Casual Encounters--22 Flash Games Worth Getting Addicted To

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When you don't have the time or resources to commit to a full-fledged FPS, strategy game, or RPG adventure, a fun, fast, browser-based game is sure to satisfy. We reveal our favorites—both current and classic

Five minutes here, a lunch break there, the urge to procrastinate. The free browser-based Flash game has evolved with the technology, producing some high-quality time-killers that can interrupt the most productive of days. With volume comes choices. But you don’t want to waste time browsing—you need the definitive go-to guide to the best of what’s out there. We did the leg (hand and mouse) work for you. Many sites collect hundreds of these free games—check out Kongregate.com , Armorgames.com , Gamebrew.com , as examples—but scan our list and you’ll be on the road to fun, free entertainment in no time. Plus, for a hint of nostalgia, or to get your feet wet with casual gaming, spend some quality time with classics of the genre, collected in our list of all-time favorites.

Dark Base III

Alien slaughter-fest

This top-down shooter franchise has been successful enough to spawn sequels, which says plenty about its quality. RPG-style level-up mechanics let you improve your abilities and arsenal, which is vital given the rampaging indigenous life forms intent on eating you and your hired-mercenary help. Mission progression lets you take on optional tasks that flesh out the story and provide further opportunities to earn experience and level up. ( http://www.crazymonkeygames.com/Darkbase-3.html )

Wake Up the Box

Fun with physics

What else are you going to do when you find a box napping on a ledge? Prod him awake using the weight and shape of various pieces of wood in a physics-based puzzle, naturally. Mixing spatial challenges, occasional speed tests, and creative thinking, each of the 20 levels provides a unique test. If you get stuck, watch the handy video walkthrough of the optimal solutions. ( http://armorgames.com/play/4839/wake-up-the-box )

Kongai

Whip 'em good

This collectible card game is blended with Street Fighter-like beat-’em-up mechanics and painted with a classic high-fantasy cartoon-art style (i.e., uber-buff dudes and improbably proportioned ladies). You start with three cards, which you’re likely to pick for the artwork since the mechanics take some learning. After a few practice bouts, you earn new cards and compete in ranked matches against other folks. Very, very compelling for Magic: The Gathering types who want a free option. ( http://www.kongregate.com/games/Kongregate/kongai )

Flakboy

Happy to be the gun, spike, mine test subject

Figuring out the most effective method of delivering extreme damage to poor Flakboy proves incredibly engaging. Poor guy is scared of a yellow duck, which sets him in motion within a confined room outfitted by whatever spikes, mines, guns, and trampolines your cash allotment affords you to buy. The eight levels each require you to inflict more damage, which forces you to try new weapons as they unlock. Then set the duck loose and watch Flakboy smear the walls with his own blood! ( http://www.a10.com/game/flakboy.html )

Hedgehog Launch

Not a bird or a plane, but a hedgehog

One hedgehog. One elastic launch contraption. Strap-on rocket packs. It all adds up to an obvious recipe for throwaway fun chasing your high score. Launch the hedgehog skyward then hope you hit the floating coinage. The loot is then used to buy upgrades to the rockets, better launch velocity, a radar device (largely ineffective, as it turns out), and more. Then you launch again. And again. And upgrade. And launch. And you’ll still be launching 10 minutes after you decided to stop. ( http://www.kongregate.com/games/ArmorGames/hedgehog-launch )

Desktop TD Pro

Stop the critters scurrying across your desk

Tower defense has become the defining casual-game genre for its classic simple-but-deep mechanics, puzzling challenges, and characteristic “just one more go” play sessions that last into the wee hours. And this is one of the best. Inviting in its simple premise and early level setup, and then excruciating in the grip of vast strategic options as you place tower types, upgrade as you earn cash, and try to stop the enemies from exiting the arena. Give it five minutes; it’ll repay you in hours. ( http://www.casualcollective.com/games/Desktop_TD_Pro )

