That really important thing that needs doing? Yeah, that’s not going to happen, because we’ve rounded up the finest browser games in existence – and they’re all free.
You’ll need a good browser to run them – Chrome’s the best bet. Otherwise, delve in and enjoy games that are so good you’ll set fire to your Xbox and live life entirely inside a web browser.
(Oh, all right, they’re not quite that good, but if you can’t waste an insane number of hours playing these fab games, it must be because you hate fun itself.)
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The best word games are the simplest ones, and Wordle is certainly simple. Essentially anagrams mashed into Mastermind, it’s a code-breaking logic game where you guess a five-letter word of the day across a maximum of six rounds.
During each round, letters are coloured in. Grey ones aren’t in the word. Yellow ones are, but in a different place. And green means you’ve nailed letter and placement alike. Succeed and you can share a grid of coloured squares on Twitter, thereby baffling everyone who hasn’t played the game before. Bonus!
Fancy a relaxing game of Tetris? You won’t get it here, because Tetr.io is all about block-stacking at speed. You start off ‘training’ in solo modes, which have you race to 40 lines or get a high-score against the clock. It’s frantic stuff.
Eventually, you’ll dip into the multiplayer modes – and rapidly discover how insanely good Tetris players can be. Make the top 20 in the main game and you’ve nippier digits than Stuff. Fortunately, there are also less manic custom rooms and 1v1 bouts to play until you’re ready to take on the best in the world.
A Dark Room
Coming from the same developer as Gridland (also in this list) and supplying a similar ‘thrive ‘n’ survive’ challenge, A Dark Room nevertheless takes a very different tack. It’s a text- and menu-driven adventure in which you build up and maintain a successful community in a harsh wilderness. Logistics and supply management are as important as surviving animal attacks, and the adventure can be long and gruelling. Fortunately, you can save progress in your browser and continue at a later date.
Alter Ego isn’t pretty – visually or in terms of content. This browser-based remake of an ancient PC game deals with progress through everyday life. It’s as far from The Sims as you can imagine, too – instead of cute little idiots blundering about, you get stark icons and multiple-choice text.
But there’s depth, with a clever (if admittedly slightly conservative) script written by a psychologist, which offers branching progress that could lead you to a happy old age or abruptly dying as a toddler, having necked some bleach found under the sink.
This official online remake of a 1980s 8-bit classic finds Rockford digging through dirt, grabbing diamonds, and trying to avoid getting crushed by the titular boulders or blown up by explosive underground wildlife.
It looks crude, but the mix of puzzling and arcade action remains highly compelling. It’s not quite a one-to-one conversion – some cave speeds are off, for example, but it scratches a particular retro itch when you’ve a few minutes to spare, and are many miles away from a Commodore 64.
Candy Box 2
The beginning of Candy Box 2 is as minimal as can be. A candy counter ticks upwards, and you can eat all your candies, or lob some to the ground. But amass enough sugary treats and Candy Box 2 rapidly goes a bit weird.
What started out resembling a pointless clicker transforms into an oddball RPG. You ‘buy’ a status bar, and then some weapons, before scouring a village and beyond, embarking on epic quests where you get all stabby with an ASCII sword. Because that’s the final bit of bonkers: Candy Box 2 looks like it’s beamed in from a Commodore PET – and it’s glorious.
Quite possibly depicting an accurate portrayal of a worker’s plight in a gigantic warehouse, Cardhoard+ finds a summer jobber leaping about, applying packaging tape to gigantic cardboard boxes. Once taped, boxes can be stomped on, which explains the state they’re in when they show up at your door.
To keep your little worker ‘motivated’, boxes are occasionally replaced by cubes that emit deadly laser beams. And should a stack of boxes reach a line of doom, it disintegrates and is replaced by an indestructible penalty cube.
This is fast, furious, satirical fun that would have made a great Game Boy title back in the day.
Sort of what might happen if you knocked Threes! into pool, Combo Pool finds you firing coloured balls into a tiny arena. If two match, they merge and upgrade to the next colour, until you eventually knock together a pair of explosive pink balls.
The twist is you’ve an energy bar – keep smashing balls into the arena without combining them and your life quickly runs dry. One for wannabe trick shot masters, then, not least because rebounds considerably ramp up your score.
