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. If the underlying learning process is well-thought-out, video games can provide powerful common ground for teachers and learners.

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 20+ 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

One-Sentence Description: A game about two characters trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic society

Grade Levels: High School and University

Platform(s): PS4 and PS5

Ideal Content Area(s): ELA (thematic development, tone, mood, characterization, symbolism, etc.)

2. Animal Crossing

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: K-12+

Platform(s): 

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): Socialization, basic business strategies, resource management

3. Paper Mario: Origami King

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: K-12+

Platform(s): 

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): Maker Learning, Design, Art, ELA (mood, tone, symbolism, etc.)

4. Story Of Seasons: Friends Of Mineral Town

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

5. Kentucky Route Zero

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Ideal Content Area(sTopics/ Key Content Area(s): ELA (story telling, tone, mood, etc.)

6. Age of Empires II

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Topics/ Key Content Area(s):

7. Space Engineers

One-Sentence Description: Space Engineers is a sandbox game about engineering, construction, exploration and survival in space and on planets.

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): PC

Ideal Content Area(s):

8. Cloud Gardens

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Topics/ Key Content Area(s):

9. Red Dead Redemption 2

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

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

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

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): ELA: Inferencing, Audience, Characterization, Purpose, Media Form, Tone, Mood, Theme, Perspective, Point of View, Style, Metaphor, Symbolism, Propaganda, Rhetoric, Various Thinking Strategies; Social Studies, History, American History, Science, Botany

10. Civilization VI

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 6-12+

Platform(s): 

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): Social Studies, World History, Diplomacy, Political Science

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

Developer’s Description: 

Grade Levels: 9-12+

Platform(s): PS4, PS5, XBOX One, Xbox Series X, PC

Topics/ Key Content Area(s):ELA (thematic development, tone, mood, characterization, symbolism, etc.), Social Studies

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

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Appropriate Grade Level: 4-12+

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

ELA: Irony, Tone, Collaboration

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): Science, Problem-Solving, Collaborative Thinking

13. Sim City

14. Detroit Become Human

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): Science, Philosophy

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

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): Science (nanotechnology and biotechnology), Social Studies, Philosophy (ethics of human engineering, etc.)

16.

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

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Ideal Content Area(s):

18. Plague Inc.

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Ideal Content Area(s):

19. Minecraft

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Ideal Content Area(s):

20. Garry’s Mod

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Ideal Content Area(s):

21. Foundation

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Ideal Content Area(s):

22. Bioshock

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Topics/Key Content Area(s):ELA (thematic development, tone, mood, characterization, symbolism, etc.)

23. Rome: Total War

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): History, World History, Diplomacy

24. Planet Zoo

One-Sentence Description:

Grade Levels: 

Platform(s): 

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): Biology, Zoology

25. Cities Skyline

One-Sentence Description: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.

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One

Topics/ Key Content Area(s): City development, urban planning, social improvement, design, social studies