A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Minecraft is a multiplatform sandbox adventure game. Players explore the world and use the building blocks of the game to customize that world to create nearly anything they can imagine. That also means other players can create whatever they can imagine as well, which could potentially lead to younger players coming across potentially offensive content while exploring random worlds online. The game is relatively simple to pick up and play but is still complicated when it comes to building more complex items and structures. Although Minecraft is a standalone game, its popularity has led to a variety of licensed (and unlicensed) products, downloadable content, and more, all of which look to cash in on the success of the original game. The latest iteration, a 2017 Nintendo Switch version, includes the Wii U's version Super Mario-themed content, from character skins to puzzles to music, which could get players interested in those games as well. It also, most impressively, includes an authentic Minecraft experience whether you're on the go or holding still. This is an edge over previous portable versions, in that you can play split-screen with up to four players.
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What's it about?
MINECRAFT is a virtual sandbox that gives players all the tools they need to explore a vast world, harvest resources, and create nearly everything they can possible imagine. The story in Minecraft is whatever the player wants it to be, as players customize their worlds and the creatures in it and how they choose to interact. One world might feature the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, with players forced to build a mighty fortress to withstand the nightly onslaught of the undead hordes, while another world may be a peaceful Zen garden that encourages visitors to find tranquility. Throughout the Minecraft multiverse are infinite possibilities, and it's up to you to create your own. Like the Wii U edition, the Switch edition of the game also features Mario-themed puzzles, character skins and music from that franchise, and Mario-themed versions of the Overworld, the Nether, the End, and more.
Is it any good?
There's an adage that, in life, you'll only get out of it what you're willing to put into it, and that's completely true with this creative adventure. You're literally dropped in the middle of nowhere with nothing more than your wits. Starting off, you'll pick up some wood from a tree, which you'll use to make a batch of sticks. Then you'll attach some more wood to those sticks and make a pickaxe. Using that pickaxe, you can mine some stone to help build a house. And so goes the cycle of the game. You'll spend your time exploring the world around you and harvesting what you can to help create what you need. Over time, you'll learn more about how to find and build more complex materials and tools, combining them to craft new, intricate creations. It's a heavy investment of time and research, and it's likely to cause even the most hard-core gamer some frustration from time to time, but the payoff can be fulfilling. The newest version, on the Nintendo Switch, includes a formidable tutorial that's likely to confuse as many new players as it helps, but by and large the best way to learn Minecraft is to just start playing Minecraft. If you are new to Minecraft, the Nintendo-specific touches help it feel less unfamiliar: The Switch edition bursts with an extra Super Mario texture pack, a set of Super Mario skins for your characters, and an entire Super Mario-themed world to explore with Mario themed music and huge statues of Mario himself.
Minecraft does its best to be all things to all people. If you're the type of person who wants a gaming experience with heroes fighting villains, the game's Survival and Adventure modes offer a classic adventure with players battling the forces of evil while trying to maintain their homesteads. Zombies, skeleton, creepers, endermen, and more come out in force when the sun goes down, forcing the players to craft strong defenses if they hope to see the next sunrise. For those gamers who are less about using an arsenal and more about using a toolbox, there's Creative mode; this is essentially the game's God mode, where you get full access to everything in the Minecraft wheelhouse without having to worry about such things as hostile mobs, hunger, or other things that might cut short your time in the world. Here, players can build to their hearts' content, crafting and testing extravagant projects before sharing them with the world. One thing to keep in mind, though, is the fact that, at any given moment, there are thousands of other people thinking up things to build as well. For every intricate, highly detailed re-creation of some building, game, or other such massive undertaking, there's going to be someone who has used the tools at their disposal to make something juvenile, obscene, or otherwise offensive. And unfortunately, there's no way to really know what you're getting into until you've joined another player's game. This is definitely one time parents should keep an eye on where their kids are visiting online. But once you know what you’re doing, you'll be hard-pressed to leave your computer without placing just one more block.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about creativity. What inspires your creativity, and what would you build if you were given the right tools?
Talk about online safety. What are some ways that kids can protect themselves from offensive content online, and how should parents involve themselves in what kids do online?
- Platforms: Linux, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Subjects: Math: estimation, geometry, shapes
Science: geology, rocks and minerals
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: defining problems, hypothesis-testing, problem solving
Creativity: imagination, making new creations, producing new content
Collaboration: cooperation, group projects, teamwork
- Pricing structure: Paid ($26.95 for desktop, $19.99 for consoles (except Wii U at $29.99))
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Mojang
- Release date: April 11, 2011
- Genre: Adventure
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.