The use of serious games in the governance of natural resources and the environment is progressively increasing and includes games used for research and data collection, teaching and training, and fostering a change of practices. However, this diversity remains underexplored and underreported. In view of a growing interest in the use of serious games in natural resource and environmental governance, the absence of discussions about how differences in intended use and delivery influence the performance, assessment, and outcomes of games is problematic. Here we present an inventory, and a description, of such different uses then, by focusing on serious games used as interventions, we discuss when, and how, games could be used to generate learning and social learning. To that end we use a narrative review of selected literature, and insight from research on social learning, to develop an inventory of game use, and within that inventory we conceptualize the use of serious games as a social learning intervention. Also, by means of an illustrative case of a serious game (developed as part of the Assessing the Learning Effects of Games on Attitude of Stakeholders toward Sustainable Shrimp Farming – ALEGAMS research project) we reflect on a few key aspects of game use. We suggest that developing a serious game needs several iterations and, although the learning outcomes can be assessed, the impact of games aiming at changes in current practice and policy will likely fall beyond the timespan of usual project periods. This is something future research should consider as it has implications for the research design and methodology.