Storybooks for young audiences

Recommendations by Kinetic Mouse Car

There are already several polls about games for kids, but I wanted to narrow it down a bit. I noticed some recent high-quality games with artwork designed specifically for kids. It was the artwork part that caught my attention. Some have art that look like a digital and interactive version of a storybook, like something from a library. Then I started to wonder, if you went back in time to when you were in elementary school (or an equivalent) and someone clunked you down in front of the computer to play interactive fiction, what age appropriate (I know there is not always a consensus on that) would you play? What level of technicality would you have?

The parameters of this list are choice-based games that use artwork in storytelling that conjures up the idea of a children’s picture book/storybook. The audience is for elementary age players. It is a narrow filter, but I will try to be as precise as possible.

As a formality: Please, please, if you are considering these suggestions, I urge you to glance through them to ensure that you find them appropriate. This list tries to keep it mild and family friendly. I have no doubt that elementary school kids could handle more technical games or even ones with (relatively) intense subject matters like violence. I would know. Sometimes that would get me in trouble as a kid, which in retrospect was probably a good thing. I just want to play it safe.

Comment if you have any thoughts.

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1. How The Elephant's Child Who Walked By Himself Got His Wings
by Peter Eastman
(2020)
Average member rating: (12 ratings)

Kinetic Mouse Car says:

Made with Twine
This game takes inspiration from the "Just So Stories" series by Rudyard Kipling who wrote children's literature that featured fantasy driven narratives that "explained" how certain animals came to be what they are. In this game, you play as a child listening to a family member telling a unique interpretation of a "Just So Story." There is some excellent art of animals- not on every page- but they provide strong visuals for the story. It does feature the theme of animals eating animals, but it is non-explicit.

2. Esther's
by Brad Buchanan and Alleson Buchanan
(2022)
Average member rating: (14 ratings)

Kinetic Mouse Car says:

Made with Twine
Esther's is outright advertised as a game for young kids, and it is a great choice. It is about two mice trying to order brunch at a café, but the host, a human girl, cannot understand them. Humorous attempts to communicate soon follow. The story is sweet, and the gameplay is streamlined, making it a good pick for younger ages because of its short length, minimal technicality, and lower word count. Plus, the artwork strongly reminds me of a children's book.

3. The Tin Mug
by Alice E. Wells, Sia See and Jkj Yuio
(2022)
Average member rating: (9 ratings)

Kinetic Mouse Car says:

Made with Strand
This is another game intended for kids. You play as Tin Mug, a mug eager to celebrate your birthday. It features similar talking kitchen characters as well as human characters. It does have a higher word count, but gameplay is simple. You have no more than two choices at a time, and there is no wrong answer. There is also some fun character artwork that I can envision in a storybook. I believe Strand is technically parser-hybrid, but The Tin Mug is exclusively choice-based.

4. Ürs
by Christopher Hayes, Daniel Talsky
(2018)
Average member rating: (21 ratings)

Kinetic Mouse Car says:

Made with Twine
I was not sure whether to include this game, but it is perfect in several ways. The artwork is breathtaking and shown on every page. In fact, it has the most extensive artwork of any game on this list, paired with a compelling story: A fantasy/sci-fi game about a rabbit trying to save its warren from falling rocks. It really feels like reading an elaborate picture book. That said, I am pretty sure that it was not designed with kids in mind. I would not say that it is inappropriate, but it does have a bite. Comic mischief, maybe? The word count and technicality definitely make it for older elementary kids. 5th grade. I feel like I would have devoured this game.

5. SPACE FROG!
by npckc
(2020)
Average member rating: (3 ratings)

Kinetic Mouse Car says:

Made with Twine
This is a good option for young, young players who need minimal text. It is about a frog exploring space while making friends. There are basic but charming artwork on nearly every page and the gameplay is extremely simple. All you must do is click on the green links. Story is endearing and easy to follow.


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