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Video games are often thought of as turning children into small cogs in a machine. Unchangeable, uncreative and demanding repetition of players. However, there are many games that offer players a chance to be the creators, inventors and instigators of some of the most marvellous machines.This list offers games picked out with the help of Alom Shaha, Physics teacher, author of Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines and father of two. His book offers playful projects that teach about the centre of gravity, toroidal vortexes, smoke rings and electromagnetism. The games here mirror this combination of wonder and hands-on science.Some of these, like Stormworks, offer a way to experiment with the physics of fluids and gravity. Others, like Townscaper, are a way to see the impact of the built environment. Then there are games like Chicory: A Colorful Tale, that invite players to bring a world to life with paint.The overlap between real-world messy craft and these games can be through the inspiration of making things. But also, some of the games (like Tearaway) let you download templates to cut, stick and make the video game characters in real life. This list includes 35 games from the last 24 years, with 1,255 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to use craft to learn science.
Release Date: 28/02/2018
Out Now: Mac and PC
Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person, Blocks, Open World, Persistant World and Weather
Stormworks: Build and Rescue is an open-world adventure where you design, build and pilot your own air-sea rescue service. You create programmable vehicles using its block-building system and pilot them into dangerous situations to rescue stricken...
Release Date: 30/06/2020, updated in 2021
Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch, Web, Xbox One, Xbox X|S and iOS
Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds
Components: 2D Overhead, Blocks and Hand-Made
Townscaper is a creative town-building game where you pick colours from the range available and click to put down a house in the sea. As you continue to add houses of different colours the game automatically orientates the architecture for you.
Release Date: 10/06/2021, updated in 2021
Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S
Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person and Hand-Made
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is an adventure where you play an everyday dog thrust into the role of wielding a magic brush. The world starts black and white but you colour it in with your paintbrush to solve puzzles and help your animal friends. It looks...
Release Date: 17/10/2010, updated in 2019
Out Now: 3DS and 2DS, Wii and Wii U
Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds
Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made
Kirby's Epic Yarn is a running and jumping game starring Nintendo's Kirby character who can absorb enemies to gain their abilities and powers. It's set in Patch Land, a world made completely out of fabric. You use your platforming skills to collect...
Release Date: 22/11/2013, updated in 2015
Out Now: PS Vita and PS4
Tearaway Unfolded is an adventure game where you explore a folklore-filled fantasy world that's made entirely of paper. You play by moving around the world, running, jumping and collecting items to unlock doors and fight enemies. It stands out for how...
Release Date: 22/06/2023
Out Now: PC
Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night and Open World
Mars First Logistics is a traversal game where you build robots to move awkwardly-shaped objects across the surface of Mars. It's a simple concept, but to contend with the cumbersome objects and rough terrain you need to use every tool at your disposal...
Release Date: 05/10/2021
Out Now: PC, PS4 and PS5
Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World
Jett: The Far Shore is a sci-fi adventure where you play inquisitive pilot Mei, exploring a mysterious planet on a nimble jet-powered craft. It draws on films like 2001: Space Odyssey and takes its time building atmosphere. Once it gets going it becomes...
Release Date: 09/02/2016, updated in 2018
Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Unravel Two is a jumping and swinging platform game where you control a character made out of wool. As well as making him look super cute, the wool is used to swing around and interact with objects.
Release Date: 18/03/2021
Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds
Pile Up is a running and jumping game where up to four of your play as boxes. You run (slide) and jump around the level and need to jump gaps, open doors and solve puzzles to progress. You need to coordinate with each other to progress through the...
Release Date: 13/10/2008, updated in 2017
Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch, Wii, Wii U and iOS
Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds
Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon
World of Goo is a puzzle game where you use balls of goo to create bridges that span increasingly large chasms and obstacles. The game simulates real-world physics to determine if structures are strong enough and when they collapse. This means that...
Release Date: 28/02/2020
Out Now: PC and Xbox One
Components: 3D Third-Person, Blocks, Cartoon, Day and Night and Open World
Trailmakers is a game where you explore an open world in vehicles you have made from Lego-like blocks. Build a car, a plane, a boat or a combination of these, a car plane boat. The game's physics encourages players to imaginatively combine propulsion,...
Release Date: 19/01/2017, updated in 2023
Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS
BedWars is a game played on Minecraft (since 2017) or Roblox servers (since 2021). It's a team game where you start on an island and must protect your bed and build bridges to attack other teams' beds. The trick is the ecosystem of items and crafting...
Release Date: 20/01/2016
Components: 3D Third-Person, Blocks, Cartoon and Open World
Scrap Mechanic is an open world-building game. You collect materials that are used to design machines, vehicles and buildings. You start at the site of a crashed spaceship, with just a few items and must hunt for supplies, fuel and food in order to...
Release Date: 20/10/2020
Scribble It is a digital take on the classic board game Pictionary. You take turns drawing a word as the other players try to be the first one to guess it. The benefit is that you don't have to be in the same place to play. Also, there's the added...
Release Date: 29/05/2019
Out Now: Switch
Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds
Yoshi's Crafted World is a running and jumping game where you control a friendly dinosaur, Yoshi in a hand-made world of paper-craft. You work through each level, eating or jumping on enemies while searching for hidden items and collectables. It stands...
Release Date: 11/08/2000, updated in 2020
Out Now: 3DS and 2DS, DS, GameCube, Switch, Wii and Wii U
Paper Mario: The Origami King is a role-play game featuring Mario and other Nintendo characters. Although cute and cartoon-like in appearance, these games are known for the quality of writing and the well-balanced and enjoyable turn-based combat.
