Games For Health have created a fundamental shift in the healthcare industry.

The healthcare industry is the largest and fastest-growing industry in the world, with 1.8 million people employed in this industry in 2021 in Australia alone. 

It’s a vast network of medical professionals and patients that rely upon the best tools possible to help improve and save lives. For years healthcare physicians, researchers and clinicians are constantly searching for new ways to innovate in the field of digital healthcare and medicine. 

How can we continue to improve human health and provide access to affordable, high-quality healthcare through the power of technology? 

In the last decade, there has been a fundamental shift in the field of digital medicine and we’re discovering unique ways to help humankind through games and gamification. 

Video games are now modernising healthcare - they are progressive tools that are transforming the way professionals deliver patient care. 

In this blog, I highlight the best healthcare games from 2012 to 2022. Let’s explore the spectacular impact games for health can have on our lives.


  1. What are Healthcare Games?
  2. Why do Healthcare Games Work?
  3. What are the Different Types of Healthcare Games?
  4. List of 14 Games for Health from 2012 - 2022
  5. Healthcare Game Trends to Look Out For in 2023 and Beyond

What are Healthcare Games or Games For Health?

Healthcare games are digital tools designed for a clinical purpose specifically to support medical professionals and aid patients. 

The design, mechanics and objectives of healthcare games revolve around improving overall players’ health and wellbeing. They have a range of applications, from education, training, research, rehabilitation and diagnosis. At their core, healthcare games aim to optimise care and health outcomes through gameplay. 

Games for health can be developed to assist medical professionals with their work or as a stand-alone experience for the patient.

Games for health fall under the broader genre of games called serious games.

Serious games or transformational games go beyond pure entertainment, their purpose may be to change behaviour, create strong emotional memories or give first-hand experiences of complex concepts through the power of play.

Like environmental games, healthcare games are just one of the many applications of serious games.

Looking to learn more about the potential of serious games?

Check out my guide on ‘What are Serious Games: Everything you need to know in 2020’. Read it here!

Click here to read our Serious Games Guide 2020: Everything you need to know about serious games for 2020

3 Reasons Why Healthcare Games Work

The medicine industry has been using games for health for years to train professionals and teach students. In the last decade with the rise of mobile technology, extended reality healthcare games have now been injected into our day-to-day life.

Due to the ever-growing importance of play in our lives, healthcare games can be found on almost every platform available today. Whether it is through all-important research and development of new technology to help patients recovering from major cognitive failures to simple pill reminder apps. 

In my previous blogs, I’ve talked about how games are now part of our daily lives, play helps us get through our day have evolved into more than just distractions. Games for health have also become an intrinsic part of our lifestyles, so many people now rely on games to help maintain our physical and mental well-being.

There is a myriad of studies on the use of video games in healthcare. Based on the video games researched, these studies concluded that selected healthcare games improved the following:

  • 69% of psychological therapy outcomes 
  • 59% of physical therapy outcomes
  • 50% of physical activity outcomes
  • 42% of health education outcomes
  • 42% of pain distraction outcomes

The function of applying repetitive tasks in a gamified form has been proven to work a lot better for both patients and non-patients when it comes to maintaining their health. Many games have also been adapted into the e-health industry through simulation training for surgeons and patient care for nurses.  

Each type of healthcare game has its benefits, here are 3 main reasons medical video games are so effective:

1. Simulation allows Experimentation 

  • Games recreate real-life scenarios to allow for experimentation. In a research capacity, developers have control over the virtual environment and control variables. Players can fail and learn with experience and through the consequences of their decisions,
  • Learner-centred method of training - players taking an active role in their learning, digital healthcare training relies on the player learning by doing. Players experience this first-hand for training, analysis, and prediction. 

2. Achieve Real Outcomes

  • When training, medical students and professionals can practise a range of skills without fear of harming themselves or a patient. The skills learned can be transferred into real-world applications. 
  • Monitoring changes in a patient’s health is vital for improving their well-being. Games are measurable, meaning medical professionals can use data-driven outcomes to make better-informed clinical decisions. 

