That really important thing that needs doing? Yeah, that’s not going to happen, because we’ve rounded up the finest browser games in existence – and they’re all free.
You’ll need a good browser to run them – Chrome’s the best bet. Otherwise, delve in and enjoy games that are so good you’ll set fire to your Xbox and live life entirely inside a web browser.
(Oh, all right, they’re not quite that good, but if you can’t waste an insane number of hours playing these fab games, it must be because you hate fun itself.)
A Dark Room
Coming from the same developer as Gridland (also in this list) and supplying a similar ‘thrive ’n’ survive’ challenge, A Dark Room nevertheless takes a very different tack. It’s a text- and menu-driven adventure in which you build up and maintain a successful community in a harsh wilderness. Logistics and supply management are as important as surviving animal attacks, and the adventure can be long and gruelling. Fortunately, you can save progress in your browser and continue at a later date.
Text adventures fell out of fashion when home gaming systems got more graphical clout than a calculator. But AI Dungeon reworks something approximating Zork by making adventures endless – and often a strange mix of deranged, terrifying, and hilarious.
You can kick off a quest based on generic themes, but custom scenarios are more fun. And, yes, we made one about Stuff HQ. We’ve still not recovered from virtual Matt Tate calling himself ‘Granny Tickelface’, nor virtual Natalya Paul calmly eating breakfast during a random apocalypse.
Alter Ego isn’t pretty – visually or in terms of content. This browser-based remake of an ancient PC game deals with progress through everyday life. It’s as far from The Sims as you can imagine, too – instead of cute little idiots blundering about, you get stark icons and multiple-choice text.
But there’s depth, with a clever (if admittedly slightly conservative) script written by a psychologist, which offers branching progress that could lead you to a happy old age or abruptly dying as a toddler, having necked some bleach found under the sink.
This official online remake of a 1980s 8-bit classic finds Rockford digging through dirt, grabbing diamonds, and trying to avoid getting crushed by the titular boulders or blown up by explosive underground wildlife.
It looks crude, but the mix of puzzling and arcade action remains highly compelling. It’s not quite a one-to-one conversion – some cave speeds are off, for example, but it scratches a particular retro itch when you’ve a few minutes to spare, and are many miles away from a Commodore 64.
As much as we love retro games, most of them are rubbish in the cold light of day. Bubble Bobble is not. Taito’s 1986 hit, featuring two leapy dinosaurs blowing bubbles to trap and blow up monsters, remains as compelling as ever. This Pico-8 take astonishingly packs in almost everything from the arcade version. It’s a bit cosy in two-player mode, but in some areas actually improves on the original, such as with its more forgiving level design. It’s a stunning tribute. Just don’t complain when that tune ends up stuck in your head.
Candy Box 2
The beginning of Candy Box 2 is as minimal as can be. A candy counter ticks upwards, and you can eat all your candies, or lob some to the ground. But amass enough sugary treats and Candy Box 2 rapidly goes a bit weird.
What started out resembling a pointless clicker transforms into an oddball RPG. You ‘buy’ a status bar, and then some weapons, before scouring a village and beyond, embarking on epic quests where you get all stabby with an ASCII sword. Because that’s the final bit of bonkers: Candy Box 2 looks like it’s beamed in from a Commodore PET – and it’s glorious.
Sort of what might happen if you knocked Threes! into pool, Combo Pool finds you firing coloured balls into a tiny arena. If two match, they merge and upgrade to the next colour, until you eventually knock together a pair of explosive pink balls.
The twist is you’ve an energy bar – keep smashing balls into the arena without combining them and your life quickly runs dry. One for wannabe trick shot masters, then, not least because rebounds considerably ramp up your score.
It’s hard to know what to make of Cookie Clicker. On one hand, it’s essentially a Skinner box, rewarding players with nothing in particular in return for them clicking like crazy. But it also appears to be an amusing satire on the state of modern ‘idle’ gaming.
Initially, you click and you get a cookie. The more cookies you have, the more power-ups you can afford, including cursors that click on your behalf. Eventually, you’re using time machines to bring cookies from the past, “before they were even eaten”, and converting raw light into cookies with giant prisms, to bring in millions of cookies per second. To what end? Stuff’s not sure, but currently has 509 billion cookies in a really big plastic box if you fancy one.