10 Video Games to Learn Chinese and Level Up Your Language Skills
From reading manga to watching television shows to using apps, you can learn a lot about Chinese language and culture via authentic Mandarin-language materials.
Enter the Chinese video game: A fun, interactive and entertaining way to improve one’s Chinese.
You may be wondering, “Can I really use games to learn Chinese?” Well, you might be surprised at their effectiveness!
Here are 10 Mandarin video games, and exactly how they’ll help you learn the language.
- 1. “Games Learn Chinese” (PC)
- 2. “Mindsnacks Chinese” (iOS)
- 3. “Influent Chinese” (PC / iOS / Android)
- 4. “If My Heart Had Wings” (PC)
- 5. “Chinese Paladin: Sword and Fairy” (PC)
- 6. “Nobunaga’s Ambition: Taishi” (PC / PS4)
- 7. “Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization” (PC / PS Vita)
- 8. “Bullet Girls Phantasia” (PS Vita)
- 9. “Xenoblade 2” (Nintendo Switch)
- 10. “Sir Eatsalot” (Nintendo Switch)
- How Can Video Games Help Me Learn Chinese?
- And One More Thing...
1. “Games Learn Chinese” (PC)
Price: Free to register; some materials Premium only
Level: Beginner, intermediate, advanced
“Games Learn Chinese” is a great place to play Chinese learning games if you don’t have a gaming console and if you enjoy using flashcards for learning.
Some of the flashcard “levels” available are Premium only, meaning you’ll have to pay a fee to access them. Most have demos or free versions, though, so you can dip your toes before you decide to purchase.
The beauty of this game is that you can select your learning level from HSK 1 through HSK 6, so beginner, intermediate and advanced learners can enjoy this site.
To play, simply register for an account. All players get a free 10-day trial period as a Premium user. Each game will present you with 拼音 (pīn yīn) — “Chinese romanization” and 汉字 (hàn zì) — “Chinese characters,” and quiz you on their English translations.
2. “Mindsnacks Chinese” (iOS)
Price: Free with in-app purchases
If you’re a fan of apps or smartphone games, this is a great option to try.
This super entertaining game features eight special mini-games and over 1,000 different words and phrases to learn.
This game is especially unique in that it features Chinese lessons designed by Ivy League language professors, so you know you’ll get a decent education, while still keeping it entertaining.
Gameplay is fairly simple throughout the different in-app games. Most of them associate graphics and animations with specific translations. It’s ideal for beginners, particularly children who are learning Mandarin.
3. “Influent Chinese” (PC / iOS / Android)
Price: $4.99 for full game on PC; $0.99 for Chinese apps
This interactive game takes Chinese learning into the real world… sort of.
In “Influent Chinese,” you play a character living his life and learning new words all around him. Think “The Sims” but for learning a new language!
You’ll explore the character’s home and click on different objects around you. A pop-up screen provides the Chinese and English translation of each particular object.
You can collect different vocabulary words and make your own study lists with them. Learn words and challenge yourself with a minigame in which you’re tasked with flying an airplane while finding and shooting items written in Chinese.
This game is ideal for learners who want to be able to choose what they learn and not adhere to a strict curriculum. It’s also an excellent starter game for learning the names of everyday objects.
4. “If My Heart Had Wings” (PC)
Price: $14.99 for the base version; Chinese language pack is free
This “light novel” actually has a Chinese name as well: 在这苍穹展翅 (zài zhè cāng qióng zhǎn chì).
A “light novel” is a Japanese anime-style interactive game. They rarely include animations, but the gameplay involves selecting dialogue and making choices to get different story endings—essentially a “choose your own adventure” story.
If you aren’t a huge gamer, light novels are a good start. Just keep in mind that many are designed for adults. “If My Heart Had Wings” is rated T for mild language and suggestive themes.
In this coming-of-age tale, a young man finds himself torn between different girls whom he develops feelings for, all while trying to revive his school’s glider-flying club. If you’re a sucker for a good rom-com, you’ll find this entertaining.
You can choose either English or Chinese dialogue with English or Chinese subtitles. Expect more casual, teen-centered Mandarin with lots of slang in this light novel.
5. “Chinese Paladin: Sword and Fairy” (PC)
“Chinese Paladin: Sword and Fairy” is one of the most beloved RPG games in mainland China.
Its Chinese title is 新仙剑奇侠传 (xīn xiān jiàn qí xiá chuán). In the game, you’ll explore an alternate ancient China rife with gods, demons and humans with supernatural abilities.
This game is very dialogue-heavy and a lot of the Chinese spoken is formal. In addition, it’s available only in Mandarin with no English subtitles, making it a great choice for advanced learners.
Though it’s a simple game, you can lower the difficulty if you’re not a huge gamer or simply want to focus more on the dialogue.
6. “Nobunaga’s Ambition: Taishi” (PC / PS4)
Price: $59.99 on PC; $81.99 on PS4
Level: Intermediate, advanced
This is the Chinese version of the Japanese classic game 信長の野望･大志 (Nobunaga no Yabō: Taishi).
