Free games are excellent, especially when you don't even have to wait for them to download and install. Webgames promise instant delight. They can deliver a quick thrill and a punch line and then let you get on with your day. But there are deeper experiences out there as well. Did you know, for example, that you can play Doom in your browser? In fact, you can play whole RPGs, explore intricate works of interactive fiction and wage space-war against your friends. Within, you'll find our hundred favourite browser games—the best free online games in the world. Enjoy.
We've divided up the list along genre lines. Where there are more than 20 in a category, we've broken them into two parts to make it easier to scan. If you have any great browser games you'd like to suggest, let everyone know in the comments.
Page 2: Action
Page 3: Puzzle - part one
Page 4: Puzzle - part two
Page 5: Platformer
Page 6: Adventure games - part one
Page 7: Adventure games - part two
Page 8: Score attack
Page 9: RPG
Page 10: Comedy
Compiled by Phil Savage, Tom Sykes, Tom Senior
Thanks to its shareware past, the entirety of the first (and best) episode of the first Doom is playable in your browser. I shouldn't need to give you a rundown of what to expect here: it's Doom. There are demons, doors, switches and keycards, all placed around a sprawling Mars base full of corridors and secrets. The only downside to this browser-based resurrection is that it doesn't support mouse-look, so, on top of a quality FPS, you're also getting a history lesson in how cumbersome shooter controls could be.
The Seven Day FPS competition was created to keep first person shooting interesting. Entrants were given a week to create eccentric, experimental, and high-concept ideas, without a theme to restrict them. It was the perfect breeding ground for a game like SuperHot, which took the tired FPS cliche of Bullet Time and, through a simple twist on the formula, created something completely new. To quote the game's opening, “it's about time”.
The elevator pitch is equally pithy: time moves when you do. Stand still and the scene freezes. Walk, strafe or aim, and it starts back up. Instantly it transforms the focus of the men-shooting genre. Playing SuperHot isn't about reflex and reaction, it's about precision and choreography. It's these same principles that underpin every action film, but that games frequently miss in the panicked throes of real-time firefights. It's short but, thanks to Kickstarter, a full, commercial release is also being worked on.
A dojo seems like an eminently sensible place for fighting to break out, although it must be hell getting all that blood out of those nice wooden floors. Dojo of Death, then. It's a one-button, entirely mouse-driven little timewaster about a guy fond of chopping people to bits. Not a butcher, no, but a hyper-quick ninja beset from all sides by enemies. Click in the direction you happen to be pointing at to dart forward with your sword drawn and slash any baddie ninjas into ninja ham. Occasionally baddie bow-wielding ninjas emerge from the adjoining room, who can turn you into fine paste from far away. Dojo of Death is endless, and tough, and like many of the best endless-tough games, your first instinct on death will be to retry. And retry. And retry again. It's unlikely you'll remember it a week from now, but at least it kept you from finishing that super-important spreadsheet—and that's really all you could ever want from a browser game.
The winner of the New Mexico Game Jam, The Last Tango is a game about rhythm espionage survival. I'd have called it Dance Dance Execution, but the principle remains the same. You play as two spies, dancing through a variety of deadly locations. They'll pirouette past traps, dodge under attacks, and take down enemies with an elegant twirl. And a gun.
Each move is performed to the beat, so as the levels get more complicated, you'll queue up actions and watch as they're gracefully executed. Step right, shoot left, step left, spin, shoot up and to the right, get decapitated by a ninja. As the dance becomes increasingly hazardous, timing and order become essential for success.
Part of this year's IGF Student Showcase, Rhythm Doctor takes the style and irreverence of rhythm games, but features a much stricter margin of error. Your job—as a trainee doctor for the NHS—is to hit a button on every seventh beat of a patient's heart rate monitor. That button press will only register if it's within 0.02 seconds of the target, so precision is key.
Each patient introduces a different quirk to the rhythmic counting. Certain beats may be silent, forcing you to keep your own time. Other times, multiple blips will appear. To further complicate matters, some patients contain boss viruses. An early one distorts your connection to the monitor, forcing you to keep perfect time as the music warps, skips and rewinds.
In rhythm games, the music is both your adversary and your reward. That principle is taken to the extreme in Soundodger, where the notes fire a wave of spikes towards your cursor. Get hit and the music distorts—skipping forward a few seconds like a speeding record. You lose points for this, which is a shame, but the greater punishment is destroying the excellent soundtrack, featuring songs from composers like Disasterpeace and Lifeformed. If you like the free game, an expanded version is available on Steam .
Major Bueno are back! Brawlin' Sailor is another beautiful/hilarious short story of a game, this time traversing into sidescrolling beat-'em-up territory. There's no challenge to the combat; you're playing for the story, which takes about five glorious minutes to see through.
Like a number of free horror games, Silhouette doesn't rely on high-tech visuals to generate its scares. It's a two-player killer vs. victim game set in a dark house. Control shifts between the knife-wielding killer and their unarmed victim, allowing for turns of real-time movement that shorten as the killer and the victim draw closer together. The increasingly fraught pacing does a great job of inspiring mounting panic in both players, toying with the same manipulative patterns seen across horror cinema, from the Jaws soundtrack to the murder famous murder scenes of Psycho. An effective horror experiment that's worth a go if you can get a couple of horror fans around your keyboard.
My Friend Pedro provides a compelling case for why you shouldn't follow the advice of a talking banana. It's a 2D action platformer with a heavy debt to Max Payne—although mercifully, this hallucinating protagonist is less prone to questioning his worth as a human being. Instead, he leaps, flip and rolls about each level, using his slow-mo ability to avoid bullets and unload an unnervingly accurate volley of return fire. It's a short game, but one packed full of opportunities to show off your balletic bullet time skills.
