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.
If you’re looking for cheap thrills, here are our top picks for the best Flash games available directly within your favorite browser.
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.
Super Adventure Pals is the only game on our list featuring a rideable giraffe. The gameplay is as adorable as the title, and though it appears to be a classic platformer a la Mario, it often shares more parallels with early titles in the Zelda franchise than Nintendo’s number one mascot. With Super Adventure Pals, players must pummel their way through a series of sidescrolling levels in an effort to reclaim the trio’s third companion, Mister Rock, from the envious Mr. B. Gameplay is fast-paced, requiring players to frantically swing their sword and hurl bombs as they traverse the varied maps, and game even incorporates various RPG elements in the form of quest items and resounding experience points used to purchase level upgrades (i.e. health and strength). The world map used to navigate from level to level is a staple of the genre, as are the heart-wrenching spikes and other obstacles, but there’s no denying developer Jay Armstrong’s touch of humor and animation.
The notion of permanent death may be a daunting concept in the virtual world. Realm of the Mad God is an online MMORPG that simultaneously tackles elements of a traditional shooter, pitting players from all walks of life alongside one another in a class-driven crusade against the minions of dark lord Oryx. The old-school map is expansive, teeming with an exhaustive swarm of formidable enemies and diverse environments, while rollicking in a sure-footed, pixelated demeanor fit for the 8-bit era. Although the title fancies itself more of an open-world shooter than RPG, players can still level up and gather upgradeable loot, swappable at the local bazaar, and choose from one of 14 available classes (wizard, huntress, mystic, assassin, etc.). It’s arcade-style controls and pure bullet hell render the title chaotic at times — as does each server’s 85-player capacity — yet, it’s also deceptively rich considering the genre-bending elements and the title’s strong emphasis on a single life. Talk about harsh.
Adult Swim is undoubtedly at the forefront when it comes to risque and borderline-bizarre cable content. That’s not to say the network’s Super House of Dead Ninjas is unorthodox, but it’s far more brutal than most of the recommendations on our list. It’s not so much about stealth and sneaking as it basic hack-and-slash gameplay, ushering players to frantically descend a randomized 350-level tower as the Crimson Ninja, clad in an arsenal of stereotypical ninja weaponry designed to obliterate the onslaught of enemies. You’re constantly at the mercy of two countdown timers, one signaling the appearance of the Grim Reaper and the other encapsulating your rage progress, as well the game’s staggered boss battles and the final showdown against the hellish demon housed in the tower’s basement. The action is blazing fast, the learning curb and game length fairly modest, yet the challenge and sheer amount of unlockable content belie all the game’s other memorable facets. The virtual scanlines and the fact no two towers are ever the same is only a bonus.
Jim Crawford’s Frog Fractions starts out easy enough with a frog, some fruit, and a slew of pop-up fractions. However, although the game’s initial goal is to protect the swarms of butterflies, mosquitos, and other insects from devouring said fruit with your elastic-like tongue, it quickly becomes something more momentous than anyone could have anticipated. Players find themselves purchasing a bevy of notable upgrades within minutes, such as a static tongue and more resilient fruit, but it’s the affable upgrades like the cybernetic brain, lock-on targeting, and Chinese dragon that make it more than some browser-based spoof on educational titles like Math Blaster, Word Muncher, and the like. Eventually, you’ll be battling robotic squid in space, listening to a narrated history of boxing, running for president, and dabbling in bug pornography among other outlandish activities. Frog Fractions, though unlikely to boost your brain capacity and even less likely to last more than an hour, remain wildly unpredictable — even if you expect the unexpected.
Although Age of War begins in the age of cavemen and dinosaurs with an arsenal of clubs and comets on command, it soon segues into medieval times, the modern era, and eventually into a world characterized by flying tanks and automatic artillery guns. However, despite the cosmetic changes and slight gameplay tweaks accompanying each era, the game maintains its simplistic design. The primary goal of the game relies on players’ ability to protect their own base, as well as destroy their opponents, allowing players to build a variety of melee and ranged troops in addition to an assortment of prehistoric and modern turrets. As expected, money and experience is gained through combat and the elimination of enemy forces, all of which automatically proceed once you select the appropriate units. The AI is highly adept, essentially upgrading and advancing at the same rate regardless of the chosen difficulty, but there’s no shame keeping things on the easy side until you perfect your strategy. Just don’t let time pass you by.
