by Leah Nieman
STEAM threw the PC gaming world into the 21st century with games you can download with free software. But, when it comes to gaming and our tweens most parents don’t think of educational games. Instead, we might think something like “Nice, another money sucking hobby for my teen.”
It’s true, you must pay for many of the games on Steam. But there’s a good selection of free games as well. And teens can find educational games on Steam. Best of all Steam has made educational games not only better, but easier to find, browse, and play. Let’s dive in and look at my 5 favorite ones!
TOP 5 EDUCATIONAL GAMES ON STEAM For Tweens
- The Lab– This is a virtual reality-based video game, so strap on your Oculus Riff or HTC Vive headset for this one! The Lab has multiple mini-games for each level. Each level is an “experiment”, in which you must fulfill a task. The tasks range from protecting a fortress with a longbow, to exploring the solar system in a Neil deGrasse Tyson style. This game is full of fun virtual reality games that are sure to help your kids learn, while also keeping them entertained. The Lab is free on Steam, so get it asap! See a demo of The Lab on YouTube.
- Cities Skyline– A new take on an old idea, this game is a simulation of city creation and maintenance. Not only do you build the city, you also run it. You must balance issues like education, water supply, emergency services, healthcare, and economic systems. For an older child, this game will provide a fun way to show them what issues cities often have to deal with. This game is $29.99 ($39.99 for deluxe edition) on Steam. Tutorials on Youtube.
- Civilization 5– One game that hypes everyone up is Sid Meier’s Civilization. With 6 Civilization games now available, this game is always improving upon the last. Civilization is a board-style strategy game in which you must build cities, armies, create culture, and research science to win the game. You can play as a multitude of countries including the U.S., Germany, Russia, France, Ancient Greece, The Aztecs, etc. Each country has unique advantages in the game. This game is great for kids who have decent computer skills! It costs $29.99 on Steam and has tons of DLC available for purchase.
- Universe Sandbox 2– Have you ever wondered what would happen if the Earth was swallowed by a black hole? Wonder no more! With Universe Sandbox 2, you can create solar systems and galaxies. You can also destroy planets with asteroids, comets, black holes, and anything else you can think of. This game is relatively advanced in controls, so it would be harder for a younger child to learn, but a 12 or 13-year-old should have no issue figuring this game out. There are also tons of tutorials on Youtube. This game is $24.99 on Steam and has no DLC.
- Kerbal Space Program– My personal favorite of all of these games is Kerbal Space Program. I started playing it during the cold months of college (October-April) my freshman year. I love it! This game allows the player to build rockets and space planes to explore a fictitious solar system. The solar system has a few planets and moons, and uses real physics to make you feel like an astronaut. Kerbal Space Program is $39.99. It doesn’t have any DLC. Which means you don’t have to spend extra money to have all the extra cool features and add-ons. Everything is included in the game. Kerbal Space Program is a great game for kids 8 years or older. Tutorials are provided on Youtube.
Are you a parent struggling to understand Steam and all the privacy features if offers for your child? Learn all about it in the Parents Guide to Steam!
Leah Nieman has been speaking to parents and teens about technology, social media, and parenting for the past 10 years. She’s a popular speaker who offers sessions, advice, and resources so parents can raise kids with a healthy perspective of technology and social media. You can find her eBooks Connected: Apps All Parents Should Know, Quick Guide to Parental Controls for Kindle, and Connected: A Parent’s Guide to Snapchat, as well as tips on technology and social media at leahnieman.com. Sign up for her weekly Tech Talk for Parents Newsletter