My primary goal for our Nintendo Wii, when we bought it, was to serve as the main gaming console for my kids – a function it has served well. I have a girl and three boys. They have all been allowed to play video games from the time they can manage the controls as toddlers.
While we have a PS3 and an Xbox 360 with Kinect, as well, the Nintendo Wii is the best game console for kids and families, in my opinion.
As a gamer, and parent of little gamers, I know how difficult it can be to find the best games, let alone good games age appropriate for specific age groups. I created this post to showcase our favorites, hoping to save other busy parents and grandparents the time – and money! – we spent seeking them out.
Games for Kids Under 6 Years Old
Even kids as young as 2 can get in on the fun of gaming on the Wii, so long as the need to read instructions is eliminated. Kids were made to move and play to learn, clearly. And so they pick up the Wii controls very quickly.
The development of motor skills is encouraged by the very act of gaming with the Wii remote, while problem solving is a necessity in pretty much any game you can name. Even so, as a parent, I have always sought fun games that offer even more educational value. Thus, the games on my best list also contribute more than just fun, like promoting cultural awareness, fitness, or inspiring musical creativity as the games below do.
The controls are easy for even the youngest gamers. A parent helper mode allows parents to step in if needed. However, most 2 and 3-year-olds master the game play easily.
As you might expect from a game designed for such a young audience, many kids have outgrown it by five or six (and likely, much interest in Elmo, if they’re anything like mine). Still, I really appreciated having games like this, that enabled my littlest ones to feel just like the big gamers, for as long as they did.
Another game my littlest guys loved was Ni Hao, Kai Lan: Super Game Day, featuring Kai Lan and her friends. Created for one to two players, Super Game Day is a limited party game for the littlest gamers, with activities that toddlers and preschoolers enjoy.
It’s a great game even for kids who haven’t watched the show it’s based on. The gameplay is super easy and forgiving. The activities are excellent choices for small gamers (like bubble popping!). And the characters have wide appeal: Kai Lan is a darling little Chinese girl, with sweet little monkey, tiger, and koala pals.
Super Game Day was my middle boy’s favorite game for the longest time.
My eldest and youngest boys loved Diego’s Safari Rescue best. It plays out a bit like the show, with simple tasks for players to complete as they rescue animals. Activities include drumming, digging, stomping, and swimming.
Safari Racer mode lets a second player join in the fun, to cooperatively race using elephants, hang gliders, and safari trucks.
If you’ve already picked up Diego’s Dinosaur Adventure or one of the Dora adventures, you probably won’t want another. They all play very similarly and the repetitiveness gets old quickly. Since my guys weren’t into dinos, we chose this one, and it proved to be just what they were hoping: an adventure game designed just for them.
The wildly popular Nickelodeon Dance brought the fun of Wii dancing and singing games down to the toddler level – and the sequel is just as rockin’.
Little ones can get their dance on with Dora and other popular Nick Jr. characters, with songs from their favorite Nick Jr shows, popular music, and classic favorites.
Games for Ages 6 to 8 and up
By this age, kids generally have adequate control to manage E rated games like Mario Kart Wii and Super Mario Galaxy. And Mario games are extremely popular, for good reason. They’re high quality productions with broad appeal, which can give players hours of entertainment. All they need is to have the patience to work at learning the tracks/patterns to succeed at difficulty levels truly meant for “Everyone.”
At seven, my eldest had that patience, completing several Mario games without help; my middle son didn’t. He preferred to play in shorter bursts than his brother. Now, at age nine, he’s far more dedicated.
The Mario game that got the most play here was Super Mario Galaxy 2.
My eldest son defeated this space adventure at age seven. It was challenging, taking him a lot of time and dedication, but he loved it.
Like most Mario games, it’s targeted for the general gamer; something both adults and children can enjoy, and even play together.
In Super Mario Galaxy 2, a second player can help Mario or Luigi as a little floating star character, but doesn’t do as much on their own as many 2 player games allow. It is, however, more than the second player could do in the Original, so my kids preferred this one.
Mario Kart is a long-time family favorite. In this multiplayer racing game up to four players can have a blast driving around in karts and playing as their favorite Super Mario Bros characters. It is here the Wii really shines, bringing the entire family together to play.
Girls are included by the ability to play as Princess Peach and other unlockable female characters, which gets high marks from this grown-up girl gamer. You might think that shouldn’t be such a big deal in this day and age, but, sadly, it is still remarkable to see games allow for gender choice in their avatars. My daughter’s choice is most often a version of Princess Peach, though I am glad to say Peach isn’t alone in representing her gender.
Players can also customize their karts to explore and display their own style. The fun and crazy bonuses which help players or sabotage competitors bring a lot of laughs. And with the unlockable characters and a variety of tracks, the long-term play value is excellent.
