Get your family in on gaming fun no matter where they are with seven group-friendly titles

Articles: Gaming
Dec 29, 2020 Written by:Eric Born

The holiday season is upon us, and it’s a perfect time for gaming together. Whether you’re gathered in one house or celebrating virtually, cooperative gaming is a great way to spend time with friends and family and create some new memories. Need a fresh game to catch everyone’s attention? Feast on a few of our family-friendly favorites. 

Explore, fight, loot, repeat in Minecraft Dungeons

Over the years, I’ve had a blast playing action RPGs like Diablo. I want to enjoy the same kind of experience with my two boys, but the storyline, visuals, and themes of that series are still too mature for them. I found a solution in the meantime. Minecraft Dungeons lets us enjoy this compelling gameplay style together.


My boys are already obsessed with Minecraft, so it wasn’t hard to convince them to give this game a try. Getting started is really simple. In many other action RPGs, we would have had to make significant choices at the start of the game about our characters. In Minecraft Dungeons, we just picked a look for our avatars before watching a short intro movie that introduced our nemesis, the Arch-Illager, and his foul plan. With that setup out of the way, we simply started fighting monsters and collecting loot.

The controls are easy to pick up casually, but they still offer interesting opportunities for coordinated gameplay. New characters start the game with a melee weapon, a bow, and a limited supply of arrows. We quickly found opportunities to specialize our gear and gameplay. Different weapon types encourage different playstyles, and we customized our experience further through the easy enchantment system. It didn’t take long before my kids and I had settled into our roles as tank, archer, and wizard. We all felt free to experiment along the way, too, since Minecraft Dungeons makes it easy for us to try out a new build without losing our progression.

Raise crops and explore the mine together in Stardew Valley

Have you ever dreamed of packing up your things, moving out the country, and setting up a farm in a little village? Stardew Valley lets you make this dream come true. Your character inherits a run-down family farm and takes that chance to start a new life. 

You have all kinds of options for earning a living on the farm. You can grow vegetables, grains and fruits of all kinds, and build the equipment that will let you turn that raw produce into more profitable goods like wine, beer, and preserves. If animal husbandry is more your passion, you can raise cows, sheep, pigs, or chickens. There are rivers filled with fish, a mine teeming with danger and treasure, and a village populated with memorable characters.

You can choose to go it alone, but you can also play together with up to three friends. Working together is a great way to split up the day-to-day work of maintaining your farm. Be sure to use a group or voice chat while you play online, or try out the just-released split-screen multiplayer mode to enjoy the valley with someone in your household.

Hilarious races and ridiculous contests abound in Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Want to draw in a group of kids with some laugh-out-loud competitive action? Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout offers a unique twist on the battle royale formula. At the start of each match, 60 jelly-bean-shaped Fall Guys are placed in a series of bizarre races and contests. The rounds continue until all but one player has been eliminated.

Image courtesy Gamesplanet

The contests are an absolute blast. In one round, you might race on top of a colorful track made of giant spinning discs. In the next, you might have to keep your balance atop a spinning cylinder. There’s team games, too, like a variation of soccer with three massive balls. My personal favorite is called “Hex-a-Gone.” In it, there are several layers of floor constructed of hexes above a giant pool of deadly slime. Every time a player stands on a hex, it fades away. Your goal is simple: survive longer than your opponents while the floors disappear.

Fall Guys is fun and easy to play online with friends and family. Hop in a group chat, make a party, and you’ll all participate in the same challenges. It’s no big deal if one of you is eliminated in a round before the others. You’ll be placed in a new match with your party soon enough, and in the meantime you can spectate through the in-game cameras of your teammates and cheer them on.

Stab your friends in the back or smoke out Impostors in Among Us

If you’ve browsed Twitch at all in recent months, you probably saw Among Us near the top of the charts. This inherently multiplayer title exploded in popularity this year as folks looked for safer ways to socialize. In this game, groups of four to 10 players come together on a sci-fi-themed map. Most of the players will be randomly selected to be Crewmates and given tasks to accomplish. If the Crewmates can complete all their tasks, they win.

The twist is that the game will randomly select anywhere from one to three players to be Impostors. The Impostors win by sabotaging tasks and killing off Crewmates. As their numbers dwindle, the Crewmates have to work together to figure out who the Impostors are and expel them from the map. During emergency meetings, which can occur when a dead body is found or when a player feels it’s necessary to call one, everyone has a chance to discuss the situation and vote for a player they think is the Impostor. Whether the vote is right or wrong, the majority prevails and the round continues minus the player who was voted out. 

