Top Pick

Games for Building Critical Thinking Skills

Students love opportunities to sink their teeth into problems that don't have clear answers, or to tackle tough challenges that test their deduction skills and knowledge. It's often out of this challenging murkiness that new perspectives and ideas emerge. Treat your students to these terrific, fun critical thinking games and watch how they develop thinking skills and more complex understandings of the world. On this list are puzzle games that help students solve problems and think ahead, story-based games that help students understand and unpack local and global issues, and strategy games that get students to manage time and resources.

Quandary Publisher: Learning Games Network
Slick but dialogue heavy ethics game teaches students to make tough decisions
Grades 2-8
Type Game
Price Free
Platforms Linux, Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 3
Crayon Physics Deluxe Publisher: Kloonigames
Influential physics game is still a draw
Grades 2-12
Type Game
Price $19.95
Platforms Linux, Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 3
Contraption Maker Publisher: Spotkin
Solve problems, puzzles, brain teasers while creating wacky machines
Grades 3-8
Type Game
Price Free, Paid
Platforms Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Zoombinis Publisher: Technical Education Research Centers, Inc.
Classic logic puzzler gets a beautiful new look
Grades 3-8
Type App
Price $4.99
Platforms Android, iPad, Kindle Fire, Apps for Windows, Mac Apps
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 5
Minecraft Publisher: Mojang
Spiraling sandbox of adventure and creation gets kids to dig deep
Grades 3-12
Type Game
Price $26.95 for desktop, $19.99 for consoles (except Wii U at $29.99)
Platforms Linux, Mac, Wii U, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 4
Little Alchemy Visit Website: https://littlealchemy.com/
Flex alchemical muscles in discovery-based puzzler
Grades 4-10
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating 3
Geoguessr Visit Website: https://geoguessr.com/
"Just one more turn" gameplay jazzes up geography
Grades 4-12
Type Website
Price Free, Paid
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 3
Scribblenauts Remix Publisher: Warner Bros. Entertainment
Vocab-building word puzzles inspire creative problem-solving
Grades 5-8
Type App
Price $.99
Platforms Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone, Apps for Windows
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating 3
Professor Layton and the Curious Village Publisher: Nintendo
Brilliant, charming puzzler challenges kids' ELA and math skills
Grades 6-12
Type Game
Price 30
Platforms 3DS, Nintendo DS
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Think Like Churchill Publisher: Touchpress Limited
Stunning visuals, thoughtful feedback bring critical decision points to life
Grades 6-12
Type App
Price $3.99
Platforms iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Antichamber Publisher: Demruth
Brain buster makes you think in four dimensions
Grades 7-12
Type Game
Price $19.99
Platforms Linux, Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Extrasolar Publisher: Lazy 8 Studios
Immersive exoplanet exploration game makes sleuths out of rover drivers
Grades 7-12
Type Game
Price Free, Paid
Platforms Linux, Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI Publisher: 2K Games
Best entry in classic strategy series might not be best for classrooms
Grades 7-12
Type Game
Price $59.99
Platforms Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Spent Publisher: McKinney and Urban Ministries of Durham
Provocative, first-person look at poverty builds empathy
Grades 7-12
Type Game
Price Free
Platforms Linux, Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Global Conflicts Publisher: Serious Games Interactive
Role play, global conversations make social studies personal
Grades 8-12
Type Game
Price Free to Try, Paid
Platforms Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Political Animals Publisher: Positech Games
Charming political campaign sim mixes data analysis and civics
Grades 8-12
Type Game
Price $14.99
Platforms Linux, Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Papers, Please Publisher: 3909
Mature immigration game forces tough ethical choices
Grades 9-12
Type Game
Price $9.99
Platforms Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
Parable of the Polygons Visit Website: http://ncase.me/polygons/
Dynamic interactive helps classrooms explore topics of bias, diversity
Grades 9-12
Type Website
Price Free
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 4
The Republia Times Publisher: Lucas Pope
Unassuming editorial sim elegantly exposes the business of bias
Grades 9-12
Type Game
Price Free
Platforms Linux, Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating 3
This War of Mine Publisher: 11-Bit Studios
Strategy game offers superb, mature take on war and civilian survival
Grades 9-12
Type Game
Price $19.99
Platforms Mac, PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated
Fate of the World: Tipping Point Publisher: Red Redemption
Complex global-influence game in which players’ choices rule the world
Grades 10-12
Type Game
Price $18.99
Platforms Mac, Windows
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating Not Yet Rated