Rewind·Posted on Jul 7, 2022Educational Games From The '90s That Actually Go HardDid they ever find Carmen Sandiego?by William BarriosBuzzFeed ContributorFacebookPinterestTwitterMailLink "Learning can be fun!" Tap to play GIF Tap to play GIF Apple / giphy.com ...No kid said ever. Still, even if "edutainment" was a Trojan horse of math and history lessons dressed up in blocky '90s graphics, there's no denying we spent hours on that Oregon trail or trying to find Carmen Sandiego. These are the educational games from the '90s that were actually pretty damn fun. 1. Oregon Trail II (1995) kamikaze9699 / youtube.com, Shortmandesigner / youtube.com Ok, I'm sort of breaking the rules with this one. Even though every '90s kid remembers Oregon Trail, it's a game that came out in 1971. But since this list doesn't feel complete without it, I'm being sneaky and giving this spot to the '95 sequel. Besides, even though most people remember the original better, number two is also a beloved classic. 2. The Carmen Sandiego Series (1985-Present Day) Icicle158 / youtube.com Even though Carmen Sandiego games and TV shows are still being made today (you can even play on Google Earth), the height of her popularity was easily in the '90s and early 2000s. As you follow Chief's orders and help ACME catch the notorious super-villain Carmen Sandiego, you might just learn a thing or two along the way.*Screenshot is from Where in the U.S.A. Is Carmen Sandiego? (1996) 3. Number Munchers (1990) & Word Munchers (1991) Danielle Wheeler / youtube.com, Games and Toilets Productions / youtube.com If you were an '80s kid with access to an Apple II, you may be quick to point out that these games were available before the '90s. However, for those who didn't have an Apple II, the games weren't available on DOS (and the newer Macintosh OS) until they were re-released in the '90s. Number and Word Munchers are simple, with players moving the Muncher around the grid, eating words or numbers that match the prompt up top. What do Troggles have to do with math or english? Nothing, that's what makes them so scary... 4. Math Blaster! (1993) Dogman15 / youtube.com There are a few versions of Math Blaster!, and the first came out in 1983. I'm talking about the complete redesign that came out in 1993, called Math Blaster Episode I: In Search of Spot. The Blaster series was such a success because it was created by an educator, not just an entertainment company. Jan Davidson created the games with the help of her husband, and they have stood the test of time as some of the best edutainment of all time. 5. Scooter’s Magic Castle (1993) Resulka / youtube.com The amount of education that was in these edutainment games varies, and Scooter's Magic Castle wasn't as challenging for kids as games like Math Blasters! or Word Munchers. Scooter's Magic Castle focused more on simple puzzles and mini-games for younger kids to practice basic concepts like memory and pattern recognition. 6. Putt-Putt Travels Through Time (1997) Humongous Fan Soundtracks / youtube.com In this game, you've got to help Putt-Putt find all of his lost objects that got sucked into a time portal, learning about things like dinosaurs, the old west, and medieval times. The game has had such a lasting legacy that it's still available on the App Store, Steam, and even Nintendo Switch. 7. The Magic School Bus Series (1994-2011) Garfovsky / youtube.com The Magic School Bus started as a book series in 1986, and had exploded in popularity by the '90s. Of course, the animated TV show is what we all remember the most, but the first video game was developed at the same time as the show. Both debuted in 1994, the first game being The Magic School Bus Explores the Solar System, from which the above screenshot is taken. 8. The Incredible Machine (1993) & The Incredible Machine 2 (1994) Dosgamert / youtube.com, Dosgamert / youtube.com The first game in this series was conceived in 1984, but not developed until 1993. The sequel was released just one year after in 1994, with the principal of the game remaining unchanged. Giving players the chance to build overly complicated Rube Goldberg-type machines to achieve simple tasks is a great formula for hundreds of levels and hours of gameplay, especially for future engineers. 9. Logical Journey of the Zoombinis (1996) Mr. Eight-Three-One / youtube.com I stared at these little blueberries with different feet and hairstyles for way too long as a kid. I especially remember the level pictured above, where you have to make the right pizza for some tyrannical tree stump monster. Did a kids game about rudimentary logic puzzles have to have an art design and lore worthy of The Princess Bride and Willow? Probably not, but I'm very glad it did. 10. Mission: T.H.I.N.K. (1997) LY203 Productions / youtube.com Thinking Hard Inspires Knowledge! That was just in case you forgot what T.H.I.N.K. stands for. Similar to Zoombinis and Putt-Putt, Mission: T.H.I.N.K. is all about mini-games revolving around logic puzzles. And weirdly enough, the band Yellowjackets (whose founder Robben Ford has worked with the likes of Joni Mitchell and George Harrison) composed the soundtrack for Mission: T.H.I.N.K. 11. Mario Teaches Typing (1992) NintendoComplete / youtube.com Baldur's Gate, Earthworm Jim, Fallout. These are some pretty iconic blockbuster video games, and the studio behind them all is called Interplay. They are the same studio that made Mario Teaches Typing. Maybe that's why it's a masterpiece? 