A Brief History Of The Internet's Most Viral Games

Couple playing a viral game

Trends come and go all the time, never more so since the world has become glued to computer screens. With the help of social media and various messengers, new tastes and trends can be discovered and shared instantly from practically anywhere in the world. One area that's benefited from this connectivity more than most is gaming. 

Addictive games, groundbreaking apps, and humble word games can be enjoyed by people of all ages and often on the move too! This rapid shift to the digital realm has seen certain games make a real dent in our popular culture. We've collected some real movers and shakers below to remember or explore.

FarmVille (2009)

Launching in the early years of Facebook, this agriculture simulation quickly became the most popular game on the site boasting 83.76 million active users during its peak in March 2010. Though it's lost some of its shine over the past decade (Facebook discontinuing the first FarmVille on December 31, 2020), two mobile-based sequels continue to be very popular. There was no escaping your friend trying to add you to this viral smash for a while.

Angry Birds (2009)

The perfect commute game for adults and colorful madness for kids, everyone wanted a piece of Angry Birds. Connecting to that same part of our brain that fell in love with Tetris, players couldn't get enough of catapulting birds at greedy pigs. There were even Star Wars-themed spinoffs! As of 2018, the series as a whole has had over four billion downloads across all platforms.

Fruit Ninja (2010)

The following year saw the release of this simple slasher. Loved by critics and players, Fruit Ninja - unsurprisingly - saw the player attack fruit by making a swiping motion with the touchscreen capabilities on their mobiles and iPods. Such was its popularity; it soon jumped to home consoles, VR, and has even been used to help rehabilitate those with motor function issues. Halfbrick Studios was making $400,000 ad revenue a month during its peak.

Pokémon GO (2016)

The biggest earning media franchise of all time (Google it if you don't believe us) jumped from tiny screens to the real world in 2016 - sort of. An augmented reality game that allowed users to hunt Pokémon actually outside took the world's imagination by storm. Fans, new and old, readied their Poké balls for adventure. The game achieved over 147 million monthly active users by May 2018 and grossed more than $6 billion in revenue by 2020. Gotta catch them all!

Wordle (2021)

A web-based word game created by British developer Josh Wardle, Wordle is a simple online word game that challenges people to find a five-letter word in six guesses - with a new puzzle published every day. As internet fads go, this one is universal, educational, and free! The user base has jumped from 90 players on November 1 to 300,000+ by the start of 2022.

Sam Walker

About the Author

Sam Walker-Smart

Sam Walker-Smart is a British culture journalist currently based in Bristol. His work has appeared in CLASH, The Huffington Post, Vinyl Me Please, Barcelona Metropolitan, Little White Lies, and many other outlets. He enjoys weird folklore, sad songs, and good beer.