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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...
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! 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!
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?