50 Of The Best Video Games For Learning
by TeachThought Staff
We’ve discussed the merits and utility of video games in the classroom before, so we won’t beleaguer the point. If you’re interested in the possibility of video games for learning–that is, teaching and learning with video games to master both academic and non-academic content–than the following collection may be of interest to you.
We’ve discussed before the logistics of how to teach with video games (especially for non-mobile games). What exactly this looks like on a daily basis in your classroom depends on the reality of your classroom: Available technology, WiFi access and bandwidth, grade level, content area, your comfort level with games, and so on.
But if this an area you’re interested in learning more about, we thought a collection of the best video games for learning–that is, those we’d want our own children playing for their varied utility in teaching and/or learning–might be useful.
To select each of these games, we focused on 3 basic criteria:
This has to do with the quality of the game. There isn’t one, clear definition for what a “good” video game should be. Pong is universally-accepted as “good,” but is a simple game of digital ricochet. Other games are multi-million dollar projects with a myriad of brilliant ideas, but that come together all wrong.
The most basic test of playability is this: A well-designed game should not confuse or frustrate the player. It may challenge them, but it should promote a sense of agency and I can in the player to problem-solve, overcome obstacles, and implement strategy to accomplish either game-created or player-created goals.
2. Cognitive Load
To qualify for this list, each of these games must impose an appropriate-but-significant cognitive load on the student. That is, they must require sustained creative, strategic, or knowledge demands for the player to be successful (however that success is define).
This cognitive load may also be a matter of creativity–open-world sandbox games, for example, reward the player that is able to create their own meaning, reasons for playing, and factors for quality and “end game” scenarios. That is, they decide when they’re “playing it right,” a powerful variation on classic design.
We’ve also tried to reward innovative games that push the boundaries of what a video game is as a narrative form and interactive medium. Innovation isn’t necessarily a sign of quality, but considering it helps see games not simple as toys, but a nuanced digital experience. They can be innovative in terms of their gameplay mechanics (i.e., Portal 2), topic (e.g., Type Rider), or scale (e.g., Civilization V).
Another factor of innovation is collaboration. Increasingly, video game designers are looking for ways to get players playing together meaningfully. In some games, certain levels can’t be completed without teamwork and strategy that depends on each player’s unique gifts independently. Pretty cool, huh?
With that in mind, 50 of the best video games for learning are listed below.
Note 1: Some of the links are to videos of the game, while others are to app download links. Videos are probably a more effective way to introduce you to a game than some kind of app overview page with nebulous, consumer-driven ratings.
Note 2: We haven’t linked to any “buy this here” landing pages outside of Apple and Google Play app stores, but a quick Google search should yield what you’re looking for.
Note 3: Also, though we’ve tended towards mobile games because those are simply more accessible to most players, the collection below represents a wide variety of video games for learning.
Note 4: Some of the games have violence/language (though we’ve tried to shy away from these, for obvious reasons; that said, try to have a non-violent game about the Revolutionary War). We also have a post on non-violent video games that don’t suck as well.
Note 5: The list isn’t ranked in any particular order. 51 great video games for learning, unranked.
Update: We’ve added one we missed, so now we’re at 51.
50 Of The Best Video Games For Learning
A list of the most innovative games that have teaching and/or learning potential, for mobile (iPad & Android), console, or PC.
Choose your own route around a 3D globe, travelling by airship, submarine, mechanical camel, steam-train and more, racing other players and a clock that never stops.
AN AMAZING NEW PHYSICS PUZZLE GAME FROM THE CREATORS OF ANGRY BIRDS!Meet Amazing Alex! This whiz kid has a boundless imagination and a houseful of fun toys that can tu...
Create 3D animations of cartoons in a simple and intuitive manner on your tablet or phone.
Assassin's Creed 3
More content on http://www.assassinscreed.com You are Connor, warrior son of a Native American mother and British father. As the colonies draw closer to revolution, you will become the spark that ignites the revolution into a full blaze. Your crusade will lead you through blood-soaked battlefields. You will not only witness history...you will make it.
Embark on your own epic journey in this critically acclaimed tactical RPG, where your strategic choices directly affect your personal story, as well as the outcome of conflicts encountered during your struggle for survival in this Viking inspired tale.
A 2D fantasy realm inspired by Norse mythology – immerse yourself in beautifully hand drawn combat sequences and animations, accompanied by an evocative score from Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory.
Player choice that drives your own narrative – every decision you make in travel, conversation and combat has a meaningful effect on the outcome as your story unfolds.
Over 25 playable characters each with unique personalities – embark on your journey with a variety of characters from 7 different classes, each with unique abilities and upgrade options to fit your play style.
Strategic combat with consequences - victory or defeat and even the permanent loss of a character depends on which characters you choose to take into battle and what decisions you make afterwards.
Bastion for iOS features all the highly acclaimed artwork, music, and narration that Bastion is known for, along with intuitive touch controls.
Bio Inc is a biomedical strategy simulator in which you determine the ultimate fate of a victim by developing the most lethal illness possible.
Blox 3D is a fun and easy way for kids to learn 3D modelling.Create beautiful objects in a simple and intuitive manner using tap and pull.
In Bridge Constructor you have to prove yourself as an accomplished master bridge builder. Play 40 different levels, and build bridges over deep valleys, canals, and rivers. Stress tests reveal whether the bridge you build can withstand the daily stress of continual use from cars, trucks and, more recently, super-heavy tank trucks.
How does it work? It's really simple: you just play! The coach shows you the moves a Grandmaster would pick. Not just one move, but the 4 best moves.
Child of Light
Civilization: Beyond Earth
Build. Discover. Conquer. Rule the World! Lead your civilization from the dawn of man to the modern age and beyond in Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution.
Civ V is the watermark for great strategy and scenario-based gaming on PC.
A surreal thriller in which the written word is your map, as well as your narrator
Empire Total War
Recreate famous battles as the tides of history turn.
Latest trailer for Bethesda's Fallout 3 shown at this year's E3 2008
Discover a wide, agricultural scenery with fields, roads, your farm as well as a small village. Cultivate your fields with various three dimensional vehicles found in your generous fleet- modeled after original machines and vehicles by prestigious manufacturers.
Manage your own game company and try to create a million-selling game in this unique simulation.
A sandbox game for the PC and Mac
YOU are about to PLAY GOD. Rule over a living, breathing world. It is as SIMPLE to play with as it is AWE-INSPIRING to behold. Feel truly powerful in the most delightf...
Kahoot! is a classroom response system which creates an engaging learning space, through a game-based digital pedagogy.
Kentucky Route Zero
Let's Play Democracy 3 - United States - Part 1
A Democracy simulator!
50 Of The Best Video Games For Learning in 2015