This year was a major “what the fuck” for video games, and I am eagerly looking forward to throwing it in a dumpster and tossing a match in after it to move onto bigger and better things. But before writing the entire thing off, it’s worth pulling out some of the most interesting free games that came of 2014 that may have flown under the radar due to being a bit fringe or offbeat. Plus, I’m fairly sure the internet doesn’t need me to provide more words about Shadow of Mordor and Destiny are when other people have that beat thoroughly covered. So instead, I’d like use this space to show you weird, short, and free games that don’t require anything other than just a tiny bit of your time, much like I did last year. You don’t even need to download these. Everyone wins.
Additionally, since this is a list about 2014 and my general impression of the year is “what the fuck”, the following list tries to stay true to that theme and showcases games that have some element of “what the fuck” to them, usually in a good way. Given that some of these are weird and nontraditional, I’m sure everyone’s favorite beaten horse of the ~*“what is a game”*~ argument will rise from its grave in the comments section, so I’d like to be the first to invite you to ignore the zombie horse, enjoy the free stuff, and worry about what to name them later.
Best Way To Break Your Brain In Under 2 Minutes: Entire Screen Of One Game by Tom 7
It’s difficult to describe this game in the way that it’s difficult to describe how a magic eye works to someone--a funny little thing happens in your brain that is hard to quantify but interesting to experience. There’s no end and you quickly get the gist of what it has to offer, but it’s still really cool to experience firsthand and maybe get sucked into for a while.
Best Game About Balls: Pachinkoman by Punch The Moon
Pachinkoman is a point and click adventure with some of the funniest writing I’ve seen in games in a long time. You play as a pachinko loving salaryman who has lost his soul on a bet with a satanic pachinko machine and is cursed to wander a customized version of middle management hell in the form of what doomed him. Between the new game+ Cage Match mode that lets you play as Nicolas Cage, the shoutouts to old school adventure games, and the perfectly suited quirky music, Pachinkoman is a fun way to spend an evening and has a surprising amount of content and polish for a game made in one month.
Best Playable Music Video: Pale Machine by Ben Esposito & bo en
Pale Machine is a really gorgeous experience, regardless of what you classify it as. Ben’s visuals and oddball interaction design lend itself to the surreal backing track. All of the detached interactive vignettes add to the detached, spacing out at 2 am in a weird gas station feeling of the piece while being vaguely upbeat. I’d absolutely love to see more collaborations between musicians and game developers if this is the output. Plus, you can throw up metal horns inside a gutter at the end and I’m not really sure what could be a more appropriate note to leave 2014 on.
Best Unintentionally(?) Brilliant Satire Game: Elsa Frozen Brain Surgery by Some Uncredited Person Who Is Either From Space or A Genius
Poe’s Law is a fun thing where you can’t tell satire apart from an incredibly ridiculous genuine article.
So, let’s give some context as to why this game is particularly hilarious. This is on one of those hyper-stereotypical and vaguely insulting “Games For Girls” web portals that generally are eye-strain Malibu Barbie pink and generally contain baby care simulators and paper doll dress-ups. These started appearing years ago and have apparently been making enough money to become a market and genre in and of itself on really basic interaction--usually some variation of “click a thing and drag it onto another thing” wrapped up in whatever princess or pop star is a big deal at the time to generate traffic off of a paint-by-numbers approach. These sites then seemingly began to self-replicate, making clones of their own games with very slight modifications on the theme purely to bulk up the site as much as possible. Somehow this formula’s tiny mutations end up spiraling out into weird places, taking a simple concept like a Disney Princess Doctor game and specializing into horrifying princess dentistry. Search an app store sometime for “princess” and “dentistry” and enjoy the nightmares, seriously.
But far and above the weirdest of this hyper specific phenomenon I’ve seen is the Elsa Frozen Brain Surgery game. The juxtaposition of Disney Princess and horrifying medical procedures, the fact that you dig a tiara out of her glitter encrusted brain only to see her wear it later, the fact that once you’re done you see a cotton candy halo circling around the incision you made in her skull and then later healed with magical snowballs… this game has it all. I am not sure which is funnier, the possibility that this game belongs to such a weird niche genre and someone may have made this in total sincerity, or the thought that there might somewhere be a work-for-hire game developer so crotchety that when they were commissioned to make another substance-less girlgame, they managed to create this and get away with it. Either way, awesome.
