The best PS4 games for kids in 2022 – Popular Science

This roundup is rated E for Everyone.
Rocket League’s unique arcade-style spin on soccer is simultaneously competitive and friendly fun.
Sackboy, the star of Sony’s creative LittleBigPlanet games finally gets to star in a game all his own.
Frantic and exciting, Overcooked! All You Can Eat compiles two food-focused time attack games in a single compilation.
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As more and more popular AAA PlayStation 4 games feature themes and content made for adults, it may take a little care to find games that feel right for kids. Just a little, though: From long-standing hits like Minecraft and Rocket League to funny adventures like LEGO Star Wars, there are tons of great, kid-friendly games for kids and families on PlayStation consoles. The best PS4 games for kids stand the test of time and are perfect for young PS4 and PS5 players alike.
I’ve covered games and gaming hardware for many publications, including Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and NBC Select. As an avid player and game designer, I’ve logged thousands of hours on titles ranging from big-budget blockbusters to the latest indie games on Nintendo Switch.
To pick the best PS4 games for kids, we leveraged our collective experience at PopSci, as well as reviews from professional critics. We considered how each title would sit with kids and parents, weighing elements like difficulty, accessibility, age rating, multiplayer options, and online content more heavily than usual. 
Our favorite PlayStation 4 games for kids encompass a range of genres and styles. All of them are critically acclaimed and stand head and shoulders above cheaper games you might find on a smartphone or tablet. We’ve included the official ESRB age rating, as well as the age range we think would get the most out of each title.
Psyonix
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Why it made the cut: Easy to play yet hard to master, Rocket League mixes sports and racing to create endlessly fun.
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Even after 7 years, there’s no game quite like Rocket League. The basic concept is simple: It’s 1-on-1, 2-on-2, or 3-on-3 soccer, but you control rocket-powered cars instead of people. Each player controls their own car, speeding around to bump a giant, floaty ball into their opponent’s goal.
Rocket League’s cars have a unique driving feel, in large part because you can make your car jump and even flip around in the air, opening the door for precise shooting and passing … if you can get the timing right. Rocket League is pick up and play, but mastering the game can take hours and hours of practice. Regardless of your skill level, though, it’s a lot of fun chasing down the ball, scoring goals, and making quick saves.
When the standard soccer game mode gets stale, there are a variety of alternate rules to keep things fresh. Kids and adults who play soccer or love cars will find something to enjoy in Rocket League. Best of all, you can download it for free through the PlayStation store.
Sony
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Why it made the cut: Sackboy is a vibrant platformer in a bright, friendly toy-box world that’s fun solo or with a group.
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Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a platforming adventure where you run, jump, and slide your way through dozens of amazingly creative and imaginative levels. With an arts-and-craftsy toybox aesthetic, evoking Sackboy’s origins in the game-creator series LittleBigPlanet, every inch of the game looks homespun and patched together. You’ll see characters spun from yarn, trees that look patched together, and obstacles that may be everyday objects like a large cardboard box. The end result is a toys-come-to-life world where creativity and imagination defeat the bad guys.
Sackboy can be played solo or with a group. We found its colorful levels, cartoonish villains, and pop music covers best enjoyed with a group on the couch.
Team17
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Why it made the cut: Chaotic multiplayer in increasingly hilarious settings makes this game the most fun you can have cooking virtual meals.
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No game series gets a family cheering and shouting like Overcooked. Compiling both Overcooked games, All You Can Eat drops 2-4 players into the shoes of line cooks in some of the craziest kitchens you’ve ever seen, asking them to prepare food on top of moving trucks, in haunted castles, and other absurd scenarios. The “cooking” is very simple so it’s easy for even new players to pick up. Learning to communicate well and work fast, though … may be a challenge.
Milestone
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Why it made the cut: Hot Wheels Unleashed captures the joy of toy cars with beautiful, accessible racing action.
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Hot Wheels Unleashed captures the spirit of playing with toy cars beautifully. Controlling the legendary toy cars, you race along the toy line’s familiar plastic tracks surrounded by giant living rooms, kitchens, and more. It’s an arcade-style racer, with plenty of larger-than-life speed boosts and loop-de-loop ramps. (Or are they smaller-than-life?)
You can play with the tracks, too, of course. An extremely detailed level editor gives you all the tools you need to make exciting new races. You could quickly lose hours building the race course of your dreams.
Warner Bros. Games
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Why it made the cut: The biggest LEGO game ever tackles all three Star Wars trilogies with action and humor.
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TT Games’ many Lego video games follow a simple, but effective formula: Take an iconic movie or TV property, and retell the plotline as a funny kids’ story using LEGO aesthetics and a healthy dose of slapstick. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga perfects the formula, telling the stories from all nine of the core Star Wars films, from Episode I – The Phantom Menace to Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Every level is immersive and action-packed, with lots of lightsaber and blaster fights, stealth sequences, puzzle-solving, and more.
Some of the story-focused cutscenes can fall a bit flat in co-op when one player controls an unnamed soldier, but these moments can’t spoil this funny, charming spin on one of pop culture’s most beloved stories.
Microsoft
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Why it made the cut: Minecraft is the best-selling game of all time for a reason. It’s endlessly creative and incredibly approachable for kids and adults alike.
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With over 200 million copies sold across over a dozen platforms, Minecraft is a pop culture phenomenon that kids still love. If you’ve never had the pleasure, Minecraft is a survival game where players explore a blocky, pixelated world and build all kinds of creations.
At first, Minecraft is mostly about defending yourself from hostile night-time creatures like skeletons and Creepers. But after a few hours, it opens up into the ultimate sandbox where you can build almost anything and explore a near-endless pastoral world filled with underground secrets to uncover.
Kids interested in real-life arts and crafts will find a lot to enjoy in Minecraft. Be aware that the game does have an online mode where you can play with friends and strangers.
Sony
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Why it made the cut: Ratchet & Clank is an interplanetary adventure full of memorable characters, beautiful visuals, and wacky action kids will love.
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The PS4 chapter of a long-running action-platformer series, Ratchet & Clank (2016), is a beautified reboot of the series’ first chapter, which launched on the PlayStation 2 in 2002. Much of the action revolves around cartoonish gunplay, with Ratchet and Clank pulling out absurd lasers, missile launchers, and wacky weapons like the Groovitron, which make enemies dance instead of fight.
With a story and visual presentation that aspires to Pixar-level cinematic excellence, Ratchet & Clank pulls you in with beautiful visuals and funny writing only rivaled by its PS5-exclusive successor, Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart. Immersive environments, memorable characters, and funny dialogue make this one of the best ways to introduce kids to more story-focused games.
Sony
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Why it made the cut: Swinging around New York City as Spider-Man is a joy like no other.
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If LEGO Star Wars is like a Saturday morning cartoon, Marvel’s Spider-Man is akin to a marquee movie. In Sony’s version, Spider-Man is slightly older and wiser than his teenage onscreen counterpart, while Peter Parker has to deal with bigger responsibilities.
What sets Marvel’s Spider-Man apart from other versions of the story, or other comic book games, is how playing really makes you feel like Spider-Man. You can swing on webs all around Manhattan, stopping street crime and saving civilians. Technically, you can take the subway to immediately reach your destination, but Spidey’s gravity-defying, high-flying moves feel so good that you’ll probably opt for a scenic swing along Central Park.
Kids who love superheroes and action games will definitely enjoy Marvel’s Spider-Man. That said, it’s worth noting that this game is rated T for Teen and features some themes that may not be right for very young kids.
Epic Games
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Why it made the cut: Fall Guys is one of the easiest games for kids to pick up and play, but stays exciting thanks to its winner-takes-all format.
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Fall Guys is a chaotic online party game where up to 100 pill-shaped characters compete in obstacle courses and minigames, whittling down the number of players until one is crowned champion.
In a bright, bouncy, and colorful world, you run, jump, and dive through pastel, candy-coated landscapes while racing to the finish line, or playing wacky takes on soccer, keep-away, and other games for large groups.
