13 Best Websites and Games for U.S. History and Civics

February 17, 2014
Ellen Holderman
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Out-of-School Learning, Tools, Technology Integration

In celebration of President's Day, we want to highlight the best websites and games for U.S. History and Civics. Sometimes, the history that students learn about in textbooks is boiled down to key events and dates. These great websites and games let them explore tricky topics from different perspectives and walk a mile in the shoes of important decision makers. Use them to help your students look back in time -- or at current events -- in a whole new way.

To see the rating of each app, game, or website, visit the Top Picks List, Best Websites and Games for U.S. History and Civics.


Democracy 3
Democracy 3 is a somewhat abstract downloadable government simulation for older students. Players take on the role of President or Prime Minister in one of several Western democracies. Teachers can use Democracy 3 to provide an experiential perspective on the challenges, functions, and roles of the executive branch. Read full review.

PBS LearningMedia
PBS LearningMedia contains tens of thousands of digital resources aligned to Common Core standards and ready for classroom use. Topics cover English language arts, math, professional development, science and health, and social studies with resources for grades Pre-K through college. Read full review.

Mission US: For Crown or Colony?
Mission US: For Crown or Colony? is an interactive experience that allows students to explore colonial America in 1770s Boston, just prior to the Revolutionary War. The game is narrated with snippets of animation, and kids are often able to click on and explore the environment. Read full review.

Smarthistory is an interactive digital textbook that offers students the opportunity to explore a virtual art "museum" with expert guides in the form of conversational videos about art. Kids worldwide have access to remote works with accompanying commentary, which discusses context, history, and other themes. Read full review.

Your Commonwealth
Your Commonwealth is an international site created by young people for young people who are interested in addressing global concerns such as injustice, poverty, and the environment. Young people from all over the world contribute articles and video to the site, which are then posted in a news-like format. Read full review.

Branches of Power
Branches of Power, a free online game at iCivics or Filament Games, teaches kids about government as students shepherd issues through the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Kids select avatars to represent leaders in each branch. Read full review.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor founded iCivics to reverse a decline in civic knowledge and help kids better understand and respect the U.S. government. Sixteen games cover core topics like citizenship, rights, the court system, governance, freedom of speech, and constitutional law. Read full review.

Historypin is a map-based website that allows "people to come together, from across different generations, cultures and places, to share small glimpses of the past and to build up the huge story of human history." Users do this by "pinning" photos to a location on the map and attaching a note to describe what's in each image. Read full review.

Mission US: Flight to Freedom
Want to make the study of slavery come alive? Check out Mission US: Flight to Freedom, a browser-based game that combines linear storytelling with a choose-your-own-adventure feeling. Students warp back in time to 1848 and step into the shoes of 14-year-old slave Lucy King as she runs away in search of freedom. Read full review.

Tiki-Toki is an online, interactive timeline creator. With lots of comparable sites out there, what sets Tiki-Toki apart is its ability to blend traditional chronological mapping with multimedia and text in a slick, professional-looking layout. Read full review.

The Republica Times
The Republia Times is a browser-based game that's part of a growing genre of smaller games that explore serious, challenging, and often political social issues. The player assumes the role of an editor overseeing what articles appear on the front page of a newspaper in a fictional country that's just had a political revolution. Read full review.

Argument Wars
Argument Wars is like taking your favorite television courtroom drama and melding it with Wii Tennis; it’s a game of back and forth just mental rather than physical. Without question. Cases are based on actual supreme court cases but infuse ethical content sure to engage teens. Read full review.

Executive Command
Executive Command puts kids in the role of president, where they champion their chosen political issues while dealing with bills, diplomacy, and war. After picking an avatar and watching a brief cut-scene, kids guide the president to Congress and pick an issue to focus on during the game. Read full review.


What websites and games do you use in the classroom that focus on U.S. History? Sign in to comment below.