Ratz Instagib is a browser-based mulitplayer shooter that distills the pinpoint aiming and unlikely acrobatics of Quake and Unreal Tournament into their purest, simplest form. There is one weapon in the game: a railgun of unlimited range that kills anything in one hit. Also you're all rats for some reason.
The setup means that everyone meets on an even playing field. The only guarantee of success is to be better at hitting a small and speedy target than that target is at hitting you. In a map full of FPS experts, lives can last for seconds as you desperately cull as many players as possible before a laser pierces your tiny frame.
A “playable music video” from Ben Esposito, one of the Arcane Kids, and musician bo en. Interaction in these happy few minutes is limited to tilting objects with the arrow keys or stretching your fingers—well, stretching somebody's fingers—with the keyboard, but it's just enough to make you feel part of this bouncy, brightly coloured world.
We're always being asked to save the world, so it's nice when we're given the chance to destroy instead. In Pandemic 2 you design and unleash an virus, parasite or bacterium, and watch as it spreads through the world. The trick is to create a disease that can infect as many people as possible without being detected. As soon as there's even the hint of a problem, hospitals will spring into action, borders will close, and Madagasca will become an impenetrable haven for the last remnants of humanity.
GeoGuessr builds a compelling game of investigative orienteering by using Google Maps' Street View to drop you randomly into the world, then asking you to locate yourself. Sometimes it's obvious—a sign or street name allowing you to hone in on your temporary home. Other times you'll be stranded in a barren landscape. Sightseeing has never been so competitive.<adv
You're a robot. With a detachable head. And in the ga...well, you get the idea. What distinguishes this wonderful puzzle game from the dozens of similar first-person puzzlers doing the rounds is how you use that head to advance. Left-clicking chucks it out in front of you, at which point the perspective switches to that of the robo-bonce now sitting on the floor. In a stroke of genius, you can head-hop forward with repeated left clicks, while simultaneously moving your headless robo-body with WASD. It's beautiful. It's also the closest I've ever come to being Bender from Futurama—until work on my robot exoskeleton is finished at least.
It's minigolf, only taken to a charming extreme. In Wonderputt, you're skipping over lily pads, avoiding UFOs, and putting across asteroid craters. The presentation is delightful. You can see the entire course at the start, but with each successful hole it shifts and alters, revealing new sections and transforming in unexpected ways. It takes the simple fact that mini-golf is fun, and enhances it through a lavish series of cutesy animations.
Oh wow, this is wonderful. I Am Level is a Spectrum-style game with some canny enhancements—there's a Metroidvania-like world structure, alternate costumes and even a leveling system—but at its core this is a ruggedly old-fashioned platformer with one hell of a chiptune soundtrack. The twist here is that it's also a pinball game; you're tilting the levels, and activating paddles, rather than moving the game's spherical hero directly.
You move a single icon in on an grid, solving tile-based combat challenges to progress to the next stage. What makes Ending stand out from innumerable other puzzle games is its randomly-generated roguelike mode, where you explore a dungeon that works on the same principle.
Holy wow. Kingdom is a tower defence game, sorta - but before you take to your keyboard to moan about that, you should know that it's one of the loveliest I've played in a long time. You're a king on a kingly horse trying to survive for ten nights in a small village/camp in the wilderness. To help you in your quest to continue existing, you can employ wandering vagabonds by dropping money at their feet - then give them a weapon/tool by supplying the appropriate stall. This is all a lot of fun, but I love Kingdom for the astonishing pixel art, sound design and atmosphere, and I have a feeling you'll love it for those very same reasons too.
It's adorable top-down puzzle game time. They Love You is another "play as a cube navigating through a maze past some obstacles" game, of which about 300 seem to be released every day. So, what makes this one special? Partly it's the simple but deceptively clever concept. Partly it's the character and charm that exist in the basic shapes. Mostly it's because it's absolutely infuriating.
A moreish maze-building game that turns a tiny patch of desk into a warzone. Increasingly powerful creeps swarm in from the left. Slow them with ice rays, blast them with missiles and craft a long intestinal catacomb of death out of gun turrets to ensnare and destroy them.
With its clean, evocative art style and strangely ICO-esque ambient sound design, Ditto is a bit of a departure from Nitrome's usual day-glo arcade games. Your catty, triangular little hero has a shadowy doppelganger, who emerges when you're parallel to a big orange mirror thing in the middle of most screens. Said doppelganger mimics every action you take—only in reverse.
Puzzles, as you might imagine, involve keeping track of the goings-on in (at least) two parallel worlds; to succeed you'll need to frequently switch your attention from one to the other, taking advantage of the occasional inconsistency to clamber your way into the next stage. Smart, challenging, atmospheric, bally adorable stuff.
I generally keep my beard just under, and on, my chin, which makes it easy to find when a puzzle game asks me to locate it for reasons that are best left unscrutinised. In Where is My Beard you have to make a bunch of unbearded shapes more hirsute, by engineering it so that they touch bearded ones—face fungus being contagious, as you know. You do this by dropping them into the scene and pressing the play button; if you've aligned said shapes correctly, they'll bash into each other with PHYSICS and set off a wonderfully beardy chain reaction. Not one for pogonophobes, obviously, but for everyone else this is a lavishly illustrated slice of hairy silliness.
Puzzle Script isn't a game so much as an “open-source HTML5 puzzle game engine”, but it's already been used to make a bunch of interesting games , including a Closure demake, a couple of Sokoban titles, a more cerebral version of Pac-Man and loads more. My favourite so far is Dungeon Janitor , which sees you desperately trying (and most likely desperately failing) to mop up a particularly troublesome puddle of slime.
