Games That Help Kids Think Critically

When gamers pick up a controller, they're frequently placed in the role of the hero or the protagonist that always wins. But that doesn't always challenge them to think critically or examine all sides of a situation rationally. In fact, what can help some incredible games and apps stand out from other titles is that they don't simply ask kids for RIGHT or WRONG answers. Instead, they encourage them to experiment and consider the shades of gray in problems. Players interested in testing their emotional responses may want to check out our list of the Best Empathy Games, Apps, and Websites as well.

Browse Games That Help Kids Think Critically

Tozzle - Toddler's favorite puzzle App Poster Image
Drag-and-drop shape puzzles made especially for toddlers.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2010)
(2010)
Continue reading
Alien Assignment App Poster Image
Cute storyline for problem solving; great family fun.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
Bubble Guppies Game Poster Image
csm_game
Cute but wordy preschool game has lots of activities.
Platforms: Nintendo DS
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
The Great Cookie Thief - Starring Cookie Monster App Poster Image
New version of classic book has kids solve the mystery.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
Scout's 123 Carnival App Poster Image
LeapFrog toy character guides kids through numbers 1 to 20.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2011)
(2011)
Continue reading
Sesame Street: Elmo's Musical Monsterpiece Game Poster Image
Making music with Elmo and Abby is educational and fun.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
Big Kid Life Vet App Poster Image
Kids help animals by succeeding at simple learning games.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
Go Go Games App Poster Image
csm_app
Fun, simple games teach key perceptual skill.
Devices: iPad
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
Montessori Geometry App Poster Image
Amazing starter geometry app is fun and comprehensive.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2013)
(2012)
Continue reading
Busy Water App Poster Image
csm_app
Solve and create puzzles that gush with STEM learning.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: The Magic School Bus: Oceans Game Poster Image
This deep sea dive is teeming with fish and education.
Platforms: LeapFrog games
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
Mystery Math Town App Poster Image
Great math practice with fun story, entertaining characters.
Devices: iPad
(2013)
(2013)
Continue reading
NASA App App Poster Image
csm_app
Information-packed tool delivers videos, photos, and more.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
(2011)
(2011)
Continue reading
Numbers League App Poster Image
csm_app
Superheroes defeat villains in original, creative math app.
Devices: iPad
(2011)
(2017)
Continue reading
Savings Spree App Poster Image
csm_app
Kids learn financial literacy through game-show action.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2011)
(2011)
Continue reading
Ansel and Clair: Paul Revere's Ride App Poster Image
Fantastic app makes historical figures relatable for kids.
Devices: iPad
(2013)
(2012)
Continue reading
Daily films from educational group provide tons of learning.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Apps for Windows
(2010)
(2011)
Continue reading
Maggie's Earth Adventures Website Poster Image
Save the planet with these terrific learning activities.
URL: http://www.missmaggie.org/
(2013)
Continue reading
Space Physics App Poster Image
csm_app
Clever physics game can be tricky on small screens.
Devices: Android, Kindle Fire
(2011)
(2011)
Continue reading
Webonauts Internet Academy Game Poster Image
Amusing and informative fable teaches Internet safety.
Platforms: Mac, Windows
(2010)
(2010)
Continue reading
Wiseland App Poster Image
csm_app
Journey to explore big questions only gets you so far.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
(2017)
(2017)
Continue reading
csm_app
Marble mazes make for fun math practice.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Fire phone, Kindle Fire
(2012)
(2013)
Continue reading
Puzzler Mind Gym 3D Game Poster Image
Collection of mental challenges is hard but rewarding.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
(2011)
(2011)
Continue reading
Abzu Game Poster Image
csm_game
Artistic aquatic adventure filled with mystery, wonder.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
BrainPOP Website Poster Image
csm_website
Videos and activities are fun, accurate, and valuable.
URL: http://www.brainpop.com
(2012)
Continue reading
Cargo-Bot App Poster Image
csm_app
Challenging puzzler teaches kids to think like programmers.
Devices: iPad, Android
(2013)
(2012)
Continue reading
Gamestar Mechanic Game Poster Image
Grand adventure teaches you to design your own games.
Platforms: Mac, Windows
(2010)
(2010)
Continue reading
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Game Poster Image
Excellent VR puzzler teaches kids to cooperate, communicate.
Platforms: Mac, Oculus Rift, PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, Windows
