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. (And is it really a waste of time if you’re having fun?) They’ve come a long way from their humble, vector-based beginnings, finding a home on 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 reached new heights with the introduction of the high-speed internet and hit titles like Bowman, The Impossible Quiz, and Max Dirt Bike. They don’t offer the in-depth storylines, 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.
Starting things off is one of the quintessential flash games, Alien Hominid. This run and gun shooter originally came to Newgrounds in 2002 and exploded in popularity shortly thereafter. Its developer, The Behemoth, went on to create the beloved Castle Crashers, which garnered great success as well, but Alien Hominid is how the studio got its start.
As for the game itself, it’s got a super-stylized art style, with thick outlines and huge, flat colors. It plays a lot like Metal Slug, wherein you must run left to right while taking out enemies with your blaster. You play as one of the little yellow aliens (shown above) in either single-player or cooperative multiplayer modes. Whichever mode you pick, there are a lot of secret agents to defeat, along with a slew of power-ups to collect. You’ve probably at least seen or heard of this game before — and for good reason. It’s one of the most popular flash games of all time.
Ah, good old Line Rider. Does anyone else have memories of booting this up at school in the computer lab? It’s a classic, for sure, but what makes it so special? Well, the main thing is that it’s so simple, and it leans into something that will probably always be funny: Slapstick comedy. Creating a huge, complicated track that sends your character flopping across it is still funny, and the tools used to create such tracks are easy and intuitive to use.
Line Rider came to browsers in 2006 and became a meme (before memes were even popularized), thanks to the wacky creations people would share around the internet. There were creation games that were far more complex than this at the time, but Line Rider garnered success due to its simplicity, which has stood the test of time, even 14 years later.
First impressions can be deceiving and Jacksmith is a prime example. The game’s initial premise seems fairly simple, requiring players to take on the role of a small-town blacksmith hellbent on arming his band of pig warriors with the finest weapons ever assembled. Once the weapons are crafted using a process of click-reliant minigames such as pouring bronze, hammering edges, and constructing hilts, players can then oversee several combatants in the field as they collect blueprints, gems, and other resources enemies drop to build more refined weapons.
Although battles automatically play out, weapon duration and battle success depend on how well you perform in minigames. This becomes increasingly hard as you receive larger weapon orders and less time. Jacksmith does become rather repetitive at times, but you’ll begin to find a certain satisfaction in constructing well-built instruments of war, mowing down legions of bats, slugs, and otherworldly miscreants on your path to defeating the diabolical, Great Wizard Dudley.
The most well-known game on this list, 1993’s Doom is a seminal game in the first-person shooter genre. Developed by id Software and initially shipped via mail order and the early days of shareware, you play as Doomguy, an unnamed space marine that fights his way through nine levels filled with monsters and demons.
Today, Doom may not look so hot, but it’s an interesting game to revisit due to its enormous impact on the industry. It’s also still quite fun, a testament to how well-made it was in 1993. You can find Doom on many different sites on the web, but our favorite method is through Kongregate, the popular online games client once owned by GameStop.
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. It’s 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 in the dark recesses under 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.
You 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.
Super Mario 63
With Super Mario 63, a fan-made platformer in the Super Mario vein, players pummel their way through the reimagined, 2D world of Super Mario 64. The level variation is outstanding, encapsulating everything from high peaks to arid deserts. Players can sprint, triple jump, and ground pound their way to reclaim the fabled Shine Sprites and rescue the iconic Princess Peach.
The controls are basic using the stereotypical arrow keys and the Z, X, and C buttons, but they can prove difficult when using extra peripherals such as the flying cap. Other memorable elements from past Mario titles also trickle in, most notably the water jet pack 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.
Decision 2: New City
As the direct followup to Decision, Decision 2: New City offers more than a 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 a mouse for navigating and shooting within the city. 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. 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 and 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 as they knock out local militia, traverse fatal pits, and hand out flowers in exchange for ability upgrades. However, it’s not the gameplay itself making Rouge Soul a knockout, but the fluidity of the mechanics. There are 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.
Realm of the Mad God
Realm of the Mad God is an online MMORPG that simultaneously tackles elements of a traditional shooter, pitting players from all walks of life against one another in a class-driven crusade against the minions of dark lord Oryx. The old-school map is expansive, overflowing with a swarm of dangerous enemies and diverse environments.
Although the title fancies itself more of an open-world shooter than RPG, players can still level up and gather upgradeable loot that’s swappable at the local bazaar. They can also choose from one of 14 available classes (wizard, huntress, mystic, assassin, etc.). It’s arcade-style controls and pure bullet hell can make 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.
Super House of Dead Ninjas
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 scan lines 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. The game’s initial goal is to protect the swarms of butterflies, mosquitos, and other insects from devouring the fruit with your elastic tongue, but it quickly becomes something more momentous. Players find themselves purchasing a bevy of notable upgrades within minutes, such as a static tongue and more resilient fruit.
But it’s the more advanced 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 and Word Muncher. 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, remains wildly unpredictable — even if you expect the unexpected.
Age of War
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 the player’s 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 are 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.
Kingdom Rush Frontiers
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 a 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 gameplay across jungles, deserts, and the underworld among other terrains. 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. It 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. It also 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.
Bubble Spinner 2
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 screen and launching a series of colored bubbles at a larger group of bubbles rotating in the center. Bubbles detach and clear when the launched bubble comes in contact with some that are already attached to one or more of the same color. This often starts a chain reaction, clearing all nearby bubbles and earning you points.
The momentum of the bubble you shoot spins the center shape on impact, exposing more opportunities in the process. Bubbles will also inconveniently stack up on 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 middle 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 body akin to Minecraft, players traverse a sparse, obstacle-laden map as one of four characters (Bamboo, Bon, Bind, and Bert), and obtain an arsenal of upgradeable weaponry ranging from the commonplace pistol and grenade to the scattered shotgun and railgun. Whether you’re playing solo or local co-op with a friend, the goal of the game remains to fend off hordes of virus-stricken citizens as long as possible, all the while dodging the Devil’s fireballs and nearby exploding boxes.
Each controllable character is essentially the same, save for their backstory and physical appearance. The standard arrow keys, or the W, A, S, and D buttons control movement and the spacebar shoots. It’s a bit slow going to start, with only a few zombies scuttling through the gates, but players soon find themselves inundated with way more than they can handle. Thankfully, there’s always head-to-head deathmatch if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Dolphin Olympics 2
For our fellow Sega Genesis lovers, Dolphin Olympics 2 is likely to remind you of the classic Ecco the Dolphin title. Though there is no direct connection between the two, Dolphin Olympics 2 is a Flash title similarly rooted in mammal acrobatics. In this game, players are thrust into the role of a dolphin where they have two minutes to pop out of the water and perform trick combinations that earn 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. The jumping controls are fairly straightforward, but entering and exiting the water gracefully is a bit of a challenge that relies heavily on angles, 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).