Are you bored? Do you like playing games? Does the prospect of playing games sound like a cure for your boredom? Luckily for you, Google has your back, because the company synonymous with searching for things on the Internet is known for their love of Easter Eggs.
As evidenced by playfully trolling users with the definition of ‘recursion’ or providing the answer to the ultimate question, Google likes to play around. It should come as no surprise to find out that Google actually has a number of secret games hidden within its products. Whether you are procrastinating at work or bored out of your mind in class, follow these instructions to access a treasure trove of hidden Google games.
1. Smarty Pins (Google Maps)
Once upon a time, Google’s in-house geography trivia quiz was accessible directly through Google Maps by typing “smarty pins” into the search box. For whatever reason, this wonderfully designed little quiz game is no longer there, but you can find it at smartypins.withgoogle.com.
The game uses Google Maps to ask you all manner of questions (ranging from moderately easy to super tough), which you answer by placing the Maps pin on the location where you believe the answer is located. Points are collected in the form of “miles,” and if you’re struggling, then it gives you witty little hints. Compelling, yet kind of educational, so you don’t feel too bad about wasting your time with it.
2. Flight Simulator (Google Earth)
It’s been around for years, but Google Earth is still kind of mind-blowing, letting you whiz around the planet and zoom in on just about anything, anywhere in the world (well, apart from military bases, North Korea, and the usual sketchy stuff).
Better still, Google Earth has a built-in flight simulator that lets you travel around the world using an actual plