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Madeline (video game series) facts for kids

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Series logo
Genres Educational, adventure
Developers Vortex Media Arts
Publishers Creative Wonders
(ABC/EA 1995–1997)
(The Learning Company 1998)
(Mattel Interactive 1999)
Creators Ludwig Bemelmans (franchise)
Greg Bestick (video games)
Artists Laurie Bauman (original design)
Annie Fox (original design)
Platforms Microsoft Windows, Mac OS
First release Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey
  • NA November 15, 1995
Latest release Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math
  • NA July 12, 1999

Madeline is a series of educational point-and-click adventure video games which were developed during the mid-1990s for Windows and Mac systems. The games are an extension of the Madeline series of children's books by Ludwig Bemelmans, which describe the adventures of a young French girl. The video-game series was produced concurrently with a TV series of the same name, with characters and voice actors from the show.

In each game, Madeline guides the player through educational mini-games. Activities include reading comprehension, mathematics, problem-solving, basic French and Spanish vocabulary, and cultural studies. Each game focuses on a different subject. Although the series is set primarily in Madeline's boarding school in Paris (and its surrounding neighborhoods), some games are set in other European countries.

The series was conceived by Creative Wonders president Greg Bestick and developed by Vortex Media Arts. It aimed to provide educational material to preschool and early-elementary-grade girls with a recognizable, appealing character. Educators, parents, and children were consulted during the series' development. The first game, Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey, was released in the fall of 1995 to coincide with the premiere of The New Adventures of Madeline animated television series. The series has eight games and two compilations.

The games were published by Creative Wonders, The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey) and Mattel Interactive. They were developed in association with DIC Entertainment, which held the rights to the game and the TV series. Creative Wonders and the Learning Company conducted several promotional campaigns for the games. The series was commercially successful, with individual games frequently appearing on lists of best-selling games. It was generally well received by critics for its focus on education and its animation style. In 1998, Creative Wonders was purchased by The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey), and in 1999 the series was discontinued when Creative Wonders was dissolved and demand lessened for children's point and click games.


Release timeline
Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey
Madeline Thinking Games
Madeline European Adventures
Madeline Classroom Companion: Preschool and Kindergarten
Madeline Classroom Companion: 1st and 2nd Grade
1998 Madeline Thinking Games Deluxe
Madeline Rainy Day Activities
Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Reading
Madeline 1st & 2nd Grade Reading Deluxe
Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math

Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey was the first game in the series. Its release was scheduled to promote the Australian ABC TV animated series, The New Adventures of Madeline. Set in Paris, the game follows Madeline as she organizes a puppet show to raise money to help her neighbor avoid eviction by his greedy landlord. In the second game, Madeline Thinking Games, Madeline invites the player to explore the rooms and gardens of her boarding school with educational minigames. This was followed by Madeline European Adventures (also known as Madeline European Vacation), in which Madeline tracks down a man who stole a genie's magic lamp and travels to Zermatt, Venice and Istanbul. Madeline Classroom Companion: 1st and 2nd Grade was part of the Madeline Classroom Companion series, with games designed for children aged four to eight. The story follows Madeline on a tour of her Paris neighborhood. Madeline Thinking Games Deluxe was a combination of Madeline Thinking Games and Madeline European Adventures. Madeline Rainy Day Activities, the sixth game, is set in Madeline's Catholic boarding school in Paris and follows her as she busies herself during rainy weather.

Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Reading is also set in the boarding school, where Madeline guides the player through activities encouraging reading comprehension. From Madeline's imaginary magic attic, the player could travel to a carnival in Venice and visit Egyptian pyramids. The game was later re-released as Madeline: 1st and 2nd Grade Reading Deluxe. Madeline Classroom Companion: Preschool and Kindergarten was part of the Madeline Classroom Companion series of games for four- to eight-year-olds. Similar to Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade, it follows Madeline on a tour of her neighborhood with a variety of activities.

Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math, the final game in the series, was released as a two-CD-ROM set on July 12, 1999. The discs were also sold separately as Madeline 1st Grade Math and Madeline 2nd Grade Math. Set in the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, Madeline guides the player through nine works of art. Each is given a Madeline-related name change; the Mona Lisa is reimagined as Mona Clavel after Miss Clavel, the headmistress of Madeline's school. The paintings help teach addition, subtraction, and multiplication. The game was released for the 60th anniversary of the 1939 publication of Madeline.