Red Fluxion

Remember to blink

Your tiny ship has plenty of firepower. Lasers blasting vertically; shots dispersing horizontally; homing missiles navigating towards targets. So many targets. Within moments, space is jam-packed with colorful shapes dispatching swarms, streams, and swirls of damaging objects not necessarily directed at you, but in such sufficient quantities to fill the blackness of space with their color. And that’s before you get to the monstrous boss battles that often require fine mouse control amid the manic shooting gallery action. ( http://www.kongregate.com/games/zestygames/red-fluxion )

Crush the Castle

Flinging rocks for fun and profit

Armed with a powerful trebuchet, it’s your mission to launch projectiles at a castle until you bring the structure crashing down around the heads of the inhabitants. Kill ’em all, then move on to the next castle. The game’s 24 castles test your skill at timing the launch for the right speed and trajectory and mixing up ammunition options, which upgrade as you progress. Complete them all, then have a go at designing and testing out your own castle conundrums. ( http://armorgames.com/play/3614/crush-the-castle )

This Is the Only Level

A many-trick pony

Thirty identical levels. Sounds like a hoot, right? But an incredible variety of invention makes each level a thoroughly unique or stylized challenge. This isn’t about using different routes from entry to exit, but interpreting the word clue to fathom the trick to solving a given level. When you have to refresh your browser to unlock a level, you know this is something a little bit different, a little bit special, and worth several do-overs to earn faster times and fewer deaths. ( http://armorgames.com/play/4309/this-is-the-only-level )

Icycle

Is this for total aerodynamics?

Riding along deadly ice caps, across crumbling mountains, through volcanic tunnels, and amid collapsing buildings is dangerous enough. Doing it in the buff? Weird. But “naked guy riding a bike” captures the attention quicker than “random dude on BMX adventure to collect frozen soap bubbles.” And it’s totally compelling as the scale shifts for each level—shrinking the character to a few pixels in some cases—as he overcomes the obstacles to make the exit. Some levels are cunningly challenging, others a ride in the park. Naked. ( www.dampgnat.com/icycle )

Finwick

Beyond the call of the mailman's duties

Delivering mail seems like such a mundane summer-vacation student job. Not in Finwick, where helping the Royal Mail (evidently set in England) can be very dangerous. This side-scrolling platform and puzzle game is framed by a story told in quick dialogue blurbs between characters and set among beautifully drawn (if deadly) forests, factories, and construction sites. Controlling a second character adds further puzzle challenge as you set platforms in motion and create safe routes to deliver one piece of mail. ( http://www.smallgreenhill.com/games/finwick/ )

Canabalt

Free running

Now this is extreme parkour… in black-and-white, pixel-graphics form. You’re escaping (from what is unclear) through buildings, across construction cranes and rooftops, at blistering Usain Bolt–plus-plus speeds, hitting just one jump key to skip over obstacles or leap through windows and across gaps between buildings. Scored purely on the distance you make before face-planting into the side of a building, you’ll keep trying for that longer run, pushed by the pounding sci-fi movie soundtrack pumping in the background. ( www.adamatomic.com/canabalt )

GraveShift 2: The Sewers

Does not stink in the least

The isometric 3D puzzle-adventure game has been around for eons, and this one brings a colorful style to its Indiana Jones–wannabe character. You have to navigate through the sewers, picking up gold along the way, fighting off the rats, skeletons, and more. These sewers are dangerous, with spike pits and other traps adding to the challenge as you try to recover King Krump’s treasure. The terrific art style makes it easy to spend hours exploring and figuring out how to retrieve each piece of treasure. ( http://www.mochimedia.com/games/graveshift-2-the-sewers/ )

Ultimate Assassin 2

Metal Gear Flash

This top-down stealth-action game recalls memories of early Metal Gear sneak, stab, hide, and escape gameplay. It’s extremely challenging as you move your assassin after the green “boss” target through 18 levels. Guards shine their torches and move through the environment in random directions. Your assassin can call on a brief invisibility (so long as you don’t move) and speed-burst to elude danger. After the hit, wait for the mission bar to fill before the exit is revealed, and hope the bad guys don’t spot the body and sound an alarm that sends them into a fast-moving frenzy. ( http://www.games121.com/2009/06/ultimate-assassin-2.html )