If you’re not all playing together in the same physical location, using a third-party voice chat service like Discord is practically mandatory. The game itself doesn’t impose any rules of its own on how that chatter has to happen, so house rules on whether dead players can participate in these meetings or even who can talk during rounds and when arise organically during gameplay. It’s a lot of fun in its own right to watch these rules arise naturally as players realize what does and doesn’t make for a fun time. You can configure your own server rules to put your own spin on each round, too. It’s a whole lot of fun for just a couple bucks, so don’t miss out on the game that everyone’s playing. They’re all doing it for a good reason.

Overcooked 2 serves up a platter of couch co-op madness 

Some of my favorite gaming memories are from when I squeezed onto the couch with a few friends and duked it out in multiplayer games. We’d play anything as long as it was competitive. Dance Dance Revolution, Mario Power Tennis, and Bomberman Jetters were among our favorites.

Image courtesy Gamesplanet

Now that I have a family of my own, I’ve been able to build some of the same kind of memories with my boys. Overcooked 2 has become one of my household’s go-to games for this kind of experience. If you’ve ever played a multitasking waitressing or cooking game before, you’ll pick up on it right away. If you’re not familiar with the genre, it goes a bit like this. In each level, you have a constant stream of orders coming in from customers, and you have to prep the ingredients, cook them at the right station, and plate the orders in a timely fashion to win.

The genius of Overcooked 2 is that you can’t do all these jobs by yourself. You have to work together with a team of two to four players. Rounds quickly descend into delightful chaos as you divvy up the tasks, scurry around the kitchen, and try not to get into each other’s way. The levels themselves work against you in all kinds of zany ways. In some, you’ll find moving walkways and portals that you have to navigate. In others, you have to maneuver joystick-operated platforms to reach ingredients, cutting boards, and cooking stations. Venues for each level range from hot air balloons to raging rivers. It’s a thrill when your team is coordinated and getting orders done quickly, but even when your group is tripping over each other, starting fires by letting ingredients cook too long, and accidentally falling into molten lava, the game is still hilarious to play. 

Even if you don’t have enough people gathered on your couch, you can still enjoy Overcooked 2 remotely. Its online multiplayer mode lets you team up with friends and family anywhere. Just remember to get everyone into a group voice chat like Discord, because without good communication you won’t make it very far.

Brave the dangers of the backyard in Grounded

Here’s one of my surprise favorite games of 2020. In Grounded, you play as a teenager who’s been mysteriously shrunken down to the size of an insect and left to fend for their life in a suburban backyard. Your first priorities are finding shelter and establishing a stable supply of food and water. Danger lurks around every corner in the tall grass, though. Some of the insects roaming the lawn, like the ladybugs, ants, and aphids, won’t bother you, but others attack on sight. The spiders loom over your tiny character, and they’re cruel and vicious hunters.


Better bring in a friend, then. Grounded lets you play with up to three other people. Together, you can craft a base and some defenses, find new crafting recipes for weapons and armor, and explore the dangers of the yard. The game is still in early access, so the story isn’t complete, but the development team has been adding new content every month and has been very communicative with the player base. The game is already a blast, and I’m looking forward to all the new content coming up in 2021. 

Laughter abounds in the Jackbox Party Pack

A list of great party games to play with friends and family just isn’t complete with one version or another of The Jackbox Party Pack. Since 2014, Jackbox Games has released a new collection of zany party games every year. It’s a budget-friendly way to get your friends and family playing together, whether you’re in the same room or all in different places. Only one person needs to actually purchase the game. Everyone else connects using a web browser on their own device.

The individual games in each collection run a broad gamut. Some involve drawing, like Champ’d Up, in which players draw their vision of a certain superhero. Then, the game presents the group with two of these drawings and asks everyone to vote on which one would prevail in a specified task. One of the signature games of the series is Quiplash, in which players have to write witty responses to outrageous prompts. The game then has everyone vote for their favorite quips. The winner is the player who walks away with the most votes throughout the game.

There are seven party packs in total now. Don’t worry too much about which one you buy, because they’re all fun in their own ways. That said, the most recent Jackbox Party Pack 7 might have the best mix of games out of the entire series. The Jackbox Party Pack 3 is another solid choice, as it gets you into fan favorite Tee K.O. In this game, players collaboratively create and vote on ridiculous t-shirts. And if you’re playing with some creative friends, it’s hard to beat the ridiculous robot hip-hop battles in Mad Verse City, which you’ll find in the fifth party pack.

These games are easiest to enjoy in a room with your friends, but don’t discount The Jackbox Party Pack if you’re celebrating the holidays apart. The company has made it easy to use video conferencing and streaming tools to play these games remotely. You can find some straightforward instructions here.

Wherever you celebrate, bring the family together with gaming

Many of us are celebrating the holidays differently this year, but that won’t stop us from making memories with friends and family. There’s laughter to be shared, even if there are some obstacles to overcome on the way to gaming fun. No matter what kind of games you and your loved ones enjoy, there’s bound to be one on this list that will bring you all closer together.