3. Modernising Medicine

  • Games is just one step into providing more widely accessible and affordable care. Advancements in technology have paved the way for innovative healthcare hardware and software. 
  • 80% of Australians are ready to share their health data in a digitally enabled health system. This means digital tools like video games can provide personalised treatment to a wide range of patients to better address every diagnosis on individual needs. 

The applications for games in the health industry are limitless and the technology being innovated to allow for this to be applied to education, training and general health is growing by the day.

To captivate a wider player base, entertainment games can be re-purposed with a health-related objective. Pokémon Go is an outstanding example of a commercial entertainment game evolving into a fitness-fuelled frenzy of fun. In 2015, developers Niantic gamified real-world exercise through the joy of catching iconic and beloved Pokémon.

As of December 2016, Niantic says that they’ve travelled 8.7 billion kilometres just by walking outside in the search for new Pokémon to catch. The developer put this another way, to convey just how far that is: That distance is comparable to more than 200,000 trips around the Earth.

This is just one example of video games have encouraged players to improve their health in a unique way.

5 Types of Health Games

There are various types of health games depending on the reason and setting in which they are used. Some health games are made as an entertaining form of exercise, while others are used in more serious situations to simulate otherwise dangerous environments to practice in. The main sub-categories for health games can be otherwise broadly categorized within the following:

  • Health and Wellness: These types of games can be used by both patients and non-patients to improve lifestyle choices such as exercise, sleep, and limiting the use of harmful substances such as alcohol or smoking. 
  • Training and Simulation: This would mostly only be seen in hospital and clinical settings to perform training initiatives and programmes for healthcare professionals. 
  • Diagnosis: Very specific function games or tools that are gamified to allow for the detection of certain neurological problems, such as ADHD. 
  • Treatment and Rehabilitation: Specific and sometimes tailor-made games prescribed to people post-surgery or diagnosis makes the process of getting better and more engaging.
  • Education: While most if not all of the above categories also serve as a form of education, there are some health games specifically designed to provide nothing more than an engaging and immersive pathway for learning.

Here are 15 Games For Health Changing Lives for the Better from 2012 to 2022:

Ring Fit Adventure by Nintendo (2019)

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Themes: Health and Wellness

Since the Wii, Nintendo have been pioneers in combining fun with a purpose - encouraging players to get up on their feet and get active in the comfort of their own home. Ring Fit Adventure is an exercising role-playing adventure game where the player uses the “Ring Con” and “Leg Strap” to control in-game movement. Players squat, press and flex their way through challenges designed for a wide range of body types and levels of fitness.

Players traverse through an adventure and enemy-filled world, jogging in place, doing sit-ups for attack and relaxing yoga poses to regain health. The intensity of the adventure can be adjusted and for the extra motivated fitness fiends out there, you can take the Ring Con with Joy-Con attachments without the Switch to the outside world, do the same exercises and it will all sync up to your game on your arrival back home.

Reflexion Health by Relfexion (2014)

Platform: Kinect for Windows

Themes: Treatment and Rehabilitation

Reflexion is an FDA-approved platform that allows patients undergoing at-home physical therapy to get the proper help they need to recover. All of the motion-captured exercises are monitored by real-life physical therapists in order to ensure the proper treatment and changes to routine are managed. 

Reflexion uses the Virtual Exercise Rehabilitation Assistant, or VERA, to facilitate lower recovery times and lower costs for patients. Considering the global shift in lifestyle preferences, remote physical therapy can be beneficial in so many more ways. 

The technology does not completely negate the need for physical therapists, as it is only a facilitator for the patients. Reflexion encourages physical therapists and patients to work together on progressing their healing. Gamified healthcare hopefully means more easy access to physical therapy as well as, more patients responding positively to the therapy.