The games have a point and click interface, which players use to navigate through screens, interact with characters and manipulate objects to complete tasks and overcome obstacles at a comfortable speed. The series' gameplay has been compared to other edutainment games, such as Big Thinkers, Fisher-Price video games, JumpStart and Reader Rabbit. The games contain minigames about reading comprehension, mathematics, problem-solving and cultural studies. They have a simple, straightforward design. The interface varied during the series; Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show and Madeline's European Adventures were designed to look (and play) like interactive storybook adventure games, and Madeline Thinking Games was designed as a series of in-game activities. Madeline European Adventures requires players to search each screen in first person, similar to Myst.

Madeline 2nd Grade Math Fractions
Screenshot of a minigame in Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math

The minigames' subjects vary; in Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Reading, reading comprehension and spelling are taught by completing crossword puzzles, arranging words in alphabetical order and finding synonyms and antonyms for words. Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math focuses on building math knowledge; Madeline coaches the player through 55 activities covering a two-year mathematics curriculum, including lessons on "logic, time, money skills, sequencing, fractions, geometry, estimation, and patterns."

Basic French and Spanish vocabulary are taught throughout the series. In Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey players can click on objects to hear English, French and Spanish, and can review vocabulary by playing "Concentration". Madeline European Adventures contains 100 words in Spanish and French and information about European countries, flags, and culture through an interactive map and repeatable activities. The series' gameplay includes references to European culture and foreign languages.

In-game activities include dressing up Madeline's friends (and dog) in a variety of outfits and creating postcards, masks, door signs and stickers. In Madeline Thinking Games Deluxe, the player can design Madeline's bedroom by changing its wallpaper, carpeting and furniture. Personalized graphics, printable activities and reward certificates are common to the games, and players can watch (and sing along with) music videos in Madeline Thinking Games.

Madeline was targeted at younger players, with age recommendations varying by reviewers. The series was deemed appropriate for "even the youngest pre-readers" by one video-game reviewer; according to others, the series was best suited for kindergarten to second-grade players. A SuperKids reviewer suggested that young children might require adult assistance due to the games' complex skill requirements; although the series was appropriate for older players, the games were not sufficiently challenging. It is primarily a single-player series except for Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math, which includes six multiplayer games with different levels of difficulty.

The games have several methods for tracking progress. Madeline is an in-game helper, providing encouragement and hints supporting the learning process through positive reinforcement; according to an Orlando Sentinel article, "The effervescent Madeline is there to offer frequent encouragement and reward correct answers." The games have a progress tracker to keep parents and educators informed of a player's performance, highlighting activities in which they excel or may need assistance. One feature recognizes skill mastery and increases difficulty automatically; however, it is not present in all the games. Some games, such as Madeline European Adventures, have a user guide with hints and a walkthrough to help a player who is stuck or quickly teach the gameplay to a parent. Several games allow the player to track their progress with "printable cards, postcards, and games that you can play away from the computer."

Settings and characters

Christopher Plummer narrated both the television and video-game series.

Most of the Madeline series is set in Madeline's boarding school or the surrounding neighborhood. The two exceptions are Madeline European Adventures (which includes Italy, Switzerland and Turkey) and Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math, set in the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay. Although Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Reading is set in the boarding school, Madeline and the player can also travel to Italy and Egypt from a magic attic. Throughout the series, Madeline is tasked with helping several characters reach their goals. The series includes original artwork (emulating watercolor painting) for the backgrounds and full animation; Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show has 30 background scenes and over 10,000 frames of original animation. The TV series' theme song is heard at the beginning of each game. American author Annie Fox, who had co-created the edutainment Putt-Putt series, contributed to the development of the Madeline games.

Madeline is a guide (or teacher) for the player throughout the minigames, and the series was cited as unique for its female protagonist. Madeline's dog Genevieve is featured in several games, supplying hints about how to complete an activity in Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math and helping Madeline search for the genie's magic lamp in Madeline European Adventure. In Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade, Madeline helps Miss Clavel complete equations on an easel. Madeline's Spanish neighbor, Pepito, is featured in the "reading comprehension and problem solving" activity "Where's Pepito?" in Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Reading.

