Lego Fortnite is my new obsession, but I remain unconvinced it (or anything else) can ever match Minecraft's sense of wonder

Lego Fortnite
(Image credit: Epic Games / The Lego Group)

What'd you want to play, Minecraft or Fortnite? This question, in my household, is as important as what'd you want for dinner, and as profound as what is the meaning of life? For my young five-and-a-half-year-old daughter and my three-and-a-bit-year-old son, it's a tough one. At the moment, they absolutely love both Minecraft and Fortnite Lego. It's hardly an easy pick for me either – I've dipped in and out of one for over a decade, and am currently besotted with the other. 

"Mmmm," my daughter puzzles, before settling on Minecraft. I ask her why. "I want to find another amethyst cave," she says. "Maybe this time we can find different colored caves too." 

And so it is written. For the next hour or two we'll throw ourselves into the pixelated, block-built world of Minecraft, throwing up architecturally questionable shelters with incongruous materials (of course this single-dwelling bungalow needs a slime room, duh), and digging interminable underground tunnels in search of undiscovered rainbow-tinted gems. 

Over the last few weeks, my kids and I have had a proper blast doing similar things in Fortnite Lego. But I just don't think this derivation of Epic Games' familiar sandbox will (or even can) come close to Minecraft's sense of wonder any time soon; nor do I think any other contender is capable of claiming the Eye of Ender-set crown. I love what I've seen of Lego Fortnite so far, we've mucked around in Roblox together in the past, and they've both peered over my shoulder as I've revisited my years-old saves in Terraria and Starbound at various points over the last few months. But there's something about Mojang and Microsoft's enduring building sim that's still, after all of these years, totally unique.  

Block party


(Image credit: Mojang)

Kids enjoy Minecraft. Stop the presses, right? Of course they do – my oldest is in her first year of primary (elementary) school, and the playground is awash with bags, water bottles, pencil cases and more emblazoned with creepers and Steve and square-shaped pickaxes every single day. Sure, the fundamentals of Minecraft are easier for small hands to get to grips with than pretty much every game in this space, but I'd also argue kids of this age weigh up their favorite games without preconceptions. They enjoy the game that's most fun, and whenever my kids and I play together, that fun is almost always inspired by discovery. 

Even in Creative Mode – where Mobs, Creepers, Spiders and everything else that goes bump in the night leaves you alone, items can be crafted in infinite supply, and you can literally fly around the map with the touch of a button – just being able to climb the highest mountain, plumb the deepest ocean, and mine the darkest cave is a triumph in itself. I'm never not amazed by the sense of achievement my own kids visibly feel when making the most innocuous discoveries, and the sense of wonder that envelopes the whole experience. 

The first time we returned to our little private server to find that the koi fish we'd built a pond for was still alive, for example, led to five full minutes of unbridled excitement. We were up in arms when a traveling salesman appeared to raid our basement full of gems, leaving an old rope in place of our loot (we left the hatch open); and we spent the best part of an hour building a diving board over a lake that reached high above the clouds grazing outer space itself, giggling the entire time. 

Two character emerging from a cave in Minecraft

(Image credit: Microsoft)

In contrast, while my kids love Fortnite Lego, and while I also appreciate it's not necessarily aimed at their age group, that sense of wonder in discovery clearly isn't universal. We have fun doing the same things in Fortnite's familiar Island setting, throwing up houses and decorating them with incongruous furnishings, but it's just not the same as Minecraft's underlying if you can see it you can explore it raison d'etre. Which isn't to shit on Fortnite Lego, or any sandbox world-building game more generally, it's more to hail the seemingly interminable appeal of Minecraft. 

And while I realize I'm waxing lyrical about a game that people felt this way about 13 years ago, myself included, the fact I'm rediscovering it with my children and feel exactly the same after so much time (and, evidently, as do they) speaks volumes for the timelessness of this game. Its blocky facade looked extremely dated in 2011, meaning it doesn't feel any worse for wear in 2024. In fact, I think I'm enjoying it even more than I did way back when while also forging memories that'll last a lifetime. And that alone is enough to keep me coming back for more and more. 

Lego Fortnite is the Animal Crossing replacement I never expected, but now I can't put it down.

Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.