Browser game

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The browser version of Freeciv Freeciv-net-screenshot-2011-06-23.png
The browser version of Freeciv

A browser game is a video game that is played via the World Wide Web using a web browser. [1] These games span all genres and can be single-player or multi-player. They are usually free-to-play.


Some browser games are also available in other forms: as a mobile app, a PC game, or on a console. For users, the advantage of the browser version is not having to install the game; the browser automatically downloads the necessary content from the game's website. However, the browser version may have fewer features or inferior graphics compared to the others, which are usually native apps.

The front end of a browser game is what runs in the user's browser. It is implemented with the standard web technologies of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and WebAssembly. In addition, WebGL enables more sophisticated graphics. On the back end, numerous server technologies can be used.

In the past, many games were created with Adobe Flash, but they can no longer be played in the major browsers, such as Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. [2] [3] Thousands of these games have been preserved by the Flashpoint project. [4] [5]


When the Internet first became widely available and initial web browsers with basic HTML support were released, the earliest browser games were similar to text-based Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs), minimizing interactions to what implemented through simple browser controls but supporting online interactions with other players through a basic client–server model. [6] One of the first known examples of a browser game was Earth 2025, first released in 1995. It featured only text but allowed players to interact and form alliances with other players of the game. [7]

Browser technology quickly began to mature in the mid-1990s with support for browser plug-ins and the introduction of JavaScript. More advanced browser interactions, unbounded by the restrictions of HTML and that used client-side processing were possible. Among other browser extensions, these new plug-ins allowed uses to run applets made in the Java language and interactive animations created in Macromedia Flash. These technologies were initially intended to provide web page developers tools to create fully immersive, interactive websites, though this use fell out of favor as it was considered elitism and broke expected browsing behavior. Instead, these technologies found use by programmers to create small browser games among other unexpected uses such as general animation tools. [8] [9]

Sites began to emerge in the late 1990s to collect these browser games and other works, such as Sun Microsystems' HotJava. [10] These sites started to become a popular commodity as they drew web visitors. Microsoft acquired one such site, The Village, in 1996, and rebranded it as the Internet Gaming Zone, offering various card and board browser games. [11] was created in 1997 to host a selection of classic, Java-based online multiplayer games such as chess and checkers; its popularity led Yahoo! to purchase the site in 1998 and rebranding it as Yahoo! Games. [11]

In 1999, Tom Fulp kickstarted the Flash games scene with the release of the game Pico's School on his site Newgrounds that featured a "complexity of design and polish in presentation that was virtually unseen in amateur Flash game development" of the time. [12] [13] [14]

Expansion of broadband connectivity in the early 2000s drew more people to play browser games through these sites, as well as added attention as viral phenomenon. [15] [16] New sites like Kongregate and Armor Games arose for hosting Flash-based games while also offering their own titles, [17] while companies like PopCap Games and King launched their own portals featuring titles they had developed. Social media sites also drove more players to browser games. Facebook, after launching in 2004, added support for browser game functionality that integrated with its social network features, creating social network games, notably with Zynga's Farmville . [18] The success of browser games did hurt some developers. Humongous Entertainment reported that they lost players to Flash games in the early 2000s. [19]

Flash games were considered to have hit their peak in the mid-2000s but waned by the early 2010s. [17] Their popularity had fallen due to two primary causes. First was the introduction of mobile gaming, primarily with Apple's iPhone release in 2007 and the availability of the App Store. Through the App Store, anyone could release apps for the iPhone, and with the addition of in-app purchases, new revenue models such as free-to-play quickly emerged for mobile games, well surpassing the current ad-driven revenue model of browser games. Google used the same concepts for developing the Android storefront Play Store. Developers either augmented browser games or shifted to the mobile platform to take advantage of the new revenue opportunities; notably, King transitioned one of its browser games into one of the most successful mobile games, Candy Crush Saga . [20] The second factor came from the claimed "death knell" for Adobe Flash via way of Steve Jobs' open letter to Adobe in 2010, stating that Apple would not support Flash on the iPhone platform due to security concerns and other factors. About a year after Jobs' letter, Adobe announced it would start deprecating Flash and transition users to HTML5 and other open standards in its other products. [21] Adobe completely shut down Flash by December 30, 2020 after giving web developers a few years to prepare for this event. [22] With little future in Flash, developers moved away from the browser platform in the early 2010s.

