Do you have kids? Do you love Linux? If you answered “yes” to both of those questions then you are officially a Penguin Parent. Like any good parent you want your kids to have everything they need, like
plenty of fish, love, happiness, and loads of video games.
Well maybe video games aren’t so important, but I hear a lot of kids really enjoy those newfangled thingymagigs. So below you will find a list of ten family-friendly Linux games that are perfect for those lazy afternoons. Every one of these games has Windows and Mac versions too, so kids who have uncool, non-penguin parents can join in on the fun.
If you’re familiar with the Snake variety of games then you already have a good idea of what Ri-Li is like. It’s a very simple game concept that has been cloned many times, but I wouldn’t bore you with such blatant rip-offs. No, Ri-Li makes this list because it expands on the core idea and wraps it all up in an experience that is great for all ages, but particularly pleasing for children.
The graphics and sound, as well as the wooden trains theme, gives the game a very cute feel that some kids just love (that I love actually). I’m sure its fifty levels and three difficulties are enough to occupy any kid who gets interested enough.
Recommended Age: 6 and up. It’s a simple concept but the action may be a bit too fast and frenzied for kids who are not accustomed to video games. I recommend you start a younger player on “Easy” mode and then watch how far they can get.
What if you took the gameplay style of Quake or Unreal Tournament and mixed them with the unrivaled cuteness of Kirby? I don’t know for sure, but TeeWorlds is probably the closest thing to an answer that this world will ever know. This multiplayer-only platform shooter drops you in a small arena with a bunch of other cute creampuffs and lots of big guns, then lets the shooting begin. Everything about this game shouts “Play me” to me, and if the number of players who have flocked to it is any indication, I am definitely not alone.
Recommended Age: You decide. Video game violence is somewhat of a hot-button issue, and there are many widely varied opinions on the matter. Personally, I figure any kid old enough to watch an old Warner Brothers cartoon is old enough to experience the mild cartoon violence found in TeeWorlds. But I also respect parents’ right to determine what their kids play.
Tux Paint is not really a game but a drawing program specifically aimed at children. It makes this list though, because in a way it is a game; the most wonderful kind of game in which a child is given a few simple tools and set to the task of recreating the fantastic creatures and worlds of his/her dreams. Oh, and it has stamps too! Tux Paint separates itself from other drawing programs with its simplicity and its unapologetic design stance that it is first and foremost for kids. Its more pointless tools may have adults scratching their heads, but kids will have a wonderful opportunity to be creative.
Recommended Age: 3 and up. Since Tux Paint is a drawing program you really get out of it what you put into it. The only real requirements are basic motor skills and a primitive understanding of a computer. So parents eager to introduce their children to computers at an early age may want to check out Tux Paint. Older kids will find some enjoyment in it as well, and you could always introduce them to more advanced drawing programs if they show enough interest.
Chances are your child has never heard of the 1982 science fiction movie from Disney on which this game -and several others- are based. Luckily, they need not subject themselves to such tortures to enjoy Armagetron. If lightcycles and crashing into things and retro-awesome 3D graphics sounds good to you, then you and your kids are likely to enjoy Armagetron. Similar to Ri-Li, Armagetron takes a simple, oft-cloned concept and expands on it. The online multiplayer, various skins and game modes, and the aforementioned 3D graphics make Armagetron nearly unrecognizable compared to the original Midway arcade game. (Note – There’s also GLTron, which is very similar, but lacks many of Armagetron’s features.)
Recommended Age: 7 and up. Single player against the AI can be tough, but playing against the experienced players online can be downright painful. Furthermore, while the core gameplay is simple enough, the action can easily become too fast and confusing for younger players. Also be wary of online games where a few swear words and, uh, adult situations are likely to slip out.
It’s hard enough to find good open source games period, but finding ones aimed specifically at girls is nearly impossible. BSA, if you couldn’t guess from the title, is one of the few exceptions. It does not involve Mattel’s anatomically-incorrect doll as you might expect, but instead follows the adventures of a seahorse (presumably named “Barbie”) through a fun, Mario-like platform game.
