25 Video Games You Can Teach With Tomorrow

by Terry Heick 

Realistically, a ‘with it’ teacher can teach almost anything using almost anything. I’ve been taught trigonometry using a paper clip, and expository structure using paint. Tech is great, but nowhere close to necessary. But if the underlying learning process is well-thought-out, tech can provide powerful common ground for teachers and learners.

So then, video games.

Video games do not represent a ‘rising medium,’ but rather one that’s established, potent, and ready for application in any content area at any grade level. While their application may not be as immediately apparent as the Declaration of Independence, an essay by Wendell Berry, or Google Earth, they truly are a goldmine of edu-content.

We’ve talked before about the concept of gamification, which refers to applying game mechanics to any non-gaming process. Below are six games that can be used not to ‘gamify’ a classroom, but as primary learning resources.

These games can serve not only to introduce teachers to the concept of using video games as something beyond a gimmicky way to ‘engage learners,’ but demonstrate that video games are a platform worthy of any classroom dedicated to any content area at any grade level. While it will take more than a single post to learn how to effectively use Fallout 4 to teach T.S. Eliot, the videos below are nonetheless good starting points to introduce teachers to the idea.

As with any medium, to teach with them deeply, you’ll likely have to play them yourself. It’d be difficult to teach a poem without understanding it personally, and the same applies to video games. But what if you wanted to know where to get started?

Need a mini-lesson on narrative perspective, or a way to demonstrate the potential of collaboration? If you teach grades 4 through university, see below.

25 Video Games You Can Teach With Tomorrow

1. The Last Of Us and The Last Of Us Part 2

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9-12+ (mature content and themes)

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One-Sentence Description:

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2. Animal Crossing

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3. Paper Mario: Origami King

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4. Story Of Seasons: Friends Of Mineral Town

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5. Kentucky Route Zero

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6. Age of Empires II

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7. Space Engineers

Developer’s Description: Space Engineers is a sandbox game about engineering, construction, exploration and survival in space and on planets. Players build space ships, space stations, planetary outposts of various sizes and uses, pilot ships and travel through space to explore planets and gather resources to survive.

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Platform(s): PC

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8. Cloud Gardens

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9. Red Dead Redemption 2

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Appropriate Grade Level: 8-12+ (some mature content/themes)

Universal: Problem-solving, Resource Management, Various Thinking Strategies

ELA: Inferencing, Audience, Characterization, Purpose, Media Form, Tone, Mood, Theme, Perspective, Point of View, Style, Metaphor, Symbolism, Propaganda, Rhetoric, Various Thinking Strategies

10. Civilization VI

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Appropriate Grade Level: 6-12+ (complexity)

Universal: Problem-solving, Resource Management, Collaboration, Various Thinking Strategies

Government, History, Social Studies, Geography: Diplomacy, Impact of Geography on Policy, Hoarding and Trade, Political Tactics, Communication

11. Fallout 4

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Appropriate Grade Level: 8-12+ (some mature content/themes)

Universal: Problem-solving, Resource Management

ELA: Inferencing, Characterization, Audience, Purpose, Media Form, Tone, Mood, Theme, Perspective, Point of View, Style, Metaphor, Symbolism, Propaganda, Rhetoric, Various Thinking Strategies, Government, History, Social Studies: Cold War, Scare Tactics, Propaganda

12. Portal 1 & Portal 2

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Appropriate Grade Level: 4-12+

Universal: Problem-solving, Collaboration, Visualization, Various Thinking Strategies

ELA: Irony, Tone, Collaboration

Science: Physics

13. Armadillo Run

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Appropriate Grade Level: 4-12+

Universal: Problem-solving, Project Management, Collaboration

Science: Physics

14. Detroit Become Human

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Appropriate Grade Levels: 10-12+ (some mature content/themes)

Universal: Various Thinking Strategies

ELA: Narrative Style, Tone, Mood, Characterization, Point of View, Setting, Perspective, Style

15. Deus Ex

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16. Red Dead Redemption 2

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17. Assassin’s Creed (any from the series)

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18. Plague Inc.

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19. Minecraft

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20. Garry’s Mod

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21. Foundation

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22. Bioshock

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23. Rome: Total War

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24. Planet Zoo

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25. Cities Skyline

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One

Developer’s Description: Multi-tiered and challenging simulation: Playing as the mayor of your city, you’ll be faced with balancing essential requirements such as education, water electricity, police, firefighting, healthcare and much more, along with your city’s economy. Citizens within your city react fluidly, keeping you on your toes with ever-evolving demands.