Coding makes up the foundation of our digital experiences, and with more of our everyday tasks being performed through digital devices, there are plenty of reasons to learn how to code this year. Maybe you want to explore a career in coding, or you want to evolve your skill set to match the changing needs of employers. Maybe you’re just picking up coding as a hobby.
The 8 Best Coding Games for Beginners
Improving your coding skills can help you:
- Qualify for programming jobs
- Earn a higher salary
- Learn in-demand skills that are transferable across jobs and industries
- Enhance your complex problem-solving skills
- Be creative and think differently
There is an abundance of educational resources available for you to develop your coding skills as a beginner. Along with coding boot camps, interactive tutorials, podcasts, and instructional books, there is a whole world of coding games that you can play to level up your skills and keep you motivated. Not only is learning to code a practical and rewarding way to spend your time — it’s also a fun opportunity to expand your skill set!
The Benefits of Gamification in Learning
Gamification is “the use of game thinking, game elements, game techniques, game methodologies, and game framework in a non-game context in order to motivate users, solve problems, increase user experience, and encourage good desired behaviors.” In other words, gamification turns everyday tasks into an engaging activity that utilizes classic gaming frameworks like the ability to earn points, advance through levels, and compete against others.
What is it about playing games that helps us learn? From a purely psychological perspective, winning a game feels good. When we win or accomplish something, our brains reward us by releasing serotonin. When you take that motivating factor — the human desire to win — and apply it to learning, you get gamification. The informal setting of the game also makes learning feel low-pressure and fun, and when learners have fun, they are more likely to stay engaged and retain information.
Online Coding Games
Coding websites and coding games make learning to code an exciting and immersive experience. Whether you’re a beginner or have some programming experience, there are many games that you can play to gain a foundation, level up, or reinforce your existing coding skills.
Ready to dive into the world of online coding games? We’ve got you covered. From coding video games to programming puzzles, we’ll review five of the best educational games for beginners — and they’re all free!
CodinGame is a challenge-based training platform that allows programmers to improve their coding skills, socialize with other coders, and showcase their talent to recruiters. The platform supports more than 25 programming languages (including Python coding games) and offers a range of programming activities and competitions.
You can use CodinGame to:
- Solve puzzles on your own without any competition.
- Play code golf, a collection of programming challenges with the goal of solving a task using the shortest possible source code. You are ranked by the code size of your solution.
- Play Clash of Code, where you’ll compete against opponents for less than 15 minutes. Like in code golf, you are ranked by the code size of your solution.
- Participate in bot programming competitions, where you program a bot to fight against other bots; and optimize code, in which you’re ranked by the scores you achieve. You can also work on these projects independently without the competitive element.
Once you create a CodinGame account, you’ll go through beginner-level onboarding to introduce you to basic programming concepts. Then you can get started on mini-challenges.
Tynker games are intended for younger audiences, from ages 5–18. The specifics of each lesson and game depend on the age group the game is targeting. Content for young children focuses on logic and getting them comfortable with basic coding concepts. The lessons become more complicated for ages 8–13, and then students can encounter real-world problems and coding concepts from ages 14+.
While Tynker focuses primarily on teaching children and teens to code, it’s still a great option for beginners of any age as an introduction to coding. If you’re entirely new to coding, spending some time with simpler content can help you get up to speed more quickly before graduating to other concepts or playing even more of their fun coding games through the annual Tynker Hour of Code event.
You don’t need to sign up for an account to get started. Just select the programming language you wish to learn before the game begins, and you can start playing. For example, you’ll advance through Python games like Kithgard Dungeon by writing code. Your avatar can only move, run, and attack when you use the correct command. The game suggests simplified commands for you to use as you play, so it’s beginner-friendly.
The core levels of CodeCombat are free to play. You can access 11 levels in full without subscribing. If you want access to more levels and other perks, you can purchase a monthly subscription and cancel it at any time.
CheckiO is great for beginners and experienced programmers alike. There are three difficulty levels for games: easy, normal, and advanced. After solving a puzzle, you can enhance your learning by checking the solutions of other users and code reviews for those solutions.
You can sign up for CheckiO for free, or you have the option to create an account that allows you to track your progress.
Empire of Code
Empire of Code tests your programming abilities through a space-themed game that’s played through a mix of strategy, tactics, and coding. The game is open to all skill levels, so whether you’re just getting started or want to brush up on your existing abilities, you’ll be able to dive in and start playing.