A Dralien Day

Lose yourself in a puzzling journey

This tale of a dragon’s emergence from an egg and his travels through puzzle-infested environments is classic point-and-click adventure fare. Those big doe-eyes implore you to help the little fella through each area. Rather than pixel-searching for clickable objects, each interactive element in a scene is handily highlighted, so it’s easy to find the puzzles even if it’s not so easy to solve them. A full walkthrough is available if you happen to get stuck. ( http://www.pencilkids.com/the-vault/a-dralien-day-page/ )

Small Worlds

From small beginnings great worlds grow

An entry in the Casual Gameplay Design Competition, this quirky exploration game packs tons of style into its simple stick-character and block-graphics presentation. From an initial camera view zoomed in on your pixel “dude” you move around the world as the camera pans back to reveal its shape, paths, and direction to the exits. It’s more a game of wonder at the concept than a speed, movement, or puzzle-solving challenge, but still well worth your attention. ( http://jayisgames.com/cgdc6/?gameID=9 )

Drastic Plastic

Rock ‘em, sock ‘em

Save yourself the time searching through boxes of your old toys (or wandering flea markets or browsing eBay) for that Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots box. The controls in Drastic Plastic couldn’t be simpler, with the left- and right-punch mechanic and a “retreat” option, but the ability to upgrade your robot parts using the cash earned winning bouts gives this simple premise significant legs. Cheaper and less breakable than the classic tabletop game! ( http://bit.ly/4De9Wc)

Pandemic II

Make your own swine flu

Pick a disease type—virus, bacteria, or parasite—then give it a name and start its spread across the globe! Yes, you’re spreading disease with the goal of infecting everyone on the planet. The disease types have different properties affecting their ability to propagate into new countries. Buying additional properties allows your disease to flourish in the various environments—heat, cold, and more—as you try to infect folks who are traveling, so they can spread it to new continents. (http://bit.ly/JU8g)

Light-Bot

Learn programming routines

Understanding the function process of programming AI routines sounds like it’ll be fun to learn, right? This charming puzzler requires you to give the robot specific process instructions that move him around or over obstacles and then switch a light on at a specific spot. You learn to use function commands to package instructions together as the challenges get more complex. Way more fun than it sounds! ( www.kongregate.com/games/Coolio_Niato/light-bot)

The Missile Game 3D

How good is your mouse/eye coordination?

Like all the best Flash games, a simple premise turns out to be incredibly addictive. Using the mouse to move within the tunnel you have to fly between the gaps in plates that block your path. As you gather momentum, each minor move of the mouse can lead to disaster, so it’s important to adjust your mouse response speed to a level that gives you the most precise control. ( www.albinoblacksheep.com/games/missilegame3d)

Dragon Age Journeys

Small-form but still epic RPG

Part promo for the big brother RPG release Dragon Age: Origins, part franchise extension, Journeys shares many of the main game’s mechanics in a really impressive adventure. Set in Ferelden, the game lets you create a character with its own origin story, and just as in the full-fledged PC and console RPG, you’ll chat-up various characters, some of whom will join your quest; you’ll collect and upgrade items and weapons; and you’ll make choices through dialogue options, shaping your own personality and motives. Combat is turn-based on a hex board and requires expert strategizing as well as having bigger weapons and spells than the bad guys. A winner. ( www.dragonagejourneys.com )

FlashChess 3

The thinking man’s turn-based strategy

If shooting aliens, launching kittens from cannons, or plucking virtual guitar strings on a keyboard screams a little too much “kid game” for the workplace, most observers will offer an appreciative nod to your refined taste if they spot a chessboard on your screen. Sharpening mental agility by taking on the decent AI (in three difficulty levels), saving your progress, undoing moves are all the features you expect in a chess sim, and here the play is clear, simple, and free. ( www.flashchess3.com )

Moodstream

How do you feel today?

