Programming games are often overlooked as a way to learn a new programming language or improve your knowledge of an existing one. Here are 20 programming games that are worth a try.
CodinGame is one of the better-known free platforms for learning how to code through games. The platform supports over 25 programming languages and comes with challenges that become gradually harder as you progress through them.
CodinGame is a community, too. You can solve challenges together with your friends or colleagues and learn how other players solve particular challenges.
7 Billion Humans
Tomorrow Corporation is an indie video game developer that specializes in programming games. They have three under their belt already: Little Inferno (2012), Human Resource Machine (2015), and 7 Billion Humans (2018).
7 Billion Humans gives the player 60 programming puzzles to solve in a programming language similar to assembly. Each time, you need to write a program that can most efficiently control all the humans in the puzzle.
Robocode is a programming game where you need to program a robot battle tank that competes against other robots in a battle arena. You have no direct influence over the robot. Instead, you must write the AI of the robot so it behaves and reacts appropriately to events occurring in the battle arena.
Robocode is primarily used to learn Java, although you can also program in Kotlin and Scala. It’s a good way to learn how to program in these languages, but it’s also a good way to gain a basic understanding of AI.
Halite is an AI game where people write algorithms in a programming language of their choice to compete in an online multiplayer game. The game is on its fourth iteration and, since its launch in 2016, has been played by more than 15,000 people.
You play Halite on Kaggle, an online community of data scientists and ML practitioners. There is plenty of documentation on Kaggle explaining how Halite works, what its rules are, and how you can get started.
Similar to Halite, Terminal is an AI game where you program algorithms and battle them against one another in tournaments. You can compete with other players and their algorithms for cash prizes, too.
You can play by hand, which requires no code, or play with the algorithms that you programmed. You can play against yourself, other players, or boss algorithms. Familiarize yourself with the game by watching it on Twitch.
CSS Diner is a programming game where you learn about CSS selectors. The game has 32 levels and teaches you how to select a wide variety of DOM elements, with each next level building on the previous levels.
You’ll probably breeze through this if you’re an experienced programmer, but it's still a great game to train your CSS selector muscle memory.
The game is free for all its core levels, with a $9.99 a month subscription if you want access to its extra level branches plus 3,500 bonus gems a month. The game has a strong open-source community that helps with translations and creating more levels.
Flexbox Defense asks you to stop incoming enemies from getting past your defenses. The catch is that you must position your towers using CSS flexbox code.
When it was released, Flexbox Defense went viral. It became the #1 game on producthunt.com and was picked up by several magazines, such as CSS-Tricks.com and TutorialZine.com.
CheckiO is a combination of programming games for both beginners and advanced programmers who want to learn Python or TypeScript. You land on an island and have to complete several programming challenges before another island unlocks.
CheckiO also has a forum where users can collaborate and help each other if they’re stuck. The company’s mission is to teach people how to code in a fun and engaging way.
Zachtronics is an indie game development company that creates coding games. EXAPUNKS is their latest and user reviews on Steam have been overwhelmingly positive. You solve programming puzzles in a language similar to assembly.
SQL Murder Mystery
There’s been a murder in SQL City and you’re there to solve it. SQL Murder Mystery is a programming game to learn SQL concepts and commands. It’s not meant as a beginner tutorial, but more as a fun way to practice your SQL skills.
If you’re stuck, there’s a walkthrough to remind you of some key SQL concepts. With the help of the walkthrough and the schema diagram the developers offer on their homepage, you should be able to figure out who committed the murder.
People enjoy playing Screeps because you're writing real code instead of pseudo-code. Some companies even use it as part of their recruitment process, because there's no single "right" solution to writing code in the game.
Ruby Warrior is designed to teach the Ruby language and artificial intelligence in a fun, interactive way. You play as a warrior climbing a tall tower to reach the precious Ruby at the top level. On each floor you need to write a Ruby script to instruct the warrior to battle enemies, rescue captives, and reach the stairs.
After you have successfully cleared a level, you can still use the editor and modify your code. This lets you try out different ideas without immediately progressing to the next level. It’s a great sandbox for learning Ruby.
The better you do, the faster you'll progress through increasingly challenging levels. The code you write in the browser is saved locally, so you can close the browser without having to start over.
VIM Adventures teaches you VIM (no surprise there). More specifically, it teaches you all the shortcuts of a VIM text editor. You don't need any prior programming knowledge to play this game.
The game provides immediate error feedback, making it easy to understand what you did wrong and what you need to change to no longer make a particular mistake.
Baba Is You
Baba Is You is a highly-rated puzzle game that requires you to manipulate rules to allow the player character to reach a specific goal.
The game contains over 200 levels and won several indie awards, with some game reviewers considering this one of the best puzzle video games in recent years.
Codewars is a platform where you learn a specific programming language by solving gamified challenges. The better you do, the higher your rank and honor.
The platform is suitable for both beginners and intermediate programmers, as many of its initial challenges are small and straightforward.
Duskers is an indie strategy video game developed by Misfits Attic. You need to pilot drones into derelict spaceships to find the means to survive and piece together how the universe became a giant graveyard.
The game is played exclusively with the keyboard and is considered quite a scary game. While not a pure programming game, the graphics, the gameplay, and the atmosphere make this a game many programmers enjoy playing.
Set Up a Minecraft Server
Everyone's familiar with Minecraft. But did you know you can set up a Minecraft server and run scripts on it? Doing so will teach you about AWS, Java, and possibly many other programming concepts.
So if you're a Minecraft fan and you want to level up your programming skills while playing, try and write a Minecraft script with the Mojang API.
We hope you found at least one new programming game you’ll enjoy playing. There’s nothing better than learning how to code while having fun in the process. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it on social media clicking the buttons top right.