We love Flash. Until recently, it has provided the easiest and most powerful way of creating the online games that we showcase on this blog. It is not going too far to say that Flash spawned the online casual gaming industry. Without it, game studios would have found it almost impossible to provide online the slick animations, vector graphics and lightning fast interactivity that gamers demand.
They would have been forced to resort to the old way of doing things, painstakingly creating games using difficult-to-learn operating system specific technologies. These games would be expensive to develop, would only work on one operating system (so if you were on a Mac, you would have a problem) and users would be forced to download the games to play them.
At the very least, there would be far fewer free games available in a world without Flash compared to the tens of thousands that are on offer to internet users today. As we said, we love Flash. But we are also aware of its limitations. Developers have to buy expensive software in order to create Flash games. Flash is not open source, limiting what people can do with it. Flash also requires a browser plugin to work.
That is why we are excited about a new, emerging technology called HTML5. HTML5 is open source, completely free and, as you will see later, powerful enough to create fun and addictive online games. There are some problems with HTML5, as you would expect from any new technology, but these are likely to be overcome over coming years, especially as the technology has the support of some of the biggest names in web technology: Google, Apple and, belatedly, Microsoft.
The big issue with HTML5 at present is that older browsers - in particular Internet Explorer - do not support it. In order to play the games we have listed below, you will need to ensure that you have a modern browser. We recommend one of the following - Chrome, Safari or Firefox. If you are an Internet Explorer user and you don't want to change to a different browser, we recommend you install this plugin. It will invisibly upgrade your browser to the latest standards. I know this is a pain but, just think, you will be among the first in the world to experience HTML5 gaming.
Okay, now that you are all prepared for the HTML5 goodness that awaits you, let's go straight to the games:
A slick physics-based puzzle platformer by Matt Pelham, one of the leading lights in HTML5 gaming. You wake up in a laboratory with none of the super powers that you are used to. A computer voice gives you instructions on how you can regain your powers. One of the best looking HTML5 games out there. The movement is a little sluggish but the realistic physics and neat graphics provide the perfect demonstration of the gaming possibilities offered by HTML5. You can play Vii here.
One concern about HTML5 in the early days was that it would simply not be fast enough for games. There was no need to worry. HTML5 is proving itself to be easily powerful enough to create the lightning fast games that gamers crave, as 3Bored proves. 3Bored is one of the fastest actions games we have played in a browser. You play the part of a little rocket-propelled creature under attack from a whole host of enemies. You dart around the screen like a maniac trying to avoid the bullets that are criss-crossing all around you. The longer you avoid dying, the more points you get in this fun and addictive survival game.
3Bored also highlights another of the advantages of HTML5 over Flash. The game effortlessly scales to the size of your browser window - most Flash games are of a fixed size and do not therefore take advantage of all the available space. 3Bored can be played here.
The team behind Swarmation were originally planning to simply create a web app that demonstrated the power of HTML5's networking capabilities. But what they inadvertently ended up with was one of the most interesting multi-player puzzle games we have seen. Your task in the game is to work with others to create a particular shape out of little squares. You only have a limited period of time to get your own little square into position. If your square forms part of the desired shape when the timer reaches zero, then you are rewarded with some points. You are then presented with a new shape that you need to form, and the cycle repeats. As a single player game, Swarmnation would not have much going for it, but as a multi-player game, (despite some odd bugs) it absolutely rocks. Play Swarmation here.
The developer of Sinuous deserves credit for coming up with a unique idea for a game. Certainly, I have not seen anything like it before. Sinuous is perhaps best described as an amalgam of Boomshine and the classic snake game. You must navigate your 'snake' around the screen without touching the moving circles. It is not as easy as it initially seems. Sinuous is a mesmeric and relaxing game with that just-one-more-time quality that all games strive for but few achieve. Sinuous can be played here.
This space shooter game features a really neat way of controlling the direction of your space craft using your mouse. This is not the only cool thing about the game. Crystal Galaxy also offers some of the fastest action we have seen in an HTML5 game. Plus, the graphics and music are top notch. You would not know that it wasn't Flash. This is not the kind of game I would usually play but technically it is brilliant and it would be criminal not to include it near the top of this list. Crystal Galaxy can be played here.
