Edutainment Games: Blast from the Past

I don’t know about you, but it was always a pleasure being able to visit the computer lab once a week to learn more about computers. While learning about the different parts of computers was enjoyable, the real fun was when we got to play different games. If your school was like mine, there were plenty of games that were ready to choose from that could entertain us for our entire thirty minutes of class. Back in the day, of course, edutainment games were available to buy from many stores. Nowadays there are many games available online for new generations of students, many of them free.

I’m taking the time today to look back at some of my favorite choices of edutainment games to play, particularly back from the 1990s and early 2000s. Some of these may be games that you may have enjoyed at some point too. Some of these may have stood the test of time, while others may have not aged as gracefully. Nevertheless, I think they’re worth bringing to light again, and celebrated for the memories they’ve given us and the lessons they’ve shared.

Reading – The Reader Rabbit series

Reader Rabbit 2

I have a deep fondness for the Reader Rabbit series. Although I haven’t played all the games, I’ve played enough to appreciate the basic principle that the games gave to me as a young student. It was often time-consuming and repetitive, but the developers did their best to make games that were colorful, creative, and safe for students to build their basic phonetic and reading skills. As a teacher now, I have to wonder if games like Reader Rabbit are still given to young children to play to help build upon the basics of the alphabet and their correlating sounds that build into words. I am far past the appropriate age range for the games now, but highly recommend revisiting these titles if you’ve played them like me. You may find that you remembered having fun with Reader Rabbit, and enjoying the adventure of reading.

Math – JumpStart 1st Grade: Math

As much as I enjoy the Reader Rabbit games and other titles from The Learning Company, I think I preferred the games from JumpStart. You’re probably surprised that I didn’t choose Math Blasters, Number Munchers, or Treasure Mathstorm, but JumpStart 1st Grade Math comes to mind now and again with fond nostalgia. It’s bright and colorful with great art, the games are engaging, and the characters fun and delightful. It is very time-consuming to complete, and like Reader Rabbit, can feel very repetitive with the same few games. If you’re able to stick with it and complete it, though, you may find that by the end you enjoyed exploring this imaginative kingdom of insects.

Science – JumpStart 3rd Grade: Mystery Mountain

This one is cheating just a bit, as the whole of JumpStart 3rd Grade isn’t focused solely on science. It does have some very engaging science-focused games, however, that will introduce young children to the ideas of molecules and the basics of biology, such the different types of biomes and identifying characteristics of different specimens. There is also a level where children can learn how to identify basic constellations in the sky, as well as their history and representations in Greek mythology. The aesthetic behind this game is unlike most other JumpStart titles; it’s darker than other games, giving the player a sense of foreboding and urgency. It had always both creeped me out and enticed me as a youngster.

Social Studies – The Oregon Trail Series

I’m not sure if these games need any introduction. They are well-known, or rather infamous, for their famous death scenes and gravestones that players could edit. I’ve included this game—and its sister series The Amazon Trail—as they really expanded my basic concept of geography and history as a youngster. It was important to learn why Americans in the 19th century felt the need to move across the country in search of a better life, in spite of the difficulties they were sure to face.

The Amazon Trail is very similar as it starts the player from one destination to another far away. Like JumpStart 3rd Grade, Amazon Trail gave me a sense of foreboding; you were never really sure what to expect. Some characters you come across are friendly and hospitable, others are cruel and unpredictable. It made for an exciting journey as I wanted to learn more about this dangerous part of the world. I am sure other children who have played it felt the same.

These are only just a few titles that could fit each of these subjects, but the truth is there are many more that hold a place in my heart. Chances are there are some edutainment games that you probably look back on fondly and enjoyed as a youngster yourself. Edutainment games are not a waste of time and definitely have their place in the market as they help future generations grow and develop their skills. What were some of your favorite edutainment titles growing up? I hope to share some more that have had an impact on me, and continue to advocate for games having their place in the classroom.

Andrea Racoti

Born in a Romanian-immigrant family and brought up in Central Texas, Andrea loves the art and importance of story-telling, especially when it comes to video games. Her favorite games include rich world-building and character growth, and it's a joy for her share her passion with other gamers.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Horne on May 2, 2022 at 9:13 pm

    +1 for Oregon Trail, of course. But does anybody else at all remember Outnumbered?

Leave a Reply