30 best iPad games for kids of all ages

30 best iPad games for kids of all ages
pocket-camp-10
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a dialed-down versions of New Horizons, but still fun to play.


Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Whenever I’d visit a friend with a smaller child, it was almost inevitable that they would get bored and ask if they could play a game on someone’s phone (the child, not my friend — most of the time at least).  Nowadays, lots of kids have iPads (or use their parents’) to access educational apps and child-friendly content. But when it comes to games, oftentimes parents don’t quite know where to start — especially when their kids want to play viral sensations like Among Us and Fortnite. How do you know what’s safe and age-appropriate? 

We’ve got you covered. Here is a list of the 30 best iPad games for kids, with Apple’s age rating for each (scroll further down for games for older kids — though to be clear, a lot of the games rated age 4 and up would be fun for kids of all ages). Some, but not all, of these iPad games are available as part of Apple’s gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade. Others are available to download free or for a price in the App Store.

Looking for more advice on how to kid-proof an iPad? We’ve got guides on how to set up screen time limits for kids, and how to make your iPad kid-friendly

Read more: The 30 best iPad games you need to play

Discover the latest apps: Be the first to know about the hottest new apps with the CNET Apps Today newsletter.

Ages 4 and up

Monument Valley

Price: $4

Ustwo

Monument Valley is a pretty popular mobile game, so you’ve likely heard of it, if not played it on your phone. In the game, you must help Princess Ida on a mission through Monument Valley — a world of mazes, crow people and strange, impossible structures. The game uses the way you interact with the environment to play with perspective (like Possessions on Apple Arcade) and reveal pathways. The artwork is also absolutely beautiful. 

If you like this one, the studio has a sequel — Monument Valley 2 ($5) — which stands on its own as an original story and takes a step forward as a more sophisticated narrative and style. In this one, you must guide Ro and her child through Monument Valley. 

Ustwo is probably one of my favorite game developers. From the Monument Valley games to Assemble With Care on Apple Arcade, their stuff is always a home run. 

Way of the Turtle

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Shelby Brown/CNET

Way of the Turtle is a cute, colorful, single-player platform game. In the first level, you play as Mr. Turtle and must find Ms. Turtle while on your honeymoon. Navigate a beach obstacle course while avoiding traps and gathering coins. As you continue, you’ll earn shells that give you more abilities. The only trouble is that Mr. Turtle never stops moving, which might make him difficult to maneuver sometimes. 

Fledgling Heroes

Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Apple Arcade

Take to the skies as Biscuit the Brave, a young macaw, in this tropical platform game. Tapping the screen makes Biscuit fly. Too much tapping sends the macaw too high, while not enough tapping drops him too low. You must maintain the right altitude to avoid enemies and obstacles while collecting coins. As you explore more islands, you’ll learn tricks and meet different characters like Penny the Penguin, who wants to be a pirate. 

Read more: The 10 best iPad apps of the past decade

Angry Birds 2

Price: Free

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Angry Birds became a viral sensation after taking flight in 2009. The simplicity of slingshotting the birds and trying to knock over flimsy towers populated by little green pigs is still fun over 10 years later. While the original Angry Birds is no longer available, Angry Birds 2 features the same gameplay and new features. 

Dodo Peak

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Apple Arcade

In this upbeat game, you play as a dodo bird who has to save its eggs when they roll out of the nest. Get them home safely while collecting coins, avoiding obstacles like monkeys and snakes and unlocking more dodos. The game has challenges like getting all the eggs back safely in under 30 seconds. 

Run Sackboy! Run

Price: Free

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Run Sackboy! Run is the mobile version of the Little Big Planet game series. It’s a cute endless runner platformer in the original game’s unique papercraft style. As you run, you can collect coins, bubbles and stickers to ultimately increase your score. Each level adds on different tasks, like jumping or dashing a certain amount of times. 

