The Perfect Mid-Day Break
For hard-working employees who need a break—or procrastinators who would rather forget the next deadline—the Internet is a great way to blow off steam. Some of the most enjoyable and addicting games are available right on your web browser, usually with no download or installation required. Here are twenty that we like best.
(Photo credit: jeffmcneill on Flickr)
Robot Unicorn Attack
You play a (what else?) robotic unicorn, trying to stay alive as you navigate a purple-colored world of sparkles, rainbows, and fairies. It's platform gaming as its bare minimum, with only two keys to press. Only players who can time the unicorn’s jump and assertive dash attack will go far.
Driven by word-of-mouth and a campy soundtrack, Robot Unicorn Attack quickly became one of Adult Swim's most popular Flash games. It single-handedly resurrected interest in Erasure, the brit synth-pop duo, and attracted even hardcore gamers. It managed to do all this despite visuals that even sugar would find too sweet, and relatively simplistic game-play.
The captain of a heavily-damaged ship attempts to carry out his mission, crippled engine and "skeleton crew" notwithstanding. Like most space-shooters, in Space Junk you have to destroy as many enemy ships as possible.
The twist, however, is that your guns are both your weapons and propulsion. Your ship will go opposite the direction in which you shoot, but you can also activate a magnet to suddenly stop and pull power-ups towards yourself. Space Junk’s pixel graphics won’t win any design awards, but they still make you feel like you’re fighting for your life in outer space.
Legend of Zelda fans will find the game-play of Onslaught! very familiar. The hero is trapped in an arena, and has to fight off endless waves of monsters. The action takes place from a top-down view, and the player can pick up more powerful weapons with a limited amount of enhanced damage and range of attack. Onslaught even features 8-bit music to satisfy the retro game fan.
Infiltration isn't the only alien shooter game online. Yet its control scheme is quite unique, and seeks to maximize the player's keyboard. Each key actually represents a specific angle of the turret's 360-degree range. Killing the aliens before they break through your defense is a matter of knowing what key to press at the right time. For instance, pressing Q, A, or Z makes the turret shoot towards the front, while pressing R or C aims more towards the top and bottom of the battlefield.
Runs only on HTML5 web browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Firefox 3.6. Only QWERTY keyboard users will be able to play the game properly.
Fantastic Contraption borrows a page or two from Sierra's classic The Incredible Machine. In this puzzle game you build your own Rube Goldberg inventions to push, pull, or even catapult an object towards the goal area. Each level presents different obstacles—and an infinite number of solutions. Hours can go by as you revisit levels to try different approaches to the same problem. You can also view the solutions of other players, and see where you can do better.
Continuity mixes platform gaming with puzzle-solving elements. You are a faceless stick figure trying to make your way to the exit. Sounds like an easy enough task, except each level is divided into sliding puzzle pieces, which are all jumbled up. It's up to you to rearrange the pieces to forge your path. This is literally a game played in two dimensions.
A game that simplifies real-time strategy mechanics for casual gamers, Stick War puts you in control of an army liberating the region from the enemy. Total victory is possible only through the resource gathering that is necessary to build up your ranks.
Winning battles unlocks more unit types, and provides points you can use to make your soldiers or stronghold stronger. You can also take direct control over individual units, to position them for a better chance against your computer-controlled opponent.
The gold rush meets Mars in Motherload, an action game in the vein of Dig Dug and Boulder Dash. You play a prospector in the distant future, looking to strike it rich on the red planet. The plot of a dangerous (yet extremely rewarding) mystery hidden under kilometers of precious metals make it tough to suspend disbelief, but the gameplay is fun.
As you acquire more wealth by harvesting minerals, you can purchase upgrades that make your miner more durable and efficient. Only a fully-equipped vehicle can bring you down to the lowest depths of Mars—and to the ultimate reward.
The Last Stand
Yes, there is already a game called The Last Stand 2, but the first game in the series presents a more straightforward scenario. All you have to do is to survive for 20 days and nights against the zombie horde. You'll need to allocate your limited daytime to repair your barricade, search for more powerful weapons, and locate other survivors to team up with and increase your chances of survival.
Doom Triple Pack
The Doom Triple Pack is an accurate Flash recreation of the original Doom (only the first episode), Hexen and Heretic. The only shortcomings are the long loading times and a lack of music.
