Facebook added games to its Messenger app a year ago, part of the social networking giant's efforts to keep your eyeballs glued to messaging app even when you're not chatting. Games are now solidly a part of Messenger: the app started out with 17 games in November 2016, and that total has swelled to 70 games. One of the latest to join the mix is '80s mainstay Tetris, and Facebook says more games are on the way, including a Messenger-based version of Angry Birds, arriving in 2018.
To find a game, just open a conversation and tap on the game controller icon. (If you don't see it, tap the three-button icon to see more options — it's likely you'll spot the game controller there.) In addition to challenging friends to games, you can now live stream your Messenger gaming sessions via Facebook Live. And Facebook says it's testing the ability to let people play games with each other from within Messenger's video chat feature.
But which game should you pick? We've gone through many of the available titles to find which ones will spark friendly conversation between you and your friends — and which ones will end in awkward silence.
Anyone who spent far too much time playing Tetris on a Mac or PC in the late '80s, early '90s will be thrilled — or alarmed — that the tile-matching puzzle game is now on Facebook Messenger, ready to divert your attention on an entirely new platform. All the hallmarks of the classic game are here — the rotating, multicolored bricks, the quickening pace as you level up, even the jaunty Russian theme music. Tetris lends itself to the Messenger interface with simple controls that let you tap to rotate and slide to drop the bricks into place. So now a new generation can enjoy the greatest thing to come out of Russia since vodka.
This is a classic game done right in Facebook Messenger. You've got only one chance to shoot the dive-bombing aliens and rack up the biggest score possible, but the controls are simple to master: Just slide your continuously shooting spaceship back and forth with a finger. Galaga on Messenger even recreates the classic game's Fighter Captured feature, giving you the chance to unleash double-barreled destruction when you free your ship.
One would think Pac-Man would be a natural for a quick casual game, especially since this is pretty faithful recreation of the Bandi Namco original. But the controls aren't very precise, so your little Pac-Man is likely to skid past all those power pellets and into a ghost's waiting maw. There are better ways to pass your time.
Another arcade classic makes a successful jump to Messenger, thanks to simple controls — just slide your finger back and forth to fight the alien hordes — and a nostalgic look-and-feel. Bonus points to Taito for recreating the '70s splash screen for the game, right up to the screen that invites you to insert a coin to play.
You've got a rack of letters that keeps filling up just as fast as you can empty it. Your challenge is to spell as many words as possible before all the tiles spill off your overstuffed rack. Words With Friends may like the challenge of coming up with short and sweet words, but I found I quickly ran out of playing space while my tiles piled up. It doesn't help that the game weighs you down with far too many vowels to truly flex your word power. Instead, try the standard version of Words With Friends, which is also available in Messenger.
I like noodling over the sudoku puzzle in my daily newspaper, and Daily Sudoku brings that to my phone with easy, intermediate and hard puzzles every day. A particularly nice touch: tapping on a number highlights where you've already placed those numbers in a puzzle, making it easier to spot the squares you still need to fill in.
I have many fond memories of 1980s afternoons playing Track & Field at my local arcade. I cannot say the same for this Messenger adaptation, which strips the game down to the 100-meter dash. All you do is tap frantically on your smartphone screen to send your sprinter toward the finish line. There's very little replayability, which is probably a good thing since I'd fear for the wear and tear on my phone's display from excessive tapping.