You're a square floating in a black void, and there are three types of objects in the environment: stars, which stick to you; cuboid objects which do nothing, and jellyfish-like creatures which move towards you and electrocute you on contact. Then, very quickly, you meet another square like you, only smaller. It's sleeping. You poke at it, and it wakes up—and hoots at you. Hello! He then follows you around, tooting curiously at the objects you find, and experimentally butting at them. Companion is a five-minute experiment—and a successful demonstration—of how to build a relationship between a player and an NPC.
More of a strategy game than a puzzle game, really, but the excellent Neptune's Pride doesn't quite slot into the other sections but still definitely deserves a mention. Essentially, it's How To End A Friendship In One Easy Strategy Game. The action is simple: move ships to conquer planets, then build an economy on those planets. The glacial pace ensures that as you set nefarious plans in motion against your best friend, they have hours to marvel at your cruelty.
Reprisal is an RTS god-game. You hover around a square island, indirectly controlling your subjects by placing waypoints and using totems to control the elements with earth-changing powers. If your immediate reaction is “so, it's Populous then...” well, yes. It's called Reprisal for a reason. It's a stylish pixel art tribute, with a great chiptune soundtrack underneath.
You play as a courier, making an innocent delivery to an almost certainly evil corporation when a fire breaks out. As automated systems lock you alone in the reception, the building's IM chat fills with staff members stuck on the floors above.
Being the only person with direct access to the building's safety controls, it's your job to seal off doors, activate sprinklers, and direct the members of staff away from their certain death.
Here's the thing: despite the title, in every level someone has to die. The crux of the game revolves around that choice—and the narrative-heavy chat logs that precede each mission help you to decide what you want to do.
Ir/rational was originally released by Tom Jubert, writer for the Penumbra series and the upcoming FTL, back in 2009. It's now back in reduxed form, which seems to mean it's been given a coat of graphics and sound, and has found its way onto Newgrounds.
What haven't changed are the puzzles. You're presented with a series of statements and must pick logical arguments to fill in the blanks. The trick isn't whether the answer is true (in one early puzzle you prove the existence of god), but to work out why that answer is true, through the twisted circular logic you're given.
You Must Escape's graphics are representations of sound. When you're not moving, the screen is black. Take a step and lines emanate from your position, bouncing off the otherwise invisible walls. Early on, the puzzle is simple: make noise to map out the level and find the exit—recognisable by its thicker white lines. Hold and release space and you'll send out a louder wave, necessary for tracing a route through more complex levels.
Before long, You Must Escape pulls its most effective trick. Red lines denote danger, either in the form of a static trap to avoid, or a creature that will hunt you. Your problem is that, if you can 'see' a creature, it's because you've sent out lines of noise that let it hear your location.
Naya's Quest was made by VVVVVV and Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh. In case you were wondering: yes, it is bastard hard, just less stressful on your reflexes. It's an isometric puzzle-platformer about a girl and her pilgrimage to the edge of the world. As you're walking through the harmless opening screens, you pick up a scanning device. When activated the world vanishes, leaving only a cross section of the tiles directly horizontal and vertical to your position. At first the purpose of the scanner isn't clear. That is, until you reach the dungeon leading to the edge and start walking across an apparently solid bridge. Halfway across, and Naya falls into the void. Damn you Cavanagh!
Lamp and Vamp was created for the Procedural Death Jam - a competition designed to promote the "Procedural Death Labyrinth", a slightly less hideous term for "roguelike-likes". True to form, it's both randomly generated and contains death, or at least, undeath. You play a vampire trying to reach the safety of his coffin by moving one hex-tile at a time. In your way are patrolling villagers, and holy-water-hurling priests. You'll need to carefully use your abilities to safely make it home.
If you're tired of scurrying into dark corners, away from human contact, Nothing To Hide might be for you. It's an anti-stealth game in which your job is to be seen at all times. Currently a demo, the developers plan to expand it into a full and open source game. You play as Poppy Gardner, daughter to the sinister head of a dystopian surveillance state. Trapped in a state of constant paranoid nervousness, you decide to help your father's social media popularity by running away to Canada. The only problem is that you must stay in state of the autonomous security eyes, or risk being taken down by anti-criminal sleeping darts.
The Very Organized Thief spawns you in a house that's not your own, carrying nothing but a torch and a list of items. If you hadn't guessed from the title, your job is to rob things. Both the larcenous list and the location of its items are randomly generated each time you play, meaning you'll need to carefully explore the house to find what you're after.
In most cases, it's easy to intuit where the items will be. A blender, for instance, will reliably live in the kitchen. Others are more cryptic, like the gold bar that you're always asked to find. To aid you in your search, you can pick up items, open draws and lift lids. You may be organised, but nothing says you have to be tidy.
It's all about the replays. After hundreds of attempts in which your walljumping ninja is sliced by lasers, burst by missiles and crushed by thwomps, you get a replay of your successful run to the level exit, in which you seem to dodge each threat with psychic reflexes. There are hundreds of levels, and thus hundreds of opportunities to feel so satisfied.
It lacks its paid-for older brother's flashier features, but the original Meat Boy is a chunk of PC platforming history. The series' fantastic controls—at once crisp and squishy, ping-ponging Meat Boy bloodily off the environment with each leap and slide—got their start here, and the first set of vertically-scrolling levels offer a stiff challenge. Very much worth upgrading to Super Meat Boy once you're done.
Here's a novel idea: a 2D puzzle platformer with a time-bending twist. Okay, so Pause Ahead might not be original in concept, but it's proficient in execution. You must make your way through the difficult trap filled levels, completing them within the time limit despite a control scheme that seems unsuited to twitch acrobatics. Why it works is that with a tap of the Shift key you freeze time, rendering you unable to course-correct, but keeping your momentum. At the most basic level, that means running towards an approaching buzzsaw, freezing time and skidding past. As long as time's not moving, you'll pass through the danger unharmed. Hit a wall, however, and you'll lose your speed. If you're hovering over an obstacle when you resume, you'll instantly be killed.