Eloh

Price: $3

Screenshot/Google Play

This app is another example of teaching your kids without them knowing they’re being taught. Eloh is a visually beautiful musical puzzle game that teases your brain without stressing you out. Each level features island spirits that you can move. Once you get them into the right spot, tap the red speaker and music will start. The goal is to bounce the “sound waves” off the spirits and hit the spiral icon. It’s kind of like banking a shot in billiards. 

The levels get progressively more challenging, but there’s no timer, ads or in-app purchases. The only downside is the app costs a one-time $3 to download. 

Frogger in Toytown

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Gamespot

If you liked the old-school Frogger, you and your kids might like this remaster. In this game, you must rescue lost “froglets” from inside the human’s house. You’ll navigate a toy-filled terrain performing various tasks like avoiding being squashed by little cars, climbing block-buildings, collecting jelly beans and saving the froglets. When you rescue a froglet, they hop on Frogger’s back (which is just as cute as you think it is). 

Enchanted World

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Apple Arcade

The Enchanted World centers around a young fairy whose magical world is torn apart by dark forces. In this fantasy game, you must repair the fairy’s world with sliding puzzles. The tasks are set to a soothing soundtrack, and there’s no time limit on solving the game. One of my favorite parts of Enchanted World is that the inspiration for it came from the developers’ childhoods in war-torn Bosnia. More than just a game, the story behind its creation also could be a way to start a conversation between parents and children about serious issues in the world. 

Rayman Adventures

Price: Free

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Rayman is a classic video game. There are a number of Rayman games that have come out over the years, but there’s a free mobile version called Rayman Adventures that your kids can try out. The game is an endless runner where players must find all the Ancient Eggs that keep the Sacred Tree alive. The controls are quick and easy to learn. 

If you find that you, or your child, is a big Rayman fan, Rayman Mini is also available on Apple Arcade. You’re once again tasked with saving a magical world by creatively jumping, bouncing off of flowers and sliding down streams of water. You’ll gather lums (little firefly-type bugs), coins and other special prizes along the way.  

Read more: 11 nostalgic games to play on Apple Arcade if you miss your childhood

Sneaky Sasquatch

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Apple Arcade

In the infectiously cute game Sneaky Sasquatch, you’ll play just that: A sneaky sasquatch. But you also get help from a clever raccoon. Sneak into the campsite and fill your backpack with snacks. Sometimes other animals, like the snoozing bear, are willing to pay for some picnic leftovers. You can use the money at the raccoon’s shop. Just make sure you tip-toe so you don’t get caught by the surly park ranger or scare any campers. 

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Price: Free

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

If you’re not sold on investing in a Nintendo Switch to play Animal Crossing: New Horizon, or want to get your sea legs before playing the real game, there’s a free mobile version of the viral game. 

In Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you’re in charge of a campsite — craft furniture, personalize your tent and customize your camper. You can travel to different recreation spots, meet animals and grow your friendships in exchange for rewards. While you’re visiting, you can fish, gather fruit and collect bugs to trade later. All the friends you make can visit your campsite, too. 

Pocket Camp also offers a smaller world to manage compared with New Horizons. In addition, the tasks are easier on the mobile version, and update daily. Essentially, you’re getting big rewards for picking up everything on the ground and shaking all the trees. It definitely helped me scratch the FOMO itch when most of my friends were playing Animal Crossing over the summer. 

Doomsday Vault

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Flightless

In this Wall-E style puzzle game, the Earth’s climate has collapsed and you must rescue the remaining plant life. Explore what’s left of the planet in your robot suit, collect plant life and return it safely to the Doomsday Vault. Just be careful — there are AI bots that were left behind motivated by sentiments of corporate greed.  

Inbento

Price: $3

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Inbento is an adorable puzzle game about cats and bento boxes. Relax with these cute Japanese lunch box brainteasers. Rearrange the food to match the recipe to complete the box. Each level gets a little more difficult, but the whole game is set to soothing music. There are over 100 levels to beat and extra-challenging bonus levels. 

