Avengers Origins: Assemble/Avengers Origins: Hulk (iOS) Recommended minimum ages: 10-12
Following in the spandexed footsteps of The Amazing Spider-Man: An Origin Story — one of EW‘s 2011 top picks — this pair of interactive storybooks provides the perfect platform for introducing young fans to Marvel’s iconic lineup of crime-fighters. Equally entertaining for comic book-loving parents, the apps feature stunning artwork, slick animations, narration by legendary comic creator Stan Lee, and plenty of immersion-pushing activities.
Rayman Jungle Run (iOS, Android) Recommended minimum ages: 13+
The game-iest entry on our list, Rayman Jungle Run combines the gorgeous graphics of its pretty console predecessor, Rayman Origins, with mobile gaming’s auto-run phenomenon. Not just another Temple Run ripoff with stunning visuals, however, the limbless star’s leap to the little screen sports top-notch touch controls, plenty of personality, and an all-ages appeal that will see parents wrestling the tablet from their little ones for a turn.
Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures: Lions (iOS) Recommended minimum ages: 4-6
While parents will appreciate the educational angle of this National Wildlife Federation-developed title, kids will dig the impressive variety of mini-game-like activities — matching, puzzles, hidden object, photo-taking, Mad Libs — spread across Play, Explore, and Create categories. Vibrant visuals, adorable animals, and, of course, plenty of fun facts about the king of the jungle complement one of the year’s best edutainment entries.
Monster Life (iOS, Android) Recommended minimum ages: 7-9
As clever as it is charming, Monster Life encourages gamers of all ages to collect cute creatures and customize the candy-colored, papercraft world around them. Of course, adding these precious Pokemon-like playthings to your growing collection is only half the fun, as players must also maintain their mini monsters by playing with, feeding, and training them to do battle with other adorable little beasts.
KidzVuz (iOS) Recommended minimum ages: 10-12
Like Twitter for tweens, this social app — with a video-focused twist — allows tykes to follow friends online and share their thoughts on everything from technology and toys to sports and videogames through short, user-made clips. Its intuitive interface lets budding broadcasters easily shoot and share their mini videos, while its secure, monitored environment provides safety-conscious parents with peace of mind.
Where's My Perry? (iOS, Android) Recommended minimum ages: 7-9
Building on the enormously popular Where’s My Water?, this spin-off swaps the original game’s star, Swampy, with Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus/secret agent Perry. Rather than just giving the series an awesome Agent P makeover though, this thoughtfully crafted follow-up retains the original’s crazy-fun physics-based formula, while adding fresh puzzle-based challenges and clever new ways to solve them.
Numbers with Nemo (iOS) Recommended minimum ages: 0-3
Making math fun is an uphill challenge many an app’s already attempted, but this one succeeds thanks to its ability to balance intuitive educational activities — counting, matching, tracing, sequencing — with a pleasing presentation that any fans of the fish-starring Pixar film will appreciate. Added bonuses include interactive stickers — a sure-fire kid favorite — and the option for parents to track their children’s progress.
Disney American Presidents: Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook (iOS, Android) Recommended minimum ages: 7-9
This portable Hall of Presidents of sorts is as educational for kids as it is entertaining for adults. Featuring the polished production values and engaging presentation we’ve come to expect from a Disney product, this edutainment title complements its interactive history lesson with fun activities, funny videos — ”Jib Jab”-like animations are a highlight — and an intuitive, playful interface that musty textbooks just can’t match.
Brave: Storybook Deluxe (iOS) Recommended minimum ages: 4-6
Despite being released alongside Pixar’s latest blockbuster, Brave: Storybook Deluxe proved to be much more than a movie-tied attempt to fill theater seats. Sporting vibrant visuals, stunning animations, and touch-based activities sprinkled with plenty of that signature Pixar charm, this tablet-based tome became a welcome addition to Disney’s excellent library of interactive storybooks.
Awesome Upstander (iOS, Android) Recommended minimum ages: 10-12
While Awesome Upstander isn’t the most polished platformer we’ve played this year, it earns big bonus points for weaving powerful anti-bullying and pro-friendship messages into its story, gameplay, and overall presentation. Thanks to its cartoon-y visuals, spirited sense of humor, and accessible play though, its important life lessons feel more like an organic part of the experience rather than preachy PSAs.