However, the latter part of the 2000s in terms of browser games also overlapped with the emergence of indie games. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the video game industry had started to coalesce around triple-A development, games made by large studios with multi-million dollar budgets. Because of the money involved, the industry took few risks in these major titles, and experimental games were generally overlooked. [23] Browser games gave a venue for such titles during the early 2000s, and the broader interest in-browser games by the mid-2000s highlighted several of these titles. Subsequently, a number of early indie games are those based on browser games, such as The Behemoth's Castle Crashers , inspired by Newgrounds' Alien Hominid and Edmund McMillen's Super Meat Boy based on his Meat Boy browser game. [17] Other indie developers got their start in browser and Flash games, including Vlambeer, Bennett Foddy, and Maddy Thorson. [17]

Post-2010, browser games written in other formats besides Flash remain popular, such as HTML5, WebGL, and WebAssembly. [24] The .io domain, which was first used in 2015 by , has become a popular domain attached to browser games, because of its short length, the ease of acquiring the domain, and the association with programming because "io" can also stand for input/output. [25] Subsequently, these game developers have found ways to monetize their work by creating versions for mobile devices or other platforms which they can sell. [25]


Many Flash games in the late 1990s and early 2000s received attention through the use of shock comedy or real-world events, like McDonald's Videogame, a satire of McDonald's' business practices, or Darfur is Dying, about the War in Darfur, Sudan. Wired would write in 2017, "Flash games lent themselves to the exaggerated and cartoonish, a style that eventually evolved into an affection-at least amongst its best creators-for beautiful grotesquerie. Like much of the younger gaming internet, Flash games defined boundaries simply to cross them; the best titles straddled a weird line between innocence and cruelty, full of gorgeous gore and enthralling body horror". [26]

Newgrounds creator Tom Fulp created a game called Pico's School based after the Columbine shootings, where the player must take down a goth school shooter. [27] There are a few other controversies involving browser games and real-world events, such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting reenactment V-Tech Rampage, [28] and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre targeting the game Kindergarten Killers after the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings. [29]

See also

Related Research Articles

Adobe Flash is a multimedia software platform used for production of animations, rich web applications, desktop applications, mobile apps, mobile games, and embedded web browser video players. Flash displays text, vector graphics, and raster graphics to provide animations, video games, and applications. It allowed streaming of audio and video, and can capture mouse, keyboard, microphone, and camera input.

Web application Application that uses a web browser as a client

A web application is application software that runs on a web server, unlike computer-based software programs that are run locally on the operating system (OS) of the device. Web applications are accessed by the user through a web browser with an active network connection. These applications are programmed using a client–server modeled structure—the user ("client") is provided services through an off-site server that is hosted by a third-party. Examples of commonly-used web applications include: web-mail, online retail sales, online banking, and online auctions.

Newgrounds is an entertainment website and company founded by Tom Fulp in 1995. It hosts user-generated content such as games, films, audio, and artwork composition in four respective website categories. It also provides visitor-driven voting and ranking of user-generated submissions. Fulp produces in-house content at the headquarters and offices in Glenside, Pennsylvania.

Stick figure

A stick figure, also known as stickman, is a very simple drawing of a person or animal, composed of a few lines, curves, and dots. On a stick figure, the head is most often represented by a circle, sometimes embellished with details such as eyes, a mouth, or hair. The arms, legs, and torso are usually represented by straight lines. Details such as hands, feet, and a neck may be present or absent; simpler stick figures often display an ambiguous emotional expression or disproportionate limbs.

A rich web application is a web application that has many of the characteristics of desktop application software. The concept is closely related to a single-page application, and may allow the user interactive features such as drag and drop, background menu, WYSIWYG editing, etc. The concept was first introduced in 2002 by Macromedia to describe Macromedia Flash MX product. Throughout the 2000-s, the term was generalized to describe web applications developed with other competing browser plugin technologies including Java applets, Microsoft Silverlight.

Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI) is an application programming interface (API) of the Web Browsers that allows plugins to be integrated.

