Today, you’re the ruler of an epic civilization.
Tomorrow, you’ll be a firefighter in the American West.
But you might take a break to train as a warrior and seek revenge on some villains.
All you need are some fun video games, and you can become anything you want.
Better yet, you can do it all while practicing your English reading, listening and speaking skills.
We’ll show you 14 of the best video games for learning English while exploring new worlds. These include online games and puzzles created for language learners, as well as authentic English video games that native speakers play.
So grab that controller and get learning!
Why Use Video Games to Practice English
- They’re interactive: Unlike videos or songs, your own actions influence the game in important ways. This active involvement helps you pay deeper attention to the material and understand it better.
- They mimic real-life situations: Almost every game seeks to be a simulation. In other words, every game tries to imitate reality or make you feel that what’s happening in the game is really happening to you. This helps you practice your skills in a setting that’s closer to daily life and makes similar demands from you.
- They’re addictive: Because games invite you to act and then reward or punish you based on your actions, they can quickly become addictive. Of course, if it gets out of control, this can be dangerous. But in moderation (not too much) games can transform boring language lessons into enjoyable activities that you want to do regularly.
- You can choose different responses in the same situation: The element of choice is one of the most important features of any game. This is especially true for in-game conversations where every choice you make alters the whole outcome. You can always go back and play the game differently to get different reactions and practice using different vocabulary.
- You play at your own pace: Except for some time-based games, most video games nowadays let you explore, absorb and discover things at your own speed.
Level Up Your English Learning with These 14 Video Games
Genre: Gamified (transformed into a game) language learning
If you thought language learning could never be adventurous, then this game is here to prove you wrong.
In this game, you explore a modern apartment where everything is clickable. You use a device to scan objects and it tells you the name of that object in English. The game features native audio pronunciations and tests your memory using time-based quizzes.
It also has a mini game inside it where you fly an airplane and shoot down various things.
You’ll encounter over 420 nouns, adjectives and verbs to collect and learn along with a synonym feature. Since the setting is a typical house you can find in most English-speaking countries, it helps you learn the names of objects used in daily life. Beginners can quickly pick up the essential words they’ll use in most contexts in a fun and effortless way.
This will allow them to start conversing with native speakers and improve their speaking skills.
“Professor Garfield: Reading Ring”
In this game, the beloved cartoon cat Garfield is thrown into a wrestling match and only you can save him.
In each round, there are three pieces of a comic and based on the content, you need to decide their correct order. After you get it right, you need to answer three questions related to the comic and if you answer them correctly, you win!
Each panel of the comic is clickable—when you click, the comic is read out to you.
This game is a fun way to boost your reading comprehension skills. Comics are pretty great for this purpose as they combine text with images to create the best medium for almost all kinds of learners. But the game adds another layer of fun and helps you test your understanding of the comic.
“Clifford: Make a Word”
In this easy puzzle game, you’re given four incomplete words and you have to drag the five vowels to each word below to complete it. Your aim is to make as many words as possible and complete the list on the righthand side of the game. Every time you make a correct word, the game gives you its pronunciation.
A great way to practice is by trying to repeat the word every time you get one right. In case you need to listen to a pronunciation again, you can find it in the list on the right and click it.
This game can be used either as a test or as a learning tool. If you’re using it to increase your vocabulary, be sure to search for the definition of each word you complete. You can either use an online dictionary like Merriam-Webster or you can just type the word on Google followed by “definition” and it’ll automatically give you the meaning of the word.
This is a simple online puzzle game where you need to make a sentence that describes a picture correctly within a time limit. In one level there are many puzzles. As you keep making the right sentences in each level, the number of word-bubbles keeps on decreasing.
The game offers different speed options and also lets you decide the vocabulary category. For instance, you can play the game with personal objects, food, animals, sports, jobs, nature, colors, letters or body parts.
Quite evidently, this game is created to improve reading and sentence construction skills. The use of images gives you cues to remember the words you learn. Sentence construction might improve your understanding of certain words since you’re using them in a concrete context. But in case you don’t know the definition of a word, just write it down while playing the game and look up the meaning after the game is finished.
Many times, learners just go with their gut feeling when it comes to the meanings of words, but it’s always better to have clarity about their definitions from the beginning to avoid building bad English habits.
Level: Beginner to intermediate
Genre: Role playing
The refugee crisis has become a key issue in world politics. This game tries to make the player experience what a typical refugee has to go through every single day. In it you play as a Syrian refugee who’s trying to survive in another land.
The game is short, which makes it ideal for English practice. It’s purely text-based, which means that it can only be used to improve your reading skills. The language is quite informal and also has some Arabic phrases mixed into it since you play as a Syrian. The sentence structures are quite simple in the game and the dialogues are close to realistic, making it very useful for beginners.
Level: Beginner to advanced
Genre: Gamified language learning
FluentU puts a new twist on English learning games.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Genre: Role playing, fantasy
This game is meant for all those players who love fantasy and a good story. Like most Role Playing Games (RPGs) today, it has a strong element of choice and morality.
You play as a boy whose whole village is burned in an attack by bandits. After the boy runs away to a warrior’s guild, he’s trained to become a hero who has the task of defeating the villains in the region.
Throughout the game you can choose whether to do good deeds and whether to help people around you. Based on your choices, your reputation and your character is built from childhood.
This game is considered a classic. It focuses on realism and every character on the street makes some comment or greets you, making you feel that you’re in a real village. The voice acting is one of the high points of the game and is excellent for learning British English.