It’s a historical, simulation, turn-based strategy game. If you’re a fan of puzzles, history and strategy challenges, “Nobunaga’s Ambition: Taishi” is a great choice.
There isn’t too much dialogue in the game, but the Chinese spoken is very formal to match the historically accurate content. Intermediate and advanced learners would benefit the most from this game, as there are no English subtitles.
This game isn’t widely available, so you may find a range of prices out there on other sites such as eBay. Just make sure the one you purchase doesn’t have regional restrictions!
7. “Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization” (PC / PS Vita)
Price: $49.99 on PC; $19.99 on PS Vita
This is another Chinese version of a popular Japanese game where you can experience the incredibly creative fantasy world of “Sword Art Online,” based on the hit anime by the same name.
Explore the game-within-a-game with your beautiful companions, strengthen your relationships as you level up and uncover the secrets of the game in this gorgeous J-RPG.
Though the audio is only available in Japanese, the interface and subtitles are available in traditional Chinese. Advanced learners can definitely improve their reading skills with this game, and there’s quite a bit of modern slang involved.
8. “Bullet Girls Phantasia” (PS Vita)
Price: $86.99 on PS Vita
Level: Beginner, intermediate, advanced
Stock is limited for this popular Japanese fantasy action game.
PlayStation Vita owners can enjoy the game via Chinese or English subtitles. The game focuses on attacking hordes of fantasy enemies as they come your way.
The art style is super cute, and there are varying difficulty levels if you find yourself getting stuck.
All levels of learners can enjoy this fun action-packed game, though the use of teen slang may throw off beginners a bit.
Note that there is incredibly suggestive content (particularly in the form of “interrogations”)—this is definitely not one for kids.
9. “Xenoblade 2” (Nintendo Switch)
Another Japanese original, “Xenoblade 2” is an adventure RPG of epic proportions.
In this game, you can explore mystical new worlds and engage in battle against giants and fantasy creatures.
This game has Japanese audio and Chinese subtitles, which may throw off some learners. If you really want to focus on Chinese reading, though, “Xenoblade 2” may be the challenge you’re looking for.
Be aware that the language includes some made up fantasy words and names, but it also has a healthy dose of conversational and action words as the characters explore and learn more about the world and each other.
10. “Sir Eatsalot” (Nintendo Switch)
Level: Beginner, intermediate
This adorable platform game is a multi-language release that includes traditional Chinese.
In “Sir Eatsalot,” it’s your responsibility to travel the kingdom of Gluttington and save its inhabitants from the evil witch Hysterica! This puzzle game is quite a challenge, though the minimal dialogue makes it great for beginners.
There is no voice-acting in this one—dialogue is presented in speech bubbles, while information on monsters and the world around you is kept in a book-like menu, so you’ll need to really hone your Chinese reading skills to make sense of this game.
Though “Sir Eatsalot” is currently only available on Nintendo Switch, you can sign up for product alerts via PlayAsia if you’d prefer the PlayStation version.
How Can Video Games Help Me Learn Chinese?
There are many ways, but some key ones include:
- Listening to and reading Chinese can help with listening skills and fluency. Learning Mandarin through classes and online courses is great, but you might find yourself stuck once you have an actual conversation with a Chinese native.
This is because fluency is much more than memorizing vocabulary words and grammar. It’s also about using your language skills and knowing what Mandarin actually sounds like. Chinese video games with dialogue can really help with this.
- Learning a language while having fun is always more effective. Learning a language can get redundant and boring if you don’t know what study tactics to use. But it doesn’t need to feel like a chore!
Practicing your listening and comprehension skills through entertainment can help a lot. Learning can (and should) be fun—trust me!
- Chinese video games can provide insight into Chinese culture and technology. I always remind learners that studying the language of a culture isn’t just about vocabulary, pronunciation and eloquence.
It’s also about slang and colloquialisms and the culture that birthed the language. Just like movies, Chinese video games can provide great insight into Chinese culture.
- They act as great reinforcement for any other method of learning. Use games to find new vocabulary and grammar concepts, then reinforce your learning with other study resources to help it stick better.
Wondering how to reinforce your learning?
You can use different types of vocabulary apps to help you learn while you play video games, for instance. Some apps, like Anki and Memrise, let you choose certain themes for your vocabulary. Depending on the game you play, this can be particularly helpful.
You may also look for the new vocabulary and grammar you learn during play in other Chinese media, such as cartoons or podcasts.
On the FluentU program, for example, you can search for words you learned in video games to see them used in native Chinese video clips. Some are even video game-related, like this news brief for “Mario Kart 8”:
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
No matter how you choose to reinforce your learning, it can help you make the most of all you learn during your Chinese video game time.
So, now you know 10 games to learn Chinese with!
Don’t forget to keep a notebook or app handy so you can write down the new words and phrases you encounter.
Have fun, and try not to 愤怒退出 (fèn nù tuì chū) — “rage quit”!
And One More Thing...
If you want to continue learning Chinese with interactive and authentic Chinese content, then you'll love FluentU.
FluentU naturally eases you into learning Chinese language. Native Chinese content comes within reach, and you'll learn Chinese as it's spoken in real life.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos.
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
FluentU's Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you're learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a 100% personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)