Addiction is not a subject to be taken lightly. This fact was made very clear when the subject of a list of the all-time most addicting games was introduced to the gang at Screen Rant. Many of the writers and editors chimed in with their own experiences with hopes of raising awareness of their own particular maladies. Furthermore, it is more than likely that many readers found their way to this page to make sure that their own particular brand of sickness was represented.
Granted, for those not yet willing to admit that they have a problem, there is a fine line between enthusiasm and obsession or addiction. So when people find themselves playing Portal 2 over and over, creating wiki sites based on Dark Souls II, or dedicating more of their lives to the development of their virtual Civilization than to the development of their actual world, it is possible that they are simply enthusiastic about these games. The more realistic players can admit that they are, in fact, addicted.
Here is our list of the 15 Most Addictive Video Games Of All Time.
15 Candy Crush Saga
Like Farmville, Candy Crush Saga was one of those games that snuck up on people. It looked innocuous enough, sitting there on the sidebar of your Facebook page along with the other ads, but then the peer pressure began, and you started getting invites to play from your friends. Before you knew it, you were sympathizing with fellow addicts or being shunned by people who were above piece-matching, puzzle games. While most Candy Crush Saga addicts only sacrificed their time to this Facebook/mobile game, Business Insider reported that enough players couldn’t resist those in-app purchases of additional lives, and the game’s developer/publisher, King, has made billions of dollars off of people’s addictions.
The Daily Mail dubbed Candy Crush Saga “the most addicting online game ever.”
14 Angry Birds
This little puzzle game, which Rovio Mobile launched in 2009, involving birds, slingshots, and pigs, has gone from phone app to epic franchise. As if the initial game wasn’t addictive enough, there are now dozens of variations on the game and its motifs to keep people occupied. But that’s not all, the characters in the franchise are cute enough to have seeped into pop culture in a variety of ways. Perhaps you saw the Angry Birds movie, which came out just a few months ago. If not that, then you most certainly have seen Angry Birds backpacks on children. But that’s not all; there are: Angry Birds toys, shoes, clothes, lunchboxes, speakers, duct tapes, beach balls, bedspreads, beverages, candies, eating receptacles, flash drives, comic books, fishing lures…
This empire poses a unique question: “Which is more addictive: the video game or the brand?”
On the subject of addictive birds, and definitely worthy of a mention on our epic list, Flappy Bird was another addictive phenomenon. This mobile game, developed by dotGEARS, was controversial for a number of reasons (including allegations of plagiarism, artificially inflated popularity [via bots] and, of course, for its highly addictive nature). Unlike Angry Birds, however, Flappy Bird has the unique distinction of being the only successful game on this list to have been removed from circulation, by creator Dong Nguyen, allegedly because it was so addictive.
13 Super Mario Bros.
One of the games that the aforementioned Flappy Bird was alleged to have ripped off — especially the design of the pipes — was Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Brothers retains a very special place at the center of the Super Mario series. Apart from its enticing gameplay, its endearing storyline, and its catchy music, a strong appeal of the game was the novelty that it was part of the extended Donkey Kong universe. The game is essentially synonymous with the Nintendo Entertainment System game console, which will be commemorated via the NES Classic Edition this November.
While Super Mario Bros. holds an indomitable position on this list, many gamers would be befuddled if some of its popular and addicting spin-offs were not mentioned. Games like Mario Kart, Mario Party, Super Smash Bros, and even Donkey Kong, are responsible for many, many hours of addictive game play. Actually, if this list were comprehensive, several Donkey Kong games would be on this list as well.
12 Ms. Pac-Man
While we’re on the subject of old school arcade games like Donkey Kong, Namco’s Pac-Man franchise was a game changer (no pun intended) during the golden age of video arcade games. The gameplay was fairly basic stuff — players navigated Pac-Man through a maze, consuming dots and avoiding the deadly ghosts (dubbed “Blinky,” “Pinky,” “Inky,” and “Clyde”) except for after consuming power pellets, which enabled Pac-Man to defeat the ghosts for a limited amount of time — but complemented with the “wacka wacka” sound of Pac-Man’s eating and the game’s catchy music, the original Pac-Man wound up launching an empire which ultimately consumed billions of dollars.