CogCubed & Groundskeeper by MIT Media Lab (2013)

Platform: Sifteo Cubes, a set of small high-tech cubes resembling tiny TV sets

Themes: Diagnosis

Following a TED talk on the application of the MIT game cubes for general entertainment, child psychiatrist Monika Heller saw the potential for health gamification to create a new kind of attention deficit hyperactive disorder detection tool. While there are computer and written-based tests for this, most children or parents often give up halfway through the tedious tests and are often given false diagnoses. 

CogCubed aimed to create a tangible gaming platform to detect ADHD through simple games and monitoring sense shaking, tilting and touching of the cubes. The flagship game “Groundskeeper” requires the player to touch the “Mallet” cube to the “Groundhog” cubes without disrupting the surrounding cubes. The game is stimulating enough to bring out the ADHD sensibilities of children playing the game. 

The Games for Health Journal posted promising results in 2013 showing that Groundskeeper confirmed the diagnosis of 70% in all categories of ADHD, in all test subjects.

Mango Health by trialcard (2013)

Platform: iOS Mobile

Themes: Wellness and Health

Mango Health on the surface seems like any other pill reminder and medication manager, a basic health app. But what turns this app into a gamification win for healthcare apps is the built-in reward system. 

While the app itself is extremely user-friendly and engaging, it is also free to use. This means the many features included in the app include an all-important drug interaction feature, which alerts patients to whether any of the medications they are taking interact adversely with each other.

Mango Health has a simple point-based reward system. This means, that anytime a user logs proper medication usage, they receive points, which can then be redeemed as actual money donations to charities or gift cards to stores through the app. 

Monster Guard by Red Cross (2014)

Platform: iOS and Android

Themes: Training and Simulation

Keeping kids entertained while trying to teach them life lessons can seem impossible right? Not anymore. Monster Guard is a free app by the Red Cross that is directed toward children aged 7 to 11.

In Monster Guard children go through the “Monster Guard Academy '', facing real-life challenges through gamified means and learning how to survive dangerous situations such as house fires, floods, tornadoes and even a pandemic through roleplay. 

The app also includes information packets that are easy to consume for the age group and how to cope with stressful situations. The Red Cross believes that teaching kids at a young impressionable age in a fun way will also cause the adults around them to potentially learn some life-saving techniques. 

MindMaze: MindPod by MindMaze Labs (2021)

Platform: MindPod

Themes: Treatment and Rehabilitation

MindMaze was founded in 2012 with a sole pathway into the advancement of neurotechnology and how it can be used in healthcare, as well as other industries. What they call “digital therapeutics” is how they have helped Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's and dementia patients with highly engaging animation. MindPod, an immersive FDA-listed and CE-marked neurobehavioral platform based on evidence and prescribed protocols developed at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

MindPod is a dolphin immersive experience for patients recovering motor and cognitive skills, like acute stroke sufferers. These patients are hooked up to an anti-gravity vest that de-weights the arm and allows for neurological pathways for retraining motor movements. 

Patients move their arms to control how the dolphin swims, as an effective and engaging way to restore cognitive function. MindPod Dolphin is also now being used as an early intervention for war veterans by the US Department of Defense and at hospitals in Auckland, New Zealand as early offset training for stroke patients. 

Vital Signs by the Breakaway Games (2020)

Platform: PC

Themes: Education/Training and Simulation

Developed by Breakaway Games, the game development leader in healthcare video games for the past 20 years, Vital Signs: Emergency Department is a medical game that recreates the stress and confusion of the emergency department. 

You play as the ER doctor, charged with handling difficult trauma cases. In the game, exam rooms will fill up quickly with patients, players are faced with the daily challenges of a doctor: seeing patients, staying on top of community issues, and running an office. 

Players consult their to-do list with tasks to complete, including talking with staff to gather information, researching medical conditions, interacting with the public, and making tough decisions.

Touch Surgery by Medtronic (2013)

Platform: iOS and Android

Themes: Training and Simulation

Touch Surgery is a digital tool used to train surgeons and, as a result, save lives by leveraging the power of AI, data and visualization. The Touch Surgery interactive surgical simulator provides a realistic guide to surgical procedures; allowing medical simulation trainees to learn procedures, test their knowledge and rehearse for surgery. 

