Like many things, not all video games are created equal with regard to language learning. First of all, you have to think about which skill you want to improve: reading, listening, writing, speaking or a combination. Games with a heavy focus on action e.g. First Person Shooters (FPS) and no dialogue such as Counter-Strike usually tend to be a poor choice, however, I can envisage certain scenarios where you are playing a multiplayer FPS and you have to interact with live players using a microphone as a potentially good opportunity to learn.
In my opinion, the best games for language learning are RPGs (Role Playing Games), Visual novels and MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). They tend to have a lot of text, which is great for reading comprehension, dialogue options for conversations with characters, which can be great to learn conversation skills and lastly audio which can help with listening comprehension.
- Pokémon series
- Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
- The Witcher series
- Fallout series
- Kingdom Come: Deliverance
- Disco Elysium
- Coffee talk
Another genre of games is life simulation games, these types of games are great for learning everyday vocabulary and expressions. It is common for games in this genre to not have audio, so they will not help your listening. Many of these games are also made with a younger audience in mind so they are much more accessible for beginner learners than an RPG which can have quite advanced language. Here are some life simulation games I recommend.
- Animal Crossing
- Stardew Valley
- The Sims
However, it is not always a clear-cut answer with all these genres, some games might be dialogue-heavy, however, use quite an archaic language in order to sound more ‘authentic’, fantasy games especially love to do this, but it does not necessarily mean the game is bad for language learning, it is just something you should take into account.
Another point worth noting is that games have themes and therefore the vocabulary will match those themes. Let’s say you want to improve your vocabulary related to furniture, jobs, clothes and houses then a medieval RPG would probably not be the best choice, whereas a game like The Sims which has a focus on daily life would be a much better choice.