It can be tough to sort through mobile games in the iTunes App Store, especially if you’re a parent looking for a game that won’t bombard your kid with ads, virtual currency or inappropriate content. And unless you know where to look, a game’s rating can be a little tricky to find since it doesn’t stand out like the ESRB ratings do on conventional video games.
If you’re not too savvy about mobile games, one thing to keep in mind is if the game is free or priced at 99 cents, chances are it’s being monetized some other way. That means your child’s privacy and/or your wallet could be at risk. How? Well, the two main ways “free” mobile games monetize themselves are through ads and in-game purchases.
Ads, as you know, are there for the user (your child) to click on. This usually sends them to an external website that asks for personal information. This can be a scary thing if you haven’t talked about online safety and privacy in your home yet.
With in-game purchases, the idea is to trade in real money for in-game virtual currency, usually to buy things like accessories, virtual gifts or additional game content. In-game purchases are designed to keep the player engaged in an aspect of the game that they’re already addicted to—just ask any Farmville addict who’s spent countless dollars on Farmville Cash. Since your credit card is probably tied to your child’s iPod Touch/iPhone, this can easily turn into a serious problem. Perfect example.
To prevent this from happening to you, the best thing to do is set Restrictions on your child’s iPod Touch, which you can learn to do here. In the meantime, I’ve come up with this list of games that are age appropriate for all kids, yet entertaining enough to keep mom and dad’s lameness factor low.
Trace is a puzzle adventure game where the player “builds” ledges and platforms with their finger. They then have to guide their stick figure character to the end of the level without falling off the level or running into any of the obstacles. There is no violence or blood in this game; it’s all just clean fun. My two boys love this one. And the best thing is it’s free and doesn’t have any ads or in-game virtual stores.
My boys are huge into sports, especially football and baseball, so 3-Minute Baseball was an instant hit for them. It’s essentially a sports game that is based on statistics. The premise of the game is to score as many points as possible before you get three outs. You get to pick five hitters and five pitchers, each with varying stats.
The challenging part of this game is the fact that the lineup of hitters and catchers you are able to choose from is constantly changing, which means strategies must change as well. It’s an enjoyable game with non-intrusive ads, and the content is age-appropriate for all children.
What kid doesn’t love popping bubble wrap? Players are given 45 seconds to pop as many bubble-wrap bubbles as they possibly can. The fun part about this game is that it can easily become a fun family game, since the whole family can take turns playing the game and try to beat the high score.
The game does have ads since it’s free, however the ads are unobtrusive and don’t ruin the experience at all. The ads are also age-appropriate for all children.
Fruit Ninja is one of the more popular games in the iTunes store, so I’m sure most of you have heard about it. But my kids love it so much I just had to include it in this list.
In this game, the player slices fruit while trying to avoid bombs. There are multiple game modes, including a multiplayer mode. In order to access the multiplayer mode, your child will be required to create an account on Game Center, which is Apple’s answer to online gaming. No personal information is required, just their name and a screen name. Also, there is no chat function in Game Center, which minimizes the chances of your kids accidentally talking to people they don’t know. And since the game costs 99 cents, there are no ads or online virtual stores.
This is just a cute cartoon game where you launch a hedgehog off a slingshot and try to get him to the moon. Players can add rockets and parachutes to the hedgehog and try to get him airborne for as along as possible.
The game is lighthearted and easy to pick up and play, yet difficult to master, at least that’s what I’ve been told by my youngest daughter. It does cost 99 cents, which means there aren’t any ads or in game stores, which means no accidental charges.
All these games met my criteria for a safe mobile gaming experience. However, in the end it’s up to you to determine whether or not your kids are ready for these games, or mobile games in general. If they are ready, then these games will entertain them while giving you peace of mind that they aren’t incurring credit card charges or giving away personal information.