If you’ve managed to spend the last 17 years hiding under a rock, here’s a refresher course: Doom is the granddaddy of all first-person shooters, and it pioneered the 3D graphics and network multiplayer that characterize modern descendants like Half-Life 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Hexen and Heretic are close cousins with fantasy storylines different from Doom’s Sci-Fi Horror conventions.
Crush the Castle 2
Unleash your inner destructor with Crush the Castle 2, a game that casts you as a freelance siege engineer attacking castles at the behest of well-paying clients. Your primary weapon of choice: a catapult that can accept different kinds of ammo.
You start out with a non-threatening log, eventually progressing to powerful explosive projectiles, firebombs designed to break through wooden defenses, and even bombs that deploy a parachute for precision targeting. The main objective is to kill each castle’s occupants with well-placed shots.
Gemcraft Chapter 0
Gemcraft Chapter 0 is a tower-defense game set in a fantasy world where gems rule. You’re a wizard protecting your tower against waves of monsters, positioning towers to hold gems that serve as your primary source of firepower. Each monster type suffers from a unique weakness, which you can exploit by using the correct-colored gem. You can also combine gems into more powerful versions of themselves--a must as you work your way through levels.
Generic Defense Game
We’re not sure who dreamed up this game’s scenario of the player fighting off “Nazi Bowlers”, but the Generic Defense Game wins points for its versatility. You can choose from a pre-designed set of scenarios, or mix things up (what if those infamous bowlers were on the football field instead?). Killing enemies earns points you can use to buy more powerful weapons, repair your main turret or the object you’re protecting, and even purchase automated secondary turrets to back you up.
Inspired By World Of Warcraft
If you’ve never played the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), here’s your chance to try out a scaled-down 2D version. Compared to its inspiration, WTF?! is a limited side-scroller, but features quests, hotkeys, and an inventory system similar to World of Warcraft.
To make later quests easier, you can even grind (mindlessly kill weak animals to gain experience levels). It's the closest you'll ever get to playing Blizzard's cash cow—without violating the company’s intellectual property. You’ll just have to put up with long loading times, and weird jumping sounds from Super Mario Bros.
Requires Flash. A downloadable version (that also runs in your browser) is also available.
A classic that never gets old, N was one of the first games that showed the true potential of Flash. You play a “greedy” ninja, making your way from one level to next, collecting gold along the way, and all while avoiding enemies and hazards that can kill you with one touch.
N’s hero is quite agile. He can jump continuously up walls and slide along slopes and curves. You’ll need to keep moving to stay alive through about a hundred levels.
Canabalt lets you live out your action movie dreams. The whole game starts with a set piece crash through glass. From there, it’s a simple matter of making the hero jump at the right time to cross gaps between buildings, avoid speed-killing obstacles, and stay away from the occasional bomb. Things get harder as the game progresses. The longer you survive, the faster the hero goes, requiring quicker reflexes to keep up.
This is probably the only game where you can purchase (with in-game money) upgrades for absolutely anything—even for the menu graphics! Upgrade Complete starts out as a poorly-drawn space shooter with no music, an ugly UI, and a weak ship for the player. Earn some money from destroying enemy ships, and soon you can buy enough firepower to destroy the universe—and even the game’s ending while you’re at it.
Desktop Tower Defense
Another classic that deserves play time even today, Desktop Tower Defense takes a minimalist approach to the genre. Graphics are simply line-drawings, while sound effects sound more like the babblings of children. But you have a variety of towers at your disposal, and the ability to upgrade them into more devastating versions.
Infectator: World Dominator
Inspired by the zombie movie genre, Infectator: World Dominator sees you as a mad scientist bent on turning the whole world into Zombieland. From small villages to the largest metropolises, you’ll need to use your virus-spreading attack, special zombies you unlock along the way, and even bombs to create a self-sustaining plague to wipe out humanity.
Boxhead also involves zombies, but this time you’re the good guy. Starting with only a pistol, Boxhead’s Rambo-like hero has to fight off endless waves of undead on the map of his choice. From time to time a devil with a devastating fireball attack will make an appearance to make things interesting. Efficiently killing zombies unlocks more weapons and upgrades.