Playing video games all day is just as fun as normal holiday activities like camping, travelling and interacting with flesh and blood people.
OK, maybe it isn’t just as fun (or even nearly as fun). But to keep your kid safe and sane this holiday, you can substitute these video games for favourite activities… and maybe help the time pass a little easier.
Winner: The Hunter: Call of the Wild
If your kid can’t make it to youth camp this year and is missing those bush walks, consider installing The Hunter: Call of the Wild. This hunting simulation lets your child explore more than 50 square virtual miles of lovingly rendered, open-world “wilderness” where they can track coyote, deer, moose, fox, elk (and more), then kill them with big guns. It’s way more fun than wallet-making, and no real animals get hurt, I promise.
Budding young hunters can spend hours using lures, bait and patience to outwit virtual animals and bring home big trophies. There’s even fun to be had for pacifist kiddies who can just tramp around and take photos.
Honorable mention: The Long Dark
Definitely for older kids, this game is a gruelling survival experience where players’ bushcraft skills are put to the test in an unforgiving arctic landscape. Unlike many survival-horror titles, there are no zombies or monsters to hide from here; hunger, thirst and the terrible polar wind are horror enough. And the wolves… my god, the wolves.
Winner: Disneyland Adventures
Sadly, it doesn’t look like anyone is taking a family holiday to Disneyland this year, but Disneyland Adventures is the next best thing. This gentle exploration and adventure game for smaller kids lets you walk around a virtual Disneyland and features a park-accurate map, appearances by tons of beloved Disney characters and mini-games based 18 iconic Disney attractions, including Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.
You can team up for some couch co-op play, and the remastered version for the Xbox One features both Kinect support and 4K visuals. Even better: There are no lines and it only costs like 20 bucks — or approximately the price of a single Disneyland churro.
Honorable mention: American Truck Simulator
If you don’t want to deprive your child of the endless hours of driving they’d experience on a family road trip, check out American Truck Simulator. This trucking sim lets you drive a big rig across California, Arizona and Nevada (as well as other DLC states), and offers all the fun of obeying traffic laws, honking the horn and staring out the window at nothing.
Winner: MLB The Show 20
Sports are basically cancelled everywhere, but in video-game-world, it’s always baseball season! So get your sporty kid MLB The Show 20 and get ready for some virtual baseball.
The story mode puts you in the place of a young ballplayer on the come-up, eager to make the Big Show. You can play a casual exhibition game online, against the computer or against your older brother, and if you want to get deep into the science of the game, you can mess around with the complex team management modes.
Basically, The Show has something for every kind of baseball fan, from the casual to the obsessed. You could even run a season that ends in a pennant race between the Detroit Tigers and the Baltimore Orioles (in dreams, all things are possible).
Honorable mention: Skater XL
If your little rebel isn’t into the whole “teamwork and uniforms thing,” check out Skater XL. This skateboard simulator is just the thing for nonconformist kids. It comes out today (July 7) and promises realistic skateboarding action that takes place at legendary skate spots.
Winner: The Sims 4
Your kid probably isn’t going to many parties this year, but if they are missing social interaction, maybe the fake people of The Sims 4 will help. The life-simulator lets you create a world of people with different personalities, dreams and faults who will do the socialising for you.
You can guide and watch your creations as they visit old friends, meet new one, work at jobs, go to restaurants and parties and otherwise live the kind of life you remember from the Before Times. With a total of nine expansion packs enhancing the game with everything from cats and dogs to “eco-friendly living,” The Sims 4 might keep your kid engaged until a vaccine is developed.
Honorable mention: Sea of Thieves
While there are a ton of games that will let your kid play online with friends (Minecraft and Fortnite, for starters) Sea of Thieves lets them get together with their pals and be pirates. Is there anything more fun than that? No. No, there is not.
My kid definitely does not miss school, but if yours is more academically inclined, introduce them to Kahoot! This free app and website makes learning fun by providing a quizzes, flashcards and challenges covering every subject and level of education you can possibly imagine.
There are millions of ready-to-play games available for free, and if you want, you can make up your own quizzes and let other people give them a go. But the real fun of Kahoot! comes in playing live online, matching wits with others in order to claim total academic dominance.
Honorable mention: Bully
This action-adventure game has been out since 2006, but it’s the greatest school simulator ever made. You are Jimmy Hopkins, a teenage rebel at a corrupt Lords-of-the-Flies-style boarding school where you can punch weaker kids, steal things, sass the teachers and get into all kinds of other T-rated video game trouble.
If nothing else, Bully will help remind your kid that there are some ways that home-schooling is preferable to IRL school.