The 10 Best Educational Video Games (Updated 2023) – Screen Rant
Are you ready to play the smart way? Get the best educational video games to make the most of screen time.
Parents brag about their kids’ grades. They cheer louder than anyone else when their child makes a goal, touchdown, or homerun. They might even boast about having a kid who stays up reading a book under the covers with a flashlight after lights-out. But no one hears a mom bragging about her child or teenager’s many hours spent in front of a screen with a controller in their hands. But is video gaming always a bad thing, or can it also be something that’s sometimes brag-worthy? According to professionals, some of the best educational video games have much to offer in brain-boosting power and many consider them a new way for people of all ages to learn through lively, compelling gameplay.
When learning feels more like fun it’s much easier to find the motivation to explore new concepts, take on challenging tasks, and stretch your mental muscles. While there’s always a chance of too much of a good thing, and no one should spend so much time gaming that they don’t get enough exercise or time spent socializing with friends and family — the right video games effectively increase the brain’s processing speed and improve visual skills to amplify learning ability out in the real world. Maybe this explains why some of the smartest people are also gaming nerds?
While it’s always fun to play your favorite video games in a variety of genres from racing games to role-playing action adventures, adding some of today’s best educational video games to the roster on your favorite gaming platform can help your brain — or your child’s — to benefit from time spent behind the controller.
One of the best educational video games of all time is the critically acclaimed, teacher-approved STEM game, Minecraft. Players of all ages enjoy mining their own creative resources as they also mine fascinating biomes for resource blocks to craft tools and build complex structures, landscapes, and villages. Minecraft’s infinite world randomly self-generates as players move through the game so they can explore and design at will, creating literally anything they dream up.
Minecraft not only taps into a player’s creativity, but it’s also an educational tool for problem-solving. As players enter each unique biome, they must swiftly mine local resources to build shelter, find food, and craft tools. It’s also a unique platform for creativity, with no need to “win.” Instead, players set their own goals and play the game the way they like. Minecraft gamers can choose to enjoy free-range exploration and crafting in creative mode or add some spice and adventure into their gaming with survival mode. Survival mode includes a variety of nefarious creatures known as “mobs” so players must craft not only fortresses and tools but also weapons to defeat attackers. Players problem-solve and strategize while trying to keep their character alive through each Minecraft day — which lasts about 10 minutes in real-time.
Besides the STEM activities of designing and creating, Minecraft is one of the best educational video games to reinforce other learning skills such as reading, math, science, writing, and even history.
The blocky, purposely pixilated world of Minecraft offers single-player or multiplayer collaborative fun for all ages.
If you thought video game platforms like the PS4 were just for gaming you might be surprised to know they’re also a great way to learn specific skills — like playing the guitar. One of the best educational video games for learning a musical skill is Rocksmith 2014-Remastered Edition. Learn at your own pace through a fun, interactive video game right from your PS4 without having to pay for professional lessons. Most users learn to play serious riffs and full songs within 60 days.
Rocksmith requires only the newly remastered PS4 game and a Real Tone cable to plug into the output jack of an electric guitar. With Rocksmith, players progress along a career path as a goal within the game as they learn, opening up more songs and challenges while working through the levels of the game, taking on more difficult lessons as they progress. With real-time feedback, the game tracks each note played, just like having your own professional teacher right from your PS4 device.
While learning to play the electric guitar through Rocksmith 2014-Remastered, players earn Rocksmith points to unlock additional features, including new venues, and new game modes. Players practice specific techniques to meet in-game challenges. With 50 included popular songs plus 6 new bonus tracks in the remastered edition, players can plug in and learn to play their favorite songs or access additional songs from the for-purchase library.
This is one of the best educational games for anyone to quickly learn to play the guitar right from the comfort of their own home.
One of the best educational video games for nearly unlimited options for creativity is Little Big Planet 3. Children and adults enjoy visiting Little Big Planet’s “Imagisphere” to experience many fun surprises while they solve puzzles and expand their creativity with the game’s unique customization tools. Players bring their imaginations to colorful life through user-created levels with now up to 16 layers of depth. New levels and new friends combined with backward compatibility with downloadable content from previous Little Big Planet games keep this game loaded with fun and learning through many hours of gaming.
