Top 10 Darkest Educational Video Games of All Time
10. The Carmen Sandiego games
Source: Brøderbund Software
Any child of the '90s knows how it hard it can be to consider one of the most beloved educational games of all time. However, if you lay down some serious logic and look at the facts, the results can be quite frightening, not unlike discovering what goes into making a hot dog or how your favorite neighborhood diner manages to make his bacon taste "extra meaty."
This long-running series of geographic and historical education games turns kids into "gumshoes" chasing down one of the world's most elusive thieves. It's so popular that it has been spun off into at least 15 other titles, all of which features the elusive Carmen Sandiego and her henchmen traveling through the globe, space, and time to steal some of history's most infamous artifacts and kidnap its most notable figures. That means she's managed to escape at least 15 times and each time, her acts of thievery become more diabolical and dangerous. She's also able to recruit new henchmen that she can throw under buses (real or metaphorical) to throw you off of her trail, which means that evil is easier to recruit than you might think. And don't even get me started on gender issues in federal criminology...
9. Midnight Rescue!
Source: The Learning Company
Reading is, as they say, fundamental. In this case, however, the accent isn't on the "fun." It's on the "mental."
Once again, you take on the role of a super slick detective, in this case a faceless camera-wielding dick who looks a hip '80s reimagining of the Grim Reaper, trapped in a darkened school to collect reading clues to learn the whereabouts of the evil "Master of Mischief," who looks like a cross between Albert Einstein and a young and slightly less insane Bob Dornan. He's hidden himself in a series of equally insane robots with creepy grins that appear to be the kind of thing an evil janitor would construct if he had a higher pay scale and even way more time on his hands.
8. Team Xtreme: Operation Weather Disaster
There aren't a lot of kids' educational games that feature some crazy madman trying to destroy the world who can only be stopped if someone understands basic algebraic symbols or the proper use of a "gerund." That's probably because none of them could possibly top the over-the-top evil of the villain in his weather science edutainment title.
The player is part of an elite squadron of weather warriors who band together to stop "The Evil Weatherman," a former TV weather guy who can control the weather to fit his diabolic forecasts. The entire game features this mad morning show genius dispatching the most destructive weather conditions in the most desolate looking places that already look like they've been hit by something tropical before the team has had a chance to stop him. It's as if the developers hired a coked-up Harlan Ellison to find a way to teach kids about the movement of cold fronts.
7. The Oregon Trail
Source: Brøderbund Software
One of the most important lessons than any history teacher or professor can pass on to their students is brutal history. The days of yore weren't the "good old days." They were filled with violence, misery, starvation, pestilence, and other mistakes that mankind still hasn't learned because we keep falling asleep in history class.
This classic childhood staple of the classroom tries to convey that same idea with its unique gameplay, putting the player in the dusty boots of a 1840s father trying to survive the rough 2,000-mile road to all points west and a new life. Not only does the game throw every bad possible scenario at you to put the conditions in the proper context, but anyone of you can die at any time from any reason, making it the Hostel of kids learning games. But for some reason, the design and look of the game comes off as cheery and almost colorful, like the wall of a nursery school playroom, so death and despair are almost constantly following you but the shiny veneer of an evil death clown constantly looms around you as well.
6. Rex Ronan: Experimental Surgeon
Source: Raya Systems
It's long been a mystery to me why the human body has yet to serve as a vessel for some kind of Innerspace-style shoot-'em-up where a gun-wielding hero blasts his way through the circulatory system to defeat an evil pancreas. Then when I found this game, the mystery was solved: such a game would be horrific for most adults, let alone a little child.
This early SNES title aimed to teach kids about the dangers of smoking and its deadly effects on the human body by putting them in the jumpsuit of a microscopic adventurer who shoots his way through the human body Contra-style. But the game's honesty gets it in trouble. Players have to do everything from cleaning the gunk off a smoker's teeth to clearing an impossibly hard blood clot to stop the patient from getting a heart attack. And the worst part is that it was designed by the U.S. government, an entity that has considered just about every method possible to prevent the distribution of violent video games, including the "nuclear option."