Common Sense


Best Summer Learning Games

Anything remotely school-related is a total summer-break bummer. But that doesn't mean the learning has to stop. Kids will get engrossed in these great at-home games that also are teacher-approved.

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Top Picks


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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.

Contraption Maker

Solve problems, puzzles, brain teasers while creating wacky machines

Bottom line: Hands-on problem-solving leads to great fun and independent learning with the right curricular wrap-around to make connections between what kids are doing and what they need to know.


Spiraling sandbox of adventure and creation gets kids to dig deep

Bottom line: An irresistible and seemingly limitless incubator for 21st-century skills that, with a little guidance, can chart new courses for learning.

WordWhile: Casual Literary Fun

Clever fill-in-the-blank game playfully promotes literature

Bottom line: A different spin on reading the classics can engage students in the short term, but teachers should find ways to extend learning.

Elegy for a Dead World

Compelling sci-fi world imagined -- and written -- by its players

Bottom line: With some teacher guidance, Elegy offers an opportunity unlike anything else to get students to write stories and stretch their creative muscles.

LittleBigPlanet 2

Accessible yet deep game creator will dazzle and challenge

Bottom line: A deeply charming experience for teachers and students interested in pushing boundaries, making things, and participating in a healthy community focused on boundless creativity.

Sound Shapes

Jazzy music game lets kids design levels and create music

Bottom line: A visually stunning music game that inspires creativity by providing simple but powerful tools to build your own music games to share with others.


Gorgeous, moving adventure -- a jewel of social and emotional learning

Bottom line: Journey is a must-play experience and a shining beacon of the good that games can do.

Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna)

Illuminating native Alaskan folktale supports SEL skills

Bottom line: A beautiful achievement developed in cooperation with indigenous folk that offers players valuable SEL skill building and a respectful window into Inupiat culture, ways of life, traditions, and stories.

GameMaker Studio 2

One of the best creation tools available for aspiring game developers

Bottom line: Provides teachers with the best choice for a full unit or class on game design, and gives students a tool to help them realize their game-making dreams.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Stimulating and creative adventure helps kids grow their vocabularies

Bottom line: This game encourages kids to expand their vocabularies and practice spelling.

Epistory - Typing Chronicles

Practice typing by exploring and defending a world made of paper

Bottom line: Great for practicing touch-typing skills, this adventure game draws players in with a slowly revealed backstory.

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.

Papo & Yo

Powerful tale of alcoholism uses puzzles and metaphor to build empathy

Bottom line: A beautiful game that's sure to build students' empathy skills and provoke deep conversations about alcoholism and abuse as well as metaphor.

Hack 'n' Slash

Zelda-inspired puzzler lets players peek behind the code curtain

Bottom line: A great intro to variables and how algorithms work, this game would shine as a supplement to a larger unit on programming.

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.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Brilliant, charming puzzler challenges kids' ELA and math skills

Bottom line: It's on Nintendo DS so it's not easy to weave into a classroom, but it's worth it, bridging ELA and math in complex puzzles guaranteed to absorb students.

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.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Heartfelt story-as-history-lesson humanizes World War I

Bottom line: Part history lesson, part action, part puzzler, all wrapped inside a sincere and emotional story that builds skills, historical knowledge, and empathy.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Unique cooperative adventure with lasting social and emotional impact

Bottom line: With good support, an extremely powerful game to build empathy.

Construct 2

Standout, pro-caliber game-dev tool still great for novices

Bottom line: Robust enough for commercial games yet simple enough for a classroom with proper support, this is a stellar tool for game creation that lowers the barrier of entry without sacrificing depth.


Leave and locate hidden packages in a real-world treasure hunt

Bottom line: Kids learn problem-solving, teamwork, and mapping skills, but the site doesn’t provide instruction or explanations for most of those topics; educators will have to fill in the gaps.

Portal 2 Puzzle Maker

Mind-bending level editor for beloved physics game

Bottom line: For STEAM educators with the right tech and know-how, it'd be puzzling not to use this tool.

Garry's Mod

Complex physics sandbox is daunting but rich

Bottom line: This physics sandbox ramps up the complexity but not the usability, leaving it up to the right teachers and students to unlock its benefits.

Political Animals

Charming political campaign sim mixes data analysis and civics

Bottom line: It's a highly entertaining and surprisingly deep way to help students see the strategy -- as well as ethical choices -- involved in elections.

Kerbal Space Program

Design and launch a rocket into space in realistic astrophysics sim

Bottom line: This accurate rocket sim encourages trial-and-error learning and makes for great (and often explosive) physics and engineering experiments.

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.


Philosophical game invites students to ponder everything's existence

Bottom line: Meaningful and humbling take on interconnectedness, but in that existential sort of way that's highly individual and potentially hit or miss.

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