What is Animal Jam?
Animal Jam is a family-friendly massive multiplayer online Flash game, brought to us by the fine folks over at National Geographic. Animal Jam has all of the same features that you would expect to see from a game in this category. Players create an animal avatar, and plays games to earn currency. This currency can be redeemed toward clothing or furniture, which can be used to further customize your user experience.
Animal Jam is great, in that it’s one of the few multiplayer games that I think can still be classified as “family-friendly”. I grew up on video games when I was younger, and I think that if I were raised in this generation of gamers, I wouldn’t have been allowed to play half of the multiplayer games that are out there right now. In many cases, poor chat moderation leads to really toxic, inappropriate user communities. Animal Jam is vigorously moderated, so you don’t have to worry about anything like that. Not to mention, the game itself is pretty fun. It’s not easy for a game to balance online safety and online fun, but they manage to do it anyway.
If you’re getting bored of Animal Jam, or if you’re just looking for something different, you’re in luck. Although they are harder to come by, there is a fair selection of family-friendly online games available out there. It’s just a matter of finding them. Fortunately, I’ve done all of that work for you already! Just sit back, and take a look at this list of the top 5 games likes Animal Jam.
5. Wizard 101
Wizards 101 is one of those games that has been around for a long time. I don’t think you could have grown up around children during the late 2000s in the United States without seeing a million Wizards 101 commercial. True, as Toontown (a massively popular kid-friendly multiplayer game) saw its popularity dwindle over the year, Wizard 101 saw its opportunity and they took it. The game isn’t quite as populated as it used to be, but it’s still a great alternative to Animal Jam for someone who is looking for something with more well-developed gameplay.
Wizard 101 isn’t just a multiplayer game. It’s an RPG. This makes it substantially more complicated than Animal Jam, where gameplay is pretty much comprised of different minigames that are scattered around the map. If you’re looking for something more mature than Animal Jam, this is great. If you’re looking for something on around the same level, you might find that Wizard 101’s turn-based combat system is a little too complicated. (You shouldn’t expect something as in-depth as World of Warcraft, but it can definitely be a little tricky, especially for a younger gamer.)
Wizard 101 is just as safe as Animal Jam, if not safer. Just like in Animal Jam, players create usernames with a generator. This means you can’t have any naughty names slip past a filter. It’s family-friendly from the get-go. Chat is tightly moderated, and so are the message boards. A lot of work went into making this game as family-friendly as possible, and it ended up paying off. The only reason why this game places is so low is because I don’t know if I can justify the cost of subscription (especially considering how watered-down free membership gameplay is) for a game with such a small user base. Plus, Wizard 101 requires a download, which makes it a little less accessible for some younger gamers.
4. Moshi Monsters
Moshi Monsters was a pretty ambitious pursuit from the start. When they entered the online multiplayer fray in 2008, the genre was already packed tight full of different virtual pet games. It was really difficult to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. It’s been eight years, though, and they’re still kicking as one of the most popular virtual pet sites available. In Moshi Monsters, you play as a monster who walks around the world and completes various puzzles and mini-games in exchange for prizes.
Moshi Monsters is aimed at the Animal Jam’s same demographic, but I think the average user trends a little younger. There’s a good chance that most users over the age of 10 will find the game sort of boring, and that they’ll find most of the games to not be challenging enough. In my (admittedly minimal) experience with the game, I’ve found that more emphasis is placed on the game than socializing. You don’t really spend a lot of time talking with other players or anything like that. It’s a very goal-focused game, with a lot of emphasis being placed on players carrying out different assigned missions.
Moshi Monsters is a popular game, and it’s available as both a browser-based game and as a mobile app. Although it does offer a premium membership option, most of the differences between free and premium memberships are purely cosmetic. You can still have a good amount of fun playing the game as a free-to-play user. My only complaint about Moshi Monsters is that it doesn’t always feel like a multiplayer game. Not only are most of the players sort of anti-social, but the structure of the game’s world makes it kind of hard to explore and do what you want. A lot of the time, it feels like you’re just playing on rails.
3. Gaia Online
In contrast to Moshi Monsters, Gaia Online didn’t really start with the intention of becoming anything massive. It began as a simple forum, with users coming together to talk about anime. Over time, though, the website grew and grew, adding on more and more features until the game became what it is today. Gaia Online is an online, multiplayer game that has some RPG elements. Like Animal Jam, Gaia Online lets you travel the Gaia world while completing mini-games to earn money. This money is used for apparel and furnishing.
Gaia Online is a little different from Moshi Monsters in a few ways, however. The most glaring difference is that Gaia has a much more mature user base. Although you can find users spread across a wide range of ages, I think most users tend to be in their late teens. The game has always kind of catered to that particular demographic, so I don’t think you can expect the same kind of vigilant moderation of
chatting that you would find on Animal Jam. Users are more mature, discussions are more mature, and the game is generally more mature. If you’re a concerned parent looking for a game that is as family-friendly as possible, you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re a gamer who is looking for something a little more “grown-up” than Animal Jam, you’re in the right place. (If you want to find more older teen-oriented social multiplayer games, you may want to also check out this piece that we’ve done on games like IMVU, which is one of the more popular “grown-up” multiplayer games out there.)