It’s hard to know what to make of Cookie Clicker. On one hand, it’s essentially a Skinner box, rewarding players with nothing in particular in return for them clicking like crazy. But it also appears to be an amusing satire on the state of modern ‘idle’ gaming.
Initially, you click and you get a cookie. The more cookies you have, the more power-ups you can afford, including cursors that click on your behalf. Eventually, you’re using time machines to bring cookies from the past, “before they were even eaten”, and converting raw light into cookies with giant prisms, to bring in millions of cookies per second. To what end? Stuff‘s not sure, but currently has 509 billion cookies in a really big plastic box if you fancy one.
Spuds we like: Spaceplan
Another food-oriented clicker, Spaceplan mashes up potatoes and absurdism. It’s based around a quirky AI and things having gone wrong with space. So you fire Spudniks into orbit and use Probetatoes to land on planetary bodies – ensuring they’re wrapped in foil to withstand re-entry. All scientifically accurate, we’re sure.
Drop Wizard Tower
This love letter to classic single-screen platform games like Bubble Bobble, Snow Bros. and Tumblepop finds a wizard darting about, aiming to knock out foes and send them reeling with a kick.
The snag is, this wizard can’t stop. So you direct his autorunning antics by prodding the left or right arrow key, carefully timing platform touchdowns, because that’s when he emits a magic blast. Bosses and a levelling up matrix further ensure you fall under this game’s spell.
Pop stuff: Bubble Bobble
This Pico-8 Bubble Bobble demake astonishingly packs in almost everything from Taito’s 1986 arcade classic, with two leapy dinosaurs blowing bubbles to trap and blow up monsters. It’s compelling (if cosy in two-player mode) and more forgiving than the original. Just don’t complain to us when that tune lodges in your head.
This platform game feels like a love letter to 1980s gaming, with its retro-infused visuals and decidedly strange backstory that happens to feature a goat. Only, this is no ordinary goat – you see, it’s purple, and also happens to have been imprisoned for witchcraft.
What follows is a bunch of single-screen puzzles where you leap about, triggering switches that shift walls, all the while trying to figure out your way to the exit. You’re not alone either – you also team up with a friendly hamster, who you can teleport to with the aid of a magic hat. Because of course you can.
Man, 1980s games were weird.
A single-screen platformer where you leap about, avoid hazards and head for an exit? Even the ZX Spectrum could handle that. But wait, because Economical has a twist: you use clicks to plant handy boxes that help you reach stuff – or block deadly spikes.
The snag is that boxes cost money. Reach your goal having splashed out too much cash and the game laughs in your face. (Actually, it doesn’t, but you don’t get gold and silver ranking awards, thereby showing you’re in fact rubbish.)
Fist of Awesome
For some reason, bears have taken over the world, and it falls to a bearded lumberjack to put right what’s clearly gone very wrong.
Initially, you punch your way through Bearhattan, in a manner PETA would vehemently disagree with. (That said, the local eateries are advertising ‘flame-grilled human flesh’.) You’re then hurled back in time, kicking dinosaurs and cavebears to bits, before quite literally going medieval.
If you’ve played any incarnation of Civilization, you’ll know what a time sink it is. This online turn-based strategy title, very heavily inspired by Sid Meier’s classic game, is therefore equal parts impressive, engaging, playable and terrifying.
As ever, you start out with an explorer and some workers, searching a map and dealing with other clans (by way of diplomacy or fisticuffs). Your ultimate aim: spreading yourself across the world – ideally via domination rather than in a more literal sense with your innards.
Gods Will Be Watching
Expanded to a full game in 2014, Gods Will Be Watching’s browser incarnation is a stripped-back and decidedly bleak single-scene point-and-click survival tale. A team, on the brink of madness, is stranded, starving and cold. To make matters worse, the radio’s broken, which either means no contacting a rescue fleet or no BBC Radio 6 Music. Horrible either way. Your aim is to get everyone through 40 days, balancing all their needs (attention; sustenance; warmth; health) through your paltry amount of ‘daily’ moves.
Game of Bombs
Game of Bombs transforms Bomberman into a massively multiplayer online retro arcade experience. The premise remains the same as ever: amble about, set bombs to take out walls and monsters, get away from the bombs so they don’t blow you to pieces, and collect whatever’s found in the retro carnage. The difference here is in the giant maps, and being able to bomb (or team up with) people from all over the world. And remember: if in doubt, RUN AWAY!