Fall Guys is a great option for kids who play with friends online rather than in-person. Only one person can play at home, but you can form an online group of up to four people to play with. It includes an option to voice chat but it’s turned off by default.
The game is free-to-play but includes a wide variety of in-game items that can be bought with real money. Be sure to set a spending limit on your PS4 through the console’s parental controls.
Shopping for video games as a parent is hard, especially if you aren’t an avid gamer yourself. Most coverage from dedicated games publications focuses on what’s coming next, so it may be difficult to look back and find great games that are even a few years old if they’re no longer top search results. When looking for games to play with kids, keep the following in mind:
When picking a game to play with another person, you want to make sure you’re getting something that they’ll like. Pay attention to what games really grab their attention when they play and/or watch on platforms like YouTube and Twitch. Often, you’ll find patterns emerge, even if many of the games look completely different at a glance. For example, Fortnite and Among Us look wildly different but they are both competitive, multiplayer games that allow players to speak to each other online.
If nothing else, it never hurts to ask. In fact, picking a game with them may help both of you get more excited about playing together.
All games carry an age rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), ranging from “Everyone (E)” to “Adults Only (AO).” The ESRB website features a database of every game it has rated, which includes the rating and some basic information about its content—such as whether it includes graphic violence or “sexual themes.” You can also find the ESRB rating and some basic info on the back cover of physical game boxes.
ESRB ratings are a good starting point but don’t give you the full picture. We recommend looking up any game meant for kids before purchasing. You can learn a lot more information about any game by reading reviews and checking parent-focused media sites like Common Sense Media. 
It’s one thing if you’re a solo gamer hunched in front of a great gaming TV or monitor. If you’re picking a game for a household with many gamers, however, you want to make sure and pick a game with “local” multiplayer, which means that multiple players can play together on a single console at once. Many multiplayer games only allow you to play with friends online, which isn’t ideal for a group of kids or a family sitting around one TV. That said, plenty of games let two, three, or four people play from the same console.
Also, keep in mind that some multiplayer games offer cooperative multiplayer modes, where you work together, and others focus on competitive multiplayer, where you work against other players. Many competitive multiplayer games also have cooperative elements, but it’s always a good idea to know exactly what you’re getting into.
Online games like Fortnite and Minecraft are very popular, but allow you to speak with strangers online. These interactions receive only the slightest bit of moderation, so it’s up to you to figure out whether or not your child is ready for it. You can find out whether a game offers the ability to chat with strangers on the product packaging and the product listing for the game on the PlayStation Store.
Many games, particularly online multiplayer titles, allow you to purchase access to digital clothing and items for your character, as well as new content. We recommend talking to kids about digital storefronts before giving them access to a new game, as well as setting up parental controls for in-game purchases.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 are both great consoles for players of all ages. Both consoles have lots of great games for kids and adults. If you’re buying a new console, we recommend looking for a PS5, as it is the current active console and can play all but a handful of PS4 games, plus many exclusives. That said, with limited supply making PS5s hard to find, it may be easier and cost less to buy a PS4. Since many companies still release PS4 versions of their games, it still feels like an active console ecosystem.
We wouldn’t recommend the PS4 specifically for educational games. Many kids’ games on PS4 have educational elements, but games that help teach academic skills like reading and math are more common on computer and mobile devices.
There are many free games for kids on PS4, including Fortnite, Fall Guys, Rocket League, and more. These games are often called “free-to-play,” because you can download and play them without spending money, but they feature lots of in-game purchases, most of which revolve around new cosmetic options for your characters.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of two should not engage in any screen time and kids between two and five should only look at a screen for up to one hour per day. Based on that recommendation, we’d recommend waiting until they’re at least age 5 to introduce them to games. In terms of content, there’s no hard and fast rule. There are many games made for young children, so you could theoretically start showing kids how to play games at a very young age.
The best PS4 games for kids are a mix of colorful adventure games, high-octane racing games, and story-focused action titles. Kids of all ages can find something to love on PS4. Adults with PS5s can also enjoy these titles, as all of them are available for both PS4 and PS5.
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