PC games for the classroom
Educational games are a huge market, but they have always been a bit on the boring side. Not to say that there aren’t a lot of fun educational games out there. A lot of the best educational games fly under the radar.
Here are a few games available for purchase and download that are both fun and educational. Feel free to browse or click on your preferred subject below.
- Science: Biology
- Science: Chemistry
- Science: Physics
- Social Studies
- Tech Ed.
Elegy for a Dead World
Write the story of a world as you explore it. Great for students who are strong in visual/spatial learning.
To Be or Not To Be
A choose-your-own-adventure parody of Hamlet. Yorick skulls mark the way Shakespeare intended in his original play, and the Haml-o-meter shows you how close you were to the original story... or not. The game encourages you to choose your own path and congratulates you for writing a better story than Shakespeare if you stray from the canon tale. It's a little like Hamlet fanfiction.
Players are given a task and have to write whatever they think will solve the problem. Anything you write will come to life inside the game. Encourages a large vocabulary and creative problem solving.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
The classic sleuthing adventure has been adapted into a Facebook game. Aside from actually travelling to the different countries, there's no better way to learn geography than to track down the criminal mastermind herself. Carmen Sandiego Returns is also available for Windows 8.
Crusader Kings II
Though there are many historical strategy games out there (a good percentage developed by Paradox), Crusader Kings II is one of the rare few that goes deep into cultural history, discussing not only historical figures and events but also inheritance laws, religious influence, and a hierarchy of titles that varies by country.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
In-game collectibles unlock encyclopedia entries and act as a sort of virtual museum for World War I. The contextual information adds to the immersiveness and heartbreak of this story based on a tragic conflict.
Influent is a simple game where you walk around a house and find the items being asked for in the language of choice. There are 16 language packs and counting. Recommended for beginning learners.
The Counting Kingdom
Be a mathemagician! This puzzle defense game requires players to solve problems quickly if they want to defend their castle from harm. Filament Games also offers student accounts and a curriculum for teachers.
I'm including this game out of nostalgia, though I can only find it available on the iPhone and iPad. A classic educational game with simple mechanics. Eat all the numbers that fit the given formula while avoiding other monsters that are out to eat you!
Plague Inc: Evolved
Your goal? Kill everyone in the world. But it's not as violent as it sounds.
In Plague Inc: Evolved, you view a map of the world and try to evolve a virus so that it can travel across species or in frigid environments, causing an ever-growing number of symptoms. An interesting study in environmental adaptation and how epidemics grow and spread.
Crazy Plant Shop
Use punnett squares to blend plant genetics together and make new kinds of plants to sell to customers. A fun way to learn genetics, a subject that is widely considered one of the most difficult parts of biology 101. Filament Games also offers student accounts and a curriculum for teachers.
While Agar.io may seem like a dumb distraction, this game contains the building blocks of natural selection. Tactics include hiding in brambles to avoid large predators, riding underneath a larger blob’s belly for protection, traveling in a herd to avoid complete decimation, and then just simply being the biggest blob at the top of the food chain. You might want to turn on the "no names" setting to avoid any bad language.
According to the Sokobond trailer, “it's the best chemistry-themed 2D indie puzzle game where you're trying to make molecules… since SpaceChem.” At the completion of each puzzle, the game provides information about each molecule formed.
Mess around with the universe and see how physics works on a truly astronomical scale. Universe Sandbox 2 is currently available in alpha.
Kerbal Space Program
A space flight simulator with adorable green men who talk like Minions. Gameplay includes floating through space, achieving orbit, and safely landing your spacecraft.
Use portals to mess with both gravity and reality. There's also a level editor. Visit teachwithportals.com for lesson plan information.
Feel all the inertia with none of the drag. Learn about Newton’s laws of motion as you try to stabilize yourself. Learn about the laws of conservation as you spit out all your energy trying to move faster.
Learn about government, taxes, and the importance of infrastructure.
Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna)
Created by indigenous-owned developer Upper One Games, Never Alone is a quiet and beautiful platformer exploring the culture and mythology of the Iñupiaq, an Alaskan Inuit people.
During the game, the player collects “Cultural Insights”, which are educational videos prompted by contextual events. For example, after encountering the arctic fox in the game, a video is unlocked teaching the player about arctic foxes. When a cold gust of wind blows, a video is unlocked about Iñupiaq clothing.
A physics simulator about building bridges. Includes a steady learning curve that teaches the basics of construction.
The Incredible Machine
Another classic. Essentially, a Rube Goldberg machine simulator. Players complete challenges or use the level editor to discover cause-and-effect relationships.
Minecraft is, at its core, all about exploration and procedural learning. Given its popularity, though, the community has created working calculators and replicas of entire cities with the game. Teachers, too, have come up with such services as MinecraftEdu and Club Minecraft.
What other educational games can you think of? Share with us in the comments!