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Games That Can Improve Memory

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Highlights

  • Video games like Minecraft & Big Brain Academy can actually improve cognitive function and memory skills.
  • Tetris, Civilization 5, & Brain Age all challenge players to think critically and improve memory.
  • Games like Brain Age offer scientific benefits for mental faculties while providing entertainment.

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A lot of gamers grew up hearing the same old hand-wringing worries of parents. “Video games will rot your brain.” But as more and more studies come out, it turns out that the reverse is true – at least, in some cases. Certain video games have been proven to actually improve the player’s cognitive function and memory skills.

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Some modern games are designed with education in mind. Other times, unlocking brain potential is just a happy coincidence from a fun puzzle game that forces players to think critically to win. In any case, video games are proving themselves to be quite the functional piece of art – able to educate as well as entertain.

1 Minecraft: Education Edition

Minecraft Education Proves Its Worth In The Classroom

A screenshot from Minecraft Education

Minecraft
Platform(s)
PS4 , PS3 , PS Vita , Xbox One , Xbox 360 , Switch , 3DS , PC , Android , iOS , Wii U

Released
November 18, 2011

Childhood has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Kids today have access to incredibly sophisticated technology that no other generation had growing up. This has had a dramatic influence on both their education and their sense of fun. But who could have guessed that both these points would eventually find common ground in Minecraft?

Minecraft Education creates a simple, classroom-friendly version of the world’s most popular cube-based game. Teachers have been using this game since 2016 to facilitate group lessons on math, reading comprehension, and problem-solving. And the kids are far more likely to engage with the lesson and think creatively because they’re not bored senseless staring at the whiteboard. They’re staring at the brightly colored epicenter of visual-based learning and the holy grail of modern video games. Everything’s more fun with Minecraft.

2 Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain

Earn A Degree In Big Brain Energy

Big Brain Academy logo

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain

Developer(s)
Nintendo

Genre(s)
Puzzle

The Big Brain Academy series is like if Mario Party was designed to make people smarter. Each entry puts players through a gauntlet of mini-games designed to test their brainpower, with memorization being just one of many skills on the scoreboard. Logic, math, and analytics are also tested, pushing the player’s gray matter to grow and “age” with each test.

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is the most recent entry in the series. Releasing in 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, it’s the first entry to offer multiplayer, both locally and online. A little friendly competition (again, a la Mario Party) might be just the thing to motivate players to work that much harder to improve their memory skills.

3 Civilization 5

A Game Where You Need To Remember…Pretty Much Everything

Screenshot from Civilization 5

Sid Meier’s Civilization 5

Released
September 21, 2010

Genre(s)
Strategy

Turn-based strategy games are designed to reward smart plays and critical thinking. Just keeping track of the rules themselves is an exercise in good memory, not to mention keeping track of resources and everything else happening on-screen. Civilization is often cited as the best strategy game series around, with Civilization 5 standing as the best in the series. Players must raise their budding civilization into a thriving empire, managing every aspect while maintaining diplomatic relations with neighboring groups.

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Civilization 5 also gives several game mechanics a complete overhaul from previous installments, forcing even veteran players of the franchise to stay on their toes. Its hex-based grid system adds even more complex movement and strategy and in-depth resource management the series is famous for. Building an empire to last the ages is no small feat, after all.

4 Tetris

“Tetris Brain” Is Actually A Very Good Thing

Falling Tetris blocks

Tetris

Released
June 6, 1984

Genre(s)
Puzzle

Alongside other greats like Pong and Pac-Man, Tetris is one of the core founding members of the video game industry. Its consistent popularity is unrivaled, with countless new iterations keeping the simple yet addictive game still relevant over forty years after its initial release. This phenomenal status in pop culture has led Tetris to become the focus of countless scientific studies and behavioral analyses over the years.

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10 Puzzle Games Like Tetris

Tetris is a classic among puzzle games, and the following titles have a charm that’s similar to its timeless formula.

One psychologist, Richard Haier, argues that playing Tetris regularly might improve a person’s memory. Other studies claim that playing Tetris can help prevent PTSD after a traumatic experience, reducing the chance of lingering traumatic memories. There’s just something about these falling square configurations that’s good for stimulating gray matter in all the right ways. Maybe it’s the same thing that causes avid players to see those blocks whenever they close their eyes!

5 Brain Age: Train Your Brain In Minutes A Day!

Brain Age A Day May Keep Memory Loss At Bay

Title screen of Brain Age

Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!

Released
April 16, 2006

Developer(s)
Nintendo SPD

Genre(s)
Puzzle

Brain Age and Big Brain Academy follow a similar vein of mini-games designed to improve players’ mental faculties, but Brain Age has more scientific evidence to back up its claims. There are plenty of studies pointing to this DS puzzle game as helping to “keep the brain sharp,” similar to games like Sudoku and Scrabble. Other sources even suggest that such games can help prevent the onset of dementia or help dementia patients with their deteriorating memory skills.

Of course, gamers won’t find Nintendo themselves making such claims. They’re in the entertainment business first and foremost. Series like Brain Age and Big Brain Academy are only meant to be fun puzzle games that make players feel smarter, not become smarter. Brain Age just so happens to be an incredibly beneficial exception to that rule. Even if some studies on the game are inconclusive at best, it can’t hurt to try, right?

More

8 Fun Video Games That Make You Smarter

Players looking to learn something new or test their wits should try the following video games that are fun, challenging, and informative.

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