Little Big Planet 3 offers nearly endless options for engagement with an expansive level creator to stretch young imaginations. Players enjoy creating mini-games within the game while visiting levels created by other users and customizing their own through intuitive designing tools. Gamers of all ages enjoy learning about creation and design as they explore a friendly, hand-stitched world of homemade heroes and adventures.
In Little Big Planet 3, fan-favorite hero, Sackboy, returns with new abilities, bringing 3 new friends along. Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop have engaging personalities and add new skills to the game, plus some fun new costumes to collect for customization. Use the PS4’s SHARE button to instantly broadcast creations and favorite gameplay clips.
Described as a world where gaming meets math, creation, and critical thinking, Little Big Planet 3 is teacher-approved and beloved by kids and parents as family-friendly fun with an element of learning that makes screen time beneficial.
LeapFrog is a trusted name in early education and learning through technology. One of today’s best educational video games for early learners is LeapFrog LeapLand Adventures. For those with young children who always grab the gaming controllers, this is the perfect first video game to introduce them to gaming with screen time parents feel good about.
LeapFrog LeapLand Adventures takes kids ages 3 to 8 years old on a kid-friendly quest for the keys to unlock the mysterious Clever Castle while exploring early education concepts along the way.
LeapLand Adventures offers over 150 learning concepts, including letters, numbers, colors, and shapes with replayable game levels. Kids can choose between 2 colorful, quirky characters and play at their own pace with fun replayable game levels. They’ll enjoy exploring LetterLand, Numberville, Shapetown, and color springs, all filled with new friends who teach counting, letter names and sounds, and the shapes and colors found in the world around them — all presented in a platform that feels more like fun than learning. With engaging content and exciting kid-friendly quests, this is one of the very best educational video games to introduce children to technology. It’s also a teacher-approved supplement for homeschooling. The game saves up to 5 profiles so it’s perfect for families with multiple children who want to play.
Best of all, this game requires no gaming platform but instead offers a user-friendly plug-and-play setup through any television. Just insert the HDMI game stick and USB cable into your television’s USB port and it’s ready to play with no downloads required and no worries about privacy. Kids love having their own controller and a video game that’s all their own!
One of the best educational video games for serious exercises to strengthen, test, and try out the human brain is Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch. Not only does the game come with a stylus for use on the Switch’s touchscreen, but it challenges the brain through a series of concepts taught by famed neuroscientist, Dr. Ryuta Kawashima. This is the fifth installment of the Brain Age video game puzzle series with new additions and gameplay methods added for the Nintendo Switch using the platform’s specific features such as the touchscreen, gyroscope, and IR sensors to improve and expand gameplay.
With Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training game, players find their brain’s “age” based on abilities rather than chronological age. With three exercises designed to focus on the self-control, short-term memory, and processing speed areas of the brain, players find their own personal brain age score. They then go on to enjoy a variety of features including the brain-power-improving Daily Training section filled with mini-games to keep the brain active. The challenging puzzles and games include favorites like Soduku as well as the piano-based game, Masterpiece Recital. There are also Photographic Memory, and Dual-Task challenges. Players use the Switch’s IR camera for rousing games of Rock, Paper, Scissors as well as hand-gesture memorization games.
This is one of the best educational video games for fans of the original Nintendo DS Brain Age Series, as well as for new users from the Nintendo Switch generation to enjoy testing their mental metal and keeping it sharply honed.
The very best educational video games are those that offer such laugh-out-loud humor and entertainment that gamers might not even notice how much they are learning along the way. Kerbal Space Program is exactly that game. While a crew of tiny green men with funny hairstyles and googly eyes keep players chuckling throughout the gameplay, they might forget that this rocket science-professor-approved video game was used by NASA and Elon Musk to boost understanding of the SpaceX program.
Kerbal Space Program is a space flight simulation game where players lead a new fictional space program staffed by humanoid space aliens from the planet Kerbin. With the help of the Kerbin crew, players man the Kerbal Space Center to create rockets, spaceplanes, land rovers, and other space-related craft and then enjoy the thrill of launching and controlling their spacecraft, including determining thrust, trajectory, orbit, and other critical factors for success or failure and then accomplishing challenges and missions. While not a perfect simulation of the reality of space, scientists praise Kerbal Space Program for its adherence to true orbital mechanics and Newtonian dynamics.
