10 French Video Games for Active, Authentic Language Learning
Feeling restless or having trouble concentrating on that page in your French textbook?
We’re living in a digital age, and you don’t need to study like your parents: you can learn French on YouTube through learning channels or fun authentic videos, listen to French audio in your car and even learn French with songs.
But did you ever think of learning French through video games?
Coupled with other learning methods, video games can actually augment your learning experience and help make French a regular part of your daily life.
- How Video Games Help You Learn French
- Online Video Game Resources for French Learners
- How to Purchase French Video Games
- 10 Video Games for Learning the French Language Like a Winner
How Video Games Help You Learn French
If you’re not used to learning being fun, you might be wondering how you could possibly improve your French by playing a game.
Video games provide a complement to conventional learning. Think of the occasional educational games you may have played in grade school.
So how do video games actually help you learn French?
They offer interactive learning
A popular fusion of movies and video games, graphic adventure games like interactive movies basically tell a story while the player makes decisions at critical times. Think of novels where you choose the ending or the old text adventure games from the ’80s.
Games in this interactive style, like the French production “Life Is Strange,” (see below) despite being around since the ’80s, continue to draw gamers. Interactive fiction exercises your French reading and listening skills, forcing you to make decisions based on what you interpret.
Other games, like RPGs, are similar to interactive fiction, but let you actually play more. In RPGs (Role Playing Games), you choose your character and will use him/her to complete tasks called “quests.” Characters are assigned different classes with unique strengths and weaknesses.
RPGs can be great for listening practice, whether you’re learning about the next quest or coordinating activities with your teammates.
To finish the games, you’ll have to use French
Immersion’s great, but maybe you’re not ready to get dropped off by yourself in the middle of France yet! Using the French you know is necessary to complete games in French, and this makes for a great immersion method. It’s a test of what you know, especially when games have substantial content to interpret.
You can use games to interact with others in French
Services like Xbox Live allow you to interact with players from all over the world. Either you’re randomly placed with other players, or you can join servers. The second method gives you more opportunity to interact with French speakers.
Online Video Game Resources for French Learners
The best way to use video games to improve your French is to figure out if they work for you. Fortunately, there are many great French video game resources online.
Educational online games for French learners
Online resources either feature actual games for French learners or general info about video games in French. Sites like Digital Dialects and Review Game Zone let you learn French through interactive games. Most games will test not only your vocab skills but also your knowledge of French grammar. I use them after learning new vocab to reinforce memorization.
The exciting world of Let’s Plays
Are you already a gamer? Is there a game from your childhood that brings back old memories? This is why you should watch French Let’s Players. Basically, gamers record themselves playing a game while giving real time commentary.
It may not sound exciting, but your French listening skills will thank you! Especially if you’ve already played the games being played, this is an ideal way to get into long French video clips. Plus, you’ll hear new vocab related to games and computers, and you’ll hear how French is spoken today. I personally like Hooper.fr and the Joueur du Grenier.
Online French video game forums
You can also improve your French by playing “real” video games that aren’t educational. These can either be games made in France or translated games from elsewhere.
If you’re looking for interesting titles, try JeuxVideo.com. This is the go-to forum for all things French video game related. Here you’ll find game reviews, general discussions and hardware help.
I personally like older video games. If that’s your case, too, check out France Retrogaming as well.
How to Purchase French Video Games
Your ability to play a French video game depends on whether or not your console is region free. Certain consoles, like the Xbox 360, may have games that won’t play in consoles sold in other countries. Many modern consoles like the Xbox One, PS4, PS3 or Nintendo DS are considered region-free, so French-language video games should play on them. When it comes to computer games, you should experience even fewer problems. In either case, to be sure, always check before purchasing a game to make sure it’s compatible with whatever devices you’re using.
As for purchasing the games or finding new games, you have a few options. Fnac is a large online French tech store which offers a wide spread of French and French-language video games. Amazon.fr offers a similar selection.
The links I provide are to French websites when possible because you want to make sure that the game you get is the French version. Sometimes games will have language settings built in, other times not, so buying region-free games from French websites is usually the best way to assure that they’re in French.
Other game distributors like apps and platforms like Steam let you find games for less money than traditional console or PC games, although the games tend to be smaller, so the language benefit might not be the same.
With Steam (and other computer-based distribution platforms) you download the Steam software, which allows you to purchase games and play them. The games aren’t standalone, so you have to be online and in your Steam account to play the games you purchase.
