5: 10 Bullets
There are countless button-mashing casual retro shooters out there. What makes 10 Bullets special is the paucity of ammunition. You have, as the title suggests, just ten projectiles to take down as many of the passing spacecraft as you can. The trick is to time your shots so that debris from the ships you destroy causes chain reactions in the surrounding craft.
With careful timing and a little luck, you can take down entire formations of enemies with just one bullet. If you’re playing games while you should be working, you don’t want the clack-clack-clack of frantic keyboard bashing to give you away to any passing manager. The sound of someone playing 10 Bullets is indistinguishable from the thoughtful clicking of a very thoughtful writer. I know. I tried it.
4: Brick Force
Are you old enough to remember the video for ‘Money For Nothing’ ? Did you ever watch those blocky little guys shifting microwave ovens and thing ‘what this video needs is less Dire Straits and more first-person combat.’? If your answer to either of those questions is ‘yes’, or ‘what the heck are you talking about?’ then Brick Force is for you. It’s a lively little first-person shooter with online multiplayer — but one where you build the maps.
The simple block-stacking interface inevitably limits the type of combat arena you can build, but it’s a whole lot of fun. This list would have been finished much sooner if I hadn’t got sucked into creating the ultimate deathmatch map. The interface is gratifyingly intuitive. An icon labelled ‘M’ gives you access to a menu of possible components. Drop those into your working palette and presto! You’re a game designer! I never did figure out how to switch the music off though.
3: Angry Birds
If you’re a Chrome user who somehow hasn’t already succumbed to the charms of these ballistic avians, you’re in for a treat. The deceptively simple catapult-based gameplay conceals myriad strategic decisions. There’s more than one way to complete most levels, but only one method will yield a three-star score.
Once you start, it’s more or less impossible to resist repeating every level until you have a perfect score. You can only access the first chapter unless you log in with a valid Google account. You’re going to. It’s irresistible.
More after the break...
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.
It might not look like much, but we guarantee that this will be the best (and quite possibly the only) game about digging you'll ever play in your life.
MotherLoad sees you take control of a banged-up digger, with the mission of exploring the depths of the Martian soil to uncover its secrets.
It's slow going at first, but the more ore you mine and sell, the more upgrades you can bestow upon your trusty digger.
From diamond-coated drills, to larger fuel tanks and expansive cargo bays, you dig down, down, down, fuelled by one single obsessive aim:
You must go Deeper.
Go deep enough and things will begin to get a little… weird. Deeper still and…
Well, we wouldn't want to ruin the surprise for you now, would we?
As addictive as upgrade-orientated games get, you'll soon be tinkering with your fork to get to the bottom of your jacket potato as efficiently as possible.
READ MORE: 16 classic game remakes you have to play