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

Super Mario Maker 2 Update Adds Playable Link, New Course Parts

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Mario and Zelda, two of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, have crossed paths numerous times before, most recently with the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake, which features enemies from the Mario universe.

With an upcoming free update to Super Mario Maker 2, it’s time for the Hyrule warrior to visit Mario’s universe. The 2.0 update, arriving Dec. 5, adds Link as a playable character via the new Master Sword powerup item.

This new form isn’t just a costume swap either, as Link comes equipped with his sword, bombs, and arrows, opening up entirely new gameplay designs. Link can shoot arrows to activate switches, stab down with his sword to defeat spiky enemies, and blow up walls with bombs.

The only catch: the Master Sword is available exclusively on the original NES 8-bit Mario theme, recreating the pixelated look of the original The Legend of Zelda from 1986.

In addition to Link, the 2.0 update also adds several new parts, and a new speedrun mode. The new parts include Frozen Coins that need to be melted and Dash Blocks from Super Mario 3D World. Pokey, the stacking cactus enemy, also makes its debut on Super Mario Maker 2. And yes, you can directly edit its height.

Ninja Speedrun is the new gameplay mode, where players can take on timed challenges created by Nintendo specifically for this mode. Ninja Speedrun challenges will last for a week, with new courses rotating in periodically. Players will be ranked by their play time, and can see other ninja ghosts from a similar performance level running the course, as a way to improve. Players can collect stamps and earn Mii costumes by completing courses.

Super Mario Maker is available on Nintendo Switch. The 2.0 update arrives December 5.

Super Mario Maker 2 Update Finally Lets Us Play Online with Friends

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In what was an egregious oversight that is sadly common in Nintendo’s online services, Super Mario Maker 2 lacked the simple functionality for online play between friends. At launch online multiplayer was only available with random strangers. Thanks to the Version 1.1 patch this week, the option to play online with friends has been added.

With version 1.1, there is now an option to play Versus and Co-op multiplayer with friends on your friends list, as well as with nearby players. You can also select the difficulty if playing via Course World, or choose from a locally saved course in Coursebot.

Note that a Nintendo Switch Online membership is required to use online features.

The 1.1 update adds a new section in the leaderboards for Official Makers, as well as special event courses, such as the courses showcased in last summer’s Super Mario Maker 2 Invitational.

Other new additions include maker profiles displaying more information, such as the total number of First Clears, and the ability to use touch-screen and button controls when creating courses in Handheld mode. More updates, including new course parts, are still planned for the future.

Super Mario Maker 2 is a Mario-themed editor that lets you play, create, and share custom Mario courses across different eras and themes. It features a single player campaign and unlimited courses from online creators.

Super Mario Maker 2 launched earlier this summer on Nintendo Switch. It’s rated E for Everyone.

Super Mario Maker 2 Review

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Available On: Switch

Super Mario Maker was a clever delight when it launched in 2015 on Wii U. The simple premise – a full editor suite for making and playing Mario levels across multiple eras – was an instant hit, recreating the dreams of many a dreamy kid scratching out level designs in a school notebook. The Switch sequel keeps the same solid editing and classic Mario gameplay, while adding several high quality pieces, a vastly expanded story mode, and online and local multiplayer.

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