Consoles. Handhelds. Who needs them?!
That there computer you’re looking at is perfectly capable of playing game with no added tweaking. What kinds of games, you ask? The kind listed below. Here’s a half-dozen sharp experiences you can play inside the same browser you use to come to this very site. Enjoy!
Supergiant Games made the indie equivalent to the JRPGs of the SNES era, but one that updates the formula with a bluesy, modern sensibility. The post-apocalyptic hit became available to play inside the Chrome browser late last year, with cloud save features that let you pick up and continue from any computer that runs Chrome.
A Good Match for: History majors. Bastion happens when all the fighting’s done and the main driver of the game is to find out how the world-breaking catastrophe happened and the personal backstories of the people you meet. It’s a great fable about how geopolitical conflict has consequences on individiuals.
Not for Those Who Want: To play in anything but Google’s browser. The search firm’s Native Client technology is the secret sauce that allows Bastion to be playable in full HD. Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox can only look on in envy.
Desktop Tower Defense
Like Toy Soldiers? Love GeoDefense Swarm? You’ve got Desktop Tower defence to thank. This browser game popularised enough for similar titles to wind up on every gaming platform imaginable. Indie developer Paul Preece’s strategy title operates on a simple premise: build out artillery fortifications on a faux cubicle desk to shoot at and stop waves of enemy “creeps” from passing from one end of the screen to another. DTD came out of nowhere in 2007 to suck away the time of millions of people, trapping them in a vicious loop of placing towers and buying upgrades in the hopes of reaching another level.
A Good Match for: Cubicle drones. There’s a reason that DTD‘s set on an ordinary furniture background and that’s because it’s a metaphor for exactly the kind of experience that play outs during a workday. You’ve got to fortify your domain with assets — coffee, lunch, cigarettes — and then make sure nothing slips through.
Not for Those Who Want: Art direction. As innovative as it was, DTD is just not a pretty game. But it doesn’t need to be.
Don’t let the simplicity of iLegendary’s click-to-shoot game fool you. You’ll need to figure out the rules of each of its 21 levels, where sometimes it’s about what you shoot, how you shoot and when you shoot.
A Good Match for: Fans of variation. The looks of the levels in Experimental Shooter never change much, but you’ll be surprised at how much the win conditions and mechanics — controlling a bullet with your mouse, counting the balls on-screen and then shooting the corresponding numbered globe — switch up from level to level.
Not for Those Who Want: For it to go on. You’ll get so hooked on Experimental‘s permutations and the challenge of figuring them out that you’ll be sad to see them go.
This puzzle platformer offers spare controls but throws you into a world where threat is everywhere. You control a puffy avatar with the power to throw itself around the game’s levels, opening switches that let you progress. But things go on, spikes, missiles and other obstacles make it harder and harder to flee to freedom.
A Good Match for: Fans of Nintendo’s Kirby. The Focus guy looks a little like the pink glutton but faces a much more aggressive level of menace than anything in the Kirby franchise.
Not for Those Who Want:To finish. Where most browser games are fun larks meant to be nibbled at. Focus‘s cruel difficulty will eat away at your hours. Don’t play this one at work.
When games like Dead Space pull out all the audio-visual stops to scare the hell out of you, it might not seem like a retro-styled browser game can make you jump out of your seat. But Gyossait does exactly that.
A Good Match for: Castlevania fans. Gyossait doesn’t have the topsy-turvy recursive structure of Konami’s classic but it clearly draws on the franchise’s emphasis on tone as a guiding light.
Not for Those Who Want: Power fantasy. The nightmarishness of Gyossait doesn’t come from its bizarre free verse, but from the way that it seems to be a petri dish of miniature horrors. Nothing really makes sense in this game but you can figure out enough to know that you’re in a hell that you make not escape.
Sports games in the browser? Really? Leaving aside the exact question of whether mini-golf’s a sport or not, Wonderputt shines because it takes the wackiness already inherent with its real-life equivalent and ramps it up exponentially. It adds puzzle-like progression to the course, where you won’t know where the hole is until finish the current one.
A Good Match for: Golf haters. No boring commentary. No hushed throngs. Spaceships. Rainbows. These are the reasons you will love this game.
Not for Those Who Want: Tiger Woods PGA Tour-style links action. The single screen on which Wonderputt happens never changes and but it’s fascinating in a way that Pebble Beach will never be.
NOTE: This list will be updated if and when we discover better games. We will only ever list 12 games, at the most.