The Google homepage is intentionally minimalist, with a distinct lack of pointless detritus that would only serve to divert people’s attention away from the main purpose of the page. Which is to provide a kicking off point for exploring the wider Web. There’s the Google logo, a search bar, and a couple of buttons, and that’s it… most of the time.
From 1998 onwards Google has been regularly changing the Google logo up, with the new iterations labeled Google Doodles. These doodles have been used to great effect to mark significant events, the birthdays of important people, and national holidays. They have also become a lot more involved over the years, with interactive elements being added.
We’ve already looked at the best Google Doodles in video form, now it’s time to list the best playable Google Doodles released to date. Good Guy Google doesn’t delete these games, so they remain playable long after they appear on the Google homepage. Which is great for all of us who spend far too long on the Web and who are in constant need of things to occupy our brains.
A Zamboni is an ice-resurfacer, named after its inventor Frank Zamboni. In the same way Hoover has become the generic name for all vacuum cleaners, so Zamboni has become the generic name for all ice resurfacers.
Google released a doodle in honor of Frank Zamboni in January 2013, to commemorate what would have been his 112th birthday. It takes the form of a game which sees you driving an ice resurfacer around an ice rink after skaters have scuffed up the ice.
This game is very simple. You use the arrow keys on your keyboard to control the vehicle, cleaning up all of the scuff marks as quickly as possible without running out of fuel. There are also power-ups and obstacles left behind on the ice.
Released in February 2013 this version of the classic mobile game Snake was released to commemorate Chinese New Year 2013. Why Snake? Because 2013 is the year of the snake. Clever ol’ Google.
You start playing by clicking the coin slot in the middle of the logo. Then you simply use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the snake left, right, up, and down. You don’t have to worry about hitting the edges of the playing area, instead you just need to collect the power-ups while avoiding the sticks of dynamite.
This was the first playable Google Doodle, and it arguably remains the best one released so far. Pac-Man turned 30 in May 2010, and to celebrate Google released its own version of the arcade classic featuring a maze inspired by the Google lettering.
After clicking ‘Insert Coin’ you control Pac-Man with the arrow keys on your keyboard, eating the pills while avoiding the ghosts. The gameplay remains true to the original, which means it’s just as frustrating as it ever was.
If this puts you in the mood for more Pac-Man then you’ll love The World’s Biggest Pac-Man.
London 2012 Olympics
Google truly outdid itself to commemorate the London 2012 Olympic Games. As well as different static doodles for the opening and closing ceremonies, it released four playable Google Doodles for four of the sports included in the Olympics. All of these doodles are competitive, and you will be awarded up to three medals depending on your performance.
In the Slalom Canoe Google Doodle game you need to guide your canoeist down the rapids, making sure he travels between each set of gates. The canoe is controlled by the left and right arrow keys, one for each of the two oars. You need to concentrate on getting into a fluid rhythm and hitting each gate in turn.
In the Soccer Google Doodle game you play the part of the goalkeeper who needs to save as many shots from the striker as possible. The arrow keys move you left and right, and the spacebar makes you jump. The more shots you save the more difficult the game becomes… until you’ve let three goals in and it’s Game Over.
In the Hurdles Google Doodle game you need to both run fast and make it over each hurdle that is put in your way. It’s a tough combination to get right, with each hurdle you run into slowing you down and ensuring you get a poor time. The left and right arrow keys pressed in turn build speed, with the spacebar pressed to clear the hurdles.
In the Basketball Google Doodle game you have 24 seconds to score as many basketballs as possible. All you need to do is hold down the spacebar to build up power, letting it go to release the ball. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, especially as your standing position moves back after so many balls are played.
These are the best playable Google Doodles I have ever seen, but I suspect there are many more out there waiting to be discovered. Google takes its doodles so seriously now that it features different sets for different countries, so it could be that there is a playable gem that is only available in your territory lurking away unseen by the masses.
If this is the case then please let us know so that we can build another list of playable Google Doodles in the future. After all, MakeUseOf is a global effort, both in terms of the writers and editors, and the readership.
Beyond that request, do you have a favorite amongst the playable Google Doodles featured here? Or any other thoughts to add to the article? If so please let us know in the comments section below. Otherwise read about different ways to explore Google Doodles on the Web.