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
Mission US: For Crown or Colony? Game Poster Image
First-person history adventure asks kids to choose sides.
Platforms: Mac, Windows
(2011)
(2011)
Continue reading
Sky Map App Poster Image
csm_app
Excellent tool encourages appreciation of the universe.
Devices: Android, Apps for Windows
(2013)
(2011)
Continue reading
Smart As... Game Poster Image
csm_game
Playful brain workout provides social media bragging rights.
Platforms: PlayStation Vita
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
Super Scribblenauts Game Poster Image
The ultimate puzzle game for imagination and creativity.
Platforms: Nintendo DS, Nintendo DSi
(2010)
(2010)
Continue reading
The Talos Principle Game Poster Image
Tech-focused sci-fi puzzler challenges, makes players think.
Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows
(2014)
(2014)
Continue reading
Figure This! Website Poster Image
csm_website
Complex math concepts presented as real-world examples.
URL: http://www.figurethis.org/index.html
(2012)
Continue reading
FTL: Faster Than Light Game Poster Image
Innovative space strategy game rewards thoughtful play.
Platforms: Mac, Windows
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
Vocabulary-building word puzzle game shines on iOS.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Apps for Windows, Windows Phone
(2011)
(2011)
Continue reading
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI Game Poster Image
Amazing world simulation can teach players about history.
Platforms: Windows
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide Game Poster Image
Oceanic expansion makes sci-fi world simulation even better.
Platforms: Mac, Windows
(2015)
(2015)
Continue reading
The Witness Game Poster Image
csm_game
Brilliant puzzle game is challenging but deeply rewarding.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
Virtual Nerd Website Poster Image
csm_website
Detailed math videos and practice -- from simple to complex.
URL: http://www.virtualnerd.com/
(2012)
Continue reading
Geoguessr Website Poster Image
csm_website
Addictive, globe-trotting guessing game gets kids thinking.
URL: https://geoguessr.com/
(2013)
Continue reading
HowStuffWorks App Poster Image
csm_app
Popular, trusted resource covers mature topics responsibly.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Apps for Windows, Windows Phone
(2011)
(2011)
Continue reading
Tharsis Game Poster Image
csm_game
Challenging, complex survival dice game is hard but fun.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
Your Commonwealth Website Poster Image
csm_website
A global community of civic-minded young people.
URL: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org
(2012)
Continue reading
Budget Hero Website Poster Image
csm_website
Game challenges players to balance federal budget.
URL: http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/budgethero/
(2012)
Continue reading
Bravely Second: End Layer Game Poster Image
Fun, mildly violent fantasy RPG with some mature themes.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
Fire Emblem Fates Game Poster Image
Branching turn-based strategy game with moderate violence.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
Historypin Website Poster Image
csm_website
Cool history project empowers teens to connect and share.
URL: http://www.historypin.com
(2013)
Continue reading
Infinifactory Game Poster Image
csm_game
Tough engineering logic puzzler is mysterious and creepy.
Platforms: Mac, Windows
(2015)
(2015)
Continue reading
Solar System for iPad App Poster Image
Well-written interactive book with lots of multimedia.
Devices: iPad
(2011)
(2010)
Continue reading
The Banner Saga Game Poster Image
csm_game
Great strategy game with rich fantasy mythology.
Platforms: Mac, Windows
(2014)
(2014)
Continue reading
The Long Dark Game Poster Image
csm_game
Very challenging survival simulation has moderate violence.
Platforms: Mac, Windows
(2014)
(2014)
Continue reading
Into the Stars Game Poster Image
csm_game
Lead humanity through space in stat-heavy simulation.
Platforms: Windows
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
Massive Chalice Game Poster Image
csm_game
Epic game of tactics that spans (and spawns) generations.
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
(2015)
(2015)
Continue reading
Pathologic Classic HD Game Poster Image
Morally ambiguous dialogue adventure tough yet engrossing.
Platforms: Windows
(2015)
(2015)
Continue reading
This War of Mine Game Poster Image
csm_game
Violent, bleak survival game has new look at horrors of war.
Platforms: Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
(2014)
(2014)
Continue reading
1979 Revolution: Black Friday Game Poster Image
Tense, captivating, violent, personal recreation of history.
Platforms: Mac, Windows
(2016)
(2016)
Continue reading
Divinity: Original Sin II Game Poster Image
Tactical RPG has bloody combat, freedom to do good or evil.
Platforms: Windows
(2017)
(2017)
Continue reading
Tropico 5 Game Poster Image
csm_game
Dictator simulation imposes violence; lots of strategy.
Platforms: Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox 360, iPhone
(2014)
(2014)
Continue reading