“Civilization” 4, 5 or 6
Unlike most of the other games on this list, you can play all “Civilization” games with no speakers or audio. The text isn’t an essential part of the game and can be entirely ignored. But considering how much content there is to read and listen to, it’s truly amazing that those portions are in a way “extras” in the game.
In every “Civilization” game you’re the ruler of a civilization who has to compete with others in the world. You start from the Stone Age and then reach the current times in terms of technology and science. You have to maintain your city, build relationships with foreign nations, create an army, spy on your competitors and also make a spaceship before others.
Whenever you discover a new technology, a screen pops up with a quote and lots of information about what it allows you to do and even its actual history. You can also build famous monuments like Stonehenge or the Taj Mahal and you’ll get their historical background as well.
This game is definitely more suitable for reading than listening (although there’s some voice playback, there are no in-depth conversations between characters).
Genre: Point-and-click adventure game
Deponia is a world covered in junk and the main character, Rufus, desperately wants to escape it. Although this might seem very heavy and sad, the game is actually quite funny. Rufus is a lazy person who always thinks about himself. Whenever his plans to escape Deponia fail, he never admits his mistakes even when others get hurt.
The story is basically a tale about the romance between him and a girl called Goal. Even though Goal is never awake in the game, Rufus decides that she needs help and in the process he uncovers a grand conspiracy (secret plan) that he tries to stop.
For learners, this interesting and funny story is perfect for enhancing your English reading strategies. In the game you can click almost anything and you’ll see witty descriptions about it that move the game forward. There are also voiceovers that make the game more interesting along with giving learners content to improve their informal English speaking and listening skills.
“Orwell: Keeping an Eye on You”
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Genre: Dystopian, simulation
George Orwell was a famous English writer. His novel “1984” described a scary dictatorship where everyone was being observed by the government 24 hours a day. If a citizen was found to be doing anything that the government didn’t like, they were jailed or simply killed.
Using this frightening vision of mass surveillance (close observation by the government) the game “Orwell” puts you in the shoes of the observer. You play a character whose job is to collect information on suspects related to some crime. You can choose to share or withhold any information you want.
This game is designed to put you in tricky moral situations and forces you to make tough decisions. The game is all about reading personal mails, chats, articles and other information. It’s best for taking your reading skills to the next level.
The game creates a naturalistic environment for you in which you’re reading with a purpose. Since the game has very little narration, it’s not meant for English listening practice.
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Genre: Apocalyptic, role playing
Have you ever wondered what’ll happen if a nuclear war destroys the world? Perhaps you have, but most probably it’s nothing like the “Fallout” series. Famous for its in-depth stories, interesting characters and funny dialogues, the “Fallout” games have been loved by people from all over the world.
There are several games in this series, but “Fallout 3” is widely considered as the one with the best narratives. You play as a character who travels throughout Washington D.C. looking for your father. Along with shooting mutants, creating weapons and buying new things, you get to interact with a diverse set of characters who have a distinctive way of speaking.
You’ll hear various American accents and some British ones. “Fallout 3” is famous for having the most realistic dialogues and conversation flow.
It’s an amazing tool to get used to English conversations for intermediate to advanced learners. For an example of an in-game conversation, watch this video. The game is excellent for listening as well as reading practice since all the dialogues appear as text on the screen along with the recorded audio.
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Genre: First-person shooter, science fiction
After a horrible plane crash, you find yourself in an underwater city called Rapture. Everyone there is dead. You need to fight huge scary robots, rescue little girls and uncover the history of the place, which was designed to be a utopia.
Just like in “Fallout,” you have to follow a story and make various moral choices that determine your abilities in the game. You get to hear many recordings, have conversations, overhear people talking and also talk to some characters. Unlike the “Fallout” series, the game has few conversations for you to participate in so it’s most suitable for listening exercises.
Most people speak with a British accent in the game, although some characters use an Irish accent.
Level: Intermediate to advanced
This game puts you in the shoes of a dictator who has to rule an island. It’s set in the Cold War era and you have to manage international relations with the two superpowers, along with keeping the various factions in your island happy as well.
If you like city-building games or have a love for politics, then this is the ideal game for you.
Learners will get to know the basic world history of the recent past, which is still relevant today. Throughout the game you get various notifications from your advisers, leaders of different factions and ambassadors of many countries. This can be used as a convenient tool to learn and read English, since all messages are accompanied by voice playbacks.
Learners should keep in mind that since the game is located in the Caribbean, the accents are very different from American or British speakers. If you’re trying to learn American or British English, focus on the voices of the U.S. or E.U. ambassadors for your listening tasks.
Genre: Adventure, mystery
You play as a man named Henry, who’s in the middle of the Wyoming forest (in the U.S.) to look out for fires. Throughout the game your supervisor, Delilah, talks to you through the radio. As the story progresses, the two of you get closer and discover some dark secrets about each other and also about the forest.
This game won a BAFTA and has a story that could’ve easily been made into a movie. Indeed, the script and the voice acting are done by people who usually work with extremely popular TV series like “Mad Men” and “The Walking Dead.”
Since the game is all about conversations between two people, it’s obviously ideal for English listening practice. However, the jokes and sarcasm in the game might be hard for beginners to understand.
Before choosing any game be sure to watch a “gameplay” video online so that you know what kind of English is used in it and how. Only after you think that it’s going to help you understand English better should you start playing it. Almost every game in this list takes some time to complete, so be sure to select the most appropriate one according to your learning level.
Dhritiman Ray is a writer of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. He specializes in topics like education, psychology and lifestyle. To know more click here.
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