You don’t need me to tell you any more about Wordle, the blessedly simple word game which has taken the nation by storm and was recently sold to the New York Times for millions of dollars. You know all about Wordle, or else you’re trying very hard not to know about it, but in any case it has crossed into your awareness in the past two months. Instead, I’m here to talk about the various spin-offs and adaptations that have spread like wildfire across the internet. Below, you’ll find the 19 Wordle variants that I know of and have played at least once, ranked by how good they are (I’m including Wordle itself, the OG, in the ranking).
My criteria are simple: Is it challenging, but in a fair way? Is it a game I want to return to? Does it provide enough variety that I won’t get sick of it in a week, but isn’t so stupidly complex that it makes no sense? Is there joy in solving?
Within those parameters, the definitive rankings below go from worst to first. (Note that this does not include parody games like Letterle, which are nonetheless hilarious.)
The idea behind this is great—word association, in which you pick a word, and it tells you how similar it is to the key word with a percentage. Unfortunately, the database in use here is abysmal, the percentages are completely without rhyme or reason, and the target word is often wildly different even from the (allegedly) most similar words. It can literally take you 400 guesses to get it right, but I would advise not embarking on that journey. It’s frustrating, it’s bad, and I quit after three days.
I’m only including this because Josh Jackson, our EIC, is a huge bird man. (That is, he takes beautiful photographs of birds, not that he’s a giant man-bird hybrid.) Despite wanting to like this more for Josh’s sake, it relies on knowing the four-letter banding codes of birds. No thanks.
This is Wordl for hockey players, but it’s limited to players with five-letter surnames, and thus pretty boring. It also requires an intense knowledge of hockey players, which I do not have. Even if I did, this one would be kinda boring.
Wordle, but for Shakespearean words. Again, a decent idea, but the word size is limited, and this includes any word Shakespeare has ever used. For instance, the most recent Bardle I solved was “groom.” Is that really Shakespeare specific enough to justify it?
Here’s the dirty secret about the original Wordle: it’s not really a game of skill. Yes, you can be bad at it, but beyond a certain level, you can’t be good at it. For all the systems people devise, ultimately this is why I think I’ve mostly lost interest
Chess is wonderful, and the idea for this game is good—predicting the opening three moves for white and black, with Wordle-style color codes indicating where you’ve gone right or wrong. The problem, as far as I can tell, is that the openings are limited, and I can’t see this having a very long shelf life. Plus, if you’ve studied openings, it’s going to be fairly easy, which means that the game in theory becomes less appealing to the audience it’s designed for as that audience’s knowledge goes up. Still, I’ve enjoyed it.
A nice themed Wordle, and unlike Bardle, they do seem to stay on theme here. Harmless fun, eh?
This is a map game, but all you get here is a darkened silhouette of a country. Your job is to guess a country, at which point the game lets you know how far you are from the target country, and in what direction. Thus, you narrow it down. It can be fun, but the mileage is a little wonky because it’s computed from the geographical center, so bordering countries can be listed as pretty far away. The game would be a lot better if there was some kind of border notification when you got close.
A rule I didn’t realize until about a month ago is that in terms of original Wordle, more is better. Dordle combines two Wordles, but your guess counts for both of them, so it introduces more interesting strategy to the game.
Like Dordle, but four. Again, bigger is better.
There’s no way I’m not going to love Wordle for swearing. Today’s word was “handy.” I
mean, come on!
Quordle, but with eight. BIGGER IS BETTER.
This is the NBA version of Wordle, and the graphics are kind of cool, but it literally takes from the entire NBA’s current roster, and a lot of these players are pretty obscure. It’s a fun, well executed game, but unless you’re a true NBA-head, it’s more fun to play with Wikipedia open.
This one is tough to describe, which is why it’s not higher despite being a well-executed game. Basically, you guess a flag of the world, and this game tells you in silhouette form which parts of the flag are correctly colored. So if you guess the U.S., for instance, it will tell you by image where the target flag is red, white, or blue in the same places. I’m a recent flag-head, so I enjoy this, and the design is unique, but it probably gets a lot less fun if you don’t know or care about flags.
6. Evil Wordle
As someone with troll-ish tendencies, I love this. Evil Wordle is basically trying to screw you over from the start. You guess a word, it changes the target word to something completely different (i.e., your first guess is always going to be full gray). You have to guess again, and it changes again, but the rule is it can’t violate what came before, which makes it harder but not impossible to evade you. The chase is on, and it ends when Evil Wordle can no longer bob and weave, and you’ve forced it to mark your answer correct. Hard, devious, and hilarious.
Tracking down an equation shouldn’t be this fun, but it’s weirdly addictive and perfectly conceived. Math, folks! It’s cool again!
Like Mathler, but with better design and a slightly better premise, in that you are devising the entire formula yourself (rather than trying to make it fit a solution) and there are more spaces to play with. Again, it’s odd how much fun this game is.
SIXTEEN WORDLES, 21 GUESSES! I told you bigger was better. This is so good. You will feel like you are in the matrix as you solve this, and when the pieces start to fall as you get closer and closer to your last guess, it’s so satisfying. A gem.
I love this. It’s like Worldle, but instead of just the silhouette of a country, you guess a country, and this game highlights it on a spinning globe, along with a heat map to let you know how close (or far) you are from the target country. Terrific graphics, and a true test of geography. I wish I could play more than once per day.
1. Who Are Ya?
Now this is how you make a sports Wordle. The game here is to identify a current player from one of the big five European leagues, but the cool addition is that there’s a facial silhouette that clarifies the closer you get to the answer. The green/gray elements are cool too, with graphics indicating nation, league, team, position, and age. I know very little about European soccer, but it’s a mark of how good the game is that I enjoy playing it while hunting down the players from Wikipedia. This is a blast, and a worthy no. 1.