Fun in a Flash

Flash games offer an easy way to play full games without having to install anything on your machine or buy the latest hardware.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read

Got a few minutes between meetings, or just need to blow off some steam?

Flash game site Kongregate opened up to the public last week. The site is full of great independent Flash games without pop-ups, annoying flash banners, or in-game advertising. It also has solid community features like in-game chat with users who are playing other games, and a rewards system that gives you points for playing and rating games. I also like how the site shares advertising revenue with game developers based on how often their games are played.

The Fancy Pants Adventures is a platform game. CNET Networks

My pick for the easiest and most involving game on Kongregate is also one of the most played titles. It's called The Fancy Pants Adventures. It's sort of a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros. There's a great deal of running around, but there's also a strong sense of exploration. And it's got nice fluid animation.

Kongregate is far from the only Flash game site out there. If indie titles don't float your boat, see also:

Orisinal, which has been around since 2000. The site still has a slick and clean-looking interface of tiny little icons representing Flash games. Simplicity is the name of the game with Orisinal, as there's no registration or complex keystrokes required to play the games. Most games are controlled using just your mouse, but they likely will leave you wanting more from your gaming experience.

Snagging magic bells in Winterbells CNET Networks

One of the newest games on Orisinal is called Winterbells. It's also one of the most addictive. You're a rabbit that goes higher every time you touch one of the floating bells. You can keep going as high as you want, just don't fall. There's a similar title on the site called The Bottom of the Sea, where you attempt to make your way down instead of up, but it's not nearly as frenetic.

Miniclip is a site that offers Flash games, cartoons (those that have fallen out of copyright), and e-cards you can send to friends. What sets Miniclip apart from its competitors is the capability to share some games on your MySpace page or blog. There are annoying ads on the site and too much clutter; however, you can still play most games without site registration. A good deal of the games on Miniclip are clones of arcade classics, but that doesn't mean they're not fun.

Make Paul McCartney proud. CNET Networks

One of the most addictive games on Miniclip is Ice Slide, where you can catapult arctic creatures through the air and over ice floes, going for the longest shot possible. There are other, more involving games on the service, but few capture the thrill of launching porpoises from a giant slingshot.

AddictingGamespulls titles from other Flash game sites, but is less appealing visually. AddictingGames offers a section specifically for games you can embed on your own Web site or blog. You also can embed the game of the day, although this doesn't result in any sort of revenue-sharing for your site.

Albino Blacksheep offers a big group of experimental Flash games done by small and independent developers. Most notable is the Wii section, which has games designed to be played on the Nintendo Wii's Opera browser. There's also a small arcade section with clones of Pac-Man, Asteroid and Simon.

NewGrounds has a great selection of independent Flash games and has been around since 1995. Its categorization is eccentric and features genres like rhythm and dress-up dolls. Registered users can vote on games, to promote or get rid of games that have been submitted to the site. Worth checking out is the selection of Webcam games that let you use your body to control what's going on in the game.

The Big Guys

MSN, Yahoo and RealArcade offer a similar assortment of cheap (usually under $20), casual games. You're likely to find games you've heard of, like Tetris, Bejeweled and Zuma. It's worth noting these services require you to pay for the full versions of these games, but there's always a free trial. In most cases, games require a download, but a good deal of the more popular ones have Flash versions available too.

I'm partial to Yahoo's presentation, as they've adopted a layout similar to that of an actual video games site (like Gamespot) and an easy-to-spot top-20 list of popular games on the front page. However, MSN Games offers an all-you-can-eat pass called GameSpring that gives you full access to 50 selected games for $14.99 a month.