Common Sense


Great Games That Teach Strategy

Strategy games involve a player whose independent decision-making skills determine the outcome. As students play and reflect on their choices, their ability to solve large and complex problems -- as well as think critically from multiple angles -- will increase. Since many games can be thought of as experiences rather than instruction, consider the educational value in some of the more popular, entertainment-focused games that your students already enjoy at home. The beauty of strategy games is that they can be built around many subjects; from chess to coding to building new civilizations, these great games will keep students on their toes.

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Economics, Civics, and History

Sid Meier's Civilization V

Legendary strategy game is a hit with history buffs in school and out

Bottom line: For flexible classrooms, creative teachers, and sharp students, Civilization V is the perfect platform for making rather than memorizing history.


Exciting city simulator great for online play

Bottom line: SimCity does a great job teaching kids about cities by putting them in control of designing them, but this game needs a constant Internet connection.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

Best entry in classic strategy series might not be best for classrooms

Bottom line: As with all games in this series, Civilization VI is a great learning experience with the right support, but older, cheaper versions may be more practical for classrooms.

Offworld Trading Company

Rare, combat-free strategy game focused on trade, finance

Bottom line: Great intro to basic economics principles with baked-in gameplay and real-world applications.

Democracy 3

Nuanced political sim about the balancing act of government

Bottom line: This is a grown-up civics sim, full of tough choices, compelling cause and effect relationships, and controversial issues that will work best for older government students.

This War of Mine

Strategy game offers superb, mature take on war and civilian survival

Bottom line: A stark portrayal of civilian life in a war-torn city that requires strategic thinking and invites repeated plays.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)

Cork the Volcano - Puzzlets

Fun elementary coding through hands-on puzzle tiles

Bottom line: Programming that combines engaging physical puzzle tiles with digital gameplay.

PBS KIDS Kart Kingdom

Lively, colorful exploration app teaches strategy, tool-making

Bottom line: Exploration, resource gathering, and crafting will teach students how systems work while they have fun navigating the world.

Busy Water

Solve, create, and share puzzles that gush with STEM learning

Bottom line: This challenging yet kid-friendly set of logic puzzles wonderfully allows kids to solve problems and experiment with light science concepts.

Magnus Kingdom of Chess

Gentle chess puzzle game ideal for young newbies

Bottom line: For kids who are new to chess but want to learn how to play, this fun intro to the game provides a well-done tutorial combined with a light overarching storyline.


Quirky strategy game reinforces math in a novel way

Bottom line: Students should enjoy the board game approach to teaching math -- if it's used as a treat to reinforce concepts already learned.


Keep your ecosystem from crashing in this addictive puzzle game

Bottom line: Habitactics employs game-based learning to help students discover relationships in ecosystems.

Human Resource Machine

Addictive, unique way to supplement coding instruction

Bottom line: A novel way to learn programming that will require student collaboration and extra adult support.

FTL: Faster Than Light

Failure is frequent and fun in this strategic starship sim

Bottom line: This starship simulator isn’t easy, but gritty kids will learn from failure and practice systems thinking.

Stop Disasters!

Slick sim explores global natural disasters

Bottom line: Few other browser-based sims better illustrate the potential of gaming for learning about serious issues in our world.

Surviving Mars

Colonizing Mars is in our future, but why wait?

Bottom line: Lots of potential and perhaps much better in a year or so of updates; use this in a class about space exploration and the harsh realities of colonization.

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