This one simulates the sheer panic clean-up that occurs when your mother shows up unannounced, and your flat appears to have had an unfortunate incident involving garbage, laundry and high explosives.
Hopefully, your own abode isn’t quite as grim as this student hovel filled with unwashed pants and bits of pizza. Regardless, you’ve three minutes to get everything shipshape.
Don’t think you can just hide everything either – this game’s mum dishes out report cards for cleanliness, and won’t stand for cold pizza in the washing machine.
Gridland resembles a typical match-three puzzler, but is really something else entirely. However, this only becomes clear after a few failed attempts to work through day (building structures with your earnings) and then battle evil horrors in the darkness as night falls.
To say more would spoil a great game, but there is one tip to bear in mind: if you too often die, change your approach. Day and night are very different beasts.
Another visitor! Stay a while! Stay FOREVARRRRR! If you once owned a C64, Professor Elvin Atombender’s deranged rant may well be burned into your brain; even if you’re a newcomer, look past the blocky graphics and you’ll find Impossible Mission is one of the best platform games around.
Your aim as a somersaulting secret agent is to search Atombender’s fortress for puzzle pieces that form a password; this is then compiled in a control room, as a means to halt armageddon. Unfortunately, the agent is a buffoon and his only defence against the deadly robots that roam the fortress’s platforms is to run away or leap over them, rather than blowing them to pieces with a really big gun.
Spec chum: Manic Miner
While less sophisticated than Impossible Mission, Manic Miner is at least as iconic, and finds Miner Willy attempting to collect objects across 20 increasingly tough single-screen stages. This is an excellent port of the ZX Spectrum original that handily lets you restart from any stage you’ve so far completed.
The original Space Invaders is a classic, and one of the most important videogames of all time – but it’s also really dull. Taito long ago figured out doddering aliens and sluggish bullets isn’t an exciting combination, hence ramping up the speed and chaos for Space Invaders Extreme, Space Invaders Infinity Gene, and Arkanoid vs Space Invaders.
Invader Overload riffs off of the first of those, but as if it was on a NES. It’s fast, furious, endless, and welds a basic match game to the mix – grab three coloured blocks in a row and you can unleash superweapon death on the alien scumbags. Grab enough coins and there are bosses to battle, too.
We’re in MMO Rougelike territory here, as you take a little character and tootle around a map, looking for treasure and duffing up monsters. Only, because of the MMO bit, you won’t have to do all of this alone.
Initial minutes with the game might baffle – bar a very brief intro, it just lets you poke around and figure things out. But the wiki should provide a pathway to bling, rather than finding yourself regularly – and embarrassingly – dispatched by angry bunnies.
If your aim is to relax a bit rather than immerse yourself in browser-based arcade fare, i-Spy might fit the bill. It’s a straightforward finding test, where you’re tasked with finding specific characters within a detailed illustration.
There is a timer, but it’s pretty relaxed, more urging you on a bit rather than making you panic. Although you might think otherwise when the game stops asking you to search for people and instead demands you find an annoyingly tiny and surprisingly elusive fish.
Seemingly depicting extreme skipping combined with surrealist torture, one-thumb acton game Jump Doper finds various objects tasked with endlessly leaping over a deadly swinging rope. Duff timing results in a bloody splat as a piece of said object is sliced away, like salami.
If you’re fortunate, your hobbled cactus or partly decapitated car will be able to continue for a bit. If not, just be glad whatever skipping humiliation you once suffered likely didn’t involve abrupt dismemberment.
We’re cheating a bit here, because this is a website that’s painstakingly recreated a bunch of LCD games, so you can find out what handheld gaming was like before the Game Boy was even a twinkle in Nintendo’s pants.
There are some classics here as you prod keys to jerk your protagonist left and right, your eyes and reactions alike adjusting to the lack of fluid animation. The games are still pretty smart, mind.
Little Alchemy 2
Fancy trying your hand at browser-based ‘science’? Then fire up Little Alchemy 2, which charges you with synthesising hundreds of items. You start with the bare basics (air, earth, and so on), but are soon figuring out what you might get by combining any pair for ants, caviar, a puddle and an ostrich.
