I once made the mistake of going for a run. It was shortly after the Christmas festivities and I was feeling bloated from all the rich food and wine I had consumed. A friend guilt-tripped me into going jogging with her. Never again. Within minutes of setting off, I was suffering terrible hot flushes, I felt on the verge of vomiting and I was quite clearly in the midst of an epic coronary. That I survived the experience is a miracle in itself.
Needless to say, I haven’t gone running since. Now, whenever I feel the desire for some exercise, I switch on my computer and play some of these great running games. They provide all the thrill and excitement of running but without any of the pain. Perfect.
In this stunning platform game, clearly inspired by the Stephen King novel The Running Man (later made into a popular film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), you play the part of a contestant in a futuristic sporting event. You must make your way safely through a series of deadly obstacle courses as quickly as possible.
Doing this without dying is no simple task. Not only do you have to perform death defying leaps to tiny platforms hanging in mid air, launch yourself off springboards and rush across open spaces before the spikes in the ground shoot up and impale you but you also have to contend with huge spinning axes and rotating saws. The game is difficult but also hugely enjoyable, thanks to its smooth animations and clever special effects. There is also a multiplayer mode where you can race against others.
Even though it is showing its age a bit now, we couldn’t not place Canabalt near the top of this list. It is one of the most popular Flash games of all time, pioneering a whole new genre of run-as-far-as-you-can-without-dying gaming.
There may be games further down the list that surpass Canabalt in their graphics, animations and game-play but it was Canabalt that clearly provided their inspiration (see in particular Solipskier and Robot Unicorn Attack).
Moreover, Canabalt still holds its own against its younger competitors when it comes to the sheer speed of its game-play. This is one of the fastest-paced games on the web. If you like to play frantic reaction games while being treated to some beating techno music, then Canabalt will not let you down. Play the game here.
Strictly speaking, Solipskier is not actually a running game (you ski rather than run) so perhaps should not have been included in this list. But the game is clearly inspired by Canabalt (the legendary running game) and it is so brilliant that we would have felt guilty leaving it out. And, anyway, what is skiing but running for rich people.
Solipskier is, quite simply, one of the most sensational games to come out of the flash scene in recent years. It is a real gender-bender of a game, brilliantly mixing the fast paced action of running games like Canabalt with the world-creation features of physics games like Free Rider.
You play the part of a skier about to set off down the ski course. But the ski slope does not actually exist when you start the game. You have to create it by clicking and dragging on the game space. Create a slope and the skier will start skiing down it. Create a sharp rise in the course and the skier will perform a jump. You score points for keeping the skier from crashing for as long as possible, plus by performing jumps and acrobatics. You can play Solipskier here.
4Robot Unicorn Attack
This has got to be one of the glitziest-looking Flash games ever made. It is positively bursting with colourful rainbows, sparkling stars and psychedelic special effects. The animation of the unicorn (who you control) is particularly impressive. The glitzy look could have come straight out of the wardrobe of a 1980s pop star, a fact obviously not lost on the game’s designers, who have given the game a suitably cheesy 1980s pop sound track.
Behind all the glitz and glamour can be found a solid Canabalt-style game engine. You have to help the unicorn run for as long as possible, pressing the z key to help it leap over gaps and using the x key to fire a blast of energy to destroy obstacles blocking your way. Play Robot Unicorn Attack here.
What do you do when you come face to face with your first bull and realise that bull fighting is maybe not the career for you? Well, once you have given yourself a good mental ticking off for not choosing a safer profession like accountancy or law, you run. No, you don’t just run. You run like your life depends on it, because - at least in this game - it does. Using the arrow keys to run and space to jump, help the terrified matador escape the charging bull for as long as possible. To do well in Extreme Pamplona, you will need to time your jumps to perfection in order to keep the galloping bull at bay. Play the game here.
It is very rare that I feel a sense of pity for dinosaurs. Fear yes, hatred sometimes, revulsion a lot. But pity, not at all. That was before I played this game, an absolute gem from the increasingly bizarre imagination of John Cooney.
John is best known for brilliant-but-in-no-way-quirky games like Exit Path and Epic Combo but in recent times he has been indulging the odd side of his creativity. Treadmillasaurus Rex is a case in point. The game is downright strange but - typical of John’s games - also great fun. It also is the only game that has ever made me feel pity for a dinosaur. You see, the poor dinosaur in this game is stuck on a treadmill. If that was not bad enough, the treadmill is enclosed at both ends by a deadly force field. Accidentally touch that field and poor old dino is dead. Oh, and incidentally, the treadmill is getting faster and faster. How long can you keep Mr T Rex alive? Find out by playing the game here.
7Flood Runner 2
The game adds a few twists to the basic run-as-far-as-you-can game play of Canabalt. Firstly, your character has bat-like wings that you can unfurl to extend the distance of your jumps. Secondly, if you miss one of the platforms when jumping, there is a chance that you will be able to surf on the water for a short time. Flood Runner 2 can be played here.
8Mirrors Edge 2d
Based on the popular console adventure game Mirrors Edge, this game is one of the slickest Flash platformers available on the web. We included it in our list of the Top 25 online platform games that we published earlier in the year.
Like the console game, Mirrors Edge 2d allows the player to perform a wide range of often highly athletic actions. You can run up walls, slide under barriers, perform death defying leaps. You also, as you would expect, do an awful lot of running. You can play Mirrors Edge 2d here.
Described by its creator as the "illegitimate vegetable offspring of Canabalt and GunRun, served with a dollop of Eversion and a speck of Silent Conversation", Action Turnip is - to say the least - an odd take on the running game genre. For a start, you play a turnip, and turnips are not known for their athletic prowess. At least most turnips aren’t. The turnip in this game has clearly been genetically modified, because it is fast, damn fast.
There are two modes of play in Action Turnip. One works in a very similar way to Canabalt, while the other is slightly more complicated, in that you have to kill enemies (by jumping on them) at the same time as running. If you would like something more light hearted than the norm, then Action Turnip is certainly worth checking out. Play the game here.
It is rare to find a game that is at once incredibly hard and ridiculously funny. Indeed, I can only think of one game that fits the bill: QWOP. In this unique and unusual physics-based game, you have to help an athlete run as far as possible. You do this by controlling the thigh and calf muscles of each of his legs (using the q, w, o and p keys - hence the name).
Contract the correct muscle at the correct time, and you can get him to start moving forward, if you are lucky. The game is exceptionally difficult (you often end up going backwards, rather than forwards) but that does not matter, because you will probably be giggling like an idiot at the ridiculous positions in which the athlete ends up. QWOP can be played here.
We hope you enjoyed this list of games. If there are any other running games you like, please tell us all about them in the comments section. We'd also love it if you clicked the "like" button below if you enjoyed the games in this list.