The original Pac-Man was famous, influential, and addictive in its own right, but over the course of time, it was actually Ms. Pac-Man which won more hearts. The female adaptations of the protagonist and Clyde (who now went by “Sue”), the slight variations on the maze designs, the bouncing bonus-point fruits, and animated intermissions including a love story between Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man may not sound like profound alterations, but for whatever reason, this version seems to have turned more people into addicts.
During the Cold War, one of the few cultural breakthroughs between the US and the USSR was Tetris. This puzzle game of falling / matching tile pieces claimed many addicts at both the video arcades and, later, at their home (and probably worksite) computers. In its thirty plus year lifespan, the game and its variants have been made available on numerous systems and was once cited by Electronic Gaming Monthly as “Greatest Game of All Time.” To the credit of the game, as well as to the credit of its addicts, Tetris has received advocacy from the scientific world; psychologist Dr. Richard Haier has claimed that the game increases people’s cognitive functions. Perhaps, in the case of Tetris, what people are really addicted to is self-enhancement.
10 Grand Theft Auto V
Unlike with Tetris, there are probably not many advocates for the psychological benefits of any entry in the Grand Theft Auto series. The name alone sets off alarms with video game watchdog groups. This particular entry in the series has also received criticism for its hands-on treatment of torture and for its androcentric aspects (what comes to mind in this arena are the opportunities for players to lay their virtual hands on topless girls giving lap dances and to hire prostitutes to perform a number of services). That being said, these rather seedy elements are all placed within an appropriate context in a game that is clearly meant for mature audiences.
Said mature audiences certainly rose to the occasion when GTA V was released, as even prior to having any addictions set in, the game reportedly earned a billion dollars in its first three days of sales. Once a player enters the world, it is easy to see how addiction can set in; not only does the game have brilliant writing and vocal performances, not only does the beautiful design showcase a condensed geographical facsimile of Los Angeles, but the innovations over the previous versions and the ability to wander freely in the open world environment (soliciting prostitutes and strippers as well as going jet-skiing or skydiving if one desires) make GTA V a safe place to experience all the excitement and grit that could get them killed or incarcerated in the real world.
9 Call of Duty
This basis for yet another wildly successful, and addictive, franchise, Call of Duty is the first-person shooter that cinches the video game war category. Adherents of the series, which includes 15 solid entries, tend to enjoy the adrenaline thrill of fighting their way through war simulations in well-scripted vignettes that are based on actual military campaigns.
While not all fans of the series agree on which Call of Duty game is the best or most addictive (if the two are mutually exclusive categories), many favor Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. As the name suggests, this game is not set during World War II, as are its predecessors. Alongside Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Modern Warfare will be released later this year in remastered form for current gaming consoles.
The popularity of the FIFA series demonstrates that the virtual world of football (or soccer to Americans) is just as addicting as the the real one (except to Americans, who could not care less about soccer). One of the Screen Rant contributors contends that both FIFA and Goldeneye “are/were/forever will be staples of college dorm rivalries.” As for the kinship between the game and the real FIFA, Argentine football / soccer superstar Lionel Messi (recently sentenced to 21 months in jail for tax fraud [but he won’t have to do the time under Spanish law]) licensed the game to use his name and likeness in 2012.
The current edition of the game, FIFA 16, features Messi’s likeness and is also the first game in the series to feature female players. FIFA 17 will be out September 27, 2016.
7 Guitar Hero
Talk about rivalries: addicts of Rock Band waged a mighty battle against those of Guitar Hero for this spot on the list. Each of these rhythm game series has been recognized as having a profound effect on the gaming industry (to say nothing of their influences on pop culture, wherein dressing as Guitar Hero characters became a gimmick of professional wrestlers Jimmy Rave and Lance Rock, while Rock Band was featured in the reality series Rock Band 2: The Stars). However, the rivalry that exists between these game series obviously doesn’t only exist within the realm of the respective addicts, since the release of the first edition, in 2007, Rock Band has wrestled for dominion over the elder franchise, Guitar Hero. Last October both series released their latest editions, and the ongoing rivalry heated up again.
Guitar Hero is another entry on this list of addicting games that is said to have been beneficial to users, and it is widely reported that it is used to foster interest in music education as well as for therapeutic purposes.
