-player campaign and online and local multiplayer makes Super Mario Maker 2 a must-have for Mario fans.

Platforms: Switch

Untitled Goose Game

The official tagline nails this quirky indie game’s description: It’s a lovely morning in the village, and you are a horrible goose. Play as a goose in Untitled Goose Game with a checklist of hilariously mischievous tasks such as stealing from a store, knocking over vases, hiding in boxes, and causing light-hearted mayhem for these poor townsfolk.

Platforms: PC (Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a much improved spin-off of the 3D platformer series that combines 3D overworld travel with 2.5D level designs, starring the chameleon Yooka and his bat companion Laylee. The result is a satisfying spiritual successor to classic 2D platformers like Donkey Kong Country.

Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Luigi’s Mansion 3 DLC Features 2 Multiplayer Packs

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Nintendo has announced the DLC plans for Luigi’s Mansion 3. The DLC will feature two multiplayer packs that will release in 2020, for a combined purchase of $9.99.

Multiplayer Pack Part 1 will launch on April 30, 2020, and include three new mini-games for ScreamPark mode, which is the competitive multiplayer mode for Luigi’s Mansion 3. It also adds three new outfits, floor themes, and ghosts for the cooperative ScareScraper mode.

Multiplayer Pack Part 2 will release on July 31, 2020, with yet three more mini-games and three more outfits, floors, and ghosts for the multiplayer modes.

The multiplayer packs cannot be individually purchased, and only available as a bundle for $9.99. As an added bonus, players will also receive a new Polterpup light, called the Flashlight Type-P. This new flashlight can be used in either Story Mode or ScareScraper.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 released earlier this year exclusively on Nintendo Switch. Luigi is tasked with saving his friends from a haunted hotel in Story mode, using his trusty flashlight and Poltergust vacuum. It also features competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes for up to eight players locally and online.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is rated E for Everyone.

Pokémon, Dragon Quest, Luigi’s Mansion at Nintendo’s PAX West Both

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The annual PAX West gaming convention in Seattle, WA is fast approaching: Aug. 30 – Sept 2. Nintendo has unveiled their lineup of games and activities at their booth on the show floor. As usual they’re showcasing upcoming Switch games such as Luigi’s Mansion 3, Dragon Quest XI S, and Pokémon Sword and Shield.

“PAX is one of our favorite events to attend, since we get to bring upcoming games and experiences directly to our fans,” said Nick Chavez, Senior Vice President, Nintendo of America. “We have a robust lineup of new, high-quality games coming to Nintendo Switch throughout 2019. Our booth at PAX West is a great opportunity for fans to try out just a taste of some of these incredible games before they launch later this year.”

The following games will be playable at the Nintendo booth (#1939):

  • Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Oct. 31)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Sept. 20)
  • Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield (Nov. 15)
  • Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (Sept. 27)
  • Daemon X Machina (Sept. 13)
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition (Oct. 15)
  • Minecraft Dungeons (Q2 2020)

In addition to demo stations, the booth will feature a Luigi statue for photos and a handcrafted diorama of the world of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. All three color versions of the new Nintendo Switch Lite (Sept. 20) will be on display as well.

Those interested in Dragon Quest will want to attend (or more likely, stream) the Square Enix hosted developer panel called Dragon Quest Then & Now: Echoes Through the Ages. The panel looks at how the developers maintain the series’ classic roots while catering to a modern-day RPG audience. The panel begins at 10:30 am Pacific in the Raven Theatre at the nearby Hyatt Regency, and will be streamed live at twitch.tv.

PAX West 2019 will take place Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. Currently only Monday tickets are still available.

Nintendo E3 2019 Schedule, Games, and eShop Sale

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Sony may be pulling out completely but Nintendo will still be in full attendance at E3 2019, which takes place next week on June 11-13. The show floor will show off big upcoming games like Pokémon Sword and Shield, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order.

As usual, Nintendo will kick off the official convention times with a Nintendo Direct on Tuesday, June 11 at 9 am Pacific/12 pm Eastern. The Direct will focus entirely on games coming out later this year. Following the Direct will be a Nintendo Treehouse Live broadcast. It will showcase several new and upcoming Nintendo games. The Treehouse will return on Wednesday and again on Thursday, at the same time. The Thursday stream will focus on indie games.

As previously announced, Nintendo will feature multiple tournaments during E3, including the Splatoon 2 World Championship and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate World Championship.

Newly announced is a Super Mario Maker 2 Invitational. Four members of the Super Mario Maker community have been invited to compete in a gauntlet of Super Mario Maker 2 courses. The tournaments are hosted at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, starting at 10 am. Admission is free but space is limited.

On the show floor the following announced games will be playable by attendees: Pokémon Sword, Pokémon Shield, Luigi’s Mansion 3, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. Nintendo will utilize a new Warp Pipe Pass as a fast pass system. The Warp Pipe Pass will allow attendees to reserve times to play games rather than wait in long lines.

“The 2019 lineup for Nintendo Switch aims to deliver smiles with many different unique games and experiences,” said Doug Bowser, president, Nintendo of America. “Games available this holiday season will be the focus of our booth, and no matter where you live, you can participate in the fun events by watching Nintendo Treehouse: Live during E3 or visiting Nintendo Early Access events at Best Buy, which have a focus on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order.”

If you’re not going to E3 next week, you can still take advantage of an eShop Sale. The digital sale on Switch and 3DS games starts June 11 and runs through June 18.