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Remember playing edutainment games in the computer lab at your elementary school? It was better than lunch, better than physical education, and more fun than recess. Apple II’s loaded with educational software disguised as entertainment: these are what defined our formative years. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was these simple titles that made us into the gamers and lovers of new tech that we are today. That’s why we’re taking a time out to take a trip down memory lane to take closer look at the most memorable edutainment games of all time...


The Oregon Trail

In 1971, teachers Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger decided to combine their passion for education with the game-creating power of giant mainframe computers. The result was one of the most successful children’s series ever created, one of the greatest edutainment titles to make it into the grade school curriculum, and the only government-sanctioned software that taught kids how to morbidly plumb the heart of darkness as they made their way west.


Above: The Oregon Trail taught us about the dangers of dysentery 

The Oregon Trail is the historical account of being an American pioneer, and also the story of trying to get 500 pounds of jarred bison across the country before succumbing to necrotising poison from eating the wrong kind of strawberry. For a children’s game, The Oregon Trail was mighty challenging.

Earning a perfect score was nigh impossible because death loomed over your shoulder at every turn. If your wagon wasn’t sinking in the deep waters of a raging river, you were suffering from dysentery or in danger of starving to death. To this day, any mention of the state of Oregon immediately conjures images of dying at Chimney Rock with bits of Conestoga wheels lodged in our skull. So awesome.


Above: If seeing super old school software doesn’t make you happy, you’re not wearing your nostalgia goggles 


Mario is Missing!

Mario is Missing! is worth remembering as the first game to bring international kidnapping to an education platform. It was also the first “Mario” game that didn’t let you actually play as Mario. Instead, it put you in control of Luigi. The “other brother” had always played second fiddle to his pudgier partner, so this was Luigi’s big chance to take charge in a quest to save Mario while learning about geography and famous landmarks.


Above: LOOK BEHIND YOU LUIGI! HE’S RIGHT THERE! 


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Carmen Sandiego was infinitely likeable, taught us all exactly where Delaware actually was (even when we didn’t care), and spawned some of the greatest game shows ever conceived. WitWiCS had you take on the role of a gumshoe, and charged you with tracking down a ring of international criminals under the name of V.I.L.E. The game made geography fun, and had you travelling from country to country, question locals for clues while learning interesting facts about the world.


Above: The best kids game show ever. Remember Special Agent Greg Lee and the Chief? Remember the Rockapella gang? Remember the capital of Switzerland?

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31 comments

  • HardNoks - June 22, 2014 10:47 a.m.

    What? No Math Blasters?
  • jsty3105 - December 28, 2013 5:13 a.m.

    Adventures in Math on the PC helped me get great results in my maths exams as a wee 'un
  • g1rldraco7 - December 26, 2013 10:54 p.m.

    Odell Lake and Number Crunchers were the first computer games I ever played. Those were very fun for simple games.
  • Oujisama - December 26, 2013 8:10 p.m.

    Oregon Trails all the god damn way. As a child I didn't even realize I was "learning". It was just a fun freaking game.
  • shawksta - December 25, 2013 3:16 p.m.

    Mario is Missing was one hell of a drug
  • FamousMortimer - May 17, 2010 7:13 a.m.

    Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space was great. Great graphics (for 1994), and taught quite a bit about both the US and Soviet Space programs. Can even be had on some abandonware sites, if anybody is curious.
  • barrage7667 - May 17, 2010 2:37 a.m.

    OMG YES WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS CARMEN SANDIEGO WAS MY GAME!!! i played tht non stop when i was a kid. by the time i had stopped the game i had solved like, 100 crimes
  • lymanzaar - May 16, 2010 11:49 p.m.

    OH MY GOD! When I was in Second grade, my class was the only room with old apple computers. When ever we had indoor recess during rain, we all played Number Munchers. I could never remember the name of the game though.
  • lovinmyps3 - May 16, 2010 6:09 p.m.

    The only game I got back then was a Mario typing game, where hitting the right keys made him jump.
  • slimjim441 - May 15, 2010 6:25 a.m.

    Holy hell! I thought I was the last person on the planet who knew the game Number Muncher! That's awesome, oh the memories... P.S. Half-Life and Portal are educational. They teach physics and critical thinking.
  • jmcgrotty - May 15, 2010 5:40 a.m.

    The best way to ever learn to type, and still is, are through MUD's. I know it doesn't really fit in with the topic, but it's still too true a fact to not be mentioned.
  • Metroidhunter32 - May 15, 2010 1:37 a.m.

    I actually like the Where in the world games, but I agree, math blaster should be on here.
  • drunkenfish - May 14, 2010 9:04 p.m.

    math blaster, zoombinies, the one where you play as the guy with the ice picks...and for some reason we played a lot of bugdom in school. I remember getting a mac when i was 9 and my friend and i literally had 10 other kids over and threw a party when we beat the game. Killed the giant red ant. 10 levels of good.
  • JoeMasturbaby - May 14, 2010 7:14 p.m.

    i played Math Blaster so much in 3-4th grade at school. my middle school had a weird puzzle game where you make Rube Goldberg-type things to get certain objectives.
  • OnyxOblivion - May 14, 2010 7:08 p.m.

    Putt Putt? Spy Fox? Pajama Sam? Freddy Fish? Any of those ring a bell, people?
  • foxbowser42 - May 14, 2010 6:38 p.m.

    I definitely think Mario Teaches Typing should be on here. My favorite old school educational game was Putt Putt and Fatty Bear.
  • TanookiMan - May 14, 2010 6:01 p.m.

    Yeah, mrio mad me nto the typr I m today :)
  • Spacegrass - May 14, 2010 3:38 p.m.

    Odell Lake also had a sequel, Odell Down Under. It was set in the Great Barrier Reef. Its campaign mode let you start as a lame little fish and work your way up to playing as a great white shark. It was awesome. Also, Mario Teaches Typing definitely deserves a place on this list. Also also, I'm still waiting for Uwe Boll to make an Oregon Trail movie, featuring Meat Loaf as a buffalo and Udo Kier as the villain, Dysentery.
  • GenerationKill - May 14, 2010 1:56 p.m.

    I miss number munchers.
  • philipshaw - May 14, 2010 10:26 a.m.

    “That game with the turtle robot that drew patterns on paper” was designed by Ryan Clements dad. Ryan Clements for those who don't know is one of the best editors at IGN

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