Flash of insight.
Flash games endure as one of the last wild frontiers of game development. Visit any one of the major Flash game hubs and you'll find a veritable grab bag of genres, styles, and stolen SNES sprites. They're how many people first break in to game development, which means a lot of big ideas and inconsistent execution.
Every so often, a diamond will emerge from the rough. These select few take on lives of their own, and eventually leave behind the circus that is Newgrounds and other such sites for greener pastures on home consoles or beyond. Here are just a few breakout hits that can trace their origins back to the same software behind your favorite obnoxious web designs. And as a bonus, many of these Flash versions are still available to play today.
Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy is renowned for being a masterfully crafted platformer and one of the earliest examples of a breakout, independently-developed hit. But before it was a smashing success, Super Meat Boy began as a humble, tough-as-nails Flash game. Back in October of 2008, game developers Jonathan McEntee and Edmund McMillen posted the bloody-yet-cuddly Meat Boy to the Newgrounds games portal, where it still resides today.
The game's popularity drew the attention of Nintendo, and later Microsoft, who were eager to fill out their online marketplaces. In October of 2010, just two short years after Meat Boy made its debut, Super Meat Boy landed on Xbox Live Arcade. It had the same, elegant platforming as its predecessor, but tossed in a ton of new levels, unlockable characters, and more. Generating so much content in such a short amount of time was a whirlwind experience for the two-man team, some of which was captured in the 2012 documentary Indie Game: The Movie.
Alien Hominid HD
Six years before Meat Boy arrived on the scene, another two-man team was vexing Newgrounds' visitors with its own unforgiving 2D action game. Alien Hominid hit the site in August of 2002, courtesy of Tom Fulp and Dan Paladin. While the entire game was only a single level and two boss fights, players were instantly enamored with its quirky humor and keyboard-smashing difficulty.
As an adorable, yellow alien, your sole duty is mowing down pesky FBI agents who wish to capture you for a good old fashioned alien autopsy (presumably). Similar to Metal Slug and other such games, Alien Hominid features one-hit kills and hoards of enemies, but also several power-ups to help even the odds. By 2005, the game had become one of the first to jump from Flash project to boxed, retail release on multiple consoles, culminating in 2007's Alien Hominid HD on Xbox Live Arcade. The alien was also an unlockable character in Super Meat Boy, released the following year.
Luftrausers gets right what so many other games fumble: the basics. Number of guns? Number of levels? Number of overpriced DLC packs? None of that stuff matters if the basics of moving and shooting - the fun stuff - aren't silky smooth. And this game has, like, a gazillion mommes of silky smoothness (for all you fabric fans out there).
In all seriousness, Luftrausers' aerial dogfights are pretty great. When you swing your plane around 180-degrees, jam on the engines, and blow through a half-dozens enemy fighters in a blaze of explosions and wreckage - that's just awesome. Part of the reason this game feels as good as it does is because it actually started out as a Flash game - Luftrauser - developed by some of the same people who made this updated version. It's just like the old saying: if it ain't broke, throw in a bunch of new guns and a crazy battleship boss fight.
The bow-and-arrow brawler TowerFall Ascension is great for parties, but it started out as something almost entirely different. As Polygon reports, Towerfall began as a single-player flash game in which players were meant to feel like a "skilled archer out of an ancient legend." But the more the developers played with and worked on the game, the more they found themselves drawn to one particular mode: multiplayer.
Playing against others in Towerfall is especially tense seeing as how up to four players can run around shooting each other with rapid fire arrows that kill in one hit. And while the number of arrows you have is limited, if you time your movements just right you can actually catch arrows fired at you out of midair - which is an especially hype thing to do. Alternatively, you could just jump on another player's head and score that way, you know, if you don't like having fun.
Ah yes, Hatoful Boyfriend, the pigeon-dating simulator. If you've been on the internet these past few years, then you've undoubtedly heard all the big personalities in gaming raise an eyebrow at this unorthodox dating sim. "It's one of those Japanese dating games, but with, like, birds, man." And while that is indeed true, Hatoful Boyfriend: A School of Hope and White Wings has even more going on than just affectionate avians.
For starters, did you know that the game is actually set in a post-apocalyptic future involving a H5N1 pandemic AND a global war between man and bird? Or what about the psychological murder-mystery plotline you can unlock? All this and more comes from the mind of Hato Moa, who (supposedly) created the game in Flash as an April Fool's Day joke, which has become a full game available on Steam. She also keeps a fantail pigeon, Okosan, as a pet, which should come as no surprise.
Remember when you were playing one of the classic Mega Man games and you jumped down into a pit only to hit a screen transition that revealed there were spikes EVERYWHERE? Wellp, now you can enjoy those panic-inducing moments all over again in VVVVVV, a game about dropping players on spikes.
To be fair, most of the spike-dropping happens because players do it to themselves. You see, in VVVVVV you are in control of the game's gravity. Instead of being able to jump in this 2D platformer, you instead flip gravity on its head so that the ceiling becomes the floor and you fall upwards. This twist on player movement, combined with a sinister difficulty curve, made it a hit with the PC audience, and earned the game a port to the Nintendo 3DS. Just don't expect any help from a robot dog.
Realm of the Mad God
You know, the games industry really doesn't see enough massively multiplayer cooperative bullet hell shooters. We've got the cooperative shooter part down pretty good, but rarely rarely do they aspire to these levels of scale and chaos. RofMG sort of plays like a mix of World of Warcraft and Geometry Wars. You pick your class, collect items and equipment, level up, and so on, but the way you fight is by dodging around bullets (or spells, or arrows) and returning fire.
Whenever an enemy is defeated, all players in the area receive experience points, which makes teaming up and cooperating with others very simple. This can make larger fights mind-bendingly chaotic as players will naturally glob together into roaming mobs. When the bullets start flying it can sometimes feel like a fireworks show happening inside a rave, which is a positive no matter how you look at it.
Canabalt is likely the most popular game on this list, next to Super Meat Boy. In it, an unnamed man wearing a black suits leaps from the window of his office building onto the rooftop of a neighboring building. Then, he runs. He runs and he runs and sometimes he jumps and he doesn't stop until you get him killed, which gets easier and easier to accomplish as the game continually gets faster and faster.
Released in 2009, this simple premise of a 2D, procedurally generated platformer that continues continues until you die has since spawned an entire sub-genre of games: endless runners. These games are all about endurance and seeing who can survive the longest in an increasingly taxing world. Canabalt itself has since found a home online as well as on the PlayStation Portable and even the Commodore 64. Though, if you're still holding out for new C64 games, it might be time for a new console.
And there you have it, a bevy of indie goodness that can trace its roots back to good old Macromedia. Were there any we missed? If so, share what you know in the comments below, and perhaps turn your fellow readers on to a new favorite game.
If you're looking for more fun on GR+ be sure to hit up 7 normal, everyday things that are impossible to explain to non-gamers and 10 gaming resources that change how you play for the better.