There is something almost magical about one button games. You would have thought, given the simplicity of their controls, that these games would not offer much in terms of game-play. What, after all, can you do with just one button. And yet, in spite of this severe limitation, one button games can have surprisingly complex game-play (just look at the fully-fledged RPG in this list). Not only that, some one-button games - Poto and Cabenga, for example - can actually also offer a very stiff challenge to gamers.
This ability to unleash complex and challenging game-play using the simplest of controls is what makes one-button games so magical and fun to play. Here, we present you with what we consider to be the ten best one-button games that can be played online.
There are tons of games on the web that are clearly inspired by Adam Atomic's legendary one-button running game Canabalt (No 6 on this list). Most of them are little more than facsimiles that add little new to the original game. The same cannot be said of G-Switch by portuguese developer Vasco Freitas.
G-Switch is, like Canabalt, a running game where you have to run as far as possible without dying. But whereas in Canabalt your character would jump when you pressed the single button control, in G-Switch pressing the button causes gravity to invert. You start falling upwards rather than downwards. Press the button again and gravity is restored the correct way up. By switching gravity at just the right time, you can navigate your player over obstacles and perilous gaps. This new mechanic works fantastically, transforming the game into something brilliant and unique.
The game also offers a multi-player mode where up to six people can play at the same time, each person using their own button. You can play G-Switch here.
If I were condemned to spend the rest of my life on a deserted island and were able to take just one game developer along with me, I would choose Johnny Depp. Okay, okay, I know he’s not a game developer. But it was worth a try. So, again, if I were condemned... island... take just... developer with me, I would plump for Ferry Halim. I cannot begin to describe the brilliancy of Ferry. His games are stunning works of art, bursting with delightful game ideas and featuring some of the most beautiful artwork in Flash gaming. You really must check out his portfolio of games here. If you had him making games for you on your desert island, you would soon forget that you were stranded miles away from your friends and family.
Amongst his portfolio there are some brilliant one-button games, including this gem. Arctic Blue has a similar game play mechanic to the classic helicopter game where the rate at which you press the mouse button determines the altitude of your character. But therein the similarities end. For in Arctic Blue, you are not elevated into the air by the rotor-blades of a helicopter but by jets of water being blasted from a whale's blow hole. Beautifully designed and animated, and great fun to play, Arctic Blue can be played here. You may also want to check out another one button game by Ferry Halim: Sunny Day Sky.
3One Button Bob
Aussie game studio Ninja Doodle has carved out a reputation as a developer of quirky retro games. One of my favourites from their portfolio is One Button Bob, a platform style game that provides the perfect demonstration of the possibilities offered by one button game-play (see our in-depth review of the game here).
The game is split over a series of levels, each of which features a different action when you press the button. So, for example, on one level, the game's hero - Bob - will perform a jump when you press the button, allowing him to leap over an obstacle. On another level, pressing the button may cause Bob to stop in his tracks, preventing him from being killed by a falling object. The variation in what happens when you press the button makes for some really interesting game-play. One Button Bob can be played here. If you enjoyed the game, you may want to check out the sequel, One Button Arthur, here.
4Poto and Cabenga
How could a one-button game possibly be difficult to play, you might ask. There is only one button to worry about, after all. Well, for a start, the game could give you two characters to control, each appearing at difference places on the screen. The game could then make it so that when you pressed the button, one of the characters would perform a jump and the other would start running, and when you lifted up the button, the reverse would happen. Oh, and then the game could throw in a whole host of obstacles and enemies that you have to avoid crashing into. You might then have a game that is - excuse the language - as much of a headfuck to play as this game. Poto and Cabenga is one of the most difficult - not to mention frustrating - games I have ever played. Keeping both characters alive is nigh on impossible. However, the game is beautifully design and after a bit of practice you do begin to get the hang of the multi-tasking game play. Play Poto and Cabenga here.
This game might call itself flabby but there is nothing even slightly obese about the way it plays. Indeed, developer Paolo Pedercini has slimmed down the mechanics of physics games to the bare minimum, stripping out all unnecessary functionality and features. The end result is a minimalist masterpiece, a physics-style game that can be played with the use of only one button - the space bar. How this is achieved is quite clever. In most physics games, everything starts off static. You have to interact with the world to make the ball roll to its destination, or you have to remove a support to make all the blocks fall off the screen. But in Flabby Physics, the ball is already rolling when you start the level. Then with precision timing, you press space to change the form of the shapes in the game, hopefully in the process propelling the ball to the basket. Flabby Physics is seriously brilliant. Play it here.
We might come in for some criticism for placing Canabalt so far down this list. Adam Atomic's brilliant one-button running game is after all among the most played Flash games ever. It was also the inspiration behind the game we placed at the top of this list. So how can we justify giving this great game such a low position. Well, one of the reasons we do these lists is to introduce people to games that they have not yet encountered. Most aficionados of Flash games will probably have played the game before. In addition, we have already given the game plenty of coverage on this site, not least in our recent list of top running games, and if we were to lavish even further praise on it, people might start thinking that Adam Atomic and Casual Girl Gamer were getting just a little too cosy. Let me take this moment to tell you that Casual Girl Gamer thinks Adam Atomic is a great guy but she is very happy with her husband and no-one will ever change that (well, maybe Johnny Depp…). Anyway, Canabalt is a great one-button game and it can be played here.
7Super PSTW Action RPG
A role-playing game that can be played using just one button! You've got to be pulling my leg. Most RPG games require you to be master of virtually your whole keyboard in order to play them. So the idea of an RPG that uses just one button seems almost ridiculous. And yet, the wonderfully named game developer Inconsequential Existence has done the seemingly impossible and created a fully-fledged RPG - featuring levelling, shops where you can but items, and both defensive and attacking fighting - that requires you to do nothing more than press the space bar. We're blown away. The game - Super PSTW Action RPG - can be played here.
Developed by Rogerio Penchel, Nano Ninja is a one-button game that plays very similar to One Button Bob (See No 2 in the list) in that pressing the button makes the game hero - in this case a wee ninja - perform different actions depending on what level he is on. So sometimes he will jump, other times he will start flying or stop running. The way that the game stacks the different levels one above each other, scrolling them down as you progress, is particularly well done. You can play Nano Ninja here.
In Air Monkey, you come across a deflated inflatable monkey, and have to capture enough air monsters to fill it full of air and return it to life. Actually, it is not about that at all, but I reckon that would make for a fun game. Air Monkey is actually about a little monkey who fancies himself as a bit of a Tarzan. He loves to swing up through trees using ropes attached to the branches, until he finally finds the portal that takes him through to the next level. Air Monkey is a fun one-button physics-style game. The game can be played here.
10One Button Left
We couldn't complete this list without including this interesting twist on one of the all time classic games: space invaders. You might not think there is much more than you could do with the already massively over-used space invader genre. But this game - One Button Left - does add something new and worthwhile. Unless you are a bit thick (in which case, don't worry, here's your link to MySpace), you will probably have guessed what this revolutionary new twist is. Yes, you are right! The game only requires you to use one button. Hold down space to move your gunner ship to the right, lift it up to move the ship to the left. Don't worry about shooting. It happens automatically. One Button Left can be played here.
As usual, if you have come across any games that you think deserve to have been included in this list, then please tell us all about them in the comments section below.