Ian Stocker's excellent Escape Goat is now available in browser form, should you want to play the goat-based puzzle platformer without having to download or pay anything for the privilege. (Of course, you should consider buying the game's recently released Steam version if you like what you see.) Either way, you'll be playing a smart, witty puzzler with one hell of a soundtrack, and the cutest mouse companion you'll ever met.
Sometimes I'm in the mood for a silly-physics-based kissing game, an experimental first-person wanderer, an exquisite text adventure—or an unassuming robot-based platformer featuring a Game Boy colour palette and an infectious chiptune soundtrack. I suspect most of the words I've supplied to descriptions of other sidescrolling platformers would apply equally well here, but at the risk of repeating myself, Shybot is a mechanically exact jumping game with an adorable main character, set in a fairly sizeable, open-ended world. There will always be a place in my heart for one of those.
In Atum, you play as a person sitting at their desk playing a side-scrolling 2D platformer. That desk is littered with detritus; everything from magnets and batteries to cigarettes and the lighter that lit them. Meanwhile, the white silhouette in the screen inside your screen keeps running into a variety of seemingly impassable objects on his way through this extremely meta puzzler.
There have plenty of games riffing off Terry Cavanagh's VVVVVV, but OWWW is probably the oddest, and definitely the only one to be set in Terry's mouth. I like to think of it as retribution for VVVVVV's bastard hard Veni, Vidi, Vici section.
You must explore the teeth and atriums (yes, really) of the oral dungeons, flipping gravity to avoid spikes as you navigate to each screen's key and unlock the exit. Each level has critters that move across the screen, but instead of hurting you, you can flip onto them to be carried past hazards. Delightfully weird and expectedly difficult.
Don't worry, Bubsy—the '90s gaming C-lister—isn't about to make a comeback. Instead, Bubsy 3D: Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective is a weird art-platformer by Zenith creators Arcane Kids. It's a punk edutainment game, in which the titular cat-thing takes a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Using a deliberately awkward control scheme, you jump and glide your way across floating platforms, moving towards the museum and receiving hints from the talking frogs.
It's happened again! Someone's let the indie platformers out of their cage and they've started breeding. Spin Spin plays like the lovechild of And Yet It Moves and VVVVVV, taking the former's world-rotating mechanic and latter's clean, spike-filled presentation.
You play as Spin, trying to get back to his girlfriend after he fell down a hole, the klutz. He can't jump, but can turn the world clockwise or anti-clockwise to navigate through the deadly maze. Crucially, this can only be done once per fall, with the direction locked until Spin lands on solid ground.
Samorost and its sequel are adventure games as Moomin creator Tove Jansson might have made them. Its patchwork art is made out of photographs of logs, plants, old cans; its white, handanimated main character speaks in whoops and illustrations; and it all takes place on asteroids in space. With no inventory, it's your job to solve puzzles by poking and prodding this world to reveal charming animations. Its creator went on to make the paid-for point-and-click Machinarium, but I prefer this.
This Phillip K Dick-inspired tale consists of a short conversation with a robot—it's literally a single scene, told from the perspective of some sort of futuristic, Almost Human-style cop. You're questioning a suspect about a murder, a process that involves little more than selecting options from a menu. Differences from a typical text-based game are slight, but effective: you can look around the room a bit, while selecting responses means literally craning your neck around to the floating conversation window. The game itself is another sort of window, one into a fleshed-out, thoughtful science-fiction world.
The Domovoi takes the form of a storyteller interacting with his audience. A friend is giving you the first performance of his latest work—a “new tale, with real heroes” - and asks for help in working out the details. As his folk story unfolds he'll occasionally stop, bringing you out of the fiction to ask what should happen next.
The story is about a domovoi: a hairy house-dwelling creature of Slavic folklore. He's been charged with protecting his master's house, while said master is away fighting to protect the village. It's as he deals with various intrusions that you're asked to interject with the creature's responses and actions. Your responses won't wildly change the narrative, because The Domovoi explores the relationship between audience and performer. And in this tale, that performer has a specific agenda.
It says a lot about a game when you feel compelled to hit the screenshot key every time you enter a new room. It says: 'this game looks freaking incredible', but also 'I'm pretty sure what colour palette my nightmares will be presented in tonight'. So yes—Humanoid 47 is another one of those static, puzzle-heavy adventure games, but it's one of the more striking I've encountered: a garish world of mechanical parts, startled heads, and whatever the hell that thing just was.
All of Porpentine's Twine adventures are worth investigating, especially the one about Ke$ha , but AIWIFAOMFTBIP walks the middle-ground of her two extremes. It's part cyberpunk body-horror, part empowerment fantasy, delivered as a stream-of-consciousness tale about an all-invasive feeling of oppression. As always, Porpentine's clipped sentences paint an evocative world that makes the story's resolution all the more effective and heartwarming.
I've played a few of these 'guess the bad guy' games over the last year or so, and Noir might be my favourite because, well, because of all the noir. It's essentially any bit from Blade Runner where Deckard has to identify a replicant, spun out and squished down into a small-scale, vaguely cyberpunk game. Citizens will clue you in on the location and identity of the skinjobs you're tasked with tracking down, and you'd better pay attention as a single civilian casualty will mean an instant game over. Unlike the other entries in this innovative new sub-genre there doesn't appear to be any random generation at play, but even though you might only go through it once, Noir offers a good few minutes of atmospheric, investigative adventuring.
A sci-fi horror of sorts, putting you in the role of the creature, something that's been done before in fiction, but never (as far as I'm aware) with this level of thought and imagination. It's a beautifully written game, highlighting once again just how wide the gulf in quality is between even the best mainstream game stories and the cream of the IF crop. Admittedly I did find Coloratura a hard game to settle into, as it puts you in the role of a truly alien entity that shares few of our thought processes, emotions or drives.