Best Game About Doin’ It: How Do You Do It? by Nina Freeman
Following a game on a site that pumps out saccharine content aimed at young girls, How Do You Do It is a more realistic and honest look at how girls play. It’s an autobiographical game about a little kid trying to figure out how a sex do while her parents are out using her boy and girl dolls to act it out. It’s genuine and relatable, and absolutely worth the few minutes of your time it asks.
Best Game That Made Me Yell “Stop Licking My Eye” At Someone: Realistic Kissing Simulator by Jimmy Andrews and Loren Schmidt
Even though the “simulation that is not remotely an accurate representation of the thing it’s simulating” joke is getting kinda tired out, Realistic Kissing Simulator is still a fun way to be awkward with friends (or if you don’t have anyone to be your player 2, you can always make out with yourself!). If you’re a fan of goofy mechanic games like Goat Simulator or Surgeon Simulator, give this one a go.
Best Simulation Of It’s Actual Subject, Probably: Orion by Diego F. Goberna
In contrast, Orion is essentially a simple cockpit simulator. It’s a fun mechanic of Spaceteam-esque control deduction combined with trying to make sure your ship doesn’t fall back into earth’s rotation while you figure out what buttons to press. It definitely caused a few moments of panic and wondering where the hell the button I needed to not crash the ship was. It’s highly polished for a game made in 48 hours, and I really hope that the developer takes it further.
Best Bizarre Game Premise: Bladesque by PirovanoMichele
It’s quite simple, you throw knives at a burly man and receive your fortune. Also the burly man is in a Playboy bunny costume. Also sometimes the knives are buster swords or bananas. Also sometimes you’re in space. I have no idea how or why any of these things are the case, but at least now I know that I will marry a pope who also looks like my mother. Thanks, Bladesque!
Best Game That Made Me Think My Browser Broke: The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo by Michael Lutz and Kimberly Parker
It’s a horror game that relies on urban legends made within our lifetime instead of ones created centuries ago. With 5 endings and cool glitchy parts that had made me check to see if the game actually broke or was simply pretending to, this was easily one of my favorite interactive fiction games of this year.
Best Game About Adorable Ponies: Pony Island by Daniel Mullins
This is definitely a game about adorable ponies. H͚̻͍a̮p̛̣̙͚p̩̰̠̜̤̘͙y͇̠̥ ̞̬̺̭̲w̵̖͇̗̤̯̖oṉ͔̗̭̝d͓͔̝̠͘e͘rf͇͎̪u̦̰̙̰̞̪̘l̳̦͎̩͉̻͎͟ ̪͟p̬o̡͇̙n̟̞͓̗̙͎̺͟i̡̫e̦͔̞̭̪s͖̝̪̠̤̪̰͝.͕̤̱̞͔̦̀ C̶̮̺̣̫̤͉̼̗̟͝u̯̼̻͜͞t̠̝̲̝̼͙͇̥̱è̗͓̺̝̣͟ ̸̤͔̙p̧̝̯͇̱̖͖̬͚͠r̷͉͎̺a̠̭͖̪ń̡͉͚͇̞̮̘͍͓͘ć̳̻͝i͎̙͢n͖̘͔̙g̶̘̱̦̹̲̟̙̹ ̲̞̹̭́͠p̶̫̕o̘͙̰̜̲̜̦̦͝n̵̴̨̠̯̩̯͚ý̴̬̙̥̬̣ ͠҉̼̤͇̱͈f̵̟̥̜̮̙̙r̪̮̥͕i̧̪͍̼̖̣̟͢é̛̩͎̞n̯͍̯̩̫̝͖͠d̮̜͇̱s̶̱͉̲̥̜̲͈̺͖͡͞.̷̵̢̗͇̮̥̠̙̩̻̤
Best Short Free Web Game Of 2015: Yours?
Do you have a cool or weird idea that would be well-suited to a short game like the ones on this list? These kinds of games are stellar targets to aim for if you are interested in making your first game. If you want to give it a shot, consider wandering over to PixelProspector to see a huge pile of resources, tools for making games, and guides on how to make them great. It’s more accessible than you’d think!