What the Heck Is an Idle Game?
Tap, tap, tap to learn more.
Getting lost in a gripping, character-driven adventure is one of gaming’s great joys. So is reaching a zenlike calm while solving perplexing puzzles. But sometimes you crave a simpler experience—like a game that plays itself when you’re busy doing other stuff.
Also known as incremental games or idle clickers, most idle games involve tapping on the screen to rack up currency of some sort. Tap enough and you’ll level up, eventually unlocking new features and systems. The more you play, the more the game grows—and many idle games will even keep playing while you’re away. The sense of accomplishment is powerful and immediate.
The genre has exploded in all kinds of fascinating directions. Whether you’re harvesting space potatoes or racking up Bitcoins, there’s an idle game for every taste.
Tap into the classics
‣ Idle games have come a long way since Cookie Clicker, the 2013 phenomenon that thrust the genre into the spotlight. Tapping is still at the heart of most of these games—and the faster you do it, the better. But there’s also plenty of humor, some surprising depth, and a wild variety of ways to boost your virtual earnings.
In Bitcoin Billionaire, your pixelated avatar clickety-clacks on a keyboard, banking cryptocurrency with every tap. Invest in everything from comic books to self-driving cars to boost the income you haul in—even when you’re not playing. Eventually you’ll move from a grungy apartment to a sleek penthouse with a skyline view.
On the bucolic farms of Egg, Inc., tapping produces chickens, while selling their eggs funds upgrades to your agricultural empire. Build bigger coops and research cutting-edge production techniques. Before long, you’re at the helm of a poultry-powered megacorp.
‣ Most idle games have you exponentially increasing some sort of currency as you play. But what if instead of earning more cookies or coins, you were amassing attack damage?
Tap Titans 2 is a standout of the idle game subgenre that’s built around combat. Tap on monsters to slay them and earn gold, spend the gold to upgrade the strength of your attacks, then slay bigger monsters that drop even more gold. Eventually, your Sword Master will have a squad of sidekicks unleashing literally quintillions of points of damage per second.
Fans of old-school cartoons will find lots of nostalgic touchstones in the similarly themed He-Man: Tappers of Grayskull. It’s full of stylized characters, creatures, and settings drawn from the shows and toys. You can even activate power-ups with your voice—if you don’t mind shouting “Battle cat!” in public.
‣ Idle games are now blending with other game types—including business simulations and world-building adventures. The results are as imaginative as they are fun.
Like a slice of cheese atop a mouthwatering burger, Idle Cook layers click-centric gameplay on a restaurant-management sim. Tap to have your server ring up an order and hand it off to a delivery driver, then use your earnings to expand your menu, hire more staff, and increase the amount of food your delivery dudes can hold on their scooters.
Bit City is a mix of clicker and city-building simulation. Tap to break ground on bigger and better buildings while guiding a thriving economy. Tap Tap Fish—AbyssRium takes this notion to the bottom of the ocean, where you tap to earn vitality and spend it on marine life of your own creation. While you’re away, your soothing undersea paradise will grow and flourish.
‣ Idle games often require little mental effort—that’s part of their appeal—but that doesn't mean they have to be shallow. In fact, innovative new twists on the formula keep sprouting up.
Spaceplan stands out for plenty of reasons. It has an ending, for one thing, whereas most idle games are infinite. It’s also funny and weird, with an imaginative story line where your taps generate energy used to harvest potatoes, travel through time, and save the world.
With such bountiful variety, it’s no wonder idle games continue to captivate and delight. When you’re feeling a little tapped out on bigger, meatier interactive adventures, these games just click.