2: Quake Live
Do you remember the turn of the century? Every IT guy in the country was wasting half his working day checking that our computers weren’t going to fall prey to the mythical ‘millennium bug.’ And the other half playing Quake III Arena. The fastest, most kinetic, cartooniest, rocket-spammiest entry in ID’s Quake series was the big hit of the 1999/2000 PC time-wasting season. And now it’s back. And it’s free.
Sign up. Install a plug-in. Make sure you’re not using Chrome. Then, if you’re a Mac user move the plug-in you’ve just installed into the correct path. Wait as an auto-downloaded update wiggles into your cache folder. Delve into the preferences to see where they’ve hidden full-screen mode. And then it’s instant gratification.
There’s all the usual game modes — free for all, team deathmatch, capture the flag. The scenery and characters are stylised and deliberately unrealistic but the gameplay is fast, noisy and more fun than a barrel of heavily-armed space marines. It’s like Y2K never happened.
1: Full Screen Mario
There’s a reason why the original Super Mario Brothers was one of the biggest games of its era. The challenge of piloting that blocky little plumber through a hazardous world in search of coins and mushrooms never quite stopped being fun.
And the real beauty of this HTML5 re-rendering of the classic is that there’s a fully-fledged level editor included too. You can build and save your own goomba-infested side-scrolling worlds and save them to disk. Besides, just the music will have you feeling 25 years younger.
The games I’ve selected as winners from the vast browser-game ecosystem have all have either nostalgia value, or replayability, or an interactive creative edge. Full Screen Mario has them all.
Some of the best games start as simple concept demos, and that’s the territory SUPERHOT occupies. Part first-person shooter, part physics puzzle, SUPERHOT's greatest triumph is that it's turned an entirely new gameplay mechanic into a game that works amazingly well. So much so, the concept has been accepted into Steam's Greenlight program, which means we should see a fully-fledged PC game soon.
The premise is so simple you’ll wonder why no-one's done it before. Time only moves when you move, giving you precious thinking seconds between bouts of blasting. It makes for a unique and hugely entertaining gaming experience – not just as good as a game you'd pay for, but in some ways even more imaginative and impressive.