This isn’t exactly Breaking Bad, then, and nor do the solutions resemble what you’d find in textbooks. Instead, the game has you think laterally, whimsically, or even surreally, to find combinations. A plane, for example, is a metal bird. Obvious, when you think about it…
Remember when Macromedia Flash ruled the internet? This game doesn’t, insisting the web was primarily powered by Mackerelmedia Fish. And if you think that’s taking the piscine, we’ve barely skimmed the surface of its oddball depths.
What Nathalie Lawhead’s created here is a deranged narrative game that harks back to the days of lurid websites while riffing on the transient nature of online homes. On the plus side, there’s a link-munching rodent, whose cute little face balances the darker story about the ongoing loss of digital history.
When muscle-bound hunks and dapper wizards blaze their way through dungeons, no-one thinks of the minions – but providing a challenge to adventurers is a full-time job. More specifically, it’s your job.
In Mobs, Inc., there are loads of do-gooder sword-wielding nutters about, and you must kill them all, using your mouse to direct your movement, and a click to satisfyingly slice them in two.
Do well and you’re promoted, which means more work – but armed with spells. Die and you get a ticking off from the boss, before being hurled back into the fray. Get killed four times, and you’re fired. Given that your boss seems to be a massive demon, we shudder to think what that means.
This stylish greyscale shooter finds your ship zooming towards a monolith on the horizon that suspiciously never seems to get any nearer. (Games, eh?) Naturally, said monolith is heavily armed.
You can shoot back, but only after your rubbish missile system has locked on. So begins a ‘hyperkinetic’ game of bullet hell patterns, cunning feints, and locking on to enemies to unleash explosive missile death. (All, in each case, for one miserly point. Bah.)
One Tap Quest
Imagine a semi-randomised retro RPG combined with rolling a rock down a hill just to see what happens. That’s One Tap Quest, which gives you a single tap/click for glory. That action has your hero set off, marching upwards to resolutely duff up enemies and snag power-ups in their path.
The trick is timing that all-important start so your stabby hero can make it through the various enemies and take on the big, bad boss with enough energy intact. It’s ridiculous yet compelling. We managed 16,600 points and were properly down the rabbit-hole on discovering via Reddit that you can hack the game’s monster count.
Fancy yourself something of an artist? Put your sketching skills to the test in this devilish AI-based take on Pictionary, in which you’re tasked to draw everyday objects (‘fire engine’, ‘clarinet’, ‘frying pan’, and so on) and have them recognised by Google’s deep learning-based judge. If your crude scrawling hits the mark, you get to draw another one, again and again, until you fail.
Another ambitious Pico-8 game, Ramps comes across like Power Drift and Stunt Car Racer had a baby. You strap yourself into a chunky kart and blaze along five stomach-churning tracks that have more in common with rollercoasters than traditional racing fare. It’s exhilarating stuff. You soon find yourself ignoring the chunky retro-style graphics and yelling as an aggressive computer player barges you off of the track, costing you precious seconds and your chance of taking the chequered flag.
Shall We Golf?
Unusually for an online mini golf game, the twist in Shall We Golf? isn’t oddball courses. In fact, they’re dull, boxy, 2D affairs. This game’s freshness – and much of its challenge – instead stems from it drawing heavily from Snake. Rather than move one golfer around the course, you have a string of players, any one of which can be passed the club. Success depends on manoeuvring your golfing conga to create a pathway to the hole, golfers becoming barriers when whoever has the club whacks the ball their way.
We’re a fan of Colin Lane’s oddball fighting games, as evidenced by Knight Brawl winning app of the week some time ago. Rowdy Wrestling is a simpler, older effort. It’s equally bonkers but more suited to browser-based play.
You’re lobbed into the ring with a bunch of other muscle-bound oafs. Your arms whirl and the ground appears to comprise trampolines. While battling opponents and the game’s physics alike, you must stay in the ring – something occasionally made easier when you’re handed a chair to unsportingly whack over someone’s head!
Originally a tasty slice of PC freeware, Spelunky then became a darling of the PS Vita indie scene. It’s easy to see why: the mix of traps, monsters, route-finding and secrets, and fast-paced classic platforming action across randomly generated maps, is intoxicating stuff.
The original was in 2012 reworked for the browser, and remains superb fun – although you might disagree when your cute little adventurer is suddenly shot out of the air with a poison dart or clubbed to death by an irate caveman.
