Wait, how’d that happen?
You were reaching out for your German notebook…
But you wound up clicking through a game on your laptop while reclining on the couch.
We get it.
No matter how much you love the language, it can be hard to make yourself sit down and study during your precious free time.
The good news is this: you can have the best of both worlds thanks to fun German computer games.
German gaming lets you build your vocabulary, improve your listening and reading comprehension and put your brain in “German-mode,” all in a fun and relaxing environment.
We’ll show you our 10 favorite computer games that’ll teach you German as you play.
Can Computer Games Really Help You Learn?
A common problem for language learners is falling into boring routines—just going through the motions of studying without being engaged. Having fun while you learn German is one of the best ways to stay motivated.
Games are a fantastic tool to shake things up and have fun while you learn. German computer games in particular have a built-in incentive for you to improve your skills. The more German you know, the farther you can go and the more decisions you can make in the game story.
If you’re a beginner German learner, don’t be discouraged if you only understand a little bit of the text or audio in the game at first. Playing games a bit above your level—but not too much—can actually encourage you to improve.
To start, try playing games that aren’t text-driven. For example, you can follow a shooter game (more on those below) without understanding 100% of the text. You can note unfamiliar words or phrases while playing to look up later, without getting stuck in the game narrative.
In contrast, many role-playing games (RPGs) or interactive fiction, which we’ll cover below, are better for advanced learners because gameplay relies on comprehension of the text.
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Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
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Where to Find German Computer Games
If you like to have physical copies of your games, you can purchase German games through Amazon.de and have them delivered to your home address, even if you live outside of Germany. Look for games in the Spiele für PC (Games for PC) or Spiele für Mac (Games for Mac) categories. Not every seller will be willing to ship abroad, so keep that in mind.
Likewise, some cheap older games are also available on eBay. That said, many sellers may be hesitant to ship outside of Europe, and most of the titles you’ll find there will be for consoles, which might be region-locked. Keep an eye out for the phrase “Möglicherweise kein Versand nach Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika,” or “Possibly no shipping to the United States.”
A faster solution is to purchase from an online store. Better yet, you can usually take advantage of bundled translations by buying a single download of the game, which often includes the translated versions. If you ever decide you want to learn Spanish, for example, you’ll likely have a Spanish copy included in the price.
Play Your Way to Fluency with 10 Addictive German Computer Games
The Best German Computer Games on Steam
Steam is a well-known online game vendor offering many titles. They often hold summer and winter sales, so buying games can be affordable if you’re willing to wait a bit.
They’re also a great place to find Triple A games (games that have the highest budgets in the industry), which often feature extra language options. To find games with German support (either audio, text or both) search in the Steam Database once you’re logged into your Steam account. You can also see some German-language games in the Steam store through this link.
Some titles won’t have German audio, but the subtitles will be in German. These subtitles can still act as a study aid, giving you the chance to observe how the translator tackled changing English to German. To set your games to German, you’ll need to right-click the game’s title in your Steam library, click “Properties,” then go to the “Language” tab and set it to Deutsch (German).
For a game with full German support, “Skyrim” is a great option. There are tons of NPCs (non-playable characters) to talk to, each with multiple dialogue options. If you’re a fan of Western RPGs, it’s worth playing for the visuals and story alone.
The game’s dialogue is fully voiced, so you can practice both listening or reading. Likewise, you can talk to characters repeatedly, so you can practice over and over. Most NPCs talk in a respectful way, using Ihr (an antiquated, formal way to say “you”) and Sie (“you,” formal). In a way, it’s good listening practice for more professional-level speech, as opposed to the more familiar talk you might hear in dubbed cartoons.
Items and weapons come with written descriptions, each imparting bits of world-building and lore. In addition to helping you pick up the occasional useful noun—Pilz (mushroom), for example—these texts are good reading practice.
If RPGs aren’t your thing, check out the fun FPS (first-person shooter) game “BioShock.” This series of games tends to be more story-driven, making it better for more intermediate learners.
The audio and captions are synced up so that you can rely on both to help you figure out the meaning of what’s being said. Most characters speak in a familiar way, either being chummy or just plain antagonistic, so you’ll be able to see and hear contractions and slang.
“BioShock” is a classic FPS and is wonderfully atmospheric, so even if you’re not a fan of the genre, you may still want to give it a try.
This is another FPS that features a compelling narrative, but is more driven by on-screen action.
“Borderlands 2” has German audio (even if it’s mostly just battle cries) as well as German text overlays. The benefits of the game mostly come from seeing how German verbs are used in different ways. You might see Halte X (hold X) and other onscreen instructions, a key feature of any sort of German-language program or app, as well as more niche phrases like Nachladen (reload).
There’s also a multiplayer option so you and your Kumpel (buddies) can battle things out together.
