Technology should be a tool that you use, not one that uses you. Gryphon routers were designed with this very idea in mind. It means that your devices don't have to drive a wedge between you and your kids. In fact, used right, they can help you become closer as a family. To prove it to you, we’ve picked out six free app-based or online games that parents and kids of all ages can enjoy.
We’ve selected online games that are extra fun if you’re playing in the same room, but if there’s a family member you want to play with who can’t be there with you, you can also play almost all of these online or over Zoom.
(If you’re trying to unplug, see this article for advice on offline activities.)
A favorite at my own house, skribbl.io is basically the online version of Pictionary. The best thing about it is that there’s no need to fuss with timers or word cards or pencil sharpeners. Everything is built in to the game, leaving more time for fun.
Each player needs their own device, but you can play on mobile, tablet, or desktop. First, create a private room. Share the link with the whole family. Then pick the length of each turn and the number of rounds you want to play. You can even input your own list of clues.
The player drawing is given three options to choose from, which usually range from simple to difficult. Other players simply type their guesses into the chat. Scores are calculated based on how fast you guess as well as how many people guess your drawing correctly.
The variety of clues makes this game most suitable for ages seven and up, but any reading-age child could participate. Just make sure to input words into the generator that are simple enough for them to draw.
2. Among Us
This space-themed game for iOS and Android was a huge hit in 2020 because it’s simple, it’s social, and it’s fun. Each player will need their own device. You can create a private session for you and your family, or you can all join the same public game to increase the number of players.
At the beginning of Among Us, each player is assigned a role: Crewmate or Impostor. If you’re a Crewmate, your job is to do specific tasks assigned to you by the game. If you’re an Impostor—aka an alien—your job is to kill the Crewmates, all while pretending to be one of them.
Each time a dead Crewmate is found, a round of voting ensues: Who is the Impostor who should be kicked off the ship? Of course each player will defend themselves, so everyone has to work together to determine who’s lying and who’s telling the truth.
Get it right and your crew is safe. Get it wrong and you might be next.
The violence in this game is simple and cartoonish, but it is a game of deception, so we recommend this game for ages eight and up.
Unlike most app-based or online games, Spaceteam requires that you be in the same room as other players, which makes it particularly suitable for family game night.
As the creator Henry Smith says in this LA Times article, “The game itself happens outside the screen. Computers are just tools that facilitate the act of play.”
It is a cooperative game for Android and iOS that is mean to foster teamwork and communication. It succeeds, in a way, but there will probably be a lot of good-natured shouting involved.
The premise of the game is this: You and your fellow players form the crew of a poorly built spaceship. You must maintain, navigate, and pilot the ship, all while avoiding meteors and other obstacles.
Each player is given a different section of the ship’s control board on their phone or tablet of choice. Each player also receives time-sensitive maintenance alerts and piloting orders—but these alerts and what’s on your control board don’t necessarily line up. This is where the social aspect comes into play: You must say these instructions out loud to get the information to the player who needs them. At the same time, you have to listen to your teammates for your instructions.
It’s a little convoluted, but it’s also easier to play than to explain. As the levels progress, the game gets more and more difficult, and the volume in the room will get louder and louder. Eventually your ship will crash, but see how far you can make it before then! Your family will get better at the game with time.
Avoid Spaceteam if shouting or loud noises are a significant stressor for anyone in your family. Otherwise, this game can be played by any child who’s very comfortable with reading and multitasking.
One of the online games which got my family through lockdown was Geoguessr. This geographic game is as educational as it is fun, and you’ll only need one device to play it—preferably a desktop computer or laptop.
GeoGuessr utilizes Google Maps Street View to provide your family with a geographic mystery. For each round, the game drops you in a random location. Then you have to determine where you are in the world using street signs, topography, foliage, and other clues. The closer your guess is to the given location, the more points you earn.
It’s a game that your family will get better at over time, as you learn the languages and landscapes of different countries.
You can play one free game of Geoguessr per device per day. This includes five rounds of gameplay with no time limit. But the unlimited, adless version, which also allows you to pick which area of the world you’re dropped in or groups locations by theme, is just $1.99 a month. This version also allows you to play timed rounds, which can make the game more challenging.
Geoguessr is suitable for all ages.
Mario Kart, on your phone, for free! Does it get any better than that?
If your Wii is a little outdated but you’re not ready to splurge on a Switch quite yet, or you don’t have enough remotes for everyone to play on the big screen, Mario Kart Tour is a great alternative. It’s available for both iOS and Android, and up to eight people can play together. Create your own private room to play against your family members, either locally or online.
Mario Kart Tour has the additional benefit of having periodic updates and new content added to the game every two weeks. Race through new maps, find out new shortcuts, and use new items to set back your opponents.
It’s easy to dismiss online games as a way to disconnect from reality. But games are and have always been a way to connect to other people. If you’re adaptable in your idea of what family time means, you’ll see that no matter how the world might be evolving, there’s no shortage of ways to bond with your family. Happy gaming!