Flash games may be the epitome of wasting time, but there’s no denying their appeal when you have five minutes to spare and a thirst for something more than a cursory glance at Twitter or Facebook. They’ve come a long way from their humble, vector-based beginnings, finding a home at websites like Newgrounds, Kongregate, and Addicting Games among other popular sites, while becoming increasingly more complex and fully-featured. Whereas many early flash games were browser-based recreations of classic titles like Pac-Man and Frogger, the market new heights with the introduction of high-speed Internet and hit titles like Bowman, The Impossible Quiz, and Max Dirt Bike. It’ll be years before they could offer the in-depth storyline, cutting-edge graphics, or sheer scope of today’s blockbuster console titles, but there’s no reason browser-based alternatives can’t hold you over between meetings or during those drab hours of the day. No one wants to spend $60, anyway.
Here are our top picks for the best Flash games available directly within your favorite browser. Also, check out hand-picked selection of the best free MMORPGs and the best free online game sites if you’re in dire need of a few more ways to kill the time.
First impressions can be deceiving — just take affable Jacksmith as a prime example. The game’s initial premise seems fairly run-of-the-mill — requiring players to don the role of a small-town blacksmith hellbent on arming his band of pig warriors with the finest weapons ever assembled. Once crafted via a simple process encompassing a slew of click-reliant minigames (i.e. pouring bronze, hammering edges, constructing hilts), players then oversee several combatants in the field, collecting blueprints, gems, and other resources enemies drop in order to build more refined weapons. Although battles automatically play out, weapon duration and battle success depends on how well you perform in the minigames, which becomes increasingly harder as you receive larger weapon orders and less time. The title does become rather repetitive at times, but you’ll begin to find a certain satisfaction in constructing well-built instruments of war designed to mow down legions of bats, slugs, and otherworldly miscreants on your path toward defeating the diabolical, Great Wizard Dudley.
Avoiding chemistry homework and playing MotherLoad into the wee hours of the night was basically a rite of passage if you grew up in the early 2000s. The tunneling title is reminiscent of old-school classics like Dig Dug and Boulder Dash, pitting players in a quest for a fabled, precious bounty of rare ore buried deep within the dark recesses lying beneath the surface of Mars. Players control a robotic mining pod, tunneling their way through the earth using the down, left, and right arrow keys, and flying upward to refuel their machine at the nearest depot. Gamers can use in-game resources to purchase additional pod upgrades, such as an expanded fuel tank and a more advanced drill, while bonus items like the plastic explosives and Quantum Teleporter present welcome gameplay mechanics designed to interrupt what would be the stagnant humdrum of merely moving around the screen. It certainly won’t be the most inventive or prettiest title to grace your monitor, but it’s a Flash classic, and the unbridled sense of pleasure you’ll receive upon finding mineable gold is well worth the hours of gameplay.
With Super Mario 63, a fan-made platformer in the Mario vein, players pummel their way through the reinvisioned, 2D-ized world of Super Mario 64. The level variation is outstanding, encapsulating everything from high peaks to arid deserts, and offering a slew of levels through which players can sprint, triple jump, and ground pound their way in effort to reclaim the fabled Shine Sprites and rescue the iconic Princess Peach. The controls are basic — founded on the stereotypical arrow keys and the Z, X, and C buttons — but they can prove difficult while using extra peripherals such as the flying cap. Other memorable elements from past Mario titles also trickle in, most notably the water jetpack from Super Mario Sunshine and various baddies, rendering the game more than a simple side-scrolling port. It features all the qualities of a standout Mario title, sans the console and polished visuals, yet still somehow proves a perfect mishmash of classic familiarity that can create something entirely unique.
As the direct followup to developer FlyAnvil’s Decision, the second installment in the series offers more than few similarities. Like the original title, players are thrust into a zombie-ravaged metropolis and armed to the teeth with an arsenal of weapons (i.e. an Enfield, M-16, colt, bazooka) to combat the impending, walking infection. It’s a top-down shooter that relies on the arrow keys and mouse for navigating and shooting within the city, and it’s embellished with a touch of humor. Once started, players work to capture city suburbs through a series of recon and extermination missions. The character animations are impressive for a Flash title, though bloody, and the game runs smoothly regardless of the sheer amount of zombie hordes likely to appear within seconds of one another. There’s certainly no shortage of ammunition or dawdling in Decision 2 — blame it on the werewolves and your character’s robust upgrade tree — but it often feels like more of an expansion of its predecessor than a fully-fledged game. Thankfully, more of the same isn’t such a bad thing.
A game doesn’t need to be groundbreaking to offer high levels of entertainment — Soul Game Studios’ Rogue Soul can attest to that. The aptly-titled platformer throws players in the role of a hooded ninja named Rogue Soul, an able miscreant who prides himself in being the city’s finest and most allusive thief. However, when rival bandit Borin Hood garners all the praise (and a 5,000-soulon reward), Rogue Soul takes it upon himself to reclaim his title and wreak havoc on the Aladdin-esque landscape through a series of scrolling levels. Players will find themselves running, sliding, and jumping their way through the cartoonish city streets, knocking out local militia, traversing fatal pits via parachute, and handing out flowers in exchange for welcome ability upgrades. However, it’s not the gameplay itself making Rouge Soul a knockout, but rather the fluidy of the mechanics. There’s few more enjoyable moments in the Flash world than sliding beneath a fence and throwing a dagger at a spearman before nabbing a treasure chest for the win.