There’s been a change in the way family friendly games are distributed. Many publishers, including Disney, prefer mobile platforms are generally not shown at E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. In fact, since the last recession when a number of mid-level game publishers closed up shop, E3′s participants have showcased far fewer family friendly games. But with Nintendo, Microsoft and a passel of others still in the game, there is more than enough to fill this family friendly list of promising games. Note that three such products, “Luigi’s Mansion 3,” “Forza Horizon 4: Lego Speed Champions” and “Lost Words,” made our previously published most promising games and under-the-radar games features.
Varsav Game Studios/Big Ben
While Jerry Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie” game had you play as an anthropomorphic bee, “Bee Simulator” is far more reality-oriented (and educational, too). Here, you play as hard-working bee in New York City’s vibrant Central Park. Each load screen offers you one of 120 factoids, such as bees do not live more than two weeks, and they never sleep. As you move through the zoo and the park, you deal with climate change and the potential death of wild bee species. A 48-member orchestra offers the dramatic soundtrack as you fight against giant hornets.
You can make games in “Minecraft,” but certainly not as wonderfully complex as this. “Minecraft Dungeons” is a Diablo-influenced, action-oriented title featuring a sword-and-sorcery world full of magic and potions. You are the hero who fights against the dastardly Arch Illager, who, with his minions like Creepers and Endermen, are ransacking towns and absconding with villagers. While the story is far too cliche for this day and age, the lava-filled environments look intensely foreboding, and your cache of weapons is varied.
‘Gods and Monsters’
Ubisoft teased this lush, charming offering at the end of its E3 news conference. Yes, there is a “Legend of Zelda” look to it. But here, you save the gods of Greek myths and mythical beasts as well. You will deal with what the company describes as the deadliest being in all of myth, Typhon, the serpentine giant. If the game, made by the historical research-oriented team that made “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey,” deals with a cornucopia of myths, it will rival a lost gem from the 1990s, “Wrath of the Gods.”
Armed with his trusty slingshot and a stealth nature, a 6-year-old boy embarks upon a adventure-filled trek through the American West to search for his lost mother. In environments that include a frontier town, a monastery and the desert, this nonviolent offering features garden mazes and coffins to hide from opponents. You would not expect a spaghetti-Western influenced game to avoid guns, but “El Hijo” does just that.
‘Pokémon Sword and Shield’
Game Freak/The Pokémon Company
It finally happened: There are too many Pokémon. With over 1,000 Pokémon, the developers say you cannot capture them all in the new game because it involves too much programming. But it is an extraordinary game that includes the gorgeously rendered Galar region which looks like Great Britain and offers riffs on British folklore. Also, you can team up with friends to battle a super-powerful enemy via the Max Raid Battle feature. Yes, there are new creatures including Sobble, described by the company as a crybaby. Get it: Sob-ble? Cry-baby? That’s Pokemon-style humor.
“Earth Night,” in development since 2015, is a colorful platformer featuring a 14-year-old high school girl and a balding freelance photographer. Here’s the deal: Humans have been exiled to space by dragons, and Sydney and Stanley just will not take it any more. The two jump from meteors to clouds to dragons’ heads to annihilate the beasts, one of which looks like its made of crystals. As the enemies flood the screen, your most agile reflexes come into play.
It is the “Pokémon Go” augmented reality model done “Minecraft” style, and it is chock full of exploration. Here you can build and mine with the game’s signature tools right on your tabletop (or almost anywhere) via your smartphone. Imagine finding blocky pigs and cows on a farm, in your backyard or in your bedroom. Your world has never been squarer, and that is a good thing. Just do not stop in the middle of the street to erect your impressive structure (like the young woman in the video).
Harold Goldberg has written for the New York Times, Playboy, Vanity Fair and elsewhere. He is the founder of the New York Video Game Critics Circle and New York Game Awards. Follow him on Twitter @haroldgoldberg.
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