The 8 Best Nintendo Switch Kids' Games of 2020

See which titles will make your kids smile from ear to ear

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The Nintendo Switch unsurprisingly proved to be Nintendo's best-selling console in years. A combination of its portability, its unique form-factor and features, and child-friendly games has made it a great console for children and adults alike. It also shouldn't come as a surprise that there's a wide range of first-party games exclusive to the system, many of which appeal to kids.

Our reviewers tested each game, evaluating the plot, gameplay, graphics, and child-friendliness. Both adults and kids will find something to like here. For a look at more games, check out our general list of best Nintendo Switch games across all genres, or for some awesome add-ons, our best Switch accessories roundup.

Best Overall: Nintendo Super Mario Odyssey

5
What We Like
  • Creative worlds to explore

  • Fun gameplay

  • Smooth controls

What We Don't Like
  • Variable difficulty

Super Mario Odyssey is by far the best Nintendo Switch game for kids due to its huge 3D kingdoms, diverse environments, fluid sandbox and entertaining gameplay. The new installment of the Mario series includes a ton of items and costumes for Mario to collect and a new way of playing by controlling object, characters and animals (dogs, dinosaurs, etc.) with your hat.

Huge levels like cities modeled after New York, vast green jungles and desolate deserts await Mario in Super Mario Odyssey; the game has so many different places to explore that you'll always discover something new. Our reviewer particularly liked how the game combined the new visuals of these worlds with the old visuals of previous Mario games, adding to nostalgia. If you happen find something interesting, Mario’s hat, Cappy, can be thrown at it and players can interact with it. The open world game encourages exploration while collecting various items and stars in order to complete objectives.

"Simply put, if you own a Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey is a must buy." — Kelsey Simon, Product Tester

Best Racing: Nintendo Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

4.6
What We Like
  • Smooth controls

  • Fun maps

  • Diverse set of characters and cars

  • Great co-op gameplay

What We Don't Like
  • Hard to see all stats

  • Some learning curve

By far the best racing game ever, especially for kids, is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch. Both kids and parents alike can enjoy the long-established series of Mario Kart, as the game is filled with classic tracks, characters and that familiar rush from previous iterations. Just make sure that no one gets too into it – it’s that fun.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is best with multiplayer, allowing up to four players to share the screen locally as they go head-to-head on their TV in split-screen mode. There are over 42 characters, 48 tracks and various vehicle combinations like motorcycles, providing for a definitive and full experience of a Mario Kart racing game. Our tester enjoyed Hover mode the most, where you can take side ramps and ride a part of the map that defies gravity. She thought the controls were smooth and intuitive throughout the game. Best of all, kids can take their Switch out for a handheld mode adventure and play with others who have the game.

"Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is great for kids, especially those with a more competitive streak." — Kelsey Simon, Product Tester

Best Action/Adventure: Nintendo The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

4.4
What We Like
  • Smooth controls

  • Beautiful graphics

  • Tons of content

What We Don't Like
  • Lacking in plot focus

For any kid that loves adventurous explorations, The Legend of Zelda: Breadth of the Wild is by far the best game on the list. The award-winning game features a beautiful humungous world in a sandbox environment where players can explore on their terms without time constraints.

The Legend of Zelda: Breadth of the Wild has players climb up towers and mountain peaks to traverse new areas and set their own path into ​the wilderness. It’s a world filled with gigantic monsters, friendly animals, as well as various ingredients and items that kids can mix and match to create new concoctions. During testing, it was clear Nintendo spent a lot of time and consideration on making sure fights were engaging. Our reviewer faced difficulty ranging from simple battles against the bokoblin's, to more complex fights against mini-bosses like the stone talus. The Legend of Zelda: Breadth of the Wild has plenty for a kid to do, with over 100 Shrines of Trials, hundreds of items, as well as various lands filled with friends and foes.

"Nintendo took a lot of time and consideration when it came to the visual design of Breath of the Wild, making us love the game even more for it." — Kelsey Simon, Product Tester

Best Strategy: Ubisoft Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

4.8
What We Like
  • Smooth controls

  • Fun graphics

  • Funny plot

What We Don't Like
  • Long cut scenes

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a turn-based tactical role-playing video game where kids are encouraged to rely on their critical thinking skills. The game features both single and multiplayer modes and features characters from the beloved Mario and Raving Rabbids series.

In Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, players lead a group of three heroes (like Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach) and four Rabbids. Each stage consists of a series of battles with turn-based gameplay, kind of like chess. Our tester thought the game struck a good balance between being suitable for children and still challenging enough for adults to love with its turn-based tactical role-playing elements that bear some resemblance to Fire Emblem.

The strategy turn-based action game is great for any kids and players who want to think tactically and play a game that's a little more mature than the rest on the list. It’s not a hard game to play, but it is a hard game to master.

"Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle strikes a nice balance between suitable for children, while still being challenging enough for adults to love."Kelsey Simon, Product Tester

Best Shooter: Nintendo Splatoon 2

4
What We Like
  • Creative gameplay

  • Snappy controls

  • Lots of multiplayer game modes

What We Don't Like
  • No plot to speak of

Believe it or not, there is a kid-friendly Nintendo Switch shooter game for kids called Splatoon 2.

Who says shooter genres have to be bloody and violent? Nintendo’s Splatoon 2 instead takes the approach of being a paintball style game that focuses less on brutal realism and more on family fun.