It should be noted, however, that the Mario Kart with Wii Wheel combo comes with just one Wii Wheel. Additional Wii Wheels can be purchased separately in a variety of colors.
My daughter started wanting to try to play my Harvest Moon games when she was eight. This is a series that takes a lot of reading, so I’d definitely only recommend them for strong readers. They offer in return a gentle introduction to role-playing and community. The elements of befriending and helping their neighbors, a connection with their environment, and caring for animals are values I love seeing nurtured in my kids. The allure of the rural life is perfectly matched with game mechanics that encourage getting to know your neighbors along with your farming endeavors – hearkening back to a simpler time.
At this stage in my daughter’s life, I was playing Tree of Tranquility, which she happily took over. As with all Harvest Moon titles, ToT is a farming simulation game that also features the ability to fish, mine, and befriend wildlife and villagers. Tree of Tranquility differs from some earlier Harvest Moon titles in that it has a questline, in which players resolve a mystery involving the village’s weakening connection to Nature.
Player characters can be male or female in this entry in the series. Single player.
Wii Games for Kids 10 and up
At age 10, my advanced-reader had no trouble with E10+ games. She was even taking on some T rated titles.
While the educational value available in video games for kids at this age is more subtle, it still exists. Mythology, cultural awareness, and the opportunity to explore what sort of person they want to be (as in RPGs [Role Playing Games]) become more common.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword features intense puzzles, flight, and dungeon crawling.
As a player of the originals, back in the day, I love watching my kids play the Virtual Console re-releases of the classics. Now Skyward Sword hearkens back to that nostalgic, challenging gameplay, going even further with elements like the ability to soar the skies on the back of a bird.
Sadly, for those of us noting such things, no Legend of Zelda title to date offers choice in gender for the player character. It’s strictly Link’s show, and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Some girls won’t care, but some do.
Skyward Sword is a single player game.
Skylanders Giants is an E10+ rated game all of my kids, at ages 6-10, love to play together. Their auntie bought it for them, because her houseful of boys were big fans. And it was an instant smash hit here.
They collect the little monsters, using them to explore and unlock new abilities as they play. I’ll admit I’m not terribly fond of the collectibles element – needing to buy more creatures to expand their fun – but I can’t deny it’s given them hours more enjoyment than they’ve received from many other games we’ve bought.
The collectibles are, at least, different in function in-game, as well as well-crafted and interesting to look at outside of it.
If you have a Harry Potter fan in the house, don’t miss Order of the Phoenix. I think every fan hoped to immerse themselves in the world of Harry Potter when picking up a game based on J.K. Rowling’s brilliant series. With Order of the Phoenix for the Wii, we finally can.
Players feel like they are truly attending Hogwarts, perfecting their 5th year spells and exploring the castle.
Primarily, they will play as Harry, but at times will take on the roles of Sirius Black, Dumbledore, or the Weasley twins, to advance the story. My only regret is that Hermione or the incomparable Professor McGonagall aren’t options. But even so, Ron and Hermione are with Harry every step of the way, so I suppose it makes little difference.
In playing the game, you can interact with the magic items shown in the movies, practice your wand work, lead Dumbledore’s Army by recruiting and teaching your fellow students, and experience the epic battles of the movie, from the Dementor attack at Little Whinging to the fight against Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic.
Our Favorite Wii Ware Games
To finish off this list, I’ll include the best two Wii Ware games we’ve ever played. The difference with these is that you’ll need to buy the code, either through the Wii Shop or through Amazon, to unlock and download the game onto your Wii.
World of Goo is, hands down, the best. The object is to puzzle your way through obstacles to get your Goo Balls to the goal, using their abilities to the best advantage. This is a game full of quirky humor and addicting gameplay. My older kids fell in love with this game at the ages of 4 and 8. My four-year-old would try to play but he wasn’t able to get a lot out of it. My daughter, at the age of 8, spent hours upon hours engrossed in solving the puzzles to save the silly goo balls. Even now, seven years later, it’s one they return to again and again.
Recommended age: 7-8+
My kids also like to play Pokemon Rumble together. It’s a fighting game, in which players fight their way through linear dungeons collecting new Pokemon and tokens to buy more moves. When they feel they’re ready they can enter the Rumble arena to test their strength against many other Pokemon, to hopefully win and go into a new area.
For an older gamer, it’s not hard to imagine this would get old fast. There’s not a lot you can do with the Pokemon, only change their moves and fight. But it’s on okay little fighter: no gore, cute Pokemon, and the ability to play with friends or siblings.
My youngest, at four, could manage this just fine while playing with his older brothers and sister. And my ten-year-old enjoys the game, particularly playing with his brothers.
Three difficulty settings help keep the game interesting across a range of ages and skill levels.
Recommended age: 4-10+
Originally published by me, 3/16/09, on Squidoo. Moved to my own space and updated as of June 28, 2016.