Not only that, but you’ll find that Gaia’s user culture, as well as a lot of their clothing/furniture, is very anime-oriented. This may not be a big deal for some people, but if you’re turned off by that particular genre, you may not like this game. This thematic choice has been key to Gaia’s success, though. Gaia Online has always been very populated, and that is still true today. The game still boasts a pretty large active user base. This is probably due to the fact that Gaia was able to corner a demographic that was niche at the time, but that has grown tremendously over time. Back in the mid-late 2000s, kids didn’t really go around talking about anime and otaku culture. Today, though, anime is a pretty mainstream interest in Western culture. As it continues to grow more and more popular, I think that the game will grow along with it.
A lot of the games on this list have been aimed at pretty narrow age ranges. Wizards 101 is mostly for tweens. Moshi Monsters is mostly for kids. Gaia Online is mostly for teens. Is it really that difficult to create a game that can be equally enjoyed by both children, teens, and everything in between? Thankfully, it isn’t. Poptropica was created in 2007, and it gained a lot of attention by being a game that was developed by Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The series was really popular among middle-school aged kids, and so Poptropica found itself with a userbase comprised primarily of that age bracket.
That changed, though. Although Poptropica’s gameplay is much more open-ended than Moshi Monster’s, its premise is also based in players completing different missions, in order. Players will usually follow a story, and explore an area while solving different puzzles in order to complete it. There are A LOT of islands available for exploration, which means a lot of content to play through. The game is written in the same silly style that you would expect from a game developed by Jeff Kinney, so you never really feel like the gameplay is repetitive. As it turned out, some of the later islands in the game were hard. Like, really really hard. Puzzles were confusing, mini-games were difficult, and a lot of the younger gamers who originally flocked to the game found themselves stumped. As word spread that the game wasn’t just “for kids”, it began to attract an older audience. Today, the average Poptropica user can be a kid, tween, or teen. It’s really a game for all ages.
Poptropica really cracked the code, by making a game whose colorful, easy-to-grasp gameplay could attract kids, while a modern sense of humor and challenging later gameplay would attract an older crowd. Poptropica also continues to do things the right way, releasing new content on a regular basis. Although it would have been really difficult for this game to leapfrog into first place considering the giant that lies ahead of it, I think that it could definitely improve upon the social aspects of the game. Truthfully, I don’t know if it’s entirely fair to judge Poptropica based on this, seeing as it’s mostly a story-driven game. However, if you like making friends in video games, you may be dissatisfied with Poptropica. Most players are laser-focused on completing their mission, on solving that next puzzle. Not many people take time to breathe and hang out in social spots of the different islands. It’s still an amazing game, though, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a new web-based multiplayer game. No matter your age, there’s probably something in there for you.
1. Club Penguin
There’s honestly no way that you can’t have this list without Club Penguin at the top. They have the sustained popularity, they have the reputation, and they have pretty much everything else that you would ever want out of a family-friendly multiplayer game. Even better, the game only improves as the years go on. Club Penguin started out as a very simple online chat room with penguin-themed avatars. Over time, though, it developed into a full-fledged game that developed a very devoted following. This all built up to Club Penguin’s eventually acquisition at the hands of Disney, who just made the game even bigger than it had been before.
In Club Penguin, you play as a penguin. (Shocking, I know.) You are able to explore the island that you live on, and participate in different mini-games to earn money to put towards customizing your penguin and igloo. You’ll have to take my word for it when I say that the mini-games in this game are great. The range of games offered are amazing, from strategic card games to endless runner style games to standard connect four, it’s all there. There is a game for pretty much every kind of gamer, and they add to their selection regularly. Plus, if mini-games aren’t your thing, Club Penguin also offers special “secret agent” missions, which are basically point-and-click puzzle stories. They’re a lot of fun, and they only add to the enormous amount of content available in this game.
As I mentioned before, Club Penguin has improved a lot over the years. Regular updates to the island, and to its “story” keep things feeling fresh. New clothing, furniture, and pets, come out on a scheduled basis, which keeps players interested. Not to mention, the game has become a lot more accessible to unpaid users over the years, too. I’ll be honest, I dabbled in Club Penguin a bit when I was in high school. I vividly remember how dull it was to play as a free user, with so little to do. You earn all of this money to put towards clothes and furniture, but you can’t buy any of it! That has changed since then, with free users now having a lot more privileges and abilities than they had before. Not to mention, but Club Penguin has managed to improve their safe chat system by implementing an auto-correct style chat bar, which allows concerned parents to keep their kids safe online without being too controlling. (If you want to chat normally, that option is still available to you, too.)
And there you have it. Club Penguin wins this one by doing everything that a successful multiplayer game should aim to do. They appeal to a broad audience. They provide consistent updates to keep regular users coming back. They keep the game fun for free users, but are still quick to show you how much more fun a premium membership would be. And most of all, they stay true to their roots! Club Penguin never tries to be anything that it isn’t, which is a game for kids. There’s something about that level of authenticity that I really respect. The game is a perfect blend of fun and safety, and I don’t think I can praise it enough.