It would be a gross understatement to say the tower-defense field is anything but saturated, however, the original Kingdom Rush was one of the best Like it’s tower-based brethren and predecessor, Kingdom Rush Frontiers requires players to build a multitude of fortified towers to fend off an never-ending barrage of maniacal dragons, man-eating-plants, and demonic heathens hell-bent on ransacking your beloved kingdom. The newest incarnation of the title touts nearly 10 specialized tower upgrades and 18 tower abilities, not to mention a gang of new heroes and three difficulty modes, and even introduces an in-game encyclopedia detailing each the towers’ respective strengths and weaknesses. Kingdom Rush Frontiers exceeds Ironhide Games’ original title and then some, delivering challenging gampeplay across jungles, deserts, and the underworld among other terrain. Plus, it looks pretty darn cute.
It’s safe to say World War II and modern combat dominate the field when it comes to today’s war-time simulation games. However, Warfare 1917 opts for an earlier date — 1917 to be precise — and focuses its two-part campaign on British and German hostilities during the trench-torn skirmishes of WWI. It’s a straightforward strategy game, boasting nearly 30,000 votes on Amorgames.com, and requires players to use infantry, armor, and fire support to gain a strategic foothold from which to overthrow the enemy. All the usual infantry you come to expect makes an appearance, such as rifleman and machine gunners, along with more expansive artillery, siege tanks, and various chemical weapons. The title becomes increasingly harder as players proceed, even with the added bonus abilities earned via the in-game experience points, and it features a custom battle mode if you’d rather outline the rules of engagement yourself. Warfare 1917‘s visuals may appear bleak and barren, but then again, so was the Great War.
In many ways, Bubble Spinner 2 is like a rotating, hexagonal Bust-a-Move (sans the iconic cute dinosaurs). With Bubble Spinner 2, players take control of simple pointer located at the top of the interface, launching a series of colored bubbles at a larger conglomerate of bubbles rotating in the center of window. Bubbles detach and clear when the launched bubble comes in contact with a bubble that’s already attached to one or more of that same color, often triggering a chain reaction, clearing all reliant bubbles while earning you corresponding points. The momentum of the shot bubble spins the center shape on impact, thus exposing more opportunities in the process, but bubbles will also inconveniently stack upon one another if you fail to hit the appropriate color. Winning depends on how quickly players can clear all bubbles, and alternatively, losing occurs when bubbles stack outside the region of the screen. Bubble Spinner 2 can get repetitive, as can any puzzler, yet it’s deceptively strategic. Hint: use the walls to your advantage.
Like nearly any zombie title ever created, Boxhead 2Play is a game of kill or be killed. Clad in a boxy demeanor akin to Minecraft, players traverse a sparse, obstacle-laden map as one of four characters (Bamboo, Bon, Bind, and Bert), obtaining an arsenal of upgradeable weaponry ranging from the commonplace pistol and grenade to the scattered shotgun and railgun . Regardless of whether playing solo or local co-op with a friend, the goal of the game remains to fend of hordes of virus-stricken citizens as long as possible, all the while dodging the Devil’s fireballs and nearby exploding boxes. Players can control their character — each of which is nearly identical aside from their backstory and visual appearance— using either the standard arrow keys or the W, A, S, and D buttons, and shoot using the spacebar. Though it begins slow, with only a handful zombies scuttling through the gates, players will soon find themselves overrun with more than they can handle. Fortunately, you can always square off in a head-to-head deathmatch.
Dolphin Olympics 2 may not have a direct link with the Sega Genesis’ Ecco the Dolphin, but we can’t help but notice more than a few similarities between the two. Like it’s predecessor and the aforementioned Genesis game, Dolphin Olympics 2 is a Flash title rooted in mammal acrobatics. The game thrusts players into the role of an everyday dolphin, providing them with two minutes in which to leap out of the water and perform a few simple tricks combinations in exchange for points. Rounding up schools of fish prior to jumping out the water grants players higher point values, as will the speed boosts gained through the various magic rings floating in the air and submerged beneath the waves. Though the controls for jumping are straightforward, the challenge lies with how elegantly the player can enter and exit the water, heavily relying on the angles along with speed and trick performance. It’s all about stringing together successful combos and aerial maneuver, and if you do it just right, you may even find a place among the stars (both figuratively and literally)
What do you think of our top choices for the best Flash games on the Web? Have a better pick, or simply an alternative? Let us know in the comments below