10 best video games set in a school

With Hogwarts Legacy on the horizon, the players of the Harry Potter fandom is ready to go back to school again. Although video games are designed as a distraction from real-world issues, there have been quite a few classics that feature familiar settings such as workplaces and schools.

Let it be the Rockstar classic bully or horror-focused coolers such as Detention, the best school video games feel like anything but homework. Although there were plenty of games in the schools, only the greatest players impressed enough to make them exciting to return to the classroom again and again.


Skool Daze (1984)

The classrooms seen from the outside in Skool Daze

School games are anything but a new phenomenon, and School stunner was an early example in the 1980s. Available on the Commodore 64 personal computer, School stunner casts the player as Eric, a lousy student at a boarding school who is on a mission to steal his report card.

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Surprisingly immersive for its time, the game features a variety of NPC characters who stalk Eric, and the game got creative with the core mechanics. Instead of a health bar, Eric receives “lines”, and if he gets over 10,000 lines, it’s game over. School stunner is a painful challenge, and it takes a good deal of strategy to master it.

White Day: A School Named Labyrinth (2015)

A boy runs away from a man with a flashlight to his face in White Day: A Labyrinth Named School.

A remake of the 2001 game of the same name, White Day: A School Called Labyrinth takes a decidedly more gruesome approach to educational institutions. The user controls a student from a South Korean high school who sneaks onto campus after hours to prepare a surprise gift for his crush. Once there, he finds himself locked up with supernatural forces that want to destroy him.

It is a horror game in which the player is totally defenseless against enemies and has to go through the game using stealth. The non-linear aspects of the game make puzzle solving even more challenging as collected items must be managed strategically in case they are needed later. The school setting only adds to the creepiness, as familiar landmarks become steeped in horror.

Lollipop Chainsaw (2012)

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Sort of like a twisted version of buffy the vampire slayer, Chainsaw Lollipop brings the hack-and-slash genre to the classroom in one of the weirdest games of all time. The game follows Juliet, a college student who battles hordes of undead zombies at her California high school.

Melee attacks are the name of the game and it’s extremely rewarding to mow down zombies to score. Each level allows Juliet to level up and learn new skills, and there’s a strategy for mashing the buttons. Juliet is accompanied by her boyfriend’s severed head, which can be periodically attached to a zombie body to take out enemies.

Lego Harry Potter Collection (2016)

Harry casts a spell in the LEGO Harry Potter game.

Although Hogwarts isn’t an actual school, it’s so beloved by fans of the franchise that it’s as familiar as any educational institution in the real world. Lego Harry Potter collection brought the school to life by giving fans the Lego-fied versions of each Harry Potter film.

Although there are tons of Lego video games, the Harry Potter collection is generally considered one of the best Lego video games for the massive scope of its adventure. Steeped in all the charm of the Lego games that came before it, no other game had allowed players to explore their favorite school of sorcery and wizardry so much before. Although the gameplay suffers from the repetitive nature of most Lego games, its theme is unbeatable.

Corpse Party (1996)

Students try to get through a dilapidated school in Corpse Party

The franchise of corpse party is legendary in Japan, but the first game still stands out from all that followed. Several high school students celebrate their school’s Culture Day by scaring each other with ghost stories. An earthquake suddenly transports them to a dilapidated elementary school, and they must escape a vengeful spirit.

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The game tasks the player to explore the school and survive like in traditional horror games. While it’s far from scary by today’s standards, there’s still something spooky about an abandoned elementary school as a setting for a game. The puzzles are just challenging enough to keep things engaging, and the action is just suspenseful enough to keep the player nervous.

Judgment Lost (2021)

Official PR photo for the game Lost Judgment

Unlike most school games which make the player a student, judgment lost sees them take control of a private detective. Called to investigate a bullying problem at a high school, PI Takayuki Yagami unravels a web of institutionalized abuse within a community.

Cinematic in its approach to storytelling, the game’s convoluted plot is matched by thrilling action and combat mechanics. Although the school is just one aspect of a much larger game, the whole plot is school-dependent, and the player can take on side quests involving campus activities. Although it has been overshadowed by larger releases, judgment lost was highly ranked among the best single player games of 2021.

Detention (2017)

A great character stalks a schoolgirl in the game Detention

Incorporating elements of history into its horror, Detention is not only a great school game, but also a really scary experience. Set during the White Terror period of Taiwanese history in the 1960s, the player takes control of a student who hides out in a haunted school during a monsoon.

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Side-scrolling is generally not conducive to modern horror games, but the developers of Detention knew the exact buttons to press to increase the voltage. The gameplay is simplistic, but the storyline is so engrossing that it keeps the player engaged. Despite its school setting, the game is tough on it and features a dark story tinged with mythology and literary influence.

Life is Strange (2015)

life is strange collectible game remastered

Released in episodic parts during the year 2015, life is strange was a unique blend of video game and cinema. The player takes control of a young woman who witnesses her best friend being shot in the school bathroom. The trauma of the event allows her to go back in time and she prevents the shooting from happening.

Although the game features no action, its clever writing and wealth of memorable characters keep the player engaged. There are puzzles to solve, and branching dialogue options with NPC characters allow events to unfold in different ways. Among fans of the genre, life is strange is considered one of the best episodic video games of all time.

Bully (2006)

Jimmy Hopkins confronts a Bullworth faculty member in promotional art for Bully.

Rockstar is best known for its Grand Theft Auto series, but their cult classic bully was approached with the same amount of coasting abandon. The player takes control of Jimmy, a juvenile delinquent who is enrolled in a boarding school. There, he tries to climb the ladder of the social hierarchy in order to eliminate the bullies.

The game’s open-world concept offers a wealth of creative possibilities, and there’s a plethora of side missions to help build influence. Its unique setting helped the game stand out, and it truly exists in a class of its own. The game was unsurprisingly controversial, but it pushed the boundaries of what was possible in an open-world video game and represented the social hierarchy of most schools.

Persona 5 (2016)

The Character is one of the most unique in gaming history, and the fifth installment was a further improvement over its predecessors. The player takes control of a student who transfers to a new school to escape a bad reputation. Once there, he and a few classmates discover that they can manifest powers and use them to steal evil intentions from people’s hearts.

Incorporating elements of dungeon crawling as well as social simulation, personas 5 is as much a school game as it is a fantasy epic. The RPG gameplay is compelling and the over-the-top story helps it stand out among its contemporaries. It’s a great school game because it takes what’s familiar and makes it fantastic.

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