PEGI stands for Pan European Game Information and is the most prominent video game age rating system in the UK and the EU. The broadband experts at Uswitch have explained each of the PEGI age ratings and content descriptors, as well as analysing all the best kid's games released in the last few years to reveal the best games for kids in each age range.
It’s important for parents to understand what the various age ratings mean. Below is each age rating alongside details of the content which will lead to such an age rating. This will help you make informed decisions on which games are suitable for your child.
Games with a PEGI 3 rating are considered suitable for all age groups. The game will not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to frighten young children. A very mild form of violence (in a comical context or a childlike setting) is acceptable. No bad language should be heard.
PEGI 7 games are suitable for young children aged 7 and over. Games which include content with scenes or sounds that can be frightening to younger children will fall into PEGI 7. Very mild forms of violence are acceptable in PEGI 7-rated games.
Video games which include violence that is more graphic toward fantasy characters or non-realistic violence toward human-like characters are given a PEGI 12 rating, meaning they are suitable for children 12 and over. Sexual innuendo or sexual posturing can be present. Bad language in this category will be mild.
Should the severity of violence or sexual activity reach a stage where it looks similar to what would be expected in real life, games are hit with a PEGI 16 rating. PEGI 16 games allow more extreme bad language, and the use of tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs can also be depicted.
The PEGI 18 rating, often referred to as the adult classification, is applied when the level of violence is considered extreme. This is when the in-game violence becomes a depiction of gross violence, apparently motiveless killing, or violence towards defenceless characters. Any games that glamorise the use of illegal drugs, include gambling, or depict explicit sexual activity, will also fall into PEGI 18.
It can be confusing when deciding whether a video game is age-appropriate for your child or not. Age ratings are given to games for a variety of reasons based on the type of content the game depicts or includes. PEGI content descriptors are used so consumers can quickly identify what content in the game has led to the game’s age rating.
This icon will be present if the game contains bad language. This descriptor can only be found on games with a PEGI 12 or higher rating. On PEGI 12 games, games will only include mild swearing, whereas PEGI 16 and 18 will include sexual expletives or blasphemy.
This icon represents that the game contains depictions of ethnic, religious, nationalistic or other stereotypes, which are deemed likely to encourage hatred. This content is always restricted to a PEGI 18 rating, so you won’t find any discrimination in any games with lower age restrictions.
This icon is used when a game refers to or depicts the use of illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Similarly to discrimination, games with this content are always restricted to PEGI 16 or PEGI 18, so you won’t see any drug-related content in PEGI 12 and lower ratings.
This descriptor will appear as “Fear” for games with a PEGI 7 rating if those games contain pictures or sounds that may be frightening or scary to young children. For older games, it will appear as “Horror”. Moderate horror will be PEGI 12 and intense and sustained horror will be PEGI 16. Horror is generally described as disturbing images or sequences (not necessarily including violence).
If a game includes content that encourages or teaches gambling then this icon will appear. Simulations of gambling refer to any games of chance that are normally carried out in casinos or similar venues. PEGI updated the criteria for this classification in 2020, which made every new game with any sort of gambling content PEGI 18. There are some older titles which can contain this icon while being rated PEGI 12 or PEGI 16, so watch out for these.
This means that the game offers players the option to purchase digital goods with real-world currency, known as in-game purchases. Such purchases include additional content (which can be bonus levels, outfits [cosmetics], surprise items, music tracks, etc), but can also be upgrades (like disabling ads), subscriptions to updates, virtual currency, and other forms of in-game currency.
This content descriptor will accompany a PEGI 12 rating if that game only includes sexual posturing or innuendo. The game will be PEGI 16 if there is erotic nudity or sexual intercourse without visible genitals and will be a PEGI 18 rating if there is explicit sexual activity visible in the game. Nudity in a non-sexual context does not require an age rating.
Games hit with the violence descriptor will contain depictions of violence. The severity of the violence will correspond to the age rating for the game. PEGI 3 games can only show very mild forms of violence. PEGI 7 games can only include non-realistic or non-detailed violence. PEGI 12 games can only include non-realistic violence towards human-like characters or violence in a fantasy environment. Only games rated PEGI 16 or 18 are allowed to show realistic-looking violence.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe earned an 8.7 on IMDb and a 92 on Metacritic, giving it an impressive 8.95/10 rating. MK 8 is also one of the best-selling games of all time. In this classic Mario Kart game, players control Mario characters in kart racing, collecting and using items to hinder opponents or gain advantages in the race.
Forza Horizon 4 earns a respectable 8.90/10 average score across IMDb and Metacritic. This game in the Forza Horizon series of racing games is based in a fictionalised Great Britain, with players able to explore condensed representations of Edinburgh, the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District, Ambleside and the Cotswolds, among many others.
Sonic Mania Plus earns an 8.75/10 rating. Sonic Mania is a must-have for Sonic lovers. It pays homage to the original Sonic games with its speedy side-scrolling gameplay and several levels redesigned from past games. The story follows Sonic, Tails and Knuckles as they venture to defeat their nemesis Doctor Eggman and the Hard-Boiled Heavies.
The best-rated PEGI 7 game is Super Mario Odyssey, which earned 9.40/10. Released in 2017, Super Mario Odyssey follows Mario and a brand new character Cappy (a sentient hat that allows Mario to control other characters) as they journey across various kingdoms to once again save Princess Peach from the classic series villain, Bowser.
The runner-up top-rated game in PEGI 7 is Ori and the Will of the Wisps. This game is a sequel to Ori and the Blind Fores. Players control Ori, a small white spirit, as they move between platforms and solve puzzles. Both games have received critical acclaim, with praise focusing on the unique gameplay, story, musical score, and environmental design.
Celeste completes the top three for PEGI 7, earning a score of 9.00/10 from IMDb and Metacritic. This game follows a young woman, Madeline, as she attempts to climb a mountain. Throughout the game, Madeline must face her inner demons in her quest to reach the summit of a fictional version of Mount Celeste
This is the highest-rated game across the three age ranges considered here, and also one of the highest-selling games of the last decade. Players control an amnesiac Link, who has awoken from a hundred-year slumber at the beginning of the game. Players attempt to regain Link's memories and prevent the destruction of Hyrule by Calamity Ganon.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is yet another Mario game making the rankings for best kid's
game. Earning a score of 9.10/10, this game is perfect for Mario lovers aged 12 and over. In this crossover fighting game, players must use changing attacks to weaken and knock their opponents out of an arena.
Also scoring 9.10/10 is Hades. Hades actually follows the character of Zagreus, the son of Hades. Players control Zagreus and attempt to escape from the Underworld to reach Mount Olympus. Hades is considered a commercial and critical success and one of the best games of 2020.
Set up parental controls on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 to keep your kids safe online, prevent them from spending money or communicating with strangers.Read more about PlayStation parental controls
Cloud gaming gives gamers access to large libraries of video games, while platforms like Twitch, one of the best game streaming sites, lets you stream gameplay to followers.Read our guide to cloud gaming
Bored waiting for video games to download on your console? Try these top tips to speed up downloads on your PS5, PS4, Xbox and PC devices.Read more about video game downloads
Keep your children safe online by setting up Xbox parental controls that restrict screen time, access to mature content and communication with strangers.Read our Xbox parental controls guide
If you're looking to buy a console for your children, there's a lot to consider such as prices, security and the number of child-friendly games. So which is the best games console for kids?Read our best consoles for kids guide