Common Sense

TOP PICKS | 31 TOOLS

The Most Engaging Games for the Classroom

One thing games are really good at is engagement. Unfortunately, the games students want to play and the games teachers want them to play don't always align. These are the exception, balancing just-one-more-turn play with rock-solid learning, leaving students and teachers happy. All of these games aren't just absorbing, they also offer students opportunities to build valuable thinking skills and, in some cases, content knowledge. A few also get students creating or experimenting with systems, getting students thinking conceptually.

Continue reading

Top Picks

RELATED

PrintPrint | Save as PDF

Science and Coding Games

Cork the Volcano - Puzzlets

Fun elementary coding through hands-on puzzle tiles

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

Crayon Physics Deluxe

Influential physics game is still a draw

Bottom line: Instantly engaging and super accessible to learners of many ages and abilities, Crayon Physics Deluxe fuses conceptual science learning with a brand of playful problem solving that demands creativity.

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 wraparound to connect what kids are doing with what they need to know.

Algo Bot

Simple coding game a fun intro to algorithms

Bottom line: This coding game is a fun and helpful introduction to basic algorithm development, but other resources will be needed for more depth.

Niche - a genetics survival game

Immersive genetics sim puts evolution in students' hands

Bottom line: This hands-on genetics game allows students to experiment, explore traits, and come away with a sophisticated understanding of the subject.

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.

Math Games

DragonBox Big Numbers

Carrot-and-stick arithmetic app makes students fluent in regrouping

Bottom line: Hopelessly addictive addition/subtraction app keeps students learning and learning.

The Land of Venn - Geometric Defense

Brilliant, wacky adventure game seamlessly integrates geometry

Bottom line: This captivating game is a great way to introduce or reinforce early geometry concepts.

Prodigy

Adaptive math practice wrapped in role-playing adventure

Bottom line: Sometimes kids just need some math practice to get things to stick, and Prodigy delivers in a fun format with great teacher support.

Slice Fractions School Edition

Clever twist combines math instruction with engaging gameplay

Bottom line: A fun, innovative way to help kids build a strong conceptual understanding of fractions.

DragonBox Algebra 5+

Mesmerizing step-by-step puzzler sets the foundation for algebra

Bottom line: This innovative game-changer teaches algebra, changes the way kids learn it, and even changes how they feel about it.

Twelve a Dozen - all access

Engrossing math platformer puts problem-solving skills to the test

Bottom line: This absorbing game challenges kids' math and thinking skills as much as it entertains.

Divide by Sheep

Extremely addictive puzzle game has dark, slightly gory play

Bottom line: A great game for math problem-solving, but be careful choosing your audience.

Critical Thinking and SEL Games

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.

Zoombinis

Classic logic puzzler gets a beautiful new look

Bottom line: Promote powerful thinking skills, resilience, and decision making through purely fun gameplay that will keep students begging for more.

Journey

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: Ki Edition

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.

KIDS

An avant-garde journey of group dynamics sparks discussion

Bottom line: An unusual app that will confuse and entertain classrooms, generating discussion on a number of societal and philosophical topics.

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.

Gone Home

Compelling narrative game fosters empathy, self-reflection

Bottom line: If you're searching for a unique way to analyze storytelling from a social and emotional angle, look no further.

ELA and Social Studies Games

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.

Geoguessr

"Just one more turn" gameplay jazzes up geography

Bottom line: It's not a typical educational game, but Geoguessr inspires students to explore the world and encourages them to think critically about what defines a place, including culture and geography.

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.

DEVICE 6

Inventive, interactive short story puzzles, scares, and delights

Bottom line: Utterly unique, short experience packed with exploration, mysteries, and surprises, but will take inventive teacher to wrap around.

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.

Attentat 1942

Emotional WWII game deftly explores the stories of survivors

Bottom line: An absorbing experience that'll motivate students to piece together a family's story of survival during Nazi occupation.

Papers, Please

Mature immigration game forces tough ethical choices

Bottom line: It's a provocative simulation about ethics and immigration that could spark debate but might be tough to implement.

All-Purpose Games and Game Platforms

TeacherGaming

Level up learning with streamlined resources for classroom gaming

Bottom line: All-in-one platform for game-based learning gives teachers the confidence and the support they need to make learning real.

Common Sense Selection

Tinybop Schools

Collection of STEM simulations that students will love to explore

Bottom line: Tinybop Schools offers meaningful scientific exploration to students, particularly when partnered with good teaching and discussion.

Minecraft: Education Edition

Stellar collaboration tools, controls make Minecraft classroom-ready

Bottom line: An excellent tool to engage students in learning, collaboration, and critical thinking is now more accessible than ever to teachers.

Roblox

Popular game development platform has classroom potential

Bottom line: Teens who love gaming can learn to be developers, too, with Roblox's tools and hosting service.

Get tips for using these tools in the classroom

See related resources