Casual video games are video games that are primarily aimed at people who don't tend to game much
. These games are usually distributed online and come with a free hour-long trial. If they're lucky, these games could get a boxed version available for purchase at retail stores. Others are made specifically for consoles rather than PCs, or are made for non-gaming devices like cellphones and distributed over a telco's data service. Still more are Flash or Java in browser, meaning they can be played anywhere with a web browser that has the necessary plug-ins installed. Surprisingly, perhaps (at least to younger gamers), many of these games are the spiritual descendants
of what was cutting edge in the 1980s, during the era of the great stand-up arcade games, proving that an immersive world, hardware-stretching graphics, and complex AI don't inherently mean great gameplay. Most of these games would
be arcade games if there was still a viable arcade market.
The ideal casual video game should be simple and intuitive in its controls. It should also be something you can pick up, play for ten minutes, put back down again, and replay for years. Casual games are designed to relieve boredom during short breaks, not occupy hours of time.
A lot of casual gaming companies see their target audience's unfamiliarity with the standards of gaming as an invitation to abuse them by pumping out masses of shallow games lacking in replay value, or ripoffs of better games from the past
loaded with cute window-dressing, in lieu of doing legitimate work that contributes real progress to the field of game design. This irritates dedicated gamers
to no end, since it means that they can lower their standards and fall into a rut in an environment free of criticism
. As if this never happened before
Another reason game companies are increasingly targeting more of these customers instead of their historical main customer base may be due to software piracy. As home computers become more powerful and capable of emulating more consoles, the more tech-savvy consumers will increasingly refuse to pay up. The casual crowd, on the other hand, is less likely to be aware of how easy it is to get games for free and if they are, they can usually be counted on to have more respect for the law.
While casual games often get accused of being too easy
, difficulty is not part of the definition. The game must be easy to learn
to be considered casual, and be relatively simple by design. In terms of completion or mastery, some are easy, some are hard
, and some are Nintendo Hard
. Some games also use platinum medals
to entice the Challenge Gamer
Notable Games Include:
- Brain Training Game: Brain Age, Big Brain Academy, My Word Coach, Hot Brain, etc.
- Collecting Game: Online scavenger hunts like Hatchlings, MouseHunt, Treasure Madness or Enchanted Island make Gotta Catch Them All a simple matter of clicking stuff for a few minutes each time you visit their sites. Some incorporate Plot Coupons that must be found in order to access other items, while others just leave it up to luck. Some have storylines, others are just a bare-bones indulgance for players' acquisitive impulses.
- Commodity Trading: Taipan, Sea Trader, and Uncharted Waters, among others. These are signified by having a limited amount of places to travel (as little as five to as many as 25, though there's never more than six or seven 'types' of towns), and approximately 10 or less commodities so the game takes up less memory, both the PC's and the players'. Sid Meier’s Pirates!, could have qualified for this if travel time wasn't so long, and the Tradewinds series is a casual in the beginning but as raiders and pirates get more powerful they require more preparation and strategy to beat. Tradewinds Legends seems the hardest.
- Cooking Games : Cooking Mama comes to mind. (Personal Trainer: Cooking is a cookbook, dammit.)
- Exergaming: Wii Fit, Wii Sports, and Wii Sports Resort fall under this.
- Hidden Object Game: Mystery Case Files, Travelogue 360°, Hidden Expedition, etc.
- Marble Popper Game: Zuma, Luxor and the like.
- Match Three Game: Columns, Bejeweled, Big Kahuna Reef, Jewel Quest, 7 Wonders and way too many other games to count.
- May even come in 3D varieties, such as Cubis, for the more cerebral-minded casuals.
- Party Game & Mini-Game collections: WarioWare, Mario Party, Raving Rabbids.
- Quiz games.
- Rhythm Game: The easier difficulties/levels of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, and Rock Band. Most well-known Rhythm Games include extremely hard songs that require a lot of dexterity and skill (and therefore lots of practice, undermining the "casual" label), and Rock Band has Pro Mode, in which you play the songs with actual musical instruments.
- Same Gamenote : Clicking clusters of the same type of block to make them go away. Poppit and Super Collapse are the kings of this genre.
- A twist on the genre came courtesy of the game Knightfall.
- Shoot 'em Up: The player takes control of a character / space fighter / whatever and tries to shoot down enemies while dodging their attacks. Asteroids, Galaga, and Space Invaders are probably those most familiar to Western gamers. Many are textbook examples of Casual Games that are "easy to learn, difficult to master," as bullet patterns can get quite elaborate.
- Simple Retro Games and Arcade Games (especially arcade games, since they were designed specifically for a walk-up-and-play experience): Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Pinball...
- As the percentage of the population that has habitually played games rises, the definition of 'simple' continues to rise. Heck, maybe Quake Live will really take off some day?
- Simulation Game: The Sims, SimCity, Virtual Villagers, Kudos, Westward, Nintendogs, Fairy Godmother Tycoon and so on. These are a strange place amongst casual games - many of them can turn into major timesinks, but they still fit the rules of being a casual game because of the ease of use, the lack of goals, and the ability to start and stop at any given time.
- Despite being a rather different sort of simulation, mobile flight sim Glyder has exactly the same advantages.
- Time Management Game: Diner Dash, Cake Mania, Carrie the Caregiver, Lucy's Expedition, etc.
- Tower Defense games.
- Virtual Card Games and Board Games: Mah-jongg, Solitaire, Spite, Billiards, etc.
- Casino Game: In addition to the card games above, virtual slots, dice or roulette.
- Word Game: Bookworm and its sequel, Bookworm Adventures, for starters.
- Text Twist, Tumblebees, or Word Whomp.
- Then there's Scrabble clones like Lexicon. Lexicon is an older casual game, but remains quite stylish even now. Each Scrabble game also seems to be a variant of itself, depending on whether the new gimmicks by Milton Bradley are intended to be suited for multiplayer or single.