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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.

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.

Grades: K–5
Price:
Free, Paid

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.

Grades: 2–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 3–8
Price:
Free, Paid

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.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 7–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 9–12
Price:
Free to try, Paid

Math Games

Kahoot! Big Numbers: DragonBox

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

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

Grades: 1–4
Price:
Free to try

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.

Grades: 1–4
Price:
Paid

Prodigy Math

Adaptive math practice wrapped in role-playing adventure

Bottom Line: Standard math problems plugged into magical adventure yield helpful data.

Grades: 1–8
Price:
Free

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.

Grades: 2–5
Price:
Paid

Kahoot! Algebra by DragonBox

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.

Grades: 4–8
Price:
Free to try

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.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Paid

Critical Thinking and SEL Games

Breakout EDU

Physical and digital puzzle games epitomize collaborative learning

Bottom Line: Students will reap multiple benefits if teachers invest the time in preparing Breakout EDU games.

Grades: K–12
Price:
Paid

Kahoot! DragonBox Learn 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.

Grades: 1–8
Price:
Free to try

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.

Grades: 3–8
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 5–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 5–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Paid

Little Alchemy 2

Flex alchemical muscles in amusing, discovery-based puzzler

Bottom Line: This amusing puzzle game encourages creativity, perseverance, and systems thinking, and with creative integration it can build interest in math, science, history, and literature.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Free

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.

Grades: 7–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 9–12
Price:
Paid

ELA and Social Studies Games

Geoguessr

"Just one more turn" gameplay jazzes up geography

Bottom Line: Game-based platform is a great way to get kids interested in world geography, think critically, and expose them to cultures other than their own.

Grades: 4–12
Price:
Free, Free to try, Paid

Humankind

Refinement of strategy game formula supports historical exploration

Bottom Line: Like any consumer-oriented game, this experience will absorb and delight students far more than "educational" games, but it'll require open-minded and creative teaching.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 7–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 8–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 8–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 9–12
Price:
Paid

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.

Grades: 9–12
Price:
Paid

All-Purpose Games and Game Platforms

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.

Grades: K–8
Price:
Free to try, Paid

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.

Grades: K–12
Price:
Free to try

Roblox

Popular game development platform has classroom potential, pitfalls

Bottom Line: Creating games for an authentic audience encourages coding and design skills, but real risks require extra caution.

Grades: 3–12
Price:
Free, Paid

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