Most coding games are aimed at children. But there are also some great coding games aimed at adults who want to learn to code.

Don't get me wrong – there's nothing wrong with using the games on Code.org or Khan Academy. You can learn Scratch, which is a programming language designed to help kids learn concepts like loops and variables. Some of those games even teach basic Python or JavaScript.

But if you're a fully-grown adult, it may be harder to get excited about a kid-themed game like Minecraft or Disney's Frozen. You may instead want to find more serious games that can keep you engaged while you learn.

If this describes you, well I've got good news. This list is chock-full of games where you'll make meaningful strategic decisions, then execute them through code.

Note that all of the games on this list are fine for kids, too. But their primary audience is adult learners.

Let's dive in.

Best Coding Games Pick #1: SQL Murder Mystery

Upon starting SQL Murder Mystery, you receive some basic instructions:

"A crime has taken place and the detective needs your help. You vaguely remember that the crime was a ​murder​ that occurred sometime on ​Jan.15, 2018​ and that it took place in ​SQL City​. Start by retrieving the corresponding crime scene report from the police department’s database."

From there, you have to use your SQL query skills to find the killer.

If you're experienced with SQL, you may be able to solve the mystery in a single sitting. If not, there is a nice walkthrough to show you some querying tips.

SQL Murder Mystery will help you understand and apply database concepts such as:

  • Primary and Foreign Keys
  • Aggregate Functions
  • Table Joins
  • and even Wildcards

You can play SQL Murder Mystery for free right in your browser here.

Best Coding Games Pick #2: Elevator Saga

Elevator Function's minimalistic graphics, stats, and code editor

In Elevator Saga, you program a series of elevators to handle increasingly large loads of passengers.

Through its 19 challenges, you'll adapt your algorithm to minimize the amount of time passengers have to wait to move from floor to floor.

This game will give you a lot of JavaScript practice. It will also force you to get creative and experiment with optimization approaches.

Here's a 30-second demo video that will give you an idea of what the elevator programming gameplay looks like:

You can play Elevator Saga for free in your browser here.

Best Coding Games Pick #3: Screeps

Screeps Gameplay. Image Credit: Goto64

Screeps bills itself as an "MMO Sandbox Strategy Game for Programmers."

This is a serious programming game that assumes you already know some basic programming.

You can control your units using real-life programming languages like JavaScript. You can even compile languages like C++ and run them through WebAssembly.

Screeps came out back in 2017, and is still actively maintained. It's currently sitting at an 89% positive rating on Steam with more than 1,000 reviews, which makes it one of the more acclaimed games on the entire Steam platform.

Here's the full trailer:

Screeps Trailer

Note that Screeps is a paid game. But there's a free demo that runs right in your browser here.

If you want to get the full game, you can buy Screeps from the Steam Shop here.

Best Coding Games Pick #4: Untrusted

The minimalist ASCII interface of Untrusted

Untrusted is a browser-based rogue-like game that uses real-world JavaScript as the main gameplay input.

In the game's own words, "You must literally edit and re-execute the very JavaScript running the game in your browser to save Dr. Eval from this dark and confusing reality!"

You can play Untrusted right in your browser here.

Best Coding Games Pick #5: Duskers

A screenshot of Dusker's unique graphical style and command line interface

Whereas the previous 4 games all involved using real programming languages, Duskers more closely resembles shell scripting.

You play as a programmer who is stranded in space and running low on supplies. You have to dock with abandoned space vessels and then scavenge them.

But you can't interact with these ships directly. Instead, you control a team of drones – each with their own abilities – and tell them how to explore these ships.

But look out – there are monsters on these ships that will destroy your drones if you're not careful.

This game is controlled entirely by typing into a command line interface. Because the game is real-time in nature, this can lead to some intense moments of rapidly typing commands as you try to save your drones from danger.

Here is the command-line themed trailer from Duskers' launch:

The Duskers launch trailer

And here's a more in-depth overview of the gameplay and its programming roots (17 minute watch):

Best Coding Games Pick #7: Flexbox Defense (Browser)

The main Flexbox Defense gameplay loop: programming your towers to defend against invaders.

This is a Tower Defense Game that involves you protecting yourself using Flexbox-based commands.

By using real-life CSS Flexbox code, you'll adjust the position of your turrets to shoot invading enemies before they can overrun you.

Fun fact: this game was designed by Channing Allen, the brother of Indie Hackers founder Courtland Allen. The two brothers are both excellent programmers with a passion for teaching.

You can play Flexbox Defense in your browser here.

Best Coding Games Pick #8: CSS Diner

CSS Diner is browser game that will help you learn CSS selectors. Over the course of 32 levels, you'll learn a how to select DOM elements using a variety of different attributes:

  • id
  • classname
  • nth-of-type
  • nth-child
  • not(x)
  • [attribute="value"]
  • and a whole lot more

This is a breezy playthrough, and you may want to beat it several times just to tighten up your CSS Selector muscle memory.

You can play CSS Diner for free in your browser here.

Best Coding Games Pick #9: CodinGame

CodinGame is actually a collection of several coding minigames.

And the best part is that you can code in any language you like. Their editor supports a ton of languages and compiles these on a server for you somewhere.

Some of the languages CodinGame supports for its programming games

CodinGame has built-in leaderboards and other features to give you plenty of motivation to keep practicing your coding. Even though the platform was launched way back in 2012, there is still nothing else quite like it.

If you're looking for a programming game to stream while live coding on Twitch or YouTube, look no further. There is plenty of fun to be had here.

You can explore CodinGame for free in your browser here.

Bonus Coding Game: VIM Adventures

VIM Adventures teaches you how to use VIM by navigating mazes and gathering items.

OK – so this isn't a coding game, but rather a game that teaches you a powerful coding tool: the VIM code editor.

You will learn VIM keyboard shortcuts and essential VIM concepts in a fun way. This is way less frustrating than thrashing about, trying to remember, for example, how to quit VIM.

You can play VIM Adventures for free in your browser here.

Gotta Play 'Em All

I hope this list has given you plenty of adult-oriented programming games to practice your coding skills with.

If I missed any good ones, let me know by tweeting at me.

Happy coding.