Ready to start playing? Let’s look at some games you can use to help you learn French, the fun way.
10 Video Games for Learning the French Language Like a Winner
If you didn’t know, France has a thriving video game industry. Heard of Ubisoft? Among the many video games made in France, the following games are great for learners. Either they have substantial text or listening content or they offer insight into French history or popular culture. Links for purchase of the French versions, when available, are provided.
If you need more testaments to French contributions to gaming, check out “Evoland,” a Zelda-esque adventure game that retraces the development of video games from grayish pixels to ultra modern effects. What’s more, Evoland was produced in only 48 hours!
“Heavy Rain” (2010)
Sort of a mix between a game and a film, “Heavy Rain” is what you’d call an interactive story. In “Heavy Rain,” you investigate a series of crimes presented in several cinematographic scenes. The story progresses based on the choices you make. Interactive stories give great listening practice since you’ll be making choices based on what you understand of spoken French.
“Game of Thrones: Le Trône de Fer” (2012)
“Game of Thrones: Le Trône de Fer” (“The Iron Throne”), in classical fantasy style, combines action with useful French reading and dialogue. Created in 2012, it’s available on PC, Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. In my experience, if you’re reading or listening to a French story, but you already know the plot, you’ll understand what’s being said better. This works great for fans of “Game of Thrones.”
“Dishonored” is unique in that it changes in function depending on how you play; either it’s casual if you’re discreet, or challenging if you’re more direct. In “Dishonored,” you play a bodyguard wrongly accused of assassinating an empress. Chock-full of dialogue, “Dishonored” will give you great listening practice.
“Lapins Crétins: La Grosse Aventure” (2009)
The Lapins Crétins (roughly “Silly Rabbits,” but marketed as “Raving Rabbids” in English) originally appeared in the famous French video game franchise “Rayman.” In “Lapins Crétins: La Grosse Aventure” (roughly “Silly Rabbits: The Big Adventure”) you’ll get some great listening and reading practice as you help three junkyard rabbits collect enough junk to make a pile big enough to reach the moon.
“Life Is Strange” (2015)
“Life Is Strange” is an interactive story where you incarnate Chloe Price, an Oregon student capable of briefly turning back time. Help her investigate the disappearance of one of her fellow students. “Life Is Strange” was hugely popular worldwide, and comes with English audio, but you have the option to change all the text to French. Journal entries give great reading practice.
“Toy Story 3” (2010)
You probably wouldn’t think “Toy Story 3” (or “Life is Strange”!) is a French creation, but the PS2 and PSP versions were developed in France. The French often only give their work English names to market internationally…and in France. Like with “Game of Thrones,” if you’ve seen “Toy Story 3,” you’ll have an easier time understanding the French if you play in story mode (which follows the movie’s plot).
Developed by the Paris studio Eugen Systems, “Wargame” is a real-time strategy game simulating fictional military campaigns. The French dialogue is frequent and relatively easy to understand.
“Assassin’s Creed: Unity” (2014)
Perhaps the most famous French video game franchise is “Assassin’s Creed.” These action-packed adventures teach you history in a way you’ve never seen before. “Assassin’s Creed Unity” takes place in Paris during the French Revolution, where you play Arno Victor Dorian, who takes it upon himself to combat corruption in revolutionary France. If you’ve always wanted to learn about the French Revolution, here’s your chance!
“Soldats Inconnus: Mémoires de la Grande Guerre” (2014)
“Soldats Inconnus: Mémoires de la Grande Guerre” (“Unknown Soldiers: Memoirs of the Great War”) is a classic side scroller interspersed with a recounting of the French experience in World War I. The graphics are good for a “2.5 D” game, and World War I is reenacted in a way that doesn’t resort to excessive violence. Well-received and winner of Best Narration at Game Awards 2014, “Soldats Inconnus” teaches French history with excellent listening practice.
I use both French video games and online game-related content to complement my normal French studying. They’re the perfect way for me to put everything I’ve learned into practice.
If you’re still not ready to switch the language settings, just know that the more you read and listen to native content, the easier it will be for you to play through French games.
And as helpful as gaming forums and livestreams of French gamers are for me, feel free to branch out. From Twitter to Kindle books, classic films on Netflix to media-based language learning videos FluentU—any authentic French literature, audio and video content can potentially make gameplay easier for you.
All in all, French video games really force you to actually use the French you know in a way that will let you know right away how you’re doing.
If you’d love to create an immersive environment to teach you French without leaving home, video games provide an excellent toolkit for doing this.