Kerbal Space Program includes three game mode choices so players can explore and create at will in Sandbox Mode, advance science through experimentation in Science Mode, or focus on the business aspects of completing contracts and earning funds in Career Mode.
This simulation game is one of the best educational video games for gamers and space buffs of all ages and now includes two exciting expansion packs with new missions and parts. Plus, fans of Kerbal Space Program eagerly await the launch of the much anticipated Kerbal Space Program 2.
One of the best educational video games for family-friendly competition is the new release for Nintendo Switch from Big Brain Academy. Brain vs Brain lets children as young as 4 years old compete against adults with an even playing field. By choosing one of four difficulty levels, each player competes within their own level to be the first to complete brain-bending puzzles, challenging memorization activities, and animal identification games. Plus, players can unlock dozens of fun outfits for their avatars to customize their in-game characters.
Find your own brain brawn score with a brain-teasing test and then go brain vs brain in 4-player matches to compete for the highest score even at multiple skill levels. Compete with friends or family in real-time or choose to play against compiled data from family members in your household or from people on your friend list. If that challenge isn’t enough, players can also compete in Ghost Clash mode to try to outscore the data of other players worldwide to see how they match up. Players can check their rankings for comparison against some of the smartest brainiacs in the Big Brain Academy system.
The best part of Big Brain Academy: Brain vs Brain is competing against yourself by practicing specific skills until you beat your own scores. The addictive gameplay keeps players of all ages coming back for more. This is one of the best educational video games for the whole family, with no worries about limiting screen time since every hour spent in Big Brain Academy improves brain power and critical thinking skills!
Video gaming is a wildly popular medium with a future full of limitless possibilities. That’s why one of the best educational video games today is the one that teaches people of all ages to design, create, and share their very own games. If you or your child dreams of becoming a programmer or game designer, Game Builder Garage is a great first step along the journey.
This is a teaching game that’s lively, fast-paced, and engaging enough for all users to learn from and enjoy, including children. Players learn to program by building their own games within the game, through step-by-step lessons and challenges.
Nintendo Switch’s touchscreen makes programming easy with colorful creatures known as Nodon representing the many facets of game creation, such as input, output, buttons, control sticks, timers, and much more. Players make connections between Nodons easily by following step-by-step directions. For example, connecting a control stick Nodon, to the Person Nodon ties the Person’s movement in the game to the control stick.
Game Builder Garage supports up to eight different Joy-Con, so as many as eight players can join local multiplayer games. Players can also share the access code for their game to invite other gamers to play.
By using the free-creation feature, once a player is proficient at game creation, they can experiment and create games at will with nearly limitless potential.
While Nintendo doesn’t feature a game browser, a fan-based platform called MyGarage Games allows users to share their own codes and access those of other creators.
If you’re looking for one of the best educational video games for budding artists or for proficient artists looking for a portable option to exercise their creativity anywhere, anytime, without messy paint and brushes, Colors Live for Nintendo Switch is the perfect medium for creating beautiful, colorful artwork anywhere. Create masterpieces from the comfort of your couch or while on the go during travel — all with the Nintendo Switch’s convenient touchscreen portable platform and an included pressure-sensitive sonar pen for a more natural painting experience.
Colors Live for Nintendo Switch lets users adjust stroke thickness and opacity levels as well as use their choice in colors and brush types to produce beautiful, original works of art. A painting playback video option beautifully displays completed masterpieces and highlights their step-by-step creation. You can also choose to share your art with the massive online community at the Colors Live Gallery or learn by watching the process other artists used to create their own masterpieces.
Besides the free-painting standard mode for artwork, users can also enjoy mastering the fun challenges in the Color Quest game mode by painting within set themes and various rules for each quest, such as using a limited color palette, or a limited toolset. These challenges increase skill and bolster artistic ability as well as foster creativity.
This is one of the best educational video games for any artist, or for anyone wishing to find their own inner artist.