12. Lemmings (1991) TTDLX / youtube.com I may not have played Lemmings, but I did play Lemmings Paintball, and let me tell you, that was an incredible game. In the original Lemmings, you're trying to get a certain amount of the human-like animals through a doorway. Lemmings was enough of a puzzle-type game to be installed on plenty of school computers, and many modern games like Sugar, Sugar and Where's My Water? have built on this concept. 13. Treasure Mountain! (1990) MegaSonic / youtube.com If you were around 5-10 in the 1990s, Treasure Mountain! was a good way to get down on some reading, math, and logic skills. The Learning Company was pretty smart to realize that the only thing stopping kids from loving school is the possibility of treasure. 14. Spelunx and the Caves of Mr. Seudo (1991) videogameclipcollect / youtube.com With wacky, borderline creepy artwork, Spelunx and the Caves of Mr. Seudo featured creative puzzles that were worthy of a children's museum. Mini-games like measuring the amount of time between lightning and thunder to determine how far away a storm is and running an electrical current through different elemental gasses to see how they react is safer and cheaper to do from a computer. 15. Castle of Dr. Brain (1991) Dosgamert / youtube.com Once more proving that a slightly creepy point-and-click adventure with logic puzzles was the best way to make an edutainment game in the '90s, Castle of Dr. Brain shares a lot of similarities with the text adventure games that dominated home computers a decade earlier. More than just puzzles and pattern recognition, Dr. Brain also featured mini-games on astronomy and cryptography. 16. Museum Madness (1994) István Balogh / youtube.com Museum Madness has an unnamed high schooler helping a museum's security system save the building from a mysterious virus. It's a pretty brilliant idea for an educational game, because the player feels like they're Indiana Jones while they're really just going from one museum exhibit to the next. 17. Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside (1996) LY203 Productions / youtube.com Created by the same studio that made the Putt-Putt games, Pajama Sam spawned a series of games and children's books. Teaching kids not to be afraid of the dark (and, of course, puzzles), Pajama Sam is the hero every '90s kid deserved. 18. JumpStart Games LY203 Productions / youtube.com With games spanning from pre-school to 6th grade, covering subjects like math, language, grammar, typing, and basic shapes for toddlers, there's a good chance you had at least some interaction with JumpStart as a kid. *Screenshot is from JumpStart Adventures 6th Grade: Mission EarthQuest (1998) 19. Eagle Eye Mysteries (1993) Resulka / youtube.com Satisfying every kids dream to run their own detective agency from a treehouse, Eagle Eye Mysteries let every '90s kid be their own Nancy Drew or Hardy boy. Still hoping I get a treehouse as cool as Jake and Jennifer Eagle's someday. 20. Star Wars: DroidWorks (1998) Safety Clink / youtube.com Allowing kids to build their own droids in a Portal-like industrial complex, DroidWorks paired education with the one thing every kid can get onboard with: Star Wars. Touching on scientific principles like energy, force, motion, simple machines, light, and magnetism, kids had to use critical thinking and some light math to solve puzzles. Though, admittedly, the "educational" part of this edutainment was pretty light. 21. The Treehouse (1991) Squakenet / youtube.com The best educational games focus on artistic concepts like music as much as math and science. The Treehouse is a great example of this, as well as having practical lessons on things like understanding currency. And the two main characters are opossums who need nap breaks. Why did this not become a massive franchise? 22. Time Riders in American History (1992) LY203 Productions / youtube.com Similar to the Carmen Sandiego series (and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), Time Riders plays a lot like a text-adventure. It was created by The Learning Company, who also made Treasure Mountain! As the player bounces around time periods, there's plenty of videos and hand-holding to make sure you learned plenty. When you said you wanted to play video games, this is likely not the type of game you had in mind. 23. Disney's Math Quest with Aladdin (1997) Dangerous Boy / youtube.com Even though it's called a "math quest," this game wasn't immune to the same types of drag-and-drop puzzles that most other games on this list featured. Also, Iago wants to help Genie save Aladdin and Jasmine? Not sure how I feel about that. Also, there's math. Which educational games got you through the '90s? Let me know in the comments!