Here’s an authentically German computer game. “Deponia” was created by Daedalic Entertainment, a German game development company. If you enjoy point-and-click adventure games, this one is worth a try.
“Deponia” features lots of German voice acting, but more importantly, it’s based around puzzles and lots of text. Not only will this force you to read and think in German, but it’s also great for picking up nouns and verbs.
To get a feel for the game’s humor, in one of the early scenes, the protagonist Rufus tries to grab a toothbrush, only to see it scurry off. He deadpans, “Die Zahnbürste ist weggelaufen.” (“The toothbrush has run away.”) In that one sentence, you get a useful everyday vocabulary word and practice with using sein (to be) for movement-based verbs in the past.
Not bad for a silly joke!
“Final Fantasy XIV Online”
For some multiplayer games, you can also play on German and European servers to see German text “in the wild” from fellow players.
For example, the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) “Final Fantasy XIV Online” has several EU servers where some of the players are German. You’ll get real-life German conversation practice as you explore the world and communicate with other players or collaborate to defeat big bosses.
This Reddit thread goes into detail about some of the servers for a version of this game in particular.
The Best Indie German Computer Games on itch.io
Maybe you’re not interested in big Triple A games. Maybe you’d rather try out a few small indie titles first. One place you can check out is itch.io, a game-hosting platform and marketplace.
Although itch.io has been used for indie games for a while, some bigger companies are moving over to the platform. Games can be easily filtered for German-language support and there are a number of free casual games to check out.
Unlike games with larger budgets, some of the German translations for indie games might be for text and menus only, not for voice acting. Even so, you can pick up the translator’s flair, mine the game for vocabulary words or just use the captions as a passive way to see more German during your downtime.
Here’s a fun twist on vocabulary practice! This game is similar to Scrabble, only with German words. It offers German support and can be played as a multiplayer game directly on your browser.
If the idea of playing a word game against a native speaker strikes fear in your heart, don’t worry: the game offers modes where you can play against the computer. There’s even a leicht (easy) setting for beginners, although you’ll still need a fairly robust vocabulary to piece together German words from the jumbled letters.
Another game genre popular on itch.io is the “visual novel,” a type of game that relies on reading to further the plot. In visual novels, text is often interspersed with choices in either dialogue or actions, like a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) novel. Whether you’re a bookworm or book-phobe, visual novels provide a fresh and engaging way to improve your German reading skills.
They’re also great if you prefer your games to emphasize storytelling over button-mashing. It’s easy to write down full sentences for flashcard study, rather than simply short phrases or verbs that might be seen in games with less onscreen text.
One visual novel with German support is “a2 ~a due~,” which focuses on the love story between a classical musician and a punk-rocker (and a great option for aspiring polyglots, as you’ll even learn some Chinese while you play!). Another shorter, more text-heavy title is “Der Totengräber” (“The Gravedigger”).
The Best German Interactive Fiction Games on Ifwizz
If you enjoy visual novels, or just getting swept up in prose, then you’ll likely enjoy interactive fiction (IF), or games where you participate in the story as it unfolds. One great place to find German-language IF is on ifwizz, an IF database.
You can sort games into different categories based on language or platform and even find games you can play immediately in your browser (including all three of the titles below). These free, no-download titles are perfect for learners, as they’re low-cost and have no barrier to entry (save for the German, but that’s a feature, not a bug!).
“Suche nur ein Weilchen” (“Search for Only a Little While”)
“Suche nur ein Weilchen” is a scavenger hunt game with puzzle elements.
It requires text input, so you’ll practice reading and responding to written German. For example, you might have to type rechts (right) to navigate.
Luckily, the game features a “Mentor” who’ll help you out if you get stuck. It also includes a guide on how IF works in general, which is helpful for newbies to the genre.
“Geocaching in der Galaxie” (“Geocaching in the Galaxy”)
If you’ve never geocached before, it’s a scavenger hunt-type game involving GPS coordinates. Geocaching is usually an in-person game, but this is a computer game built around the idea.
It’s a beginner-friendly game since you don’t need to input any of the text yourself. All you’ll need to do is click around, choosing between different linked options. There are lots of pictures as well.
“Abgesang: Der Tag der Toten” (“Swansong: The Day of the Dead”)
“Abgesang: Der Tag der Toten” reads like a CYOA story, with dialogue choices and verbs a-plenty. As the game doesn’t require text input, it’s also suited to beginners. The story has a spooky setting and it’s easy to get a bad ending!
In the end, German computer games can be a useful—and lustig (fun)—tool that you can incorporate into your studies. While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to navigate Berlin by playing “Final Fantasy,” constant exposure to German is helpful as you’re developing fluency. Having fun can help to make your mind more receptive to taking in new bits of information—even if that information is adjective endings or German verb tenses.
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