You’re not getting any work done today. You aren’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be here, looking for a selection of games that are easily hidden behind a spreadsheet when You-Know-The-Person runs their Sauron’s eye over your desk. It’s ok, you’re among friends - that’s why this list is here to make sure that you have knowledge of the very best browser games to procrastinate with. From kooky miniature golf to nail-biting tower defence, here are the browser games that will give you a much-needed break.
This fantasy 2D platformer is like Alto’s Adventure multiplied by Limbo to the power of moody atmosphere. The main character, a young boy, must work with a talking bird (just go with it) to free his sister from the basement where she’s been locked - but their efforts lead to a dark secret. It’s refreshing to see a browser game with a firm story, filled with dialogue options and environments to explore. Plus, Coma just looks lovely - all grey, blue and purple hues with a gorgeous soundtrack and clever designs. It’s fairly quick to complete, but given it’s free and you’re looking for a brief distraction from work, is that really so bad?
If Escher were alive, equipped with programming knowledge, and a love of golf, he’d almost certainly make Wonderputt. Mini-golf games are a dime a dozen, but very few look as beautiful as Wonderputt’s dramatically changing landscape. Level after level transforms from lakes to hills to farms with mind-bendingly clever shifts. Thankfully though its beauty isn’t just skin deep; Wonderputt is fun to play with simple mechanics that provide a fresh contrast to the complex world building. The position of your cursor determines the angle and power of a shot, which is a nice intuitive touch that feels natural. If you’re looking for a coffee break distraction that brightens up a particularly dull spreadsheet, this is it.
8. Quick, Draw
Could we teach Skynet how to doodle? That’s the aim of Quick, Draw, a sort of online Pictionary where every sketch made by players is stowed away and analysed by a neural network to help with machine learning. You have 20 seconds to draw a randomised set of everyday objects - think frying pans, benches, shoes and the like - while an AI voice tries to guess what you’re scribbling. Once you’ve done six drawings you can scroll through what other people around the world drew, and feel either smug or ashamed depending on how good you are at drawing, say, a potato.
7. Pandemic 2
Some games just want to watch the world burn. Or, in the case of Pandemic 2, eradicate its population with a Pandora’s Box of deadly diseases. You sit at the control panel of a global illness monitor, tweaking the spread of your disease and government responses to it. News headlines will help you track how quickly your creation is ripping through communities - all you need to do is set the parameters and nature will take its course. Design a disease that’s as efficient as possible, and you’ll win by eradicating all life on earth. All that’s left to do is stick your pinky in your mouth and giggle maniacally.
6. Kingdom Rush
The tower defense genre was starting to get stale until Kingdom Rush came along and shined it up with some good ol’ spit and polish. Four base tower types are perfectly balanced and give you the option to take out enemies with archers, soldiers, mages, and artillery. The levels are dusted with pre-determined empty slots called “Strategy Points” that it’s your choice what to do with. Towers can be upgraded on these points with money earned by felling foes - so far, so simple. But it’s this uncomplicated design that makes Kingdom Rush so brilliant. There are no bells or whistles to hide behind, just perfectly executed levels that look stunning, with delightfully cartoony graphics and stylish enemies. This is a must-play for tower defence aficionados.
5. Contre Jour
The definition of platformer is usually a game where a protagonist jumps and leaps between surfaces suspended in the air. Your character is the moving and active variable. But contrary to expectations, Contre Jour is a platformer where the lead character is surprisingly static and instead it’s the platforms themselves that must be moved. Here, the ground is as malleable as playdough and peppered with sticky elastic that you can use to fling a fuzzy black blob called Petit unceremoniously across chasmic gaps. Poke and manipulate each platform to get Petit where they need to go. It’s a neat twist on the formula and is divided into bite-sized levels so you can reward yourself with a short run on your break.
4. Candy Box 2
Things rapidly take an unexpected turn in Candy Box 2. What starts as a simple text-button clicker game about eating candies quickly turns into a minimalist RPG about venturing into a huge world and undertaking varied quests. Your currency here are sweets, which are dished out by the second and can be used to buy weapons and gear on your adventures. That’s perfect for a browser title since you can leave the tab idle for a few minutes while you check your email and you’ll have a nice stash of candy currency on hand when you return to dive into this sugary adventure and its distant lands.
There’s a golden rule for browser puzzle games: They should be easy to pick up and play, but challenging enough that they’re difficult to put down. Threes and its seemingly simple goal is one of the best examples of this. Here you must make the highest number possible by combining numbered tiles before the board fills and you can no longer move anything on it. Progressing simply requires smooshing numbers together, but that’s made trickier by specific rules like the fact any tile numbered 3 or higher will only combine with an identical tile. Like Tetris, Threes is a game that’s easy to learn but requires careful patience and practice to master.
2. There is No Game
Over the years, game jam competitions have seeded some truly brilliant ideas and There Is No Game is one such a breath of fresh air. It came first in a game jam themed around “Deception,” and play it for two minutes you’ll see why. Here, your job is to find the game in a browser window where a disembodied voice would rather you go away, leave him be, and read a book. Or something. It’s not clear why, but this voice really doesn’t want the player to stick around. Poke around the title screen and an increasingly ludicrous puzzle starts to unravel in this point-and-click brain teaser.
1. A Dark Room
It begins simply enough: Light a fire. Your first job in A Dark Room is to keep a crackling flame alive - but things spiral rapidly from there. This text-based RPG rogue-like plays like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road as you venture beyond a dark, cold hut into a post-apocalyptic world where survival is a balancing act of to-do lists: check stocks, gather wood, venture into the wasteland, trade with outposts. Stop playing for more than a few minutes and things start to unravel, an alarming consequence that jangles our modern impulses to check and check again our social feeds or smartphones. If you can bear the pressure, keep pressing buttons and you’ll be rewarded with a truly compelling mystery.