Adobe Flash Player is computer software for content created on the Adobe Flash platform. Flash Player is capable of viewing multimedia contents, executing rich Internet applications, and streaming audio and video. In addition, Flash Player can run from a web browser as a browser plug-in or on supported mobile devices. Flash Player was created by Macromedia and has been developed and distributed by Adobe Systems since Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005. Flash Player is distributed as freeware. With the exception of the China-specific and enterprise supported variants, Flash Player was discontinued on 31 December 2020, and its download page disappeared two days later. Since 12 January 2021, Flash Player versions newer than, released in May 2020, refuse to play Flash content and instead display a static warning message.

Tom Fulp Creator of Newgrounds

Thomas Charles Fulp is the creator of the game and animation website Newgrounds and co-founder of video game company The Behemoth. He has been credited with "changing the landscape of the Internet forever" and kickstarting the browser game scene in the late 1990's, both with the releases of his own unprecedentedly advanced Flash games but more importantly the launch of the Newgrounds Portal, which made Newgrounds one of the very first sites that allowed creators to easily share their creations with a large online audience.

Adobe AIR Cross-platform runtime system for building rich web applications

Adobe AIR is a cross-platform runtime system currently developed by Harman International for building desktop applications and mobile applications, programmed using Adobe Animate, ActionScript, and optionally Apache Flex. It was originally released in 2008. The runtime supports installable applications on Windows, macOS, and mobile operating systems, including Android, iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS.

Microsoft Silverlight Application framework for writing and running rich Internet applications

Microsoft Silverlight is a discontinued application framework designed for writing and running rich web applications, similar to Adobe's runtime, Adobe Flash. A plugin for Silverlight is still available for a very small number of browsers. While early versions of Silverlight focused on streaming media, later versions supported multimedia, graphics, and animation, and gave support to developers for CLI languages and development tools. Silverlight was one of the two application development platforms for Windows Phone, but web pages using Silverlight did not run on the Windows Phone or Windows Mobile versions of Internet Explorer, as there was no Silverlight plugin for Internet Explorer on those platforms.

Kongregate American online gaming website

Kongregate is an American video game publisher and web gaming portal. The website features over 110,000 online games and 30+ mobile games available to the public, while also publishing games for PC and console. In 2010, it was purchased by Gamestop Corporation and was then acquired by Modern Times Group MT AB in 2017.

iOS SDK Software development kit for iOS

The iOS SDK, formerly the iPhone SDK, is a software development kit (SDK) developed by Apple Inc. The kit allows for the development of mobile apps on Apple's iOS and iPadOS operating systems. Israeli software company Ltd. is an Israeli software company, providing cloud-based web development services. It allows users to create HTML5 websites and mobile sites through the use of online drag and drop tools. Along with its headquarters and other offices in Israel, Wix also has offices in Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, Lithuania, the United States, and Ukraine.


Away3D is an open-source platform for developing interactive 3D graphics for video games and applications, in Adobe Flash or HTML5. The platform consists of a 3D world editor, a 3D graphics engine, a 3D physics engine and a compressed 3D model file format (AWD).

HTML5 can be used as an alternative to some of the functionality of Adobe Flash. Both include features for playing audio and video within web pages. Flash is specifically built to integrate vector graphics and light games in a web page, features that HTML5 also supports.

Epic Citadel

Epic Citadel is a tech demo developed by Epic Games to demonstrate the Unreal Engine 3 running on Apple iOS, within Adobe Flash Player Stage3D and using HTML5 WebGL technologies. It was also released for Android on January 29, 2013.

<i>Happy Wheels</i> 2010 video game

Happy Wheels is a ragdoll physics-based platform browser game developed and published by Fancy Force. Created by video game designer Jim Bonacci in 2010, the game features several player characters, who use different, sometimes atypical, vehicles to traverse the game's many levels. The game is best known for its graphic violence and the amount of user-generated content its players produce on a regular basis, with game maps shared on a public server.

<i></i> Browser/mobile game is a multiplayer online video game available for iOS, Android, and web browsers, developed by Steve Howse. Players control an avatar resembling a worm, which consumes multicolored pellets, both from other players and ones that naturally spawn on the map in the game, to grow in size. The objective of the game is to grow the longest worm in the server. is similar in concept to the popular 2015 web game and is reminiscent of the classic arcade game Snake.

Puffin Browser Web browser

Puffin Browser is a subscription-based web browser developed by CloudMosa, an American mobile technology company founded by Shioupyn Shen.


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