Created by Lost Decade Games, Onslaught is a fun defend-your-castle-style game that, with its cute, pixelated graphics, harks back to the 8-bit era of gaming. You need to fight off waves of enemies attacking your castle. Things start off pretty easy but each new wave is stronger than the last, featuring ever more powerful enemies, that you soon find yourself in a desperate fight for survival. You can play Onslaught here.
8The Legend of Sadness
Fans of the early top-down Zelda games will love this game. The cute, cartoony graphics and fun puzzles of The Legend of Sadness are clearly a tribute to the Nintendo masterpieces of the 1990s. You play a young boy on a quest to lift the curse from his village. The game is very short (it was originally developed as a demo for the Akihabara game engine rather than a fully-fledged game) but the little that you get does not disappoint. The game also features a cool twist ending. The Legend of Sadness can be played here. Be aware that when it asks you to press the 'A' key you should press the 'z' key. In the game, use the arrow keys to move around, 'z' key to fire your weapon and 'x' to interact with people.
Physics games are all the rage at present. Our list of the Top 30 Physics Games, published earlier in the year, remains one of the most visited pages on our blog. This game - Sand Trap - would probably have made the list if we were compiling it now. All the more impressive given that it was developed from scratch in HTML5 rather than using one of the many pre-made physics engines available to Flash developers. The aim of the game is to move the grains of sand to the desired location by rotating different containers. The way that each grain of sand moves independantly is particularly impressive. Play the game here.
Brent Silby has been developing games with HTML5-like technologies for almost as long as the web has been around. He deserves far more recognition for his work in this area. His latest HTML game, created for the Casual Gameplay Design Competition, is Sandpit, an innovative driving game where you have to pave over a sandpit using a truck, avoiding various monsters in the process. Unusual but strangely addictive. You can play Sandpit here.
Fontanero is one of the best clones of that legendary game Nethack that we have seen, and it is done entirely in HTML5. Developed for A List Apart's 10k competition, the game replaces the ascii characters of the original Nethack with clean illustratve icons. This makes the game not only much better looking than Nethack (fans of the original may disagree!) but also much easier to play. The monsters, potions and other items littered around the game actually look like what they are meant to be (well, some of them, anyway). Fontanero can be played here.
Matt Pelham's Brain Snackers is undoubtedly the best isometric-style HTML5 game we have come across. It features great graphics, slick animations and an intriguing storyline. A deadly virus has wiped out most of humanity. Many of those left have been transformed into zombie-like creatures with an appetite for human flesh. You awake, alone and defenceless. You better find a weapon fast, else you are going to be zombie meat in no time... Brain Snackers can be played here.
14Leisure Suit Larry
In the 1980s and 1990s, Sierra Entertainment created some of the most influential adventure games in the history of gaming. Games like King's Quest, Space Quest and Lesiure Suit Larry proved huge hits at the time. Now, thanks to the work of Sarien.net, many of these games have been ported to HTML5 and can be played in the browser for free. For this list, we've picked out one of the Sierra games - Lesiure Suit Larry. You should be warned that this game has a very adult theme. Strictly for adults only. If you are not easily offended, play Leisure Suit Larry here. Else check out some of Sierra's tamer titles such as King's Quest or Gold Rush.
We could quite easily have filled this list with games by Brent Silby. He has probably created more HTML5-style games than anyone else in the world, and all of them are of a high quality. One of our favourites is Dark Age, a top down action adventure game inspired by the legendary Atari game Gauntlet. You can play the game here. Once you have finished the game, make sure you visit Brent's site and check out his other HTML5 games here.
Most of you are probably not old enough to remember the game Thrust. It was one of the best games available on that legendary 1980s gaming computer the Commodore 64. Now you can play the game in your browser for free, thanks to the power of HTML5. The 2010 version of the games features all the addictive game play of the original - navigate your craft around the cave without smashing into the walls. You can play Thrust 2010 here.