Immerse yourself in history with Discovery Tour Viking Age. This gem of a game from Ubisoft lets you experience history first-hand as you traverse the real realms of Norway and England, and roam freely through Asgard and Jotunheim. You'll love exploring the rich and detailed histories of these lands, and you may just learn a few things along the way.
Designed to be an open-world exploration experience, Discover Age lets you move through the game at your own pace, taking all the time you want with the events and figures from history. The game takes its inspiration from Assassin's Creed, and the historical significance that is such a deep part of the gameplay. Discovery Age lets you wander freely, interacting with the environment on your terms.
Accept the narrative-driven quests, and you'll get an inside glimpse into the events that shaped our modern world. The developer's goal with this game was to give the player insight into not only the terrain, conflict, and politics of the former era, but also the humanity and people that lived through the times. Overall, this is a unique game, and one that almost tricks you into learning with its richly designed world. Pick up Discovery Tour Viking Age, and you'll see what we mean.
If learning isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of video gaming, you’re not alone. The platforms that bring us popular games focus on the most compelling, addictive gameplay experiences filled with thrills, chills, spills, and splatter — blood splatter, that is. But if you think video gaming only offers the bedlam of boss battles and the chaos of car theft, you haven’t checked out some of the best educational video games offered by some of the most popular platforms, including Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, and PC gaming.
If you’re looking for video games to add some brain-boosting benefits to your family’s screen time, it helps to know what to look for while you’re browsing. Some games are clearly meant for learning and exercising your brain brawn, but some of today’s best-selling video games in a variety of genres happen to also have helpful — and sometimes hidden — educational elements so you might not even notice that you’re learning while you play.
Some of the best educational video games offer unlimited access to resources for creating, crafting, and building. Sandbox-style video games let players mine for resources, forage for food, and develop complex structures, vehicles, and devices — all within the game. From the blocky, purposely pixelated world of Minecraft, where gamers explore self-generating biomes full of boundless resources for building, to the alien world of the Kerbal Space Program, where users learn literal rocket science while launching little green men into the stratosphere, today’s gamers have access to new layers of learning and all they have to do is mine their own mental metal.
These games offer teacher-approved STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning in a method that feels more like fun but boosts critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a way that transfers into real-world activities.
While choosing to crack open a book might feel like a chore to some learners, the colorful, fast-paced fun of a video game feels more like an addictive adventure. But that doesn’t mean these games don’t reinforce the basic skills of reading, writing, math, and science. Some of the best educational video games for kids, teens, and adults of all ages offer learning as a savory side dish to the main course. Whether it’s a game that allows players to become the animal of their choice to explore natural environments while decorating a “den,” or following a kid-friendly hand-stitched hero through a world of exciting adventures, reading, mental math, and learning science and history are often beneficial bonuses to the main gameplay.
Many of today’s best educational video games not only reinforce basic reading, writing, and math skills but also offer teacher-approved experiences in elements of design, music, and art. From games that teach users how to design, program, and launch a game within a game, to video games that offer a new medium for art masterpieces on the go with greater portability than wet paints and brushes, video games are the new great outlet for creativity.
Besides programming, designing, and artwork, you can also find great games for teaching musical skills that are the next best thing to being there at lessons with a professional musician, but at a fraction of the cost and right from your own living room.
While it might take a little digging to uncover hidden gems of education in today’s gaming world, these brain-boosting games help make screen time also time for learning valuable lessons to take back into the real world.
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Coleen Figner is a freelance writer and author of the novel, The Harbinger, by Coleen D’Andrea. She writes movie and television reviews as well as book, video game, and product reviews for Screen Rant and CBR, as well as other projects. Coleen has always loved a great storyline and immersive descriptions, whether they are in print, a great movie, or in an addictive game with a vast open world to explore. Before becoming a freelance writer, Coleen taught reading and writing interventions to elementary school students. She also ran a grant-funded after-school history club teaching students about local history through walking field trips before them through the process of writing and illustrating a children’s history book and performing historical reenactments. Coleen lives deep in horse country in North Central Florida where she gets inspiration for her fiction writing while raising chickens and peafowl as well as her family. She also takes inspiration from a bowl of popcorn, a cozy afghan, and a new movie or the latest binge-watch series.