The aptly named Paradise is a piece of sandbox interactive fiction: a limitless, user-created space you can wander around, and add to, as you see fit. Starting as a ghost, you're unable to move until you inhabit the body of a nearby object, though this is as simple as typing “become a teapot/fireplace/angry-looking thing” (delete as contextually appropriate), before using that vessel to enter another player-created room. The beauty of the written word—and it's a beauty captured perfectly in Paradise—is that words are slippery, and open to interpretation, so if you want that fireplace to talk or that angry-looking thing to be the entrance to a nineteenth-century carousel, you only have to forge the association while you play. What are words, after all, if not vessels for meaning? Meaning that's always evolving, even as misguided word sheriffs try to keep it fixed.
Cyberqueen vomits you out of a sack into a malignant, sentient ship and gives you your first choice: “flail”, “scream” or “breathe”. There are heavy lashings of System Shock in this superbly written work of interactive fiction that has you wandering the halls of the vessel, trying to escape the machinations of its omnipresent guardian. The Twine interface paces the text to good effect, and it's more easily navigated than traditional IF builds like Anchorhead. Cyberqueen is an evocative and sinister piece of work that'll appeal to those who haven't tried interactive fiction before.
There are few more horrifying prospects than that of being made to re-explore the intricacies of an irrevocably broken relationship again and again. Will Love Tear Us Apart harnesses the theme's of Joy Division's hit to create a strange and disturbing experience in which you must treat with a hideous, swollen partner on a hopeless quest for reconciliation. The sparse line art evokes an empty, angst-ridden world as the game evolves from one phase to the next. It's a human communication breakdown abstracted into an interactive form. A fascinating experiment that demonstrates how fertile human relationships can be as inspiration for nightmarish horror scenarios. It's free, to, and you can play it in your browser at the link above.
flOw's minimalist appeal and dynamically adjusting difficulty curve has hooked hundreds of thousands. Use the mouse to guide a creature through an evolutionary mire, gobbling up smaller animals to grow, and hitting red blobs to swim deeper. When you eat, you evolve, but you can see large predators moving through the gloom on the levels below, waiting to swallow you whole. Serene yet addictive.
You're the editor of a newspaper in a totalitarian state. Each day you must choose which stories to run and how much space to give them, impacting your paper's popularity and the government's approval with the general populace. Smart, cynical, and there's a great twist near the end.
What if you lacked self-censorship? What if you posted every stray thought that entered your head? What if you were Kanye West? That's the premise of Life In The West, a short strange HTML5 game by Davey Wredon, creator of The Stanley Parable.
You log into Kanye's Twitter account, then, when "Inspiration" hits, rapidly mash your keyboard to auto-complete such immortal tweets as "I make awesome decisions in bike stores!!!" The quicker you finish, the more Kanye points you're awarded, which can be spent on following new accounts. In the manic rush of keyboard spamming and follower clicking, it's easy to miss the best part of Life In The West. The feed at the side is telling a story about a man's spiralling descent into madness.
An enigmatic adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic world, with a cracking central mechanic. Rather than combining objects with other objects, you're affecting the world with a (presumably) magic lute, by plucking at its colour-coded strings. It's a bit like Ocarina of Time, and a lot like LOOM; to open a door, for example, you'll pluck a certain combination using the game's moderately fiddly interface. Olav & Lute is a short, stark, striking adventure—it's also one you can download and play offline.
And now for something completely different, and totally ace. Westerado is a beautiful action/adventure/gratuitous western game, and stop me before I wax lyrical about the era-appropriate instrumental soundtrack. After banditos kill your family, you have to track down the responsible parties - or, instead, you could just shoot everyone in the face, foes and family alike. Westerado gets bonus points for making you unholster and cock your gun before you fire (and a million bonus points for letting you shoot the hats off bad guys). Little things, but they add a lot to the surprisingly fluid, sudden, tense combat. Between shootouts you'll solve problems, ride your horse, and stand in the breeze admiring the astonishing soundtrack. Westerado—play it now .
Not every game has to contain spikes and grisly death, and I may have found the polar opposite of Maddening Relapse in Fishy Waters, a delightful adventure that has you plundering a lake of its piscine inhabitants in order to honour the memory of your departed father. (He was gobbled up by a whale in the opening cutscene.) You'll roam the waters on a small fishing boat, collecting and selling fish in order to upgrade your equipment or to access new parts of the lake. It's not quite a game you'll give yourself over to, but Fishy Waters should make for a calming comedown after you've skewered yourself on a spike pit or fallen down a hole for the umpteenth time.
Spielberg's seminal film classic Hook Jaws makes for a pretty good text adventure, as it turns out. He (or she, I can never remember) is a simple beast, so you don't have to remember a ton of different parser commands while you swim around an island searching for damp fleshy humans. The main one is EAT, understandably; as in the films, Jaws is an especially hungry sort, the aim of this terrifically nostalgic adventure being to fill its vast stomach with bits of meat.
Of all the survival titles doing the rounds these days, Gods Will Be Watching seems like the least selfish of the lot. By which I mean it's not a game about keeping one person alive but rather a whole group—which is a lot harder, and more strategic, than one guy scrabbling around in the dirt. In this beautiful one-screen adventure game, you have to survive for 40 days on an alien planet. Luckily you have a doctor, a soldier, a psychiatrist, an engineer, a robot and a dog with you—imagine if you'd been stranded with the intergalactic equivalent of Made in Chelsea. Survival is ruthless—at any moment you can choose to kill anyone at the camp. Well, there is rather a lot of meat on a human being. Er, so I'm told.
Submitted for the Interactive Fiction Competition—the same one that brought us last week's Living Will—Guilded Youth is an evocative, brief adventure, (mainly) revolving a creepy old house. While the story could easily stand alone, the game shows what can be achieved with just a light sprinkling of artwork, in this case from the talented Matt Hammill.
I won't say much more, because I don't want to spoil it, but this is a wonderful piece of fiction that gave me the same sense of nostalgia for the early days of the internet as Christine Love's exceptional Digital: A Love Story . That should be all the praise you need to give Guilded Youth a go, even if you've never played any Interactive Fiction. Actually, especially if you've never played any IF.
The main Daymares are more traditional adventure games, set in a surreal, beautiful world and with no handholding in their puzzles whatsoever. You'll need patience to overcome 4's obscurity, but you'll be rewarded in spades with yet more atmospheric, mysterious scenes and memorably unusual characters. An HD, full-screen version of Daymare Town 4 can be yours for $5 —it's a bit of a pixel hunt, so if you enjoy the game, that may be worth a look.
A beautiful, bleak, surreal adventure set in one of the most architecturally interesting game worlds I've come across. No Future contest entry Journalière is silent and wordless, universal and alien—it also has a dancing minigame. Reminiscent of Jack King-Spooner's stuff—and if you haven't yet had the pleasure, please rectify that immediately.
Horror games owe a significant debt to one Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and not just because he's long dead and his work is out of copyright. Plenty of games have included references to his unique brand of cosmic horror, but Anchorhead is more inspired than most, drawing from several of his novels and stories to tell the tale of the a married couple who have inherited an old mansion in a creepy New England town. The sedate exploration of the game's opening segments eventually give way to tense, turn-limited puzzles as you struggle to stop an ancient, possibly world-ending ritual from being completed. No pressure then.
In my first life I was humiliated by an albino bear for the benefit of a jeering Vegas crowd. My second life looked more promising. I was rich, popular, admittedly a bit of a tool, but still a success. That all changed when I missed a drive-by high-five with Kramer from Seinfeld, and wound up being tormented by an old pervert.
Relive Your Life is an interactive narrative punctuated by some incredibly basic minigames. From mashing the X key in a sperm fight to decide your gender, to typing out sentences or matching button prompts. None of them are taxing, but crucially you'll want to go back and deliberately fail them.
A Grain of Truth is a browser-based HTML5 point and click adventure that stands out because of the fantastically weird world that developers the Rudowski brothers have built. You play as Myosotis, a story trader travelling the Endless Plains to hear the tales of the enigmatic Wiseman.
The plains are a lonely and atmospheric setting, in which you'll encounter a handful of characters and strange locations. A pirate ship mounted to the back of a giant beast catches clouds to make bedding, boulders hover in the sky, and a huge cracked rock holds the promise of intriguing discoveries.
Depression Quest is a moving Interactive Fiction story about the difficulties of living with, and attempting to deal with, depression. Created with Twine, you're given a series of common scenarios, and a selection of possible actions to deal with each. Depending on your character's current level of depression, certain actions—inevitably the most healthy or social ones—will be crossed off, often forcing you to make knowingly destructive choices for lack of alternatives.
As a way of putting yourself in the mindset of someone battling the illness, it's a startlingly effective idea. Attempting to make even the most minute progress towards lightening your anxiety is a real struggle, and the smallest of things can fuel a heartbreaking downward spiral.
Bee is an interactive tale by Emily Short, about a home-schooled girl who hopes to become the national spelling bee champion. Rather than the standard interactive fiction text parser, Bee is in the style of a choose-your-own adventure book. You pick from a selection of actions or thoughts, then watch the story unfold along the path that you are shaping.
The strength of the format is that you're always aware of the person at the centre of the story. Rather than the lead character acting as a cypher for the player, the choices you're presented with are always through the filter of her own preconceptions, with you as the nagging voice that questions, or reaffirms, these beliefs.
Moonlight is an interactive short story by Jonas Kyratzes. It starts at a party, and a conversation you have with Stephen Fry, before your choices escalate into some wonderfully weird locations and encounters.
The writing is excellent. It's frequently whimsical, but pulled off with such a light touch that it never becomes annoying. The offhanded surrealism creates frequent memorable sentences, like the brilliant “Doctor House is a very grumpy building that walks with a crane and heals other buildings by diagnosing their structural weaknesses.” Also, Alan Davies is a strobile.
Adam Cadre's back after an 8 year absence from the Interactive Fiction community. His previous text adventures, including the excellent 9:05, have been great starting points for newcomers. Endless, Nameless is not that. It's deliberately old-school, both in setting and delivery. You begin in a tavern in a fantasy town, and soon get put on a quest to kill a dragon to the south. There are trials, fights, spells and a difficulty curve that makes it easy to write your way into a corner.
There's a reason it's (seemingly) so hard. Endless, Nameless is also about the fictional bulletin board that hosts the game, and through a couple of unexpected turns, it creates a deep adventure that's fair, even when it's not.
Hexagon is essentially Super Hexagon's Hexagon mode, in its entirety, for free. The premise is incredibly simple: you rotate an arrow around a circle and try to thread a path through a pulsing neon hexagonal maze. As an exercise in focus, reflexes and pattern recognition, it's every other arcade game triple-distilled: a quick, high-yield dose of flashing lights, pounding music and inevitable crushing failure.
The game that invented the endless runner, and also the game that proved that it is impossible to jump through a window if you are actually trying to do it. I love Canabalt for its atmospheric, low-key sci-fi visuals and Danny Baranowski's amazing soundtrack.
Cats are jerks. They're also adorable, and better at personal hygiene than dogs, so for now our two species can maintain the uneasy truce. Luckily, there's a cathartic antidote to their antics in the form of Catlateral Damage. Originally created for last August's 7 Day FPS challenge, its developer has since worked on the first-person feline simulator in preparation for turning it into a full game.
