I’ve covered E3 (and now the Not-E3 week) for many years. Whether walking the halls or following online I’ve always been on the lookout for great games for families. This year’s virtual events have been an easy way for us to see loads of games, but sifting through these to find the diamonds in the ruff has been a lot harder.
We can no longer bump into other journalists on the show floor to get the buzz of what’s hot. The rumour mill about what you have to hunt down and see is no longer functioning in the same way.
I’m hoping that we see E3 return next year in person, as is suggested. But before then, I’ve spent this week tracking down some really amazing games for families to check out.
Highwater is an adventure game where you battle to survive the effects of global warming. It stands out for being set in the same narrative world as the developer’s other games (The Cub and Golf Club Wasteland), and its provision of architecture and artefacts to help you win the turn-based encounters.
The Plucky Squire is an adventure where two dimensional storybook character, Jot, discovers the three dimensional world. It stands out not only for the novel traversal through different planes of reality but the storybook vibe and nods to classic games.
30 Birds takes you to a hand-painted city on the hunt for birds. You explore, talk and outwit the strange characters you meet in your mission to save Simurgh, the giant bird goddess. It’s a game that is inspired by Persian art, alternative illustration, Jamaican music and Arabian Nights. Unusually, you explore in and out of the surfaces of the flying lanterns which adds both puzzle and otherworldly feel to proceedings.
Time Flies is a traversal game about being a fly. Like the insect your life is short in the game. You fly through the black and white world with the simple aim of completing your bucket list of whimsical tasks.
Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is a musical adventure game where you restore the harmony of Moomin Valley from grotesque parks. It’s the variety of play and the beloved characters that make this game a great experience for small (and not so small) kids.
Desta: The Memories Between is a narrative puzzle game from creators of Alba and Monument Valley about returning home after leaving under difficult circumstances. You guide Desta through metaphorical puzzles that let you revisit painful moments of life and find the words you didn’t have at the time.
We don’t know a lot about Toroa with just a teaser trailer shown. It appears to be a traversal game where you soar, swoop and glide across the vast Pacific Ocean as a Northern Royal Albatross.
Palworld is a role-play game where you collect fantasy creatures in a vast open world. It takes the Pokemon formula in a gun-touting and bizarre direction as you put your pocket monsters to fight, build, farm, and work in factories. It offers an open world where you can care for the creatures you collect.
Pentiment is a historical role-playing game where you explore 16th century Germany world to solve a murder. Play involves exploring the world, talking to people and discovering new ways the narrative evolves. It all takes place on the pages of an old book.
Ereban: Shadow Legacy is a fast-paced stealth traversal game where you play Ayana who can harness mystical shadow powers and gadgets. It stands out for the careful creeping around, but also the dark morally grey world that is on its last breath.
High On Life is a shooting adventure game from the creators of Rick and Morty. As you’d expect it’s comedic and zany, most obviously with the bombastic boasting sentient weapons that talk to you as you play.
Frogun is a traversal game where you use a frog-gun to interact with the world and navigate the levels. You play Renata, who comes from a family of explorers, archeologists and inventors but finds herself alone in the jungle. It’s classic platform games but with a modern twist of the frog-shaped grappling hook (who is also your best friend).
Master Key is a retro-style action adventure like Zelda. It focuses on exploration, finding items and secrets and keeps the rest of the play simple. As well as matching classic games of the era, it offers an interesting look into the joy of the journey and finding your own path.
Skye Tales is a gentle puzzle game about exploring rich playgrounds as a dragon called Skye. Play involves traversing each chapter, meeting and interacting with different creatures and solving puzzles along the way. It’s a game that stands out not only for its picture book aesthetics but the comforting, nurturing and playful world it creates.
Melodyssey is a music puzzle game in a calm stress free exploration adventure. You play a young child journeying through a musical landscape looking for musical inspiration. It stands out for the pastel presentation, simple block moving thinky puzzles and super relaxing music.
Fall of Porcupine is a narrative adventure about a young doctor bird working in an unhealthy healthcare-system. It stands out not only for the hard-hitting theme but the quality of writing and depth of characters you meet along the way.
The Last Case of Benedict Fox is a platform game where a demon invites you to explore the minds of the recently deceased. You work through an old mansion to uncover the mystery of a double murder and missing child. It’s an elegant platforming challenge that draws you into a dark intrigue where you face the family’s demons both figuratively and literally!
The Entropy Centre is a time-shifting puzzle adventure where you can move objects back through time. You explore the futuristic levels and solve puzzle by using you gun to move object in space but also in time. It’s a game that gets you thinking in reverse to solve what at first seems unsolvable.
Lovebirb is a rhythm-based dating game where you play a bird looking for love one date at a time. You play by answer your date’s questions and by showing them your best dance moves.
Rollerdrome is one for parents once the kids are in bed. A single-player skating and shooting game from the creators of Olli Olli, with fluid movements and trick making fun. You play in a comic-book style dark-dystopian world set in 2030 where the public are inoculated from sinister politics by this brutal new sport.