There's no complex backstory to casual games, and if they have any plot at all it's always clear and simple. The best casual games have very basic rules and functionality too, so you don’t have to invest too much time in understanding how to play either.
Casual games are usually designed to have a much broader audience than a lot of video-gaming titles, which appeal to the niche target market of more hardcore gamers. Casual games are the sort of games that you can pick up while you're on lunch, enjoy a ten-minute break, and then go about your day.
Super casual and hyper-casual games are both terms that refer to a sub-category that's even simpler and quicker to access than casual games. They normally have no plot or backstory at all and you can play them for even shorter lengths of time.
If casual games are the takeaway sandwich of the gaming world then hyper-casual games are a bag of chips - the quick snack of games that you only need to spend a few minutes playing. These are the sort of games that you might play to pass the time while you wait for a bus, requiring very little of your attention.
Casual games are often characterized by:
To appeal to the widest audience possible, the best casual games will include some element of gameplay that we're already familiar with, partly to keep things simple but to induce a sense of comfort and familiarity. Some of the most common types of free casual games include:
While the concept of match 3 is simple - match three of any one element on screen - it is tremendously flexible and has produced some of the most popular casual games. Candy Crush is the perfect example of a Match 3 game. The best versions have innovated live ops events and meta-games and some even combined the simple Match 3 concept with elaborate decoration and narrative-based meta-games, helping to capture a wider range of players.
Puzzle games have become one of the most popular categories of casual games and include word puzzles and crosswords, Sudoku, and even jigsaws. Puzzle games include tangram-style games where you have to arrange shaped blocks into grids, and cult classics like Wordle. The puzzle game genre includes hidden object games, where you need to find items hidden within a picture to win, usually working against the clock.
Nothing beats the thrill of testing your knowledge and dragging that obscure fact out from the back of your brain, which is why casual trivia games are so popular. The best games in this genre have tried to incorporate elements from game shows with live events and even popular hosts. Through these games, you can compete with players across the world from the comfort of your home and in some cases even win tangible prizes.
The advent of mobile gaming has given a lot of traditional games a new lease of life and you can now play chess, mahjong, or any of your favorite card games on mobile apps. Versions of patience and Scrabble are particularly popular, and the great thing is that you have access to a whole world full of potential opponents.
Sometimes called clicker games, idle games are the most basic type of casual game and are simply about clicking or tapping on something to take an action, with no real plot or progression at all. These are the ultimate in easy access, pick up and put down games, for when all you want is a light distraction.
While casual games began life in the arcades and on PC, they've really taken off alongside mainstream smartphone usage and the development of mobile games. Casual games are made for playing just a few minutes at a time and so are perfectly suited to being mobile-based. The beauty of casual games is that as long as you have a phone in your pocket, you can play them anywhere at all.