The very poster-child for indie games success stories, Minecraft was developed by Notch (Markus Persson) and is published by Mojang. In many ways Minecraft is the ultimate sleeper-hit in how it came out with little fanfare, but rapidly became a sensation and an Internet phenomenon with its popularity and simplistic but imaginative gameplay. The hyper-simplistic server-driven MMO allows people to develop entire worlds by taking building blocks and building whatever they desire; by basing the gameplay on a simple “block-for-block” paradigm Minecraft allows players to let their imaginations run wild and produce extremely complicated and artful designs.
As a game Minecraft is almost infinitely moddable and has become the centerpiece of an entire cyberculture of innovation, interest, celebrity, and heraldry. To extend that Notch and Mojang have gathered enough fanfare and fans to hold their own convention MineCon 2011. During which they debut the history of Minecraft.
Upon first glance, Tranformice doesn’t look like much—mice, cheese, and strategy—but once again in browser-based gaming it’s surprising complexity hidden in apparent simplicity that wins the day. The object of the game is to get mice (you) from one side of the playing map to the other and capture the cheese and return with it to the mouse hole—this needs to be done through strategy and cooperation with little communication. Assisting the normal mice are shaman mice who can create objects out of thin air and are expected to help the other mice capture the cheese…
Of course, it doesn’t always go that way. This free-to-play game actually incorporates trolling as an expected strategy to contain the excitement of other mice trying to capture the cheese. There are entire videos of mice (and shamans) causing horrible, but hilarious, failures.
Developed and published by Gazillion Entertainment, Fortune Online is a browser-game from the tried-and-true fantasy MMORPG genre. It runs on Flash and conveys strong action RPG elements along with the dungeon crawl experience that many players are looking for in their day-to-day free-to-play. The game still only has two classes, but supports a branching skill system, and customization via slotting equipment.
Published by Aeria Games Entertainment, Golden Age (first impressions review available) enters the browser-games top 10 with the first straight strategy game but combines a quest mechanic. As a game, it thrusts players into the golden age of fantasy knights and heroes and has them dig in their heels to build cities and claim land for the king. Resource collection, defense of said city, and other elements rear their head throughout the game and quests keep the game lively with some world-PvP to keep players on their toes.
R2games Entertainment Inc. publishes Crystal Saga, a refined browser-based, free-to-play MMORPG with prismatic colors and vivid characters thrust into an environment with dazzling effects. It enters into a genre of games that basically let the computer play for you—but allowing you to set your own criteria (right down to what monsters to kill and when to return to town to refill potions).
No top ten would ever be complete without the wonderful terrible-text-and-graphics browser-game Kingdom of Loathing. Arguably the worst possible graphics and UI ever to be used in a browser game… All part of its charm, KoL nonetheless runs in any browser (including Lynx) and pretty much has an extremely low bar to entry for anyone who wants to play. Set in a pseudo-fantasy MMORPG world, KoL is full of puns, bad jokes, and a generally ornery community whom you almost never see when playing. Still, it’s a classic and many people find it difficult to quit.
Developed and published by Jagex Games Studio, this fantasy browser-based MMORPG has been around since 2001 and has seen a great deal of updates and upgrades. RuneScape is yet another testament to staying power, popularity, and community. The game sees approximately 10 million active users a month and 156 million registered users. Instead of Flash, RuneScape uses Java and incorporates 3D rendering to bring its gameplay to life.
8 DD Tank
In a world where people love tactical turn-based games like Worms and Gunbound we have a browser-based game DDTank, published by Aeria Games. It features mostly chibi-styled (giant head, small body) animé characters, provides both PvE and PvP challenges, and daily tasks and rewards to keep things interesting. Matches can have a maximum of four players in them and can become quite explosive.
Sword Girls, published by ChangYou, delivers exactly that: girls with swords. Unlike many of the other games in the top ten list it’s a Flash-based collectable card game. The game supports hundreds of beautifully rendered cards—acclaimed as “visually striking” animé quality artwork—to collect and an innovative card crafting system that adds unique cards to the game.
10 Monkey Quest
With a name like Monkey Quest you probably know what you can expect from this quirky browser-based MMORPG. Published by Nickelodeon, best known for kids programming and cartoons, it has a lively and thriving community of fans of the show where players are introduced to quests that involve bananas, piracy, epic quests, and friendship!