This revelation may lead to disappointment for some girls, but I think the game’s charming visuals and catchy music will more than make up for it. Adults and boys are likely to enjoy this game too, assuming they can swallow their pride and get past the name. I did and it’s quietly snuck in to become one of my favorite Linux games.
Recommended Age: 5 and up. The game isn’t particularly difficult and you can always create new, easier levels if the included levels prove to be too difficult for your kids.
A “Guitar Hero” clone for the PC….really? Yes really, and it actually works considerably better than you might first expect. Hold the keyboard like a guitar and use the F1-F5 keys as the frets, then proceed to rock out. Once you’re done playing the three included songs you can download more from the internet or Guitar Hero game discs, or make your own with the built-in editor. Most people agree that Frets on Fire is not as good as the real deal, but you certainly can’t beat the price.
Recommended Age: 6 and up. If the YouTube videos are any indication, plenty of kids enjoy Guitar Hero and some even excel at it. Since “Frets on Fire” is a fairly faithful recreation, I would logically assume they will take to it easily.
You can also check out this review of Frets On Fire by Kyle which was published on Make Use Of back in August.
Who says a penguin can’t jump? Not the creators of SuperTux, since they’ve gone about creating an open source clone of one of the best games of all time, Super Mario Bros. Although, SuperTux never really reaches the lofty heights of Mario, and instead is a pretty standard platform game – get to the end of the level while bonking enemies and avoiding bottomless pits. Still, it’s fun and it’s cute.
Plus like most open source software it is in a constant state of development. So while you’re enjoying SuperTux the developers are hard at work at what has been dubbed SuperTux 2 by some, though it’s really more of an expansion – with new levels, enemies, features, etc. Though it’s still being actively developed and is a bit buggy, it’s still worth a download.
Recommended Age: 7 and up. SuperTux is definitely more difficult than Barbie Seahorse Adventures, but it’s pretty easy as far as platform games go. In fact, the original Super Mario Bros. is in order of magnitude more difficult.
Mario Kart: another one of those Nintendo games that is often imitated but never surpassed. Naturally, SuperTuxKart doesn’t come close, but then what other go-kart racing game has managed to capture the magic of Mario Kart? While you’re pondering that question, I’ll be playing STK. Sure the graphics are dated and there’s no online multiplayer, but it does have cute characters and colorful tracks galore.
Recommended Age: 6 and up. Younger kids are bound to run into the wall (a lot) and will likely finish in last place most of the time. But hey, most kids aren’t particularly competitive and are often content with just exploring the track and learning more about the game.
A game that is as cute as it is addictive, Frozen-Bubble has quite a reputation for eating up time. Shoot colored bubbles at the approaching mass which in turn causes some of the bubbles to disappear if you line up the colors right. That’s it. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m hooked on this game and hopefully your kids will be too.
Recommended Age: 5 and up. Younger kids could probably manage as well, but there’s no reason to get them addicted too early is there?
Ever heard of Bejeweled? You know, the hit casual game that managed to find its way onto virtually every computer and cellphone? Well, naturally there are a number of open source clones and Monsterz is one of them. Each one offers the same addictive, yet extremely simple gameplay that attracted so many people in the first place. The only reason I chose Monsterz over the others is because it seems targeted at kids.
Recommended Age: 5 and up. Just about anyone can play this game, so it simply becomes a matter of whether they enjoy it enough to want to.
And the Rest
The games on this list should be enough to keep any kid occupied for a little while, but there’s plenty more where they came from. Firstly, I recommend you check out KDE Games and Gnome Games – two sizable collections of simple games included with the KDE and Gnome desktops respectively. The card games and a few of the board games may bore most kids, but there’s bound to be at least one worthwhile game in the pack.
Secondly, you could try some of the websites devoted to Linux games (most of the games they mention are open source and run on Windows and Mac too). The Linuxgames are all good places to start., , and
And lastly, you can keep an eye on the comments section below for other people’s suggestions.