Tracey-Lee Smyth voices Madeline in most of the video games, reprising her role in the television series. Christopher Plummer, who narrated six Madeline specials on HBO (1989–1991) and the TV series Madeline (1993–1994) and The New Adventures of Madeline (1995), returned to narrate Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey and the later games. In other games, such as Madeline Thinking Games, Madeline is the narrator. Other voice actors from the television series also reprised their roles in the video game in which their character appeared. The voice actors recorded their dialogue at Koko Productions 8th Avenue Sound Studios in Vancouver and the Audio Department in New York.



As the only educational software brand focused on meeting the specific needs of young girls, Madeline is a great addition to The Learning Company's growing girls software library [which creates] multimedia products for girls and children that are not only entertaining, but also educational.

—Andy Young, senior vice president of marketing for The Learning Company, PR Newswire
Screenshot of a minigame about reading comprehension in Madeline Classroom Companion: Preschool and Kindergarten

A major goal of the series was to improve creativity, reading, math, critical thinking and problem solving, and foreign-language abilities for preschool children to third or fourth grade. The growth in development of educational computer software was thought to reflect the desire of parents to begin teaching their children at younger ages. Developers consulted with children, parents and teachers during the design and development of each game. Madeline Classroom Companion: Preschool and Kindergarten was play-tested by children and their parents at the Redwood City Kid's Club and the Sequoia Children's Center, and reviewers indicated that the developers achieved many of their goals. Although up to 90 percent of all software is bought by (or for) boys, Madeline was produced by one of a "handful of companies ... taking a stab at games they hope will appeal to the other half of the population".

Larry Blasko of The Free Lance–Star found that the series filled a void, with games which balanced education with entertainment. Robert Harrow Jr. of The Washington Post recommended the Madeline series to parents as "educational software ... cloaked in games." In her book, Lesson Plans for the Busy Librarian, Joyce Keeling described how to incorporate Madeline video games into school curricula (such as using Madeline Thinking Games Deluxe in math class); according to Priscilla Bennett of School Library Journal, the games "should be popular in schools, homes, and public libraries." A school in Hope Meadows, Illinois offered the program as a reward for children who had read for 15 minutes, and Madeline Classroom Companion: 1st and 2nd Grade Reading Deluxe was a resource at the Washington-Centerville Public Library in 1999. Education lecturer Tom Lowrie wrote in a paper, "Using Technology to Enhance Children's Spatial Sense", that the interactive program Madeline Thinking Games is commonly used to test "for a range of visual and spatial understandings" in children. Sebastian Dortch of the St. Petersburg Times wrote that when his three-year-old son woke up, he said that he wanted to "play Madeline"; Dortch considered it a "ringing endorsement."

Joe Szadkowski of the Washington Post wrote that each CD of Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math covered one year of educational material. According to Software and CD-ROM Reviews on File, the Madeline Classroom Companion games contained the "basic elements of [the] school curriculum"; it cited Philip Bishop's Family PC review, which said that the games "constitute two complete years of learning, covering pre-reading, pre-math, thinking skills, and creativity." The Chicago Tribune said about Madeline European Adventures that "the games build on each other for cumulative learning." Linda Jewell Carr's paper, "Instructional Programs Used in Home Schools in Five North Carolina Counties", found Madeline's instructional programs among those played by participants in the exploratory study. In the Washington Post, Beth Berselli said that the games were Creative Wonders "big sellers" which "incorporate a more educational tone" than their contemporaries. Julie Strasberg of PC Magazine, however, wrote that most tasks in Madeline Thinking Games "involve simple observation ... [and] kids may not learn a tremendous amount."


I think that we know that Madeline is a character who is popular with both boys and girls. Although parents are more likely to buy the software for girls, we didn't have to come out and say that. I think it's kind of a turnoff to parents to actually ... see a box that says on it "For Girls Only".