Gorogoa

Price: $5

Nintendo

Gorogoa is a gorgeous puzzle game with an accompanying narrative. It’s all hand-drawn panels that players have to combine in a certain way to solve the level. It’s hard to explain this one without playing it yourself. The more puzzles you play, the more your mind acclimates to the puzzle style. Gorogoa transports players between realities full of strange creatures. Reviews suggest playing it multiple times for better understanding. 

The Pinball Wizard

Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Apple Arcade

In The Pinball Wizard, the developers at Frosty Pop have paired a timeless game with a fun story. You play as a young apprentice who must bring peace back to your homeland by restoring a lost treasure in a high tower. Along the way, you must defeat enemies and collect keys to find the next room. The game works like a pinball game: The higher you go, the more health you lose if you fall out of the ring. 

Fruit Ninja

Price: Free

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Fruit Ninja is an oldie but a goody. It’s a simple concept. As it’s tossed up on the screen, you use your finger to slice fruit as fast as you can. Just watch out for the bombs that start getting tossed into the mix as well. It’s a fun way to pass the time and has different modes to play in, like Zen, where there’s no bombs, but it’s timed. If you lose on a level, you can sacrifice a life to continue, or watch an ad to progress for free.  

Donut County

Price: $5

Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

This is an adorable, creative game. Donut County is taken over by raccoons who are stealing everyone’s trash with remote-controlled holes. You play as the hole. The game’s story takes a turn when one of the raccoons falls into the hole he’s operating and has to answer for his actions. The trouble is, the holes keep growing and won’t stop until the whole county has been gobbled up.

Spongebob: Patty Pursuit

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Apple

This side-scroller features all your favorite Spongebob characters from the Nickelodeon show. The infamous mini-villain Plankton is once again after Mr. Krab’s Krabby Patty secret formula. It’s up to Spongebob, Patrick, Sandy, Squidward, Gary the Snail, and other Bikini Bottom residents to foil the plot. If you, or your child, is a Spongebob fan, you’ll surely spot numerous staples from the show like Glove World (season 5) and Plankton’s horde of cousins (season 3). 

Age 9 and up

Minecraft

Price: $7

Mojang

Minecraft hasn’t lost much steam since its 2011 debut. The blocky world-building game lets players explore, gather resources, craft tools and engage in some mild combat. The game has different modes — survival, creative, adventure, spectator and multiplayer — so you have flexibility in how you play. 

For younger players, Minecraft teaches teamwork and the motivation to improve reading and math skills on top of creativity and self-direction. Minecraft’s educational benefits have also been packaged for the classroom. 

Down in Bermuda

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Yak & Co.

A pilot named Milton crashes on a seemingly deserted island in Bermuda, where you must help him discover the island’s secrets, solve puzzles and crack codes to find a way home. It’s a cute, colorful game that’s perfect for just about everyone. I liked that there was just enough mystery and story mixed in with puzzle-solving. 

The Crossy Road series

Price: Free

Hipster Whale

Aussie game developer Hipster Whale has launched a few Crossy Road games over the last few years. The original Crossy Road asks the question “why did the chicken cross the road?” in the form of a classic infinite runner game. Think Frogger meets Flappy Bird. Disney Crossy Road keeps the feel of the original game, but mixes in iconic Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, the Toy Story gang, and more. Most recently, Crossy Road Castle joined Apple Arcade, which adds a Mario element to the gameplay. 

Zoombinis

Price: $3

Screenshot/YouTube

If you grew up in the ’90s, you might remember this game. Zoombinis kept me busy many an afternoon. These little blue critters were the original Minions, but far less annoying. In the game, you must guide the Zoombinis out of the evil Bloats’ clutches and home to Zoombiniville. Each of the 12 levels such as Allergic Cliffs, Stone Cold Caves and Pizza Pass get progressively more challenging, with kids using logic and pattern identification to win. 

