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  • Writer's pictureHeather Zhu

8 Viral Games That Broke The Internet

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Explore the iconic viral games that shaped the digital era. Dive deep into the viral titles that influenced memes, and defined internet gaming culture.

viral games

The Internet has been the stage for numerous revolutions in entertainment, culture, and technology. In this wide expanse, certain viral games have emerged and are very popular worldwide. From block games, color matching games to augmented reality games, the games caught our attention, invoking feelings of nostalgia and competitiveness. These viral online games have left a permanent mark, transforming players into passionate fans and casual conversations into global dialogues. It's time that we revisit these groundbreaking games, understand the frenzy they sparked, and appreciate their lasting legacy in the ever-evolving world of online gaming.

8 Viral Games That Defined Internet Culture

In the world of digital entertainment, certain viral video games have become trending globally and are enjoyed by millions of players. These aren't just short-lived trends but significant moments that somehow influenced us, especially during our childhood. Let's delve into the games that didn't just go viral but became defining pillars of Internet culture.

1. Tetris 99

Released in 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, Tetris 99 breathed fresh life into the timeless Tetris formula by introducing a battle royale twist. Instead of just clearing lines in isolation, players competed against 98 others in real-time, with each player striving to be the last one standing. Every cleared line could be sent as a disruption to other players, introducing a new layer of strategy and competitiveness. This modern take on the iconic drop blocks game not only appealed to long-time Tetris fans but also attracted a new generation of players. Streaming platforms were flooded with intense Tetris 99 matches, strategy discussions, and celebrations of victories. The game's unexpected combination of classic Tetris mechanics with the wildly popular battle royale genre made it an instant viral hit and cemented its place in the pantheon of games that have defined internet culture.

2. Flappy Bird

Few games can claim the rapid rise and chaotic aftermath that Flappy Bird experienced. Released in 2013 by Dong Nguyen, its deceivingly simple mechanics (tap the screen to make the bird flap and avoid pipes) led to it becoming an overnight sensation. What's noteworthy is how Flappy Bird became a cultural phenomenon. Memes, merchandise, and even tattoos dedicated to this pixelated bird populated the Internet. The game’s immense success and the subsequent pressure led to Nguyen pulling the game from app stores, a decision that only fueled its legend.

3. Candy Crush Saga

This sweet-themed match-three puzzle game, developed by King in 2012, became such a sensation that it’s hard to recall a time before its existence. Candy Crush tapped into the competitive nature of players, urging them to surpass their friends' levels and scores. The game’s vibrant visuals, catchy sounds, and the constant introduction of new levels ensured players kept coming back for more. Candy Crush is one of those types of puzzle games where you need to match objects of the same color and form. At that same time as Candy Crush's popularity, other forms of puzzle games like bubble popping games also emerged. It has the same concept of eliminating objects of the same form and color to finish each mission or level in the game.

4. Pokémon Go

Released in 2016, Niantic’s Pokémon Go brought augmented reality (AR) gaming into the mainstream. It wasn't just any game; it was a sensation. Crowds of players could be found at parks, landmarks, and even sometimes in inappropriate places, all hunting for virtual Pokémon overlaid on the real world. It bridged the gap between virtual and reality, making neighborhood explorations and global travels a thrilling quest for rare Pokémon.

5. Among Us

Initially launched in 2018, InnerSloth's Among Us took two years before it exploded in popularity, thanks largely to Twitch streamers and YouTubers. The social deduction game, where players work together on a spaceship but some are impostors trying to sabotage the mission, quickly became a metaphor for trust, deceit, and teamwork. The vocabulary of the game (“sus,” “eject,” and “emergency meeting”) infiltrated online discussions far beyond the game itself.

6. Fortnite

More than just a game, Fortnite, developed by Epic Games in 2017, became a platform. Its battle royale mode grabbed the attention of millions, but its live events, including concerts and movie trailers, transformed it into a virtual gathering space. The "floss" dance, skins, and emotes from the game spilled over into real-life playgrounds and parties, making Fortnite an inseparable part of youth culture.

7. Minecraft

Mojang's sandbox game, released in 2009, gave players the freedom to build, explore, and survive in a blocky, pixelated world. Its vastness and the liberty it offered opened an immense wave of creativity. Players built intricate cities, replicas of famous landmarks, and even functioning computers. With the rise of YouTube gaming content, Minecraft became a favorite, leading to a massive community of players sharing their constructions, adventures, and mods. The game, while allowing players to be architects of their own stories, also became a canvas for artistic and educational endeavors. Its pixel art aesthetics and the iconic Creeper have since become cultural symbols online.

8. Roblox

Debuting in 2006, Roblox is not just a game but a platform that allows users to create and share their own game experiences. Its user-generated worlds range from simple obstacle courses to intricate simulations. The platform's versatility and the entrepreneurial spirit it fosters have led to a vibrant community. Many young developers even earn real money through their Roblox games. Its unique blocky characters and iconic "oof" sound have become instantly recognizable symbols in online culture. Furthermore, Roblox's appeal to younger audiences has made it a staple in discussions about online safety, creativity, and digital entrepreneurship.

Summary

The rise of viral games has showcased the power of the Internet to influence millions of people in just a matter of time. Beyond gameplay, these titles have put themselves into the very fabric of our digital culture. They have started discussions, friendships, and even societal movements. Their influence is not just about the hours we’ve spent playing them but also about how they've shaped our interactions, memes, language, and how we perceive the online world. From tapping screens to block puzzle games like Tetris and matching games like Candy Crush, these games have redefined entertainment and reminded us of the Internet's power to bring millions together under a shared experience. In conclusion, viral online games are more than just fleeting distractions. They’re cultural milestones that capture the spirit of their times, offering insights into the ever-evolving nature of digital society. Whether it's a simple bird trying to navigate a world of pipes or a community trying to unmask a deceiving imposter, these games have given us more than just fun; they've given us a shared history.

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