—Creative Wonders producer Holly Smevog, Computer & Entertainment Retailing interview

In 1995, there was a "conspicuous absence" of interactive edutainment software aimed at young girls; thirteen years later, there were 65 titles. Although many of the games (including those by Mattel, Polaroid, Hasbro and Disney) were accused of reinforcing negative stereotypes with themes such as the color pink, makeovers, jewelry, ponies and kitchens, Katie Hafner of the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times wrote that the Madeline and American Girl series achieved the "lofty goal" of providing young players with content which was "carefully designed [and] thoughtful" – popular and "present[ing] players with some intellectual substance." According to an Orlando Sentinel article, "The success of Barbie software ... encouraged other software makers to come out with their own programs just for girls". Creative Wonders product manager Jennifer Rush called Madeline "a good role model" with "an assertive, spunky personality and ... a logical fit in the interactive world." Rush cited the decision to center a series of educational games on the character as an attempt to reach young girls who are "often ignored by multimedia developers", saying that the games fulfilled the "real opportunity in multimedia to develop titles that appeal to girls" and "girls tend to want more of a storyline." According to Creative Wonders software producer Holly Smevog, girls are drawn to "story lines, real-life situations, hands-on experiences and developing relationships with characters."

The Daily Gazette's Susan Reimer wrote that the Madeline games helped revive girls' interest in computers and changed their conception of them as "that solitary, isolating experience"; the games are: "based on the idea that girls learn, play and relate to each other in a different way than boys." According to a Beacon News writer, the series resonated with girls because the main character is a young girl and finding software for girls was difficult. Mark Ivey and Elizabeth Kemper of the Daily News wrote that the series was an example of software developers' creating quality girls' software matching that created for boys. James Madge of the Toronto Star called the games "edutainment ... geared at girls", and Selling to Kids said that Creative Wonders was "targeting girls" and "get[ing] girls thinking" with its Madeline series. J.P. Faber of U.S. Kids praised the fact that a "smart little girl is the star", saying that "it's usually a boy who is in charge."

The article "Engaging Girls with Computers Through Software Games" noted that since the 1990s, "several companies have attempted to market a line of software games specifically for girls" and Broderbund's Carmen Sandiego and Creative Wonders's Madeline were two rare examples of "market[ing] girl games that were designed to appeal to boys as well." Software and CD-ROM Reviews on File said that reviewers thought the games would "engage both boys and girls". A Kiplinger's Personal Finance reviewer found an activity in Madeline Thinking Games Deluxe where players have to redecorate Madeline's room "excruciatingly painful" for a male tester, who denied a female tester's claim that he disliked the "girl's game". Although the boys in the HomePC kids' lab did not like the "sweet" Madeline TV show, they were eager to play the video games.

In a press release for Madeline 1st and 2nd Grade Math, The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey) senior vice president of marketing Andy Young described the series as "imaginative product" for girls to play with "their beloved and adventurous friend Madeline ... that children love and parents trust." According to Bestick, girls were more drawn to plot and character development over dominance and violence, and he saw the series as a way to enter this untapped market. Ivey and Kemper noted that boys spent more time on computers than girls, and girls were missing out on learning opportunities; the Daily News identified a trend toward "high skill, not high kill" games, such as the Nancy Drew games and Madeline. According to Terri Payne Butler of The Horn Book Magazine, the series offered a solution for "every young girl who wants to play computer games but has little interest in shootem-up, take-em-out games such as Ninja Turtle." Nancy Churnin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that a child's comfort level can increase if their educational content has familiar characters like Madeline. Donna Ladd of MacHome Journal wrote that a Madeline Classroom Companion game of "Concentration" had a subtle, positive message by asking players to match images such as female forest rangers, police officers and newspaper reporters, with "few portraying traditional gender roles." A Retailing Today article said that the Madeline series was "among the few titles specifically aimed at girls that seems ready for the mass market". The Los Angeles Daily News compared Madeline to the storybook video game Chop Suey; both had heroines and "brightly colored, naive-style illustrations", and were targeted at all children despite "obvious feminine appeal." Shelley Campbell, education coordinator at Wiz Zone Computers for Kids in Vancouver, recommended Madeline European Adventures as a video game which appealed to girls.


Creative Wonders conducted several promotional campaigns for the Madeline games. The first game, Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey was released for the 1995 holiday season, and the ABC-TV premiere of the Saturday-morning cartoon The New Adventures of Madeline in September; it was part of Creative Wonders software with Bump in the Night and Free Willy, video-game adaptions of ABC's 1995 fall children's-programming lineup. Promotions accompanied Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show to cross-merchandise the CD-ROM title and the Madeline television show, including a create-your-own-puppet-show-scene contest. According to Computer Retail Week, the initial shipment of CD-ROMs included a 32-piece kit of Madeline napkins, plates and invitations and bookmark giveaways were also part of the promotion. The company used part of its marketing budget to fund displays of toy, software, doll, book and video merchandise for the Christmas season. The game was showcased at the May 1995 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Creative Wonders' debut at the event.