You play as a cat left alone in a room full of stuff. There's DVDs, toys, books and expensive electrical equipment, all neatly placed on shelves and tables. That simply won't do. Your job is to knock as much of it on to the floor as you can manage in two minutes.
Astrovoid is a twin-stickish shooter with a great feel to the controls, a whole lot of screen shake, and a soundtrack that does that neat dampened-sound/am-I-in-a-nightclub-bathroom thing when you die. Another neat thing that happens when you die is that your little jetpack hero drops a giant ball bearing (or something), which will bounce around killing enemies in your wake. Your score—that giant number in the centre of the screen—isn't finalised until the ball stops moving, adding an element of Breakout to the tail-end of each heart-racing run.
Of the many Flappy Bird tribute games, Terry Cavanagh's Maverick Bird is among the best. It has the same concept, featuring an endless course of randomly generated hazards. Tap up and you'll jump in mid-air, tracing an arc that makes it difficult to neatly pass between the obstacles. The difference is in the presentation. Instead of an awkwardly flapping bird, you play as an abstractly hopping diamond. Instead of cheerful Mario pipes to avoid, it's a variety of pulsating, colour-shifting shapes. It's a brash, vibrant game, with an art style and soundtrack reminiscent of Cavanagh's Super Hexagon.
I'll admit that I'm not au fait with typing tests, but I'm willing to guess that the line “this is how I roll, animal print pants out of control” doesn't usually feature. Step forward Typing Karaoke, in which you type out the lyrics to various songs before the singer has finished singing them.
It parodies the look of rhythm games perfectly. Complete a line and stars erupt from the score bar, the background scene starts to build and the game spouts over the top exclamations like RAD! or WOW! But Typing Karaoke is anything but rhythm-based. The actual typing is frantic and messy, as the ridiculous speed of some of the songs renders them all but impossible to complete. Fortunately, the disconnect between the presentation and the act of playing it is hilarious.
The follow up to the sublime Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing is a five-part episodic murder mystery. Once again, you join Proudbottom and his owl sidekick Jerry for more instructional typing fun. Tragedy interrupts your merry tapping when Icarus is bludgeoned to death with a plastic keyboard.
Joined by Mark 22, the crime solving robot, you set out to find his killer. Your chief suspects are Apollo, Icarus's easy going cousin; Lucida, a member of the Typing Council; and Jerry, who won't stop saying "naught". That's the basic setup, at least. Over the course of the five episodes, things are further complicated by improperly removed USB keys, ancient magicks, and a scuffed up letter A.
Bullet Waltz is a fiendish score attack game about not being shot. Playing as a small pink square, you must avoid the small green squares being fired out of a rotating cannon in the centre of the map. The difficulty in this is that, rather than disappearing off screen, bullets ricochet off the walls and central cannon. This becomes problematic after around the 20th new projectile.
Helping you out are the small flashing squares. These pick-ups temporarily transform you into a spinning giant, able to destroy any bullets that you touch. If you're lucky with the timing, you can chain these for a satisfying, screen-clearing run of destruction.
Three Body Problem is deceptively simple. It's a game about prolonging death and building your high-score by avoiding a game-ending collision with another block. What makes it difficult—uncompromisingly, hair-tearingly difficult—is the movement of the two other blocks. Eventually you will make a mistake, and the AI will immediately punish you for it. The instant restart ensures you'll try again.
How many ships can you destroy with ten more bullets, asks flash game 10 More Bullets. The most, you'd assume, would be ten. Except, when these ones hit a ship, they'll split into more, and more, and more again. As your multiplier increases, so do the number of bullets each ship explodes into, until you've wiped hundreds from the skies. And then you try again, using the gold from your previous attempts to buy upgrades—further increasing your potential for limited ammo destruction. It's wonderfully compulsive.
Despite the Hotline Miami reference, endless runner Hotline Trail features no gore, violence or cod philosophy. It doesn't even have a phone. What it does have is screen-tilting ambience, an '80s inspired soundtrack, and a difficulty curve that makes for a compelling high-score chaser.
You're riding along a top-down, and constantly unfolding road. As you progress, a smooth, mellow voice warns of upcoming hazards. You'll have to navigate through chicanes, roundabouts and hairpins, all at a fixed speed that ensures your mistakes won't go unpunished.
This side-scrolling action roguelike posits that anyone who delves into a dungeon full of monsters is more than a little unhinged. Red Rogue's heroine feels like the most monstrous thing in the game's randomly generated levels. It's the way she and her minion calmly despatch imps: blood spurting across the otherwise monochrome rooms. That feeling can easily slip into overconfidence. Whether it's forgetting to scan for traps or making a poor deal with a chaos god, careless decisions are quickly punished.
I understand your inclination to skip this because of its title. It would be a mistake though, because Skrillex Quest is a well made Zelda homage with an eerily warped theme. The game is set inside a NES cartridge that has been corrupted by a piece of dust. A simple matter of blowing on it for those on the outside, but for the characters in the game it's a more involved quest to rescue the ghost of a princess for... reasons.
The game takes place across a series of distinct stages, each full of glitched cubes that infest their rooms and need defeating to progress. You're against the clock, so you'll have to be quick to fully explore every area before being plunged deeper into the broken world.
Scratch all the layers of polish and visual fluff away from your favourite RPG, and you'll find Kingdom of Loathing underneath. You create a stick-man hero and spend daily adventuring points to raid sketched-out dungeons, kill strange monsters and level up. Your actions resolve instantly, so this is a game about making decisions rather than honing twitch skills. An irreverent sense of humour keeps the grind from getting boring. Be a Disco Bandit! Fight Sinister Fudge Wizards with your Disco Ball! It's a winning formula.
