Subscription gaming services can be a wonderful value if you and your family go through a lot of games. There’s just not enough money in the world to take a risk on every title that looks good, and kids often have short attention spans anyway. With PlayStation Now, there are hundreds of games to stream or download, but as a parent it can often be hard to keep up with the releases of the past few years, and at a glance it’s not always easy to quickly determine which will be appropriate or appeal to children. So we took out a bit of the guesswork for you by looking at all the selections Sony offers as part of PlayStation Now, and picked out the games that have stood the test of time, both with general audiences and our own families.
If you’re looking for something family-friendly to play on PlayStation Now, here are our 10 suggestions.
Costume Quest 2
This adorable action game is a great entry point for role-playing games for younger children, especially because of its packaging. In the game, you play as one of two twins who, together with their group of friends, hunt for candy and costumes on Halloween night in order to defeat an evil dentist who wants to ban the holiday forever. Beyond the relatable premise, kids will love the spooky and sweet elements of Costume Quest 2, from collecting Creepy Treats cards (each with a disgusting spin on a classic candy) to the self-insert imagination potential behind the powers of each delightful costume.
Disney’s Epic Mickey 2
It’s true that critics did not receive the sequel to Disney’s Epic Mickey very well. In my experience, however, kids often have very different tastes from adult critics, especially in terms of what they’re willing to put up with. With that out of the way, Disney’s Epic Mickey 2 was admittedly much like the original, relying on the novelty and magic of seeing forgotten Disney characters on-screen in an interactive setting. In the sequel, Mickey Mouse must once again take up the magic brush to fight his way through the Wasteland, and this time he is aided by Oswald the Rabbit, who can be controlled by the second player. This cooperative take on the sadly defunct series makes it a better fit for adult-kid duos, or for pairing with those who are less skilled at games, broadening its accessibility to the cross generational audience drawn to its characters.
There’s a reason Katamari is such an enduring favorite among game fans: it’s bright, it’s fun, and it’s almost too quirky to exist. In this collection of 24 past Katamari stages (plus 3 new ones), kids and kids of all ages can delight in the age old past time of rolling lots of stuff up in a really big ball and proudly showing it to their dad. There’s not much more to the games than that, and that is by design. It is meant to be simple yet stylized and appeasingly bizarre. Katamari Forever is a great opportunity to quickly touch on some of the past Katamari games (with the added bonus of a few new rolling maneuvers to use in each level) and introduce its uncomplicated and unconventional greatness to the next generation.
I Am Bread
Honestly, if you can get your kids to stop laughing long enough to actually play this game, congratulations. You’re a better parent than me. I Am Bread is so absurd, you’ll probably get hours of entertainment off the laughing fits alone. As the name suggests, the game stars the titular slice of bread, and the objective is to get it toasted. Points are awarded on how cleanly the bread gets from point A to B as it travels. Dirt and debris and other objects picked up in transit affect its edibility. Admittedly the game is a bit hard; navigating the bread means holding down buttons that represent each of its corners and using the analog stick to clumsily flail it towards your goal. But the payoff is huge even as tensions run high.
Disney Universe isn’t a terribly deep or complicated game, but that’s beside the point. The fun of it is the vast array of Disney and Pixar character costumes and getting to play in their world. With local multiplayer, you and your family can even experience the game together as a team, working to protect one of the theme parks under attack and collecting 45 different outfits and playing six different levels inspired by movies from the studios. Sure, it’s a cynical cash grab, capitalizing on several incompatible franchises at once, but it’s a fun one, reminiscent of the many Lego games (also on PlayStation Now). The casual gamer and Disney fan in your life will absolutely love it.
ibb & obb
Among the more cooperative-based games on this list, ibb & obb can be played in single player mode, but is a delightfully high spirited collaborative effort when experienced as a duo. It has two worlds, and ibb and obb can travel between them, using the line of gravity that divides them to solve puzzles on either side and help one another move forward. It’s a bit of a mind bender, as moving ibb and obb while upside down can be hard, but once you and your partner learn to communicate and move tentatively through the level’s enemies and obstacles, a certain rhythm emerges. It’s also a simple but effective way to teach teamwork and encourage problem solving skills, but wrapped up in a impishly gorgeous package. It’s the spinach-hidden-in-the-brownies of videogames.
Admittedly, it can be hard to get kids into Sonic the Hedgehog these days if they aren’t already; memes, Rule 34, and an enduring mismanagement of the series over the years has seen to that. But if you’re going to introduce them to Sonic, or just need something to play on an idle Saturday, Sonic Generations is a pretty good choice. While the series in the past several years has struggled to attract new fans while still placating the old, this throwback title was a genius way to straddle both lines, offering two modes, classic and modern, on a set of remastered stages spanning the first game all the way up to Sonic Colors. Whether you fiercely prefer the strict-side scrolling of Sonic’s past, or enjoy the fluid perspective switches of his present, it’s also wonderful to see how the same design elements and sensibilities can still appeal to young…ahem…generations to this day. I can’t think of a better way to stay true to the originals while prepping the youngsters for what the series has become today.
Okabu is a light co-op experience ideal for an adult and a child ages 5-8. As a pair of cloudwhales Nimbe and Kumulo (yes, clouds in the form of whales), you and a partner solve puzzles in the polluted land of Doza, taking on the invading robots and overcoming obstacles by using the power of rain. Along the way you meet an intrepid band of fighters, each with their own unique skills, and together you combine their abilities (like harpooning, or animal summoning) in clever and strategic ways. The game is far from challenging, but the music, art style and writing are cute and bouncy, like a Nick Jr. cartoon come to life.
Doki-Doki Universe is weird in a way that almost defies coherent explanation. It consists mostly of traveling from planet to planet as a robot in search of his humanity, answering personality tests and initiating conversations with strangers, sometimes summoning an item from his collection to figure out their likes and dislikes and prompt different answers or outcomes. It doesn’t sound compelling, but in practice it’s charming, and a big part of the appeal is its playful, squiggly cartoon visual style and the humor of its writing. Kids seem particularly attracted to the art and the cute and silly notebook doodle sensibilities of the collection items, decorations and mounts, from a winged piece of cheese, to a toilet, a rainbow or a diapered baby. This is one to play by just letting the kid take the lead, and enjoy the ride.
The Runner games, from the original Bit.Trip all the way up to its most current release, Runner 3, are all fantastic, with the sort of gameplay that makes anyone watching you say, “wait, let me try, I can totally do that”. A sidescrolling platformer that autoruns from left to right, it pits the player against the environment by making them jump and dodge and duck through each hurdle, in perfect timing to its incredibly upbeat and catchy soundtrack. It’s one of those games that can be learned by watching, and inspires a competitiveness that escalates in passing the controller from person to person as each experience defeat. It’s not a co-op game, but it will definitely turn into one, if you play it in a group setting.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.