Lego Brawls

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

There are countless ways to create your character in this fast-paced 4-vs.-4 multiplayer that’s set in the Lego universe. Every stage of the game brings new challenges, goals and quirky power-ups, like a pie launcher, a cactus suit, a snake car or a hot dog stand. Lego Brawls walks you through the controls, so even those unfamiliar with gaming can play. Jump into a party or a brawl — or keep training.

Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm is an open-world action fantasy RPG similar to Zelda. Of the Apple Arcade lineup, this is one of the first with a console feel, and it looks absolutely gorgeous on the iPad. 

Oceanhorn 2 tells the story of a young knight on a quest with his friends, Trin, the granddaughter of Arcadia’s leader Archimedes, and Gen, a robot armed with a Samurai weapon. All three are controllable as you journey across Gaia to defend Arcadia against Warlock Mesmeroth’s Dark Army. 

Oceanhorn 2 is a prequel to Monster of the Uncharted Sea, but playing the original isn’t a must.

Alto’s Adventure Price: $5

Price: $5

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Alto’s Adventure is to endless runners what Monument Valley is to puzzle games. The game puts a new twist on sports adventure as you — as Alto — snowboard across scenic hills, down gorgeous mountainsides, and through villages with day-to-night transitions. It’s all set to a lovely soundtrack as well. Rescue animals, collect coins, outsmart mountain elders, and brave the weather along the way.

You can also check out Alto’s Odyssey ($5), the studio’s follow-up game. The standalone brings back Alto and his friends as they embark on a sandboarding adventure in the desert. Everything you loved about the first game is still there, just in a different environment.

Terraria

Price: $5

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Terraria is similar to Minecraft, but it’s 2D. You create a character, select your world size and start harvesting resources to craft items. Once you get a home, a worktable and a torch, the game really picks up. With a light, you can go underground and start mining resources there, in addition to treasure chests that can contain gear upgrades, and life crystals to raise your health. It’s a pretty big open-world game and there are enemies you’ll encounter, but if you die, you’ll respawn with all your loot, sans a few coins.  

If your kid didn’t totally click with Minecraft but still found it interesting, Terraria might be their thing.

Butter Royale

Price: Apple Arcade subscription ($5 a month)

Apple

Butter Royale is like a more kid-friendly Fortnite. With food. The game is set in the near future, where weapons have been banned globally. In a cafe, a food fight erupted after two patrons began arguing over the last chocolate doughnut. Sensing an opportunity to capitalize on people’s tension, mysterious company Butter Co. created a game show called Butter Royale. Contestants are air-dropped onto an island to duke it out with food. After upgrading from stale baguettes to Nutritionally Operated Machines, or NOMs, players engage in “culinary combat,” and try to outrun floods of butter and get to safe zones in 5-minute matches.

Butter Royale has offline modes where you can play against bots, or online multiplayer modes (the former might be safest for your child). Whether you’re playing with up to 32 others solo or in squads, like in Fortnite, the goal is to be the last one standing. 

Age 12 and up

Miracle Merchant

Price: Free

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

This game caught my attention because it reminded me of the Adventure Time cartoon. Miracle Merchant is solitaire meets potion brewing with a cast of zany, colorful characters. All your “potion ingredients” are in the card decks and organized by color, a potion is a mix of four cards. How well you mix the potion — your arrangement of cards — determines how much money it’s worth. It’s a fun, unintimidating problem solving game. 

Stardew Valley

Price: $4

Nintendo

Stardew Valley is a pretty well-known mobile game. In the Super Nintendo-style simulation RPG, you’ve inherited your grandfather’s farm plot in Stardew Valley. Start out with little money and old tools, then work your way up from there. You’ll farm, live off the land as you see fit, explore Pelican Town and befriend its residents,search for treasure, decorate your home and maybe even fall in love! 

Stardew Valley is a comfort classic in the vein of Animal Crossing. If you’ve gotten tired of KK Slider concerts, definitely check this one out next.

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