6 Unreal Tournament
Here’s another core entry into first person shooters that people have been dying for for years. This series is fundamental to gaming, in general, as it introduced the Unreal Engine (well, technically the game Unreal, released just prior to the first Unreal Tournament game, introduced it). The Unreal Engine, which integrated numerous graphics, interaction, and AI elements, has since been a standard in the industry and has been used to create various other addicting series, such as: Bioshock, Borderlands, Gears of War, Mass Effect, the Arkham series, etc.
In any event, UT eclipsed Quake as the king of online deathmatch games. Naturally, there are other types of games to play within each edition of Unreal Tournament, including: Domination, Capture the Flag, Assault, etc. However, there is nothing that gives a person the feeling of blowing some away with a flak cannon while playing in Deathmatch mode.
5 The Legend of Zelda
While it may not have been as directly linked with the creation of other games as the Unreal series, The Legend of Zelda was another fundamental entry into its category. Originating right along side of Super Mario Bros., on the Nintendo Entertainment System, The Legend of Zelda was an important entry in a fine tradition of fantasy games which combine exploration, puzzle solving, battle, and magic in an open world setting. While the Ultima series, which predated the first Zelda game by 5 years (and which released its most current edition in 2013), was also a core entry in the open world fantasy games held many people in its addictive grasp, it was Zelda which achieved enough popular response to result in the game’s assimilation into the pop culture zeitgeist.
4 Diablo III
Another fantasy role-playing, styled video game, Diablo III was generally praised for having more intuitive gameplay than its predecessors in the series but also criticized for not offering an offline mode. Regardless of this criticism, by the end of the year it was released (2012), it had sold 12 million copies. In 2014, the Reaper of Souls expansion pack was released as a component of the Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, which adapted the game to modern consoles. Collectively, Diablo III and its expansion packs have more than doubled the sales from the first year, when it first broke various sales records. Currently, this hack and slash dungeon crawler still holds many lost souls in its possession.
3 World of Warcraft
Just because the film tanked in North America doesn’t change the fact that this massively multiplayer online role-playing game is so dangerously addictive that it has actually claimed several lives — allegedly, anyways. These stories usually make their way over the internet by way of tabloid sites like inquisitr.com, but the fact remains that people who are hooked on World of Warcraft go to work the next day and brag about the fact that they have just come from a 15 hour campaign, during which they only left their chair to urinate (unless they had a bucket handy).
The game has won numerous awards, including “Most Addictive Game” from the 2005 Spike TV Video Game Awards, which also awarded it “Best PC Game” and “Best Multiplayer Game.” Though subscriptions have dwindled since the game’s peak career performance, developer / publisher Blizzard Entertainment revealed, in 2014, that 100 million accounts had been created by subscribers over the course of the game’s existence.
All bets are off with this sandbox game, wherein players create their own worlds and rules. Sure, there are different modes in which players can enjoy the open world of Minecraft, but the game provides players with the tools to create and explore to the extent that their imaginations allow. Given that, one could get meta and suggest that when one gets addicted to Minecraft, one is really becoming addicted to his or her own power of creativity.
The story of this game’s development and the tales of the manner in which it affects lives are almost as addicting as interacting with the game (for more on this, check out the documentary film Minecraft: The Story of Mojang). As testament to this game’s power over people, it has its own annual convention, MineCon, which takes place all over the world.
1 Pokémon Go
Another game that is unlike any other, Pokémon Go is the latest gaming craze; thus, it is the latest journalism craze as well (can you feel the meta?). In a very short amount of time, Pokémon Go has eclipsed Candy Crush Saga as the most popular game app in the United States. The game essentially combined elements from the hugely successful Pokémon game franchise, which began with the Pokémon games for the Nintendo Game Boy system, and combined them with aspects of the augmented reality game Ingress (hugely addictive in its own right, naturally).
As the exponentially increasing amount of personal stories, experiences, and popular tales about Pokémon Go continues to polarize the global community, critics remain divided, but one thing is certain: the Pokémon Go epidemic is an unprecedented phenomenon — one that proves that revolutionary gaming developments can be just as addictive as Pong was when it first appeared in 1972.