Last Updated on November 10, 2021
My middle school years of online activity consisted of websites like Addicting Games and GamesForGirls (this site refuses to load). My online history contained hours of playing flash games; the game categories I frequented were cooking or point-and-click.
A vast percentage of flash games on Addicting Games are cross posts from Newgrounds and Armor Games. They continue to live on as more flash game sites spawn and players repost them. But with the death of Adobe Flash, a lot of these games are dead or require a Google Extension. So now many of these sites are hollow. In the younger me, Itch.io does not exist, and I will not start my love affair of indies games until I’m an adult. Itch.io starts in 2013 by Leaf Corcoran.
The Flash Game Legacy of Newgrounds
Thanks to cross posts and enthusiastic players, Newgrounds is unavoidable in the world of flash games. The younger me avoids it because of adult and racist content.
One flash game classic that sticks to my mind is the Darkness trilogy by Lut!; Kongregate is its original host. The trilogy is a point-and-click adventure born out of the 2000s East Asian genre like Fatal Frame and Silent Hill.
2000s Jump Scares and Shock Horror in Indie Games
The story of Darkness is quite simple. A girl wakes up at home, and there is something off with the atmosphere. This happens in every game in the trilogy. It is unknown whether she is experiencing flashbacks or is a victim of trafficking. She goes into every room of her house, suspecting someone has broken in. Typical jump scares such as the face in the mirror, the screech, and the disembodied hand are present throughout Darkness.
First, she’s a hostage. Then, she’s in an asylum. And finally, she is on a train. The tropes are no longer a mystery to me. But the story is still something to ponder. The ending of Darkness 3 leaves no answers outside a flash of shock images. I believe she may be a victim of a surgical error or something worse.
I think I first played the game on an obscure website that I cannot recall. But most players experience the first installment of the Darkness trilogy as a cross post on Addicting Games and Newgrounds. The creator’s most recent game is Straw Hat Samurai. A flash game that still is echoing the 2000s period. I don’t think Lut! has made much of an impact outside Darkness.
The Return of Detective Grimoire: A Detective Everyone Knows in the Flash Game World
Detective Grimoire by SFB Games is originally from Newgrounds. But also is another classic Addicting Games cross post. It is quite rough around the edges because it is a prototype. SFB Games claims it is not the start of the series. Nonetheless, it is still a fun point-and-click and who-dun-it game that players remember.
Detective Grimoire is officially a series starting with the 2014 release, Detective Grimoire: Secret of the Swamp. This means that SFB is finally hitting the indie games market. The latest installment is Tangle Tower, where our favorite flash detective is vibrant with a fluffy beard. Expect a review of both games, because this is great news.
The prototype is impressive because of its story writing, although by now I barely remember it. I’m going to review the prototype, along with the next two in the series. So I won’t go too deep in detail.
I will say that circuses in a small town are quite the horror aesthetic. But I hope that Detective Grimoire got treatment for his acid reflux. He clears his throat a lot. I also remember and love the detective puns and how much he groans about it.
AddictingGames and Newgrounds have built an era of internet gaming that millennials look back on with wistful eyes. The internet is the streets and vendors of the solitary game developer. All the middle school kids are your most faithful consumers. With the end of Adobe Flash, you cannot play these games without a Google Chrome extension player. A lot of these sites got a makeover, or can’t load correctly.
The end of Adobe Flash is a lesson that we should advance our archiving skills.
Itch.io: A New Era of Flash Games
Fast forward to the late 2010s, and flash games are irrelevant to my age group. Now we’re playing TTRPGs and mobile gacha games. The App Store and Google Play become new gaming markets.
These days, game developers don’t use Adobe Flash. Now the “flash game” is WebGL, and our animation is taking place in Clip Paint Studio. Pixel art has taken over most of the 2D art and revolutionized into all different forms.
From 2017 onwards, Itch.io becomes the new Addicting Games. I play Twine games, download free independent visual novels, and play low poly walking simulators. The new “flash game” era is more advanced with reliable technology.
Itch.io feels like a revival or continuation of those summer flash game days.
Game Art Lives on in Itch.io
Some of the indie games I review on Level Editors have come from Itch.io, which I’m proud of. With the death of flash games comes more websites to post games and more methods to archive them. Cross posts and browser extensions increase their longevity. But with Itch.io, we don’t need browser extensions. Many indie game developers are making their journey to this site.
Games from Itch.io are born during the constraints of a game jam on a library table at a university. Game jams are the blood flow of Itch.io’s ever-growing catalog. These small games and prototypes are just as heartfelt, profound, and haunting as many AAA games.
Most of the indie games I review are from my Itch.io collection. No longer am I playing flash games from 2007. Now I am playing doujins, 1bit games, and visual novels all on a site made by one man.
Here are some games I’ve played recently that stuck with me.
1. Riba: A Browser Game About Family
Riba is a Unity WebGL narrative game by nbmach1ne. It is a submission for the Global Game jam Malaga Jam, and the 15th issue of Indiepocalypse. It is also available as a download for those who have older browsers.
A Game About Ancestry and Death
The macabre browser game is a point-and-click story about death and ancestry. A horned creature sits at a river and goes fishing. You control the creature and use the mouse to pull out fish and bones. The bones belong to their grandmother that had recently passed from dementia. With each bone, you get a vignette about the creature’s family.
Nearby, the creature there is a mound with flowers and shells that surround it. The river is a burial and after the water consumes the remains, the bones rest in the mound. You can pluck flowers and shells to decorate the new burial site.