Designed to get creative juices flowing (and to show creative types the breadth of image content available for low, low prices at GettyImages.com), this mood sampler doesn’t play out like a game, but lets you choose “feelings” (whatever they are), and then see corresponding images swirl in to represent those thoughts. It’s quirky and cool, and while we can’t imagine it unlocking that trapped creative thought, you’ve got to give it a try to find out if the mood speaks to you! ( http://moodstream.gettyimages.com )

Creeper World

Death to goo

Though the full game requires a purchase and a download, the free Flash tutorial is still a compelling real-time strategy game in its own right. You place collectors and generate the power to charge blasters that keep the creeping goo at bay. The mechanics are pretty involved, so it definitely pays to take notice of the tutorial that outlines the important information in the dense control scheme. Once you have the hang of it, the strategy gameplay is challenging. ( www.knucklecracker.com )

Stick Cricket

Can you hit a wicked googly?

Yes, cricket. As in, the sport played by a handful of nations (but the national obsession in some parts of the world). This stick-figure game isn’t a simulation, but at least provides an idea of what the wonderful sport is all about. Challenge modes and the ability to compete against other people provide all the depth you need. And it doesn’t take five days to play one game that could end in a draw. (www.sticksports.com)

GemCraft

The power of pretty rocks

This thoughtfully different take on the tower-defense format pre-positions towers along a set path, and then tasks you with strategically adding more towers and arming them with crystals that you create. A high-fantasy storyline drives you to combine damage-dealing gems into more powerful variants as creatures trek toward your pleasantly appointed home. The ability to tweak features such as the speed of the enemy waves, leveling up new skills, and taking your own route through a branching mission path add a significant amount of replayability.( http://bit.ly/7Moxt)

Tanks

When two tanks go to war

Based on the classic Atari console game, you adjust the elevation of your tank’s gun to train it on the opposing tank, hit fire, and hope your math is right. You’ll upgrade your missile options and other details of your tank fleet over time so the process stays fresh, helped by a variety of terrain types providing different backdrops to the duel. (www.addictinggames.com/tanks.html)

Portal

Is the cake a lie?

Inspired by, but not endorsed or licensed from, Valve Software’s surprise puzzle hit, this Flash version proves the power and flexibility of the software with its remarkable recreation. The mind-bending puzzles are as gripping in this version as they are in the PC and console hit… and, of course, it’s free. ( portal.wecreatestuff.com )

Casual Game Classics

Free Flash games have evolved over the years, but some of the best of all time have probably contributed to more lost office productivity than Rick-rolling and dancing hamsters put together

Bloons

A monkey armed with darts popping balloons? Sounds like the perfect game concept. It’s also thoroughly addictive as you work through the steadily increasing difficulty levels, aiming to pop the target number of balloons as new obstacles (and power-ups) are introduced. ( http://www.ninjakiwi.com/Games/Bloons-Games/Play/Bloons.html )

Mini-Putt

A quick 18 holes of mini golf can turn into hours of effort to bring your score down as low as possible. In this classic variant you judge angles and speed to putt the ball around, through, or over obstacles and into the hole. ( http://www.addictinggames.com/miniputt.html )

3D Pong

See ball, hit ball with paddle. Repeat. Now three full unforgiving dimensions. ( http://www.3dponggame.com )

Bejeweled

Possibly the greatest detriment to office productivity since Minesweeper! Who would have thought that matching sets of three gems would prove to be so utterly addicting? This classic puzzler has spawned a huge number of clones and sequels, and continues to be played in offices in the world over. ( http://www.popcap.com )

Helicopter

Maybe the sound of constant mouse-clicking will make coworkers think you're being incredibly productive (or have some kind of crazy twitch). You keep the helicopter flying by pressing the mouse button, and release it to let it drop. Now just see how far you can make it through the tunnels while avoiding the obstacles. ( http://www.addictinggames.com/helicopter.html )

Fantastic Contraption

What a head scratcher. The simple premise of building machines is actually a deceptively addicting physics puzzler. You place the pieces of the contraption and hope your choices make it, well, fantastic. It's easy to spend hours figuring out some of the later-level conundrums. ( http://www.fantasticcontraption.com )

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