The app has over three million global users and provides secure, seamless access to surgical videos and data. This applied game application features the DS1 Computer, the first surgical simulation video recorder equipped with real-time AI, which automatically redacts sensitive frames in surgical videos.

Mightier by Mightier Team (2018)

Platform: Mobile 

Themes: Treatment and Rehabilitation

With Mightier, calming down is a game and learning how to regulate emotions is the goal. To play, kids wear a wireless heart rate monitor that pairs with our app. As their heart rate rises during play, the games get harder. Then, kids use calming exercises to lower their heart rate and keep playing.

Mightier helps kids build emotional strength. Mightier’s biofeedback algorithm and external hardware takes challenging moments and turn them into learning opportunities. By practising calming skills in the game, kids build muscle memory to call on in the real world.

Jason Kahn is the co-founder and chief scientific officer of Mightier, a video game that helps children with emotional regulation. He compared the way medical professionals usually try to talk kids through behavioural health treatment through psychotherapy to trying to teach someone how to ride a bike with a lecture and then expecting them to be able to ride it. Video games offer a chance to teach these skills more naturally.

"What video games do is they give us this environment where it's fun. So that's a huge advantage. Number one, like kids, want to be there, the motivations are there, it's engaging, it's engrossing," Kahn said. "But also you get to use the skills inside of video games."

PuzzleWalk by Daehyoung Lee (2020)

Platform: iOS and Android

Themes: Wellness and Fitness

Daehyoung Lee, an assistant professor of adapted physical education at the University of Minnesota Duluth, developed PuzzleWalk, a mobile game to help people on the autism spectrum get more exercise.

PuzzleWalk is a free, spot-the-difference app that encourages physical activity within the ASD community by creating a correlation between playtime and daily steps. PuzzleWalk also uses behaviour change techniques, which consist of action plans and psychological determinants, such as self-esteem and motivation, to alter health behaviour.

The app prompts players to self-monitor their progress, gives rewards for progress made, and encourages players to set goals. Lee has enlisted the help of his mentor, Georgia Frey, and IU professors Patrick Shih, Scott Bellini, Donetta Cothran, and Jaroslaw Harezlak to seek funding to further develop the app.

Pain Squad by iOUCH Pain Lab (2014)

Platform: iOS

Themes: Health and Fitness

The involvement of hospitals is a great sign of the good innovative health of these institutions and great news for the sector that confirms that is on a good track. The Hospital for Sick Children in Ontario and iOUCH Pain Lab have developed Pain Squad, a game to help kids to manage pain during cancer treatment including things like chemotherapy, surgeries and repeated needle pokes with blood work and other tests. 

Pain is one of the problems that worry more about treatments, it negatively impacts their daily life. Kids can report daily their pain through the game, till then kids have to answer forms about their pain the week or month before, having as result non-reliable reports.

  • The app lets you track the characteristics of pain, its causes, and what makes it better or worse and gives rewards for using the app regularly.
  • After using the app for a few weeks you will be able to see your pain chart, which tracks levels of pain, causes and the effect on your daily activities.

By using gamification like this Pain Squad has archived 90% compliance with pain assessment completion, something really difficult to see in inpatient report Apps. After a few weeks of reporting patients already have a trustful pain chart to look back to all their answers to see what makes their pain better and what makes it worse and the different kinds of pain they felt. All this allows patients to track their pain and show physicians their pain evolution to make more informed decisions during treatment.

Dig Rush by Amblyotech and Ubisoft (2015)

Platform: iOS on iPad

Themes: Treatment and Rehabilitation

Lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, is a condition that affects about 3% of the world’s population. It occurs when the brain begins to favour the use of one eye over the other, and so begins to ignore its signals. 

In partnership with Ubisoft, Amblyotech, a US-based start-up developing a novel treatment for the condition is taking things a step further than corrective glasses, they aim to treat lazy eye through a video game.