There are so many variations of Tetris to play on the web (very few of which add much to the original game) that to say that we are unexcited when we hear of a new one could be the understatement of the year. But, surprisingly, the version of Tetris seen in this game is actually worth a second look. The game is also the perfect showcase of the 3d capabilities that HTML5 has to offer. Play Torus here.
Infiltration is a unique take on the defend-your-castle game genre. While most games of this type expect you to use your mouse or a couple of keys to aim and fire your weapon at the enemy hordes, this game puts the whole keyboard at your disposal. The direction that you fire your weapon is determined by which key you press. The game manages to be both fun and challenging. You can play Infiltration here.
Missile Fleet was one of the first games on the web to take advantage of HTML5's canvas technology. But that is not the only thing impressive about it. It is also one of the best looking HTML5 games, featuring mesmerising explosions and beautiful bullet tracers. You are in charge of the red team in this space strategy game and your task is to destroy the blue team. Select multiple units using your mouse, and click where you want them to go. Play Missile Fleet here.
Bombada is a slickly produced match-three-or-more-of-a-kind puzzle game featuring cute graphics and addictive game-play. The game was built on Lost Decade Games's Diggy HTML5 game engine. You can play Bombada here.
Another entry into A List Apart's 10k competition, this game puts you in the shoes of a sniper. Carefully scan over the cityscape to find your target, and then without a moment's hesitation take him out. 10k Sniper can be played here.
This is quite a cute idea. The game flashes a number of objects on the screen for the briefest of moments, and asks you to guess how many there are. There is not enough time to count them, or sometimes even identify what they are, so you have to rely on instinct or intuition. The funny thing is that after repeated plays, your intuition seems to get better. Can intuition be learnt? This game appears to show that it can. Play Blink Wang here.
24Chain Reaction Advanced
Games don't always need brilliant graphics and great storylines to be a success. Sometimes less is better. That is certainly true of Boomshine, one of the simplest and most addictive games to come out of the Flash scene in recent years. You simply click to create an explosion that sets off other explosions when moving balls come into contact with it. Those explosions in turn create more explosions and so on. The more explosions you create, the greater your score. This game - Chain Reaction Advanced - is basically an HTML5 clone of Boomshine (though it does add some small twists on the game play). Nothing wrong with that - if it ain't broke... You can play Chain Reaction Advanced here.
You've probably come across games like this before. Navigate your helicopter through the cave using just one key. Hold down the key to increase thrust from the helicopter's rotors and increase the altitude of your craft, lift up on the key to reduce thust and lose altitude. See how long you can go before, inevitably, you crash into the cave wall. HTML5 Helicopter can be played here.
A relaxing puzzle game where you have to create the longest wiggly line by rotating shapes engraved with line segments. The game reminds me a lot of Loops of Zen in its relaxing, slightly hypnotic feel. Play Entanglement here.
Orbium is an interesting puzzle game where the challenge is to collect together spheres of the same colour. The puzzles start off pretty easy but as you progress through the levels they get steadily harder. Orbium can be played here.
This is a remake of the classic Atari game Crossfire from the 1980s. You are the pilot of a small craft exploring a foreign planet. You are under attack from the local fauna. Stay alive by moving constantly and firing through the gaps at your enemies. Don't forget to pick up the gems and other bonus items. Play Cover Fire here.
29Blobby Volley 2
I got hooked on an earlier Mac version of this volley ball-inspired game, so may be a bit biased in including it in the list. The updated version plays very similar to the original but is lacking one key feature - there is no computer AI, so you will need to play the game with someone else. Blobby Volley 2 can be played here.
This is a pseudo 3d platform game. You need to help Mr Frog reach the top of the tower by leaping between platforms, avoiding enemies, taking lifts and climbing stairways. Watch out for the platforms that disappear shortly after you step on them. You can play JSNebulo here.
We hope you enjoyed our list of HTML5 games. If you come across any other great HTML5 games, please tell us all about them in the comments section below.