Despite all the incredible new games developed by huge teams of creative and industrious people, it is something of a testament to some of history’s simplest games have endured in this high-tech, high-resolution years when VR gaming is becoming more and more immersive and other free-roam spectaculars like Dark Souls and Fallout offer such much to explore. This article explores some of the most iconic and best-loved games that took the world by storm when they were first released and still draw gamers back – whether for a nostalgia hit or just for the fun of it.


In all its variations, from the pixellated Nokia phone standard to the endless remakes that are still being released, the simple yet addictive format of the original Snake concept is very much here to stay as one of the world’s most recognizable and enjoyable games.

Concentrated on one small phone screen or one tiny computer window, Snake is the epitome of the minimalist game, using the small room available as the very reason why the game is so fun – the longer your snake lives, the less room it has to gobble up those pixels of food. Smart design coupled with simple controls won the day on this particular retro game.


Another game that doesn’t leave the initial ‘window’ or board, chess is one of the world’s oldest games with a rich and interesting history behind it. Plenty of people make a living out of playing chess since the game has been placed into digital forms on the internet. Far fewer people have a physical board nowadays, but with apps and websites offering chess for free, it’s still one of the world’s most popular games.

You may have snorted when you saw chess in a list of ‘simple games.’ You’d be right too to some extent: it’s a remarkably complex tactical game that has a mathematically huge number of variations of the outcome. It can take time to learn and a lifetime to master, but chess remains a game played out on just 64 squares of alternating black and white. It’s to the game’s credit that such complexity can take place on such a simple design.


Since the advent of the drum-spinning slot machine, first invented in 1891, slots have well and truly caught the public imagination through a combination of dazzling lights, spinning shapes and the hopeful buzz that comes from the expectation of a large payout. Since their early days in Las Vegas casinos, they’ve developed into ever-larger, ever-more enticing machines with all the bells and whistles to keep the public interested.

Their simplicity, based on combinations of shapes with a specific random generator spinning them each bet, makes slot machines the perfect low-level and simple gambling past-time. Now, websites which specialize in allslots casino thrills have made this game all the more accessible and enjoyable to ever-growing markets. It might be the world’s most popular simple game.


It’s something of an overused gaming cliche to cite Mario’s initial incarnations as games that have taken the world by storm. In the interests of this article, though, it’s hard to leave this one out. Though not on the same level of simplicity as Snake, and not as static as chess, Mario nonetheless utilized an agreeable fantasy world alongside everyone’s favorite gaming character to create a simple platform-hopping game that captivated a generation.

Now having morphed into games such as Super Mario Odyssey, it’s hard to pinpoint what made the original so enjoyable, especially when the notion of platform games was not the unique preserve of the Mario franchise. It might just be that Mario is the most popular video game character ever, in which case the little Italian has a lot to be thanked for.


It’s that go-to on a Windows PC when at school or bored doing homework. It’s history, of course, comes from playing cards, which in turn evolved from Pagan cards such as Tarot which eventually was utilized for playing games in small rural communities, or between travelers on the road. The history’s deeply interesting, but the solo game, when translated to the screen, is one of the most memorable of the past 50 years.

The basic layout of cards on a green table is virtually imprinted in the brains of everyone who grew up in a certain generation, while its simplicity meant that you could easily concentrate on other things (like teachers and parents) while happily distracting yourself from the world. Like chess, Solitaire (or Patience) enjoyed a perfect transition into the digital and remains a much-loved game for its retro dynamics and relative difficulty.

Candy Crush

Admit it; you’ve played Candy Crush. If you haven’t, you’ll almost certainly have had friends play it while you’re watching TV, or have seen people swapping the sweets on the subway or their lunch breaks. Conceptually nothing new but perhaps aided by its bright and cheerful appearance and good marketing at a time when apps were becoming increasingly popular, Candy Crush has enjoyed a storming run into the public imagination.

The beguiling feature of Candy Crush is its ease-of-use – you simply have to compute your moves and swish your thumb on the chosen candy and watch the carnage unfold. It’s satisfying in a destructive sense, it requires little investment, and it progresses into incredibly difficult levels that continue to test your patience and skill – all features of the best simple games. Being able to see the position of your friends on the saga’s trail is a nice touch, too.

It’s clear that in spite of public hunger for new technologies to create the most incredible gaming experiences, there’s still something to be said for the simplicity of games that are often centuries old, yet still have a firm foothold in our mythic understanding of what’s fun and what’s not. While this shouldn’t be something that developers use as guiding their next games, the core fundamentals of challenging, engaging, efficient games that make the most of a small area and manage to enthrall millions of people might be a pertinent lesson to those that believe that all a good game needs is the right resolution.