The Nightmare Cooperative doesn't involve a hellish encounter with an overzealous manager of a UK supermarket—it's a turn-based roguelike, like even FIFA will probably be in a couple of years' time. The twist here is that it's a four-player roguelike where you control the entire quartet yourself. Every time you move—once you've rescued your three chums, at least—your three chums move along with you, attacking or avoiding or collecting stuff too, providing there's something adjacent to attack, avoid or pick up. TNC is as much a puzzle game as a roguelike, then, particularly when you take the characters' teensy number of hit points into consideration. Special attention must also be paid to the sound design, which manages to conjure a surprisingly evocative sense of place.
The Candy Box-inspired A Dark Room is another sorta-text-adventure that starts off small—incredibly small—and soon unfolds into something far greater. It begins in a dark room, and with a fire, but pretty soon you're taking care of a whole village. It's a game with a great sense of mystery and satisfying micromanagement, but on a technical level I particularly like the timed decision boxes, which make A Dark Room feel far less static than a lot of text-based titles.
Wayward has all the traits of a roguelike—randomly generated levels and permanently dying characters—but instead of battling through a dungeon, you're fighting for survival. You're more likely to die from hunger than from monsters, although there are plenty of those as well.
It hides a lot of depth behind its top down 16-bit graphics. You begin washed up on a beach, carrying nothing. From there you must chop trees, mine rocks and use the assorted items they give to craft tools. So far, so Minecraft, but Wayward goes further in the amount of detail to its systems.
Seedling is a top-down RPG adventure with plenty of nods to old Zelda games. You play as an unspecified creation of the Oracle, who charges you with the collection of a seed. That's about as far as the plot goes. The rest of the game has you exploring dungeons, killing enemies, collecting items, then using them to unlock the way to new dungeons, enemies and items.
This isn't so much a recommendation as it is a warning. As of writing, I have 432.3 million cookies, and I'm producing more at a rate of 3.01 million per second.
In the beginning, you follow Cookie Clicker's instructive title and click the giant cookie on the screen. Doing so bakes a single cookie. Click fourteen more times, and you'll have made enough to afford a Cursor, which automatically clicks every ten seconds. Get this far and you're already in trouble. If Cookie Clicker had microtransactions, it would be a weaponized strike against wallets. Instead, it's merely a worryingly addictive time waster.
I've now hit 20 billion—enough cookies to genetically enhance my workforce of grannies and buy an antimatter condenser. Send help.
The first Candy Box used the incremental waiting period enforced by the most exploitative free-to-play games, but hung something silly around it. Candies slowly ticked in, and new features were slowly unlocked, but then there were quests and riddles and as many jokes as you could fit into an HTML page full of ASCII.
This time, you're quickly given access to a full world map, and it's there that you'll spend the majority of the game. You can visit villages, slay camels, explore a 3D cavern, and talk to a squirrel, all in the name of candy collection.
Frog Fractions is a difficult game to talk about, because ideally you should play it as fresh and free from spoilers as possible. Even pointing out that it can be spoilt is a spoiler, because it suggests there's more to the game than it would initially have you believe. It starts as a forgettable parody that's part Missile Command, part edutainment spoof. But the real Frog Fractions is a game that's frequently surprising, silly and hilarious. It would be wrong to give away any of what happens next, but I'll give you a hint to help find it: go down.
The great Flash conglomerate known as Major Bueno continues to win browser games with the briefly wonderful A Second Chance, which is basically a screen full of buttons that enable funny things. You're a guy at NASA mission control, or something like that, and all you have to do is help a team of astronauts plant and explode a bomb on an incoming asteroid. The 'right' path is quite simple and doesn't take very long, but there are a few minutes of fun to be had from getting things A Bit Wrong first—as usual, this is mainly down to the fantastic artwork.
There you are, happily clinging for life on the side of a cliff when, all of a sudden, along comes a bird. Birds, as everyone knows, are nature's biggest jerks. To prove the folly in not evolving wings, he decides to peck at your fingers. Seriously, birds! They're proper bastards.
In fairness, you've got a bigger problem to deal with when playing No, Birdie, No: the control scheme. The game is played by holding down A, S, D and F, with each key correlating to a finger on both hands. When the bird stops at a finger, you release that key to raise it, causing the bird to miss and allowing you to avoid a grip loosening injury.
McPixel creator Sos Sosowski is back with the lightly Enviro-Bear 2000-ish Night Rider Turbo, which sees you operating an awesome car that gradually falls apart in your hands. To get the most out of this joyously silly game, make sure you pull, press, prod and poke everything in sight. I particularly like the soundtrack, which perfectly complements the thrill of hurtling down a motorway into oncoming traffic while driving a car held together by sticky tape.
You probably shouldn't push a big red button in a game entitled 'Room of 1000 Snakes', but even after seeing this hilarious, brief game—from Zineth developers Arcane Kids—to its inevitable conclusion, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Tremendous stuff, with the perfect choice of soundtrack.
It's just as easy to fail at as QWOP, but I find GIRP gentler somehow. You climb a rockface (and avoid falling into the sea) by holding down various keys on your keyboard to indicate where to place your climber's flailing hands. Let go, and he lets go—turning the game into a kind of small-scale Twister—or full-scale Twister, if you're lucky enough to get to play it on a set of rejigged dance mats.
QWOP is named after the keys you use to control it: QW to pump your sprinter's thighs, OP to arc his calves. The experience is what I imagine it's like to be an alien placed inside a robotic humansuit, pulling levers to manoeuvre the appendages. The result on screen is simultaneously tense and hilarious. One leg stretches out, the other hops pathetically, the runner's balance starts to slowly topple, keys are hammered in an attempt to try to return upright, and then it's over. Your score: 1.4 metres.
A stylishly camp auto-running game about a robot unicorn leaping across gaps and listening to the Erasure song 'Always' on repeat. If that doesn't make you want to play it, I definitely don't wanna be with you / or make believe with you / or live in harmony, harmony, oh love.