In 1996, Creative Wonders collaborated with Western Publishing and Sony Wonder to promote Madeline's CD-ROMs and other aspects with a shopping-mall tour. Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey was part of the Aspire Games Arcade for the Acer Aspire PC. From August to October 1996, it was a choice in a buy-one-get-one-free promotion of Creative Wonders titles sponsored by Electronic Arts. The game was one of four in a marketing campaign where customers received a free video cassette with a CD-ROM purchase. Madeline Thinking Games was introduced at the June 1996 Electronic Entertainment Expo. A panel discussion, "Case Study: Vortex Media Arts' Madeline, From Development to Ship", was moderated by Richard Kahlenberg at the 1996 Children's Interactive Media Festival.

For the 1996 holiday season, Creative Wonders bundled plush toys with Madeline European Adventures. The following year, it launched a website which included Know Europe, a free downloadable game. The software was featured on Australia's ABC Online, and the Madeline's European Adventures game included a free trial of America Online. The company included a "Buy One Take One" deal on its website, where a customer could purchase two products for the price of one. In mid-October 1997, Creative Wonders had a "Buy One, Get One Free" offer for its Madeline Classroom Companion series. During the week of November 4, 1997, Computer City introduced a "Just For Girls" software section with entertainment and educational titles for girls aged 4–13; Madeline was among its first series with products and in-store demonstrations.

Golden Books Family Entertainment Home Video and Audio and Creative Wonders collaborated to a cross-promotion in 1998. According to a summer 1998 Los Angeles Times article, Madeline Classroom Companion: Preschool & Kindergarten would be attractive as a result of the live-action Madeline film. The following year, The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey) and Noodle Kidoodle collaborated to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Madeline's publication the following year, and children could play demo versions of the Madeline video games in stores. The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey)donated hundreds of copies of the software to children without access to the learning tools. It collaborated with the educational-store chain Zany Brainy on a Madeline-themed event at which children interacted with the series' latest software. Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Creative Wonders offered purchasers of the television film Madeline: Lost in Paris and an installment of the Madeline game series a free Madeline software program by mail. On April 26, 1999, The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey) announced plans to introduce new software (including Madeline 1st & 2nd Grade Math) at the May Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. In late 2014, several titles in the Madeline video-game series and about 2,300 other vintage computer games became available on the Internet Archive.

Commercial performance

In December 1995, Creative Wonders announced that Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey was as commercially successful as the company's best-selling Sesame Street title. Two titles in the series had total sales of $500,000 from September 1995 to June 1997, and Madeline was the second-bestselling female-targeted brand (after Mattel's Barbie video-game series).

Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show: A Learning Journey was the second-most-popular Macintosh title at 11 Software Etc. and Babbage's stores in the Washington, D.C. area for the week ending March 2, 1997; Madeline Classroom Companion was the most popular educational title at the stores for the week ending November 22, 1997. Madeline and the Magnificent Puppet Show, Madeline Thinking Games and Madeline's European Adventure were among the year's best-selling educational-software titles. Karen Wickre reported in Upside in January 1998 that a Madeline game was one of two top titles from the Chinese distribution and development company Mediamax. According to PC Data, four of the top ten girls' video games in 1998 were Madeline titles. In December 1998,The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey) Asia-Pacific managing director Tony Hughes said that Madeline Classroom Companion was outselling Sesame Street at Target Australia.

According to PC Data, Madeline 1st Grade and 2nd Grade Math was the ninth-bestselling educational title at 13 software retail chains (57 percent of the U.S. market) for the week of July 17, 1999 and the seventh-bestselling title for the week of August 21, 1999. Madeline Preschool/Kindergarten (119,721 units, $2.6 million), Madeline Thinking Games (106,392 units, $1.7 million), Madeline Thinking Games Deluxe (102,164 units, $2.0 million) and Madeline Classroom 1st/2nd (101,331 units, $2.2 million) were ranked sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th in sales and revenue for 1998–1999 girls' titles.

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