Who doesn’t love playing a good game?
Games provide us with a way to escape from reality and to have some fun during our downtime.
But believe it or not, games can also be great teachers.
Learning with games—especially word games—is an amazing way to learn Japanese.
We have put together a list of some seriously awesome and super useful Japanese word games to help you increase your vocabulary, sharpen your Japanese alphabet knowledge and improve your overall Japanese fluency.
Plus, they are all free to play!
But first, let’s look at how these word games work and how they can directly improve your Japanese language skills.
How Japanese Word Games Can Help You Learn Japanese
Fun and educational
Playing games and using other entertaining learning methods makes learning a new language fun, rather than a chore.
Let’s be real here, learning a language can sometimes be a pain rather than an exciting adventure.
Throwing some fun into your study session can keep it fresh and reinforce your learning in a way that does not feel like learning.
Hone in on specific skills
Many of these games focus on memorizing kanji and improving listening skills.
These aspects of Japanese are incredibly important for improving fluency!
Build your vocabulary
Whether you are a beginner Japanese learner or the best of the best at this language, you are bound to run into vocabulary words that will turn you for a loop.
Japanese word games can help you memorize difficult words, brush up on words you may have forgotten and reinforce your growing vocabulary bank.
5+ Japanese Word Games You Can Play Online for Free
Learning is better when it is fun!
Check out these engaging Japanese word games to have some fun while you boost your vocabulary and kanji skills.
And if you like learning with fun, engaging content, you will love FluentU!
FluentU takes real-world Japanese videos—like music videos, movie trailers, documentaries, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
It naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You’ll learn real Japanese as it’s spoken in real life.
Just take a look at the wide variety of authentic video content available in the program. Here’s a small sample:
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.
Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
FluentU even uses a learning program which adapts to your specific needs, to turn every video into a language learning lesson and get you to actively practice your newly-learned language.
Let’s get our Japanese game on with these next resources!
しりとり is a classic Japanese word game that is super popular in Japan. To play, you must come up with a word that begins with the last character of the previous word.
Before you begin, you are required to choose your learning level, ensuring the vocabulary that appears will be geared towards your level.
Every word is shown with its hiragana/katakana and kanji, JLPT level and definitions.
If you fail to write in the next word on time, the game presents you with possible words you could have used, along with their definitions. It is a fantastic way to build your vocabulary!
The game even allows you to log in with your Gmail account for detailed records of your past games if you want to visualize your progress.
If you have the chance to play the game analog-style with a native speaker, do it!
When you play with two or more people, take turns saying words. If someone cannot figure out a new word, they and are automatically booted from the game.
The premise and rules of the game are simple, whether you are playing against a computer or a real person:
- Only nouns are allowed.
- The character ん is not permitted, as no Japanese word starts with it, making it impossible to continue the game. In some variations of しりとり, accidentally using a word with ん means forfeiture of the game.
- No words can be repeated during a single game.
- Optional: Pronouns and names of places may be permitted.
- Optional: Words can only be part of a particular genre, such as nature or science.
Everybody has played Bingo before, right?
In case you have not, the rules are simple: When a word is called out, you mark the corresponding space on your Bingo sheet. When you have five spaces in a row marked, you win!
This Japanese word game is a simple version of Bingo, in which you must match the spoken Japanese word with its image at increasing speeds. Just click on the audio button and listen up!
Stay sharp, though: Once you start the game, the audio will read words at short intervals. If you have an image to match the word, click on it. If you do not, wait for the next.
No alphabets or written Japanese is used in this game. It is all audio and imagery, which is ideal for perfecting listening skills. You will also be improving vocabulary recognition by associating spoken words with images.
Any level of learner can play this game, but complete beginners may find it a bit too difficult since there is no writing to rely on.
There is also no way to check what the words mean, so if you find yourself struggling, I recommend that you spend one round simply writing down words you are unfamiliar with and looking them up.
Are you a fan of options? So am I! That is why I love this multi-level option-packed resource from Tanoshii Japanese.
On top of offering a Japanese online dictionary, lessons, forums and additional Japanese language-learning resources, this site also has some seriously fun practice games available to play for free.
You can easily improve your reading, listening, writing and speaking skills all in one place. You also have the option to focus on hiragana, katakana, kanji or vocabulary words in either multi-game or single-game levels.
To play, select which alphabet you want to focus on, or choose vocabulary. Then, choose between reading, writing or speaking practice and select your game.
There are matching games, stroke order games, flashcards and more. For most of the alphabet games, you can choose to play based on characters you already know or characters you are currently learning.
To top it all off, you can also select how long you want the game to last.
Beginner, intermediate and advanced students can all gain something from this interesting lesson-based word game.
4. Kanji Press
This little gem from Kanji Press has a very user-friendly and minimalist appeal to it.
To play, read the English word or words at the top of the screen. Then match them to the correct kanji, katakana or hiragana translation in the character boxes below.
If you select the incorrect box, the hiragana of the word is displayed. Choose wrong again, and you are shown the kanji. Then all you have to do is match the kanji to its twin in the boxes below.
Once you complete a level, you are shown the JLPT level of that particular word, and you can move on to the next set of words.
A game is completed when all the boxes have been colored in. Finish a game and you are rewarded with a delightful gif!
Alphabet skills are vital, so this is definitely a great game to play and use as part of your word-association and definition regimen in your Japanese language-learning plan.
Beginners may be thrown for a loop with this game, as many of the characters are a bit difficult, so intermediate and advanced learners would benefit most from playing this cute little game.
Tanoshii Japanese sure had a lot of options, but this massive flash game section from Digital Dialects really takes the cake when it comes to variety.
This site offers over 20 different word games that focus on improving Japanese listening, reading and speaking skills.
The options are rich in variety and include:
- Katakana, hiragana and kanji games
- Matching and memory games
- Scrabble-like games that focus on vocabulary
- Grammar- and phrase-association games
- Audio and visual options
- After-game quizzes for proficiency
The animations are a little low-budget and cheesy, but if you can get past the corniness you will certainly benefit from these games.
While all levels of Japanese learners can use this site, you may have to search around for a game that fits your particular level.
Like what you see? Digital Dialects also offers weekly parallel text e-books with audio to try out for free.
How rad are these Japanese word games? Spicing things up with word games will push you forward on your Japanese language-learning journey—in a fun and engaging way!
Good luck with your fluent future!
Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.