Game Never Over: Top 10 Most Addictive Video Games - Rolling Stone
Home Culture Culture Lists

Game Never Over: Top 10 Most Addictive Video Games

Mad gorillas, angry birds, candy-coated puzzles — these are the fiendish games that will keep you playing on. . .and on. . .

10 Most Addictive Video Games

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

You've probably read about the ongoing kerfuffle happening around Dong Nguyen's Flappy Bird, a hideously addictive game that involves directing a chubby bird through a series of Mario-esque pipes. The game was making creator Dong Nguyen some $50,000 a day until he pulled it from Apple's App Store a month ago, on the basis that the game "was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed… But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird." 

'Flappy Bird' Creator Dong Nguyen Speaks Out

In the weeks since Nguyen pulled the game, there's been a flood of Flappy Bird-alikes, from straight-up clones like Flappy Wings and Splashy Fish to more, um, adventurous games like Tappy Bieber and Flappy Doge. Clearly, the public can't get enough of games that are both simple and brutally difficult. Still, Nguyen's creation and all its ilk have a way to go before they can rival the sheer addictiveness of this lot. By Tom Hawking

donkey kong

Jason Kempin/FilmMagic

10. Donkey Kong

It started out as a popular arcade game, daring gamers to avoid flaming barrels and help a tiny Italian caricature rescue a princess from a ginourmous gorilla. But once designer Shigeru Miyamoto's creation was adapted for Game & Watches, the curious portable devices that were the precursors to PSPs and made Nintendo a gaming behemoth. . .oh, then it was on. The game not only gave birth to the company's primary cash cow — the Super Mario juggernaut starts here — but would prove to be as innovative (it was one of the earliest platform games) as it was difficult to beat. To this day, there aren't many people who can complete the entire game. . .which hasn't stopped millions trying.


Courtesy of Sokoban

9. Sokoban

As with most of the other games on this list, the idea behind this transport puzzle and its many iterations (including Box World, scourge of office productivity circa the late Nineties) is conceptually simple: You're a little dude who has to move boxes, and you can only push them from behind. Solving any but the easiest levels, however, requires forward planning and spacial visualization aplenty; also, if you mess up a move, your only option is to start over from the beginning. The square-one caveat is hugely infuriating. Naturally, it also only serves to make the game that much more addictive.


Courtesy of Snood World

8. Snood

A variation on the Japanese game Puzzle Bobble, this popular PC game requires players to launch a creature called a "snood" within a field of seven different colored snoods (along with various "special snoods"). If your snood hits a similarly colored one, both disappear and others drop down to fill its place. Sound familiar? Once again, the concept is basic, the gameplay starts out easy (though the levels range from "Child" to "Evil") and this playful little timekiller has the ability to turn grown men and women into fulltime gaming junkies.


Ethan Miller/Getty Images

7. Tetris

It's perhaps the most iconic game on this list, and one that you can never win — those blocks fall faster and faster until you end up merely shunting them desperately from side to side, in the hope of holding out just. . .a. . .little. . .longer. This means that the challenge is never over — all you can do is try one more time to beat your high score, or your friend's high score, or the high score of some random person on the Internet. Designed by a Soviet engineer in the 1980s, Tetris has jokingly been accused of originally being a Cold-War secret weapon of mass distraction. Given the addictive nature of the game, let's just say it's a very compelling theory.


CC Image courtesy teetOeuf on Flickr

6. Minecraft

The fascinating thing about this open-world game is that unlike most of the other entries on this list — which have goals that are easy to understand if hard to achieve — Minecraft has no compulsory goals at all beyond survival. Sure, you can play through to the game's final boss (the "Ender Dragon"), but really, the gaming experience is entirely what you make it. The result is kind of like socially acceptable Lego for an entire generation: You can spend hours building something, anything, you want. And then suddenly it's 4 a.m. and you have to work tomorrow. Crap.

candy crush saga

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

5. Candy Crush Saga

Also Known As: That one you see dead-eyed subway riders playing day after day. There are many layers of insidiousness to this Bejeweled-like game that's become pop phenomenon: New levels keep getting added, hence you're always one step behind "winning" the game; a social element makes it ridiculously easy to play against friends no matter where you are; if you use up your lives, you have to wait 30 minutes to start another game, thus making it temporarily unattainable unless you pay to get back in. (In other news, this game is currently making its creators about $677,000 per day.) No wonder it's become the commuter-game equivalent of crack.

angry birds

Dana Nalbandian/WireImage

4. Angry Birds

You can trace the roots of this Apple App-Store bestseller back to other artillery games like Scorched Earth, but the genius of this game's developer was replacing tanks and guns with cartoon pigs and birds. To wit: Pigs have stolen the birds' eggs. The birds, now righteously enraged, place themselves in slingshots, and — with your help, of course — fling themselves into poorly constructed buildings, forts, etc., and try to off the pigs. The combination of simple mechanics, compelling graphics (like the way the pigs snort at you if you fail a level) and the stars-per-level system, whereby replayability was increased tenfold, made this a global phenomenon. 


CC Image courtesy Eric Damon Walters on Flickr

3. StarCraft

Just how addictive is this real-time strategy game that blends sci-fi geekiness with old-school arcade game thrills? People have missed days of work and school playing it. Gamers have been forced to go on antidepressants to battle "Internet Game Addiction"  caused by the game. In 2005, an unfortunate South Korean gentleman keeled over and died after playing StarCraft for 50 hours straight. Do we need to go on?

world of warcraft

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

2. World of Warcraft

There's been a lot written about the addictive nature of Massively Multiplayer Onlone Role-Playing Games (MMORPGS), and World of Warcraft is perhaps the most famously time-consuming of the bunch. (See also: EverQuest, RuneScape, MapleStory) This immersive fantasy game allows subscribers to operate avatars in a sword-and-sorcery landscape, crafting an imaginary second life online that, in many cases, started to eclipse players' real lives. Everyone wants to grab a sword, slay a monster and be a hero. Once you start ignoring your actual family and things like food and sleep, however, maybe it's time to go offline for a bit.


Courtesy of MicroProse

1. Civilization

Sid Meier's history-based, empire-building games don't catalyze the maddening must-replay-NOW angst of Tetris, nor do they have the immersiveness of MMORPGS. No, the addictiveness of these destroy-ancient-civilizations video games is more insidious — it might be time for bed, but you promise yourself you'll just find the perfect place to found your second city, or quickly give Montezuma a much-deserved smackdown. And then you should probably find yourself a good source of copper, and decide whether to pre-emptively attack Bismarck, and… and then the sun is coming up and you're hunched over your computer, propping yourself up with an elbow as you repeat to yourself, "Just. . .one. . .more. . .turn."

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.