Release Date: 14/08/2019
Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4 and Xbox One
Components: 3D First-Person, Day and Night and Open World
Eastshade is a slow exploration game in a world you explore by walking around. Here, though, you play as a painter of landscapes rather than typical hero. Your mission is to paint your deceased mother’s favourite sights, but it's the world and its...
Release Date: 02/11/2016, updated in 2022
Out Now: Amazon Fire, Android, Mac, PC, Xbox One and iOS
Components: 3D Third-Person and Blocks
Build A Boat for Treasure (Roblox) is a strategy game where build your ship (or anything else) from different materials and set sail for adventure. Doing this successfully earns new items and materials for your next build. Although this churn does...
Release Date: 10/08/2021
Out Now: PC, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox X|S
Components: 3D Third-Person
Lawn Mowing Simulator is an adventure game where you ride an authentic and expansive roster of lawnmowers. The novelty is a combination of absolute control over lawn care and weed eradication. This is extended beyond a brief distraction by the inclusion...
Release Date: 27/04/2018
Components: 3D First-Person
Nintendo Labo is a game themed around physical folding, colouring and cutting. You get a cardboard pack with the game that folds up to make objects into which you slot the screen and controllers. Whether it’s cardboard steering wheels, fishing rods,...
Release Date: 02/06/2021, updated in 2023
Components: 3D Third-Person, Hand-Made and Open World
Stonefly is a tranquil adventure game where you play the pilot of an insect-like mechanical craft. Tiny and living in an outsized world, you use your vehicle to harness the wind and explore the wilderness. As you meet inhabitants, collect resources and...
Release Date: 02/11/2014
Out Now: Android, PC and iOS
Components: 2D Side-On, Cartoon and Hand-Made
Lumino City is a puzzle adventure game in a handmade world. This is not unusual for a video game, but this world was literally made by hand in a physical studio and then filmed. It creates a unique experience that feels like you are poking around a...
Release Date: Coming soon
Coming Soon: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Vokabulantis is a puppet-animated running and jumping game about two children, Karla and Kurt, who have fallen in love. Just as they find each other though, the world starts falling apart and they discover they can’t speak to each other because their...
Release Date: 15/04/2021
Out Now: PC, Switch and Xbox One
Components: 3D Third-Person, Hand-Made and Weather
Rain on Your Parade is a slapstick puzzle game where you play a mischievous cloud ruining everybody’s day. "You are a cloud jerk," says the trailer. In each of the varied levels, you have to work out what it is you need to do to make people's lives a...
Release Date: 25/12/2009, updated in 2016
Out Now: 3DS and 2DS, DS and Wii U
Components: 2D Side-On
Art Academy is a creative painting game for Nintendo systems, that leads children through step-by-step art lessons. An in-game tutor teaches you to develop basic art skills and techniques. Along with the lessons, there's a free paint mode with all the...
Release Date: 26/04/2018
Sloppy Forgeries is a painting game where you race an opponent at copying a famous art piece as quickly and accurately as possible. You win by having the largest percentage of paint in the correct areas. The game randomly selects a painting to copy and...
Release Date: 05/04/2012, updated in 2020
Out Now: 3DS and 2DS, Android, PS Vita, Switch and iOS
Colors! is a painting game for handheld gaming devices. It introduces concepts of creating digital art in an easy and accessible way. You take on challenges to draw pictures and can share them with others online. You can also play back your drawings to...
Release Date: 08/11/2019
Out Now: Android and iOS
Skill Rating: 4+ year-olds
Tori combines physical and virtual play. The game comes with toys that you place on a play surface to control the game’s spaceships and catapults. Children can also create and colour their own cardboard versions of the toys and use them to control the...
Release Date: 27/05/2021
Out Now: Mac, PC and Switch
Components: 2D Overhead and Hand-Made
Weaving Tides is a puzzle game set in a magical woven world. You ride a carpet dragon that both transports you and weaves fabric into the world to help you advance.
Release Date: 20/05/2021
Out Now: iOS
Skill Rating: 2+ year-olds
Components: 2D Overhead
Pok Pok Playroom is a storybook game, filled with interactive digital toys for children to discover and explore as they scroll through a series of settings. It's for children 2-6 years old and offers open-ended play where the focus isn't on right and...
Release Date: 07/10/2016
Out Now: Mac, PC and iOS
Components: 2D Overhead, Grid and Pixels
Beglitched is a puzzle game that combines Candy Crush's matching with Minesweeper's mapping challenges in missions where you foil computer hackers. Play is first traversing the computer network grid and then taking on hackers in match-three puzzles when...
Release Date: 03/11/2022
RoboCo is a creative physics-based robot-building game where you design and code robots to perform challenging tasks. With the multitude of parts and templates to build from, there are countless ways to approach each situation, be it by creating an...
Release Date: 24/08/2023
Out Now: PC, PS Vita, PS4, PS5, PSP, Xbox One and Xbox X|S
Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a fighting game where you create your own robot suits and then take them into battle. It's from the makers of Elden Ring but has more of a combat focus and without an open world. Fights are fast-paced and exuberant,...
Release Date: 16/06/2017, updated in 2021
Components: 3D First-Person, 3D Third-Person, Open World and Weather
The Drone Racing League Simulator is a simulation game where you build and race drones. Developed by the official Drone Racing League (DRL), it offers incredibly realistic physics, weather, flight controls, and drone creation. It takes a lot of learning...
Release Date: 13/10/2020
Components: 3D First-Person, Blocks and Open World
Craftlands Workshoppe is a strategy game where you build and manage a crafting empire. You start the game by opening your own workshop that can specialize in one of three trades: Blacksmithing, Alchemy, or Cooking.