Splatoon 2 is a team-based, third-person shooter where players use colored ink to attack opponents and beat goals. Players can transform into squids and navigate through the ink that splattered in order to avoid detection. Various game modes include an online and offline multiplayer Turf War battle where players must cover the entire level with ink. Our reviewer thought the game's premise made it unique compared to other shooters, along with the fact that it features a variety of different weapons and is just as fun and intense as the more popular shooters on the market.

"Splatoon 2 is a game that we felt was far more appropriate for a younger audience than an older one." Kelsey Simon, Product Tester

Best for Casual Play: Mojang Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition

What We Like
  • Fun sandbox gameplay

  • Lots of depth to crafting

  • Plenty of content

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks overarching plot

There’s no rush or hurry in Minecraft. Kids can enjoy a nice casual game where they can build whatever they want without expensive Legos. Minecraft is only limited by the player's imagination, generating huge random worlds where kids can build anything from little homes to gigantic cities using virtual blocks and crafting items like ladders, stairs and more.

Minecraft features two gameplay options: Survival and Creative Mode. Our reviewer played with his six-year-old son and thought the game was particularly enjoyable while in Creative Mode. Kids who play Survival Mode will have to mine deep for resources and building materials and will be forced to fend off giant spiders, skeletons, zombies and other mobs of enemies when the sun sets. Creative Mode offers a more relaxed way of playing, giving infinite resources for players to build whatever they want on their own time at their own pace. The game also features a multiplayer mode, so kids and their friends or parents can join in on building something together. 

"Minecraft remains such a pure and compelling sandbox experience, dropping players into a blocky world full of seemingly endless possibilities." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Sports: EA Sports FIFA 18 Standard Edition

What We Like
  • Good story-based campaign

  • Nice mix of difficulty levels

  • Fun mini-games

What We Don't Like
  • A little dated now

FIFA 18 is by far the best sports game on the Nintendo Switch and features beautiful lifelike graphics and engaging gameplay that looks like an actual soccer game. Kids will be excited to know that the game offers a mode where they can create their own players and teams.

Built from the ground up specifically for the Nintendo Switch, FIFA 18 provides an immersive gaming experience with a high definition presentation. Players have multiple gameplay options, allowing for offline multiplayer play with the Joy-Con controllers. There's also single-player and even an online mode to face off other players. Multiple game modes like FIFA Ultimate Team have you creating and unlocking new characters for your fantasy soccer team, as well as in-depth Career Mode to advance to a championship and local seasons. Any kid who wants a thorough sports game experience and loves soccer will love FIFA 18.

Best for Dance: Ubisoft Just Dance 2018

What We Like
  • Fun, fast-paced gameplay

  • Good group game

  • Nice selection of old and new songs

What We Don't Like
  • Starting to show its age

If you have active kids who like to move and groove, then Just Dance 2018 is the Nintendo Switch video game for them. Considered to be one of the best dancing game series, Just Dance 2018 features modern artists like Ariana Grande and Maroon 5 and players have to mimic dance styles in order to play.

In Just Dance 2018, players select from a variety of 40-plus songs and dance to it by copying a virtual dancer on screen. You don’t have to worry about having an extra controller either, as Just Dance 2018 allows players to use their smartphone to control their movements with the Just Dance Controller app. The game features multiple modes, but most notably, there's a multiplayer option for up to six players to all dance together at once, perfect for any slumber party.

If you're a big fan of RPGs, one of the best is Breath of the Wild, if you want a good party game, you won't go wrong with a competitive racer like Mario Kart 8 or Splatoon 2. There's plenty of games to pick from (and quite a few variations of Mario to enjoy).

How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate kids' games based on design, accessibility, fun, replayability, and more. We also carefully weigh how appropriate a game's content is for the specified age group, and how intentionally tailored for children it is. Our testers also consider each unit as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the games we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.

About Our Trusted Experts

Andrew Hayward has covered games since 2006, writing for publications like TechRadar and Polygon. He's a pretty big gamer himself and owns and uses a Nintendo Switch at home which he often plays with his six-year-old son.

Kelsey Simon is a long time gamer who has written for Lifewire since 2019. She owns a variety of systems including a Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite.

What to Look for When Buying Nintendo Switch Kids' Games

Gameplay - Nintendo games have always been effective at straddling the balance where they appeal to kids and adults equally. With adventure-driven platformers like Mario Odyssey, you get just the right mix of fun, child-friendly graphics with gameplay that's unique and challenging. Breath of the Wild, an open-world RPG has more plot and mechanics to it, but it's also not so complex that a child will get lost.

Graphics - Games on the Nintendo Switch have perfected an art style that makes them stand out from the rest. Breath of the Wild has a particularly unique graphic style reminiscent of more "adult" games like Witcher 3 or Skyrim, with an esoteric twist that lends itself to a fantasy world. Splatoon 2 goes for the more traditional cartoony graphics, making the competitive shooter seem fun and colorful, rather than bloody and violent.

Kid-Friendliness - It's rare you'll have to worry about child-friendliness on Switch games. From Mario + Rabbids Kingdom to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the majority of first-party Nintendo games will avoid any kinds of graphic violence, profanity, nudity, or other adult content. The only games you might want to watch out for are console/PC ports like Witcher 3 which tend to have darker, more adult content.