Browser games are both the bane and the boon of the workplace. Too much fun without limitations and you’re unlikely to get your work done, too little fun and it’s just not worth the effort. And with so many Flash games out there, it’s nigh impossible to find one that’s the perfect balance of timesink and fun to keep you entertained without making you utterly useless at work.
Thankfully, there are browser games that seamlessly blend free-to-play models with RPG mechanics. While that might sound like a recipe for disaster, what that really means is you’re encouraged, if not required, to play in short bursts—five minutes here, ten minutes there—but you still get the rich storytelling you find in more typical gaming experience.
These three browser games are some of the best at providing free, bite-sized experiences without distracting you too much from your daily activities.
Explore the Depths of Fallen London in Quick Adventures
Fallen London (fallenlondon.storynexus.com) is the browser-based beginning to Failbetter Games’ Sunless Sea. Truly a feat in interactive fiction, Fallen London turns the world of Victorian London into a sometimes nightmarish, sometimes hilarious Gothic adventure, as the player navigates a London stolen beneath the surface of the earth.
Gameplay-wise, Fallen London is part resource management, part text adventure, part RPG. There’s no set goal at the beginning; instead, you find goals over the course of the game, raising your stats and trying different approaches to expose more story. Fallen London is a world full of potential, whether you’re hedonistic or pious, whether you like solving problems with fists or pretty words. There’s a seemingly endless amount to explore—the game has over a million words of text to read—and it’s a must-play for any fan of unique worlds in fiction.
But what makes it the ideal browser game is its limitations. Fallen London uses a limited free-to-play model, in that players are given 20 free actions to begin with. You regenerate one action every ten minutes, meaning it will take a little over three hours to return to 20 full actions. For those who want to play more, Fallen London offers the ability to purchase Fate, which can be used in-game for a variety of purposes, including to purchase additional stories, refill your actions, or other benefits. But you don’t need Fate to enjoy Fallen London—it’s only there if you’d like to use it, meaning that players who only want to play the game for free for short time periods can do so without feeling like they’re missing out.
Kingdom of Loathing Pokes Fun at Medieval Fantasy Tropes for the Perfect Quick Break
Medieval RPG settings are a little cliché by this point, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still fun. Kingdom of Loathing (kingdomofloathing.com) takes the fun to whole new levels, as its humor is really its driving force. Nearly every aspect of this browser game is a spin on traditional RPG staples, whether it’s Knob Goblins, the Pastamancer class, or zones like the Misspelled Cyrpt.
The experience is something like a hilarious tabletop RPG for browsers—you choose your class and navigate a series of quests, fighting off enemies and gathering new equipment to make the experience more interesting. The game has been running with constant updates since 2003, meaning there’s a huge amount of content to explore. Given the game’s size and humor, it’s an entertaining diversion that’s totally free.
Like Fallen London, Kingdom of Loathing does have some limitations in place to keep you from sinking your entire life into it. Having a certain number of actions works in the game’s favor—taking some time away from grinding through a quest means you’re better able to appreciate the game’s humor when you return. There is a donation option available for those that want to support the game, but it rewards players with cool new items. While you can refresh your actions through using items in the game, there’s no way to get rid of the limit entirely, making this the ideal game to play during short work breaks.
A Dark Room Plays Itself While You’re Busy
A Dark Room (adarkroom.doublespeakgames.com) is text adventure minimalism at its finest. There’s no elaborate backstory to unravel, no jokes to crack, no actions to wait for. There’s a dark room with a fire that must be stoked, and more will unveil itself as you go.
A Dark Room is a marriage of resource management and text adventures. As a mysterious protagonist, you progress from having a simple fire to a bustling village, with opportunities and events helping or impeding your journey. Gathering resources lets you build and create increasingly useful items, and these items play a role in the game’s second phase, when ‘text adventure’ takes on an entirely new meaning through ASCII art.
Rather than relying on limitations, as the previous games do, A Dark Room is quite content to be left alone for some time. It saves your progress and can be closed and returned to later, but it also works well in the background, as you’re able to continue gathering resources without watching what’s going on. Events that occur will remain until you deal with them, so there’s no chance of missing opportunities that might help you—it’s very easy to leave the game alone until an opportunity arises, at which point you can dive back in, do everything you can, and return to the task you’re actually supposed to be doing. A Dark Room is simple, but the hints of story and exploration are well worth playing.
What are your favorite browser games?