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Top Ten Web/Browser Games

This game will make another list.  I promise.

Allow me to Infomercial you for a second.

Isn’t Gaming a Hassle? Turning on your television, picking up your controller, turning on your console, waiting for a game to load, turning it off when you’re done.

It’s a short-attention span world. We all want distractions, and the easier the better. That’s why there are web games. Little windows, running on Flash, Unity or Javascript. Just another one your tabs, like that Wikipedia page of electromagnetism, Facebook, and those seven YouTube videos of Alizee (look her up, I’ll wait).

I’ll level with you. For a long time, most web/browser games sucked. At worst, they were inbred Marios, bootleg clones of better PC or console experiences. At best, they were banal versions of Solitaire and Minesweeper. The VERY BEST you could hope for was Quest for the Crown (still a high water mark for the soundtrack alone).

But in the last three or four years, something’s happened. Designers have started to figure out how to use these lightweight, quickly-developed experiences for good instead of evil. We’re starting to see interesting short form games, games that provide experiences you wouldn’t WANT on the big screen. The right kind of experiments, and in these test tubes, some wild successes.

These days, I probably spend more time playing browser games than console games. Here are a few of the best I’ve seen – a sampler platter of online awesome. Download a free Flash Player and try them out – it’s a mix, so you probably won’t love them all. But one of these games may just make your day better in five minutes of unassuming play. And one of these games may send you into a K-Hole, an abyss of slack-jawed clicking that will consume a work week or more. I’ll let you figure out which is which.

10. Boomshine
Boomshine
A nice, casual primer… utterly simple, but compelling. Sorry about the ad, dude’s gotta make a buck.

9. Samorost 2
Samorost 2
An insane Czech adventure game in a beautiful art style. Samorost 1 is good too… just not as pretty.

8. Exploit
Exploit
An Atari/Ascii-lookin’ abstract hacker puzzler. Haven’t seen anything like it, before or since.

7. Rose and Camellia
Rose and Camellia
Words ALMOST fail me, but I’ll try. A frenetic Japanese mouse-based action game featuring Victorian women in an operatic slap-fest. It’s basically Punchout: the Period Piece. Isn’t the internet great?

6. Indestructotank AE
Indestructotank
But sometimes, in this world, you need more catharsis than even a slapfight can provide. Sometimes, you need to drive an indestructible, gunless tank through an infinite combo juggle of exploding helicopters.

5. Don’t Look Back
Don't Look Back
This game couldn’t be more different than #6. Powerlessness instead of power, eerie silence instead of kabooms. This is a very hard, very dark retro platformer about… well, about a very old story. Not for the faint-hearted, but a good example of where art games are going (with or without the rest of the world).

4. Bow Street Runner
Bow Street
Yes, that’s a screenshot. A goofy, amazing live action detective adventure in five episodes. Apparently it was a promotion for a BBC show. God I love it, despite its occasional click-everywhere gameplay.

3. Flow
Flow
This game is one of the reasons I went to USC (it was a Master’s thesis in the Interactive Media department). A simple, elegant, serene and slightly mysterious riff on jellyfish, pac-man, and self-adjusting difficulty. It just feels good to swim that little guy around. Even after three years, I still find myself occasionally coming back to Flow, just to play for a minute or two.

2. Off-Road Velociraptor Safari
Raptor Safari
Yes, this is the only non-Flash game on the list. You’ll need to get a free Unity plug-in to play it. It’s worth it, because this little 3D stunt-driving gem is the most insane web game I’ve ever played. Everything in this game, from story to physics, is tuned for maximum ridiculousness. You will feel so wrong, and so utterly right, when you ram that bird-lizard into a teleporter after doing a barrel roll off a 200 foot cliff while listening to Mariah Carey’s “Daydream” album. (That last part is your choice, though, friendo. Why are you listening to that old R&B crap?)

1. Desktop Tower Defense
DTD
If you have never played this game before, I’m sorry. To a certain type of personality, a builder/tweaker, Desktop Tower Defense is digital crack. I’ve played this game more than any other online game, just TRYING to beat that 55th level boss (thankfully missing in the latest version). This is my online strategy game of choice, a near-perfect blend of watching and acting, of order and chaos. This is war, you vs. the ever-advancing hordes of little anthropomorphic cartoon shapes. This is the fortunate truth: a little screen on a firefox tab can draw you in as easily, and as completely, as a 15 million dollar AAA game.

So there you have it, ten console games I’m proud to have played. As it turns out, there are at least ten more high-quality games I had to leave off to make this work, so if there’s demand, I’ll be back in a week or two with a redux. Til then, enjoy, and don’t forget to tab back to PopTen once in a while.

2 thoughts on “Top Ten Web/Browser Games”

  1. Victor Pineiro says:

    Between Boomshine’s musak-laden ecstasy and Indestructtank’s violent euphoria, I’m bugging out, and haven’t even made it below #5!

    A mighty list indeed, friendo. Now onto Don’t Look Back…

  2. wired.com says:

    You may you should be amazed at just how many persons chuck their deals wind up in the trash.

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