Alexey Pajitnov struck gaming gold on creating Tetris. Decades later, its mix of shape sorting and tense endless action remains intoxicating – at least when publishers don’t ruin it with in-app purchases.
Fortunately, this online version is a straightforward affair: rotate shapes; make complete lines; continue until the well fills; realise you’ve spent 14 hours straight playing Tetris.
Fancy something Tetris-ish, but a bit different? Then check out Tetris Gems, where you use blocks to dig into dirt against the clock, and this adorable approximation of the original Electronika 60 Tetris.
For many, Threes! is mobile’s Tetris – a ridiculously compulsive and replayable puzzler ideally suited to smartphones, and that ravenously devours your time. And it’s available online, too, so thanks for that, developers. Does our productivity mean nothing to you? (Probably not.)
The game has you swipe numbered tiles around a four-by-four grid, merging pairs to increase their numbers. You might say that sounds an awful lot like 2048, but 2048 is in fact a rubbish clone of Threes!, so stick with the original, and blissfully ignore all those deadlines whizzing past your ears.
There’s no scoring in Townscaper, nor any objective but to explore. And the game’s all the better for it, providing a meditative, thoughtful experience as you plop foundations into an endless ocean and start to build.
Much of the joy in Townscaper is in figuring out its rules. How do you create a lighthouse? What nets you a garden rather than concrete? Note that mobile support is limited as is the space on which to build – so if you like this but want more, buy the full version.
This superb word game subverts crosswords, having you drag columns of letters about to colour tiles. When all the tiles are coloured, you can bask in your ability to pick words out of a jumble – or methodically brute-force answers when you can’t find the final word.
A trio of themed web-only puzzles is available on the TypeShift website; beyond those, there’s a daily puzzle over at the home of dictionary gurus Merriam-Webster. And although one puzzle per day might not seem like much, some of them are tricky enough to demand an entire lunch hour.
Under The Sun
With its serene skiing action and ambient soundtrack, there are hints here of Alto’s Odyssey, but Under The Sun has vertical scrolling that makes it more reminiscent of old-school slalom titles – and the stripped-back gameplay provides a similar vibe.
Once you set off, you click to switch direction, always aiming to avoid obstacles in your path. A single collision ends your go, and you must also take care to not zoom off of the screen’s edges. Failure’s brutally abrupt and can frustrate, but there’s always the lovely music to listen to when you need to calm down a bit.
This fast-paced platformer is a smart time-attack challenge that has you sprint and fly through 33 levels, grabbing as many trophies as you can along the way.
The gameplay might seem a touch familiar, but everything here is top-notch: chunky retro graphics; jaunty soundtrack; responsive controls and well-judged physics when jetpacking through the air; and tight level design that forces you to pay attention if you don’t want to keep getting impaled on spikes.
The Wiki Game
You know all that time you spend blindly clicking links on Wikipedia? Put that to good use in this Wiki-based speedrunner. Playing against online opponents, you’re given start and end pages and have to get between the two.
Should you complete your task before the timer’s up, you gain bonus points and jump up the high-score table by finding alternate routes. And, hey, you can even convince yourself that all this Wiki faffing is in fact work – training for your next research session. Probably.
Wizard of Wor
Wizard Of Wor appears to be a browser-based remake of a C64 conversion of an ancient arcade game! Which is a bit weird. It’s a fantastic old-school title, though, where you roam claustrophobic mazes and blast monsters before they tear your face off. Best of all, there’s a simultaneous two-player mode. Hit Shift and player one (blue) can use AWSD and Shift, while player two (yellow) uses the cursors and Enter. Given that you can ‘accidentally’ shoot each other, too, either of you can then use the entire keyboard to smack your opponent with.
Note: use Firefox for this one.
World’s Biggest Pac-Man
Built to promote the original Pac-Man‘s 30th anniversary (they grow up so fast!), World’s Biggest Pac-Man makes two major changes to the original title. First, the two wraparound tunnels are replaced by four doorways, one at each screen edge, enabling you to escape to another maze. Secondly, the creators enabled anyone to submit mazes. Within a week, there were over 10,000. Now there are hundreds of thousands – enough to last even the most ardent dot-muncher several lifetimes.