Few games have been played by more people with less fanfare than Snake. Snake isn’t even really a specific game so much as an entire genre built on a simple mechanic: your goal is to collect (or, usually, eat) objects on the screen, but your character’s tail grows longer every time you do. If you hit the tail, you die. Games typically get harder the longer you play, but Snake directly connects difficulty to your success, ramping it up every time you do what you’re supposed to do. That makes it especially frustrating, but also drives you to play again and again. It’s simple, elegant, and very hard, which is always a recipe for compulsive play.
Many people first played Snake (aka “the snake game”) on a Nokia cell phone. The Finnish company that dominated the mobile industry in the ‘00s included a free version of Snake on all of its phones. Before smartphones and app stores, that free version of Snake was a preferred time-killer for anybody with a Nokia. The game wasn’t created for phones, of course; the original version of Snake was an arcade game from 1976 called Blockade. Blockade immediately inspired a raft of knockoffs for the arcade and home computers. The basic concept was popularized with a slightly younger generation by 1982’s Tron, whose light cycle minigame is a riff on Blockade. Snakes were associated with this type of game by the early ‘80s, and eventually the reptile lent its name to the whole genre after Nokia launched its cell phone version under that name in 1997.
Today Snake is as popular and endlessly playable as ever. In fact it’s consistently one of the most searched gaming terms on Google. If you’re looking for a good Snake game to play, whether on your computer or mobile device, here are our picks for the best of the bunch.
Steve Howse’s multiplayer take on Snake was a surprise hit in 2016 upon being released for browsers, iOS and Android devices. It’s Snake on a massive scale, with a large plane full of edible dots and snakes controlled by other players—many of which will be almost absurdly longer than your tiny little snake. If other snakes run into yours, their games end, and they’ll leave behind some supercharged dots that’ll make yours bigger and stronger. The goal isn’t just to avoid your own tale, but to get other players to run into it, so you can then eat their remains. It might sound brutal but it’s all cute, colorful, and cartoonish. It’s basically Snake updated for the 21st century as a hop-on, hop-off online game with a slight similarity to the battle royale genre. You can find it on iOS or Android devices, or play it in your browser here.
Available for both iOS and Android devices, as well as browsers, Snake.io follows the Slither.io playbook very closely. Yeah, it’s basically the same game with some visual changes. You aren’t just trying to avoid your own tail, but can strategically use it to defeat all the other snakes on the screen. (Yes, as you can see in the photo above, some of those other snakes might be dogs, cats, bunnies, or, uh, fireballs?)
Yep, you can play Snake on Google Maps. This is way more barebones than those first two games, but that means it’s much closer to the Snake you might remember from your old Nokia phone. Instead of a snake, you control a train across one of seven small maps, including cities like Cairo, Sydney, and Tokyo. The goal is to pick up passengers for one point, and swing by major tourist sites for five or 10 points. The maps are small, the trains get hard to avoid pretty quickly, and instead of actual recognizable maps the playfields are abstract, pixelated renditions that look like they could come from early ‘80s arcade games. Still, it’s a lot of fun, you won’t have to worry about playing with others like with Slither.io or Snake.io, and it offers a unique twist on the classic formula.
OneMotion touts their Snake game as being in 3D, and although that’s true, it’s probably not in the way you expect. This isn’t a first-person version on Snake, but one that takes place across a cube that rotates when your snake travels from one face to another. This doesn’t change the basic math of playing Snake that much, but it is an interesting little wrinkle that sets this version apart.
If you just want to play a classic, rudimentary Snake game that feels like it came right out of 1982, check out Snake by Coolmath Games. With single-colored blocks on a black background, this browser game gives you a perfect idea of what a computer version of Snake would’ve been like 40 years ago.
Finally, if you really want to channel that classic Nokia vibe like it’s 2005 all over again, Snake ‘97 goes out of its way to capture the look and feel of that specific version of Snake. It’s playable on iOS, Android, and PC, but doesn’t have a browser version