Why is it that over and over, the entire world seems to become obsessed with one game at the exact same time, play the heck out of it for a month and then collectively drop it simultaneously? You could argue the general ideas of copycatting and FOMO when it comes to consumer products have been around forever, but since the advent of social media, we’ve seen some pretty astonishing instances of mobile game apps becoming the number one procrastination tool for a short period of time, only to be totally forgotten just weeks later. In the wake of the fast and furious rise of word puzzle game Wordle, which has quickly become a viral obsession, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and recall some of the great viral mobile sensations of years past. Here’s a few of our favourites.
Kicking off with the game that has the world’s attention at this current moment, Wordle might singlehanded revive the old school brain teaser for the masses. The most addictive versions of these games are the ones that invoke the competitiveness in us and Wordle is a prime example of this. The concept is simple; one mystery five-letter word appears per day and we’re essentially all playing our own game of ‘hangman’ trying to figure it out in only 6 turns. As well as just being a fun little morning exercise to get the juices flowing, there’s really no better feeling than when you’ve lucked into getting the puzzle early and you get to spend the rest of the day taunting your friends who haven’t figured it out yet. Or maybe that’s just me projecting my hyper competitive middle-child syndrome. Either way, let’s enjoy Wordle while it lasts, because as we know, the lifespan of these games can be very, very brief.
Isn’t it weird that it was only a year ago that Among Us was all anyone could talk about? One of the more complex (not a high bar to reach, mind you) games to have become the world’s casual gaming obsession. The unique multiplayer ‘Mafia’ style format made it a great game to play with friends and made a pretty big cultural footprint, with the colourful avatar costumes absolutely dominating Halloween parties and children’s birthday cakes everywhere. I can’t say I know anyone still wandering around the virtual corridors of the The Skeld anymore, but at the very least, the word ‘sus’ has definitely stuck around to carry on the game’s legacy.
Returning to that idea of brief lifespans, we all surely remember this one. In 2014, Flappy Bird was the app that rose like a supernova through the public consciousness, so fast it compelled the creator to delete it after just a few week because he couldn’t handle the pressure of its popularity. If simplicity is the key to viral success, then this one was practically made to take the world by storm, as the monotonous process of tapping the screen to make the cute little 2D bird flap its wings as it weave through the obstacles couldn’t have been more straightforward. But Flappy Bird wasn’t meant to be in our lives for long, and after its creator, programmer Don Nguyen, pulled the plug and removed it from app stores at the height of its popularity, it never recovered and became another relic of the era.
A genuine classic, Fruit Ninja was a defining game for every late-millennial kid who’d just been given his first smartphone. It wasn’t so much an ‘out-of-nowhere’ viral phenomenon like the other examples on this list, more that it was just one of the first smartphone games that simply everyone had, and everyone loved. Maybe because it utilised the touch screen capabilites of the devices in a way we weren’t really used to yet, so the pure novelty of manically swiping our finger across the screen to chop those damn fruit was particularly resonant and there was a constant battle to top the score of your friends. Whatever the reason for its success, Fruit Ninja stands the test of time as one of the great game apps to have come and gone.