There is forlorn humming and a plucked guitar playing a repetitious melody. Clouds reflect in the water and fireflies roam the horned creature’s vicinity. The creature surrounds themself with pots for fish they catch in the midst of fishing for their grandmother’s bones.
After you collect all the bones, you will get nothing but fish. The horned creature finishes rebuilding their grandmother for the earth’s consumption.
Riba is a simple game, as it’s about watching and reading the creature’s thoughts. It may be uneasy for some players who have similar family circumstances, so they may not want to approach this game, or do so with caution. But it is truly raw and emotional. There’s no other game I can think of that impacts me so well in only 10 minutes. It represents how life can be at times; a somber trip to where death is among the living.
2. Opossum Country: An Indie Game About Isolated Towns
Opossum Country is a GB Studio pixel browser game by BenJelter for the SCREAM FM jam. The game is also available as a download via GBA rom format. I use Visual Boy Advance to play this game and take screenshots. It took a while for me to get it running. Then it turns out I used the wrong keys to continue dialogue. This game doesn’t run so well as a rom, so I suggest playing it in a browser.
Opossum Country is part of a genre of vignettes with retro, minimalist pixel art that you will find on Itch.io. Many pixel vignettes use the limitations of GB Studio or Bitsy to tell a story.
Don’t Go Alone, Here’s a Chainsaw
Opossum Country starts off with a pizza delivery man who enters a trailer park town. He hesitates as decay and an unwelcoming atmosphere surrounds him.
Once you find the address for your pizza delivery and do some favors, you find a girl living in a trailer by herself. Then the delivery guy coaxes the girl into his car. But she flees as soon as he tries to make a phone call. This is when you realize that these country bumpkin people aren’t only in a unfortunate environment. They’re literally taking part in a cult that involves transforming people into possums by the hands of a priest. What’s sad is they’re willing, and as a result, beg for understanding and empathy.
This game would come off odd and campy to most people. But that is very much the intention. Opossum Country resembles the early NES days. But unlike those days, it has an appealing color palette of various grays, blues, and coral reds. Another approach unlike the NES days is Opossum Country having stylistic portraits and scenic art.
The theme of the game is rather fascinating. At first I thought it was gimmicky and dehumanizing. However, it’s not any worse than any other horror game; it’s actually miles better. Opossum Country is meaningful, because it’s about the working class and traumatized people seeking escape into another world.
(I just wish they chose to be cats rather than possums. But that would dull the arrow of the story.)
3. Water Womb World: An Indie Game Found in the Sea
Water Womb World is a small point-and-click game by Yames for the Decade jam. It is a downloadable game for all platforms except mobile.
This game is rather odd and hard to explain. It has graphics of photos and possible 3D models heavy with distortion. I’ve seen this art style in some underground zines. It is both beautiful and dumbfounding. It is very much meant to confuse you. But I can’t recommend it for those who are sensitive to flashes and bright colors. The style reminds me somewhat of OK/NORMAL, which was beautifully chaotic, that channeled a distorted N64 nightmare of art.
A Sinking World
Water Womb World is about a scientist fishing for evidence of the Garden of God. It’s hard to tell if the world is ending within his story or if pollution is consuming the sea. Either way, this is one of the most unique fishing games you will play. This isn’t River King; this game is about satisfying an eccentric scientist who really wants to find oblivion. There is no explanation or background story for this plot. But that’s okay, because we don’t need to know. I’m just going to assume he’s a nefarious person (and worse than Elon Musk).
There isn’t much in this game outside wading through the water, fishing, and reading the scientist’s notes. Weird scientists have boring hobbies and not much else. Eventually though, things start to go awry as you dig more and more. It took me a while to achieve the ending of the game. I spent quite a bit of time fishing in circles. I’m not sure if it’s my fault or the game’s algorithm has something to do with it. Regardless of how to achieve the ending, the game is linear.
When the scientist finally gets what he wants, it feels like the world falls into shambles.
It’s hard to talk about this game because it’s abstract. Since it’s horror, of course the worst ending is canon. It’s not horror if nothing bad happens. I believe the scientist dug up something he shouldn’t have and aliens took him away.
Horror is all about punishing those for desiring to discover the unknown and making it known.
Try These Games Because It’s Worth It
Halloween is over. But I still suggest getting on Itch.io because I know watching Hocus Pocus for the 10th time gets boring. The games I recommend from Itch.io scratch only the surface. I suggest making an account and doing some exploring. Despite the fall of Adobe Flash, the remains of flash game sites are still around. But I don’t see why you can’t leave the comfort zone. I know Itch.io has become largely successful. It’s one of the first sites in years that is not just a cross post haven of flash games.
But I’m not abandoning flash game sites. Pretty soon, I will be going on Newgrounds to play Detective Grimoire and finally play the rest of the series. I have a Nintendo Switch, and plenty of independent developers use the Nintendo platform for their work. Unlike the years before, console gaming is finally giving indepedent developers a chance. I last recall the PS Vita being one of the mainstream consoles with a space for indie games.
Itch.io brings back a lot of memories and revives a new era of browser gaming. The site also births a genre of horror games that I wish more people would play. Most polished mainstream installments of today’s current popular franchises don’t intrigue me as much. Often, I look for older games or imitations of classics.
But hey, whatever floats your boat. If you like art games and sifting through web pages, it’s time to take a look at Itch.io.
Wei Yuan Lee is a interactive fiction writer and game dev. He enjoys spooky interactive fiction, quirky platformers and RPGmaker games. He checks Itch.io religiously.