Gameplay involves operating a resource base, which are run on algorithms built by players, protected through coded defense strategies, and programmable espionage to steal other players’ resources and algorithms.
MIT’s Scratch is an introductory programming language for students who are interested in learning the basics of coding. The Scratch language, which uses code in drag-and-drop blocks, can be used to build fun computer games and animations.
The Scratch website is one of the world’s largest coding communities. It’s a great place for young learners to build problem-solving skills and enhance their computational thinking — but anyone can use it! Scratch incorporates key coding concepts like loops and variables, and you can choose from various sprites, backgrounds, and sounds to code your own digital creations.
Scratch is free to use and available in more than 70 languages. If you want to save your projects on Scratch, you can sign up for a free account.
SQL Murder Mystery
If you’re new to SQL, or you want to sharpen your existing SQL skills, SQL Murder Mystery is a great place to start. SQL Murder Mystery is a game created by the Northwestern University Knight Lab that teaches you SQL concepts in a fun, engaging way.
In the game, you have a murder case to solve, and there are references to the killer in a huge police department database that you can only navigate by using SQL. Track down the killer to solve the mystery and strengthen your SQL knowledge and problem-solving skills along the way.
If you’ve never used SQL before, the game’s developers recommend that you try the walkthrough first. If you’re an experienced SQL user, you can jump right into the game.
CSS Diner is a website featuring a series of 32 coding puzzles focusing on CSS selectors. Selectors are used in CSS to pick individual page elements and apply CSS styles to them. Basic CSS is used to change the attributes of page-wide elements, but often designers want to focus on a class of elements or even one specific page element to help it stand out. Learning how to work quickly and accurately using CSS to choose specific page elements is the goal of the game.
The game features fun graphical elements and great explanations to help you understand new concepts along the way. You’ll be able to use the skills you learn from the game immediately, making it a great way for beginners to learn important skills or for experienced coders to brush up on more advanced topics.
Robocode is a programming game where the goal is to code a robot battle tank to compete against other robots in a battle arena. Instead of controlling a character, the player must write code that tells the robot how to behave and respond to events in the arena. The game takes place on a battlefield where small automated robots fight until one is left. It’s important to note that the game contains no blood or gore, so it’s a great option for teens and adults alike.
Robocode is slightly more advanced than some other options on the list, but it’s still accessible to beginners who have mastered the absolute basics of programming. There are many community-created challenges on the game’s Robowiki page, providing something for all skill levels from beginners and beyond. The Wiki provides resources to help you get started, and your coding skills will fill in the rest.
Learn How to Code for Beginners
These eight coding games are great for learners of all ages to build and reinforce beginner coding skills. While you shouldn’t rely on coding games as your sole resource for learning how to code comprehensively, their playfulness and accessibility make them an excellent place to start.
Playing coding games is an effective way to complement coding knowledge that you’ve gleaned through other educational outlets, like at Northwestern Coding Boot Camp.
At Northwestern Coding Boot Camp, you’ll embark on a 12- or 24-week journey during which you will:
Gain the specialized skills necessary to break into web development and other fruitful jobs and industries
Collaborate with peers and put your new skills to use on complex projects
Have access to career services to help put your best foot forward on the job search
Quantify your learning by earning a Certificate of Completion from Northwestern University School of Professional Studies
Ready to start your coding journey? Apply for Northwestern Coding Boot Camp today and reinforce your new skills and have fun along the way by playing CodinGame, Tynker, CodeCombat, CheckiO, Scratch, SQL Murder Mystery, CSS Diner, Empire of Code, and Robocode.
Coding Games for Beginners FAQs
Gamified learning can help you master concepts quickly and is a great way for beginners to wrap their heads around coding concepts they can apply in the real world.
The best option depends on your goals and what you want to achieve. Children and teens can learn important coding skills with Tynker’s website and mobile apps. The training section of CodinGame is a great place for beginners to start, while RoboCode is a great option for programmers with a mastery of the basics.
Some coding games offer multiplayer functionality, allowing players to learn coding concepts with others. Multiplayer functionality can add another layer to a coding game’s engagement, helping you learn new concepts while fostering important collaboration skills. CodeCombat offers multiplayer arenas for players to compete head-to-head, and Screeps is another great multiplayer coding game that targets more advanced players and coders.
There are many virtual resources dedicated to helping people learn to code. Coding games provide a way for you to learn new concepts while having fun while focusing on helping children and beginner coders build skills that they can apply in the real world. Once you’ve learned some beginner concepts, a boot camp like Northwestern Coding Boot Camp can take you to the next level.