These toddler games for iPad are actually good — and that’s all too rare

Kids entertainment can be a special kind of hell if you’re not a kid. For every Bluey — a show that’s thoughtful, funny, and thoroughly watchable if you’re over the age of five — there’s a Blippi. If you’re not familiar, he’s a kind of MrBeast for toddlers. But he’s hardly alone: YouTube Kids is littered with low-grade, algorithm-optimized videos of colorful trucks and Cocomelon knock-offs. It’s weird out there.

While prepping for our first cross-country flight with our toddler, I stumbled across a true gem: a collection of iPad games that aren’t just tolerable, they’re actually good. 

They’re made by Sago Mini, and every one of its games is just so goddamn cute. Some of them are structured as “play sets,” which are little interactive, open-ended cartoon worlds. Wander through a city or an airport terminal and you’ll find tons of objects to interact with, vehicles to drag and drop, and funny little Easter eggs all over the place. You can adjust the speed of an escalator to send a character flying into a ball pit, and if you open the door to a bathroom stall, you might find a pigeon sitting on the toilet. That’s just objectively hilarious.

This game is the most fun anyone will have in an airport terminal.
Image: Sago Mini / The Verge

Other games are a little more structured, though there’s plenty of stuff to stop and explore throughout as you send an adorable little cartoon cat on a road trip to visit a friend or use various construction equipment to build a rocket ship. The attention to detail is excellent, and there’s plenty to satisfy my kids’ curiosity — and, if I’m being honest, mine too.

What makes these games stand out, aside from the fact that they’re not unbearably obnoxious, is that they feel genuine. I don’t feel like they feed on my kid’s attention for views or downloads; they reward it. I’d much rather have him spend his screen time playing one of these games than watching some ghoul who figured out how to monetize toddlers’ attention romp around an indoor playground.

These games don’t feed on my kid’s attention for views or downloads; they reward it

Sadly, in a brutal reminder that parents just can’t catch a break these days, Sago Mini recently took away one of my favorite features: the ability to download and pay for games individually. Now, everything is in one app called Sago Mini World behind a monthly subscription — $6.99 on iOS and $5.99 on Android. There really is no escaping the subscription economy.

I guess it speaks to the strength of Sago Mini’s games that I went ahead and signed up for a subscription even after I’d paid for several standalone games. But there are dozens more games included in the subscription, and if I’m going to screech about the lack of good kids entertainment, then I should pay up and support the high-quality stuff. I just wish I could pay for it once and be done, you know?

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