With 3D glasses and a tablet, Amblyotech’s Dig Rush app delivers different images to each eye through different gameplay elements, such as cartoon mole characters that mine and collect different objects. The game forces both eyes to work together to improve the patient’s binocular vision. Early clinical studies have demonstrated improvements in the vision for both children and adults with a lazy eye, with faster onset compared to standard treatments like wearing an eye patch.

This project is just one of many in the digital health arena that is focused on the gamification of medicine. Formerly the domain of small start-ups, bigger players in the industry is starting to pay attention to the potential of video games in digital health.

Cardio Ex by Level Ex (2019)

Platform: iOS and Android

Themes: Training and Simulation

Enter the world of cardiology reimagined as a video game. Diagnose and treat diseases from common to rare and complete heart-pumping procedures within Cardio Ex’s vivid vasculature. 

This winning combination of clinical and procedural gameplay brings you back to what you love about practising medicine and delivers critical information that keeps you performing at the top of your game. Earn free CME and explore achievement goals, premier content, and fun rewards that bring new energy to your expertise. 

  • Real cardiology cases informed by expert cardiologists. Levels refresh every day with new diagnoses, treatments, and procedural challenges for you to try.
  • Real-time feedback in the game to better understand medical cases and your score.
  • Supplemental, evidence-based reading materials post clinical gameplay to boost your expertise.
  • Risk-free exploration of conditions, drug therapies, devices, and techniques most relevant to you.
  • Rewards, achievements, and special collections that motivate you to sharpen specific skills and increase knowledge in select topics. Replay levels at your convenience to explore new approaches or improve your score.

Level Ex video games are played by over 750,000 medical professionals and endorsed by top academic institutions and medical societies for physician education and training. Cardio Ex is available for free to physicians, residents, medical students, and healthcare professionals worldwide.

Gryphon Rider by Grendel Games (2015)

Platform: PC with Kinect

Themes: Treatment and Rehabilitation

Gryphon Rider was developed with the attention span of children in mind. Specifically, children who are recovering and rehabilitating from Acquired Brain Injuries. The Kinect set-up game allows for the children to go through exercises in the comfort of their own homes or at a hospital. The game automatically tracks any and all progress to allow for this hybrid rehabilitation.

The game itself involves the children being portrayed as a character riding a Gryphon that is flying through immersive and beautiful landscapes. In order to steer the mythical creature, players will have to move their bodies accordingly. 

The pace and difficulty of movements that allow the Gryphon to fly without damage can also be manually set up to suit each individual's rehabilitation needs. The data collected from each level is processed into graphs that can be easily read by or sent to a therapist to determine whether more or less physical exertion and exercise are needed. 

EndeavourRX by Akili Interactive (2020)

Platform: iOS on iPhone and iPad

Themes: Treatment and Rehabilitation

EndeavourRX is the first of its kind in the world, it’s the first-ever medication video game to treat children between 8-12 years old for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

After 7 years of clinical testing, the Federal Drug Association (FDA) approved the prescription of EndeavourRX by healthcare professionals to help treat ADHD.

EndeavourRx has been evaluated in over 600 children with ADHD across 5 clinical trials. The treatment programmed into the game was scientifically designed to challenge a child's brain during treatment requiring the child’s attention and to focus on multiple tasks at the same time.

How can games continue to change lives?

This list of games is just the tip of the iceberg, companies like Reflexion and MindMaze are leading the innovative technologies for at-home healthcare. While other companies are finding gamified solutions to basic healthcare problems we all face on a day-to-day basis. This list covers only a few of the amazing health games available today, and we are sure there will be many more opportunities for companies to jump in and help a global cause.

Sounds like something YOU could potentially positively affect but not really sure how or why or when. Check out our new FREE guide to creating games that solve problems, download it through the form below! 

A lot goes into making a good transformational game there are many places you can get started and I hope this blog comes as a reminder of how games can be used for good. Though if you are still curious about the same or if you're inspired to start off on your own project then feel free to get in touch for a FREE 30-minute brainstorming session with me!

And although I’ve mentioned it several times now, download my latest eBook below for more in-depth and step-by-step on the world of game development and transformational games!