Social games are fecund animals: they’re everywhere, they’re readily available, they’re generally free to play, and they would love your company. However, despite persistent rumors to the contrary, not all social games are created equal. There are hundreds of entries in dozens of categories, including Adventure, Arcade, Simulation, Strategy, Racing, Family, Board Games, and more.
Interested in getting into social games, but have no idea where to start? Part One of our social games recommendation guide pinpoints the best offerings in the Action/Arcade, Adventure/Role-Playing, and Board/Card Game genres.
TOP 5 ACTION/ARCADE SOCIAL GAMES
Bubble Island — Bubble Island by Wooga is a classic bubble-popping game in the vein of Bust-A-Move. You line up three or more bobbles of the same color to pop them, and if all goes well for you, you’ll clear the screen before the descending mess of round jewels crosses the red line and gives you a Game Over. The game’s cute raccoon mascot lends the game some personality by loading your cannon and dancing whenever you clear a level.
Tetris Battle — Tetris, the classic line-clearing franchise launched back in 1984, is still king of the puzzle game scene nearly three decades later. Tetris Battle lets you go head-to-head with your Facebook friends via online multiplayer, therefore adding an irresistibly competitive flavor to what’s already one of the most addictive video games of all time.
Bejeweled Blitz — PopCap’s Bejeweled Blitz is an online take on the extremely successful match-3 puzzle game, Bejeweled. Players can connect and play via Facebook to upload and show off their high scores on worldwide leaderboards. Fun to play, fun to share, and pretty to look at, it’s the pedigree of the perfect online arcade game.
Collapse! — Collapse! is a block-clearing game that challenges you to blast as many groups of colored blocks as you possibly can within a time limit. The game is a satisfying play, as it caters to our inborn desire for destruction (don’t deny it, it’s there). You can strive for a high score, boast about it on leaderboards, and even participate in tournaments.
Pac-Man — Good ol’ classic Pac-Man is available for play on Facebook, and it won’t even cost you any quarters. The dot-munching, maze-exploring fun is as solid as ever, and it runs like a dream even on lower-end PCs. You can make your mark by going for the world’s highest score, but be prepared for a lot of competition.
TOP 5 ADVENTURE/ROLE-PLAYING SOCIAL GAMES
Adventure World — Adventure World is another heavy-hitter by Zynga that combines world exploration, puzzle-solving, and a passion for adventure. You and your pals attack enemies for coins and experience and avoid hazards like falling rocks. If it sounds like Indiana Jones’ digital playground, that’s because it is. The Man with the Hat officially added his name to Adventure World in October.
NeoPets — NeoPets persists as one of the oldest and most popular adventure/role-playing social games on the Internet, and for good reason. NeoPets combines exploration, minigames, and virtual pet-raising, and takes players into the depths of a virtual world and community that has had ample time to grow and prosper.
It Girl — It Girl is a social game directed at a young female audience. You can create an in-game avatar, shop for clothes, customize your avatar’s look, and collect accessories like so many Pokemon. You can also build up friendships, form cliques, and do whatever you need to become a trend-setting, go-getting gal.
Mafia Wars — Mafia Wars is a role-playing social game, and has been one of Zynga’s best-known titles since its launch in mid-2008. You take on the role of a gangster who aims to form his (or her) own crime family. You recruit your Facebook friends, fight rivals, and complete tasks to build up yourself and your new “family.”
Ravenwood Fair — In Ravenwood Fair, you must build a prosperous amusement park in the midst of a haunted wood (cheaper property values, maybe?). Aside from assembling rides and buildings for your furry woodland pals, you must also keep the haunted grounds clear of ghosts, and comfort visitors who have the misfortune of meeting stray ghouls. The gameplay in Ravenwood Fair is nothing if not varied.
TOP 5 BOARD/CARD/CLASSIC SOCIAL GAMES
Texas HoldEm Poker — Zynga’s Texas HoldEm Poker is still the go-to game if you want a simulated virtual poker experience. Players can gather their Facebook friends for a game, or engage strangers in a friendly match. There are no monetary rewards for winners, but seeing your name on a leaderboard is every bit as gratifying. Right?
Scrabble — It’s Scrabble. You probably already know how to play this word-building game, and rest assured that playing it over Facebook with friends makes the experience that much more enjoyable. There is one downside: Scrabble’s copyright restrictions mean that players in the United States and Canada must stick to opponents in either country. Still, we can safely say that you probably won’t run out of opponents to whip with your voluminous vocabulary.
Rummy Royal — With Rummy Royal, you can play rummy card games with your Facebook friends. It’s a good way to whittle away a cold winter evening. Try it with a hot toddy.
Risk — It’s probably not a surprise that Risk, the strategy board game classic, made the jump to the social world. The game’s basic premise remains (“Conquer All”), and the connected, social element adds a level of challenge to the game that can’t be matched by boards and plastic pieces.
Mahjongg Dimensions — The popularity of Mahjong has endured for millenia, and its lofty status has only climbed since making the digital transition. Mahjongg Dimensions literally adds a new view to the ancient Chinese game. By rotating tiles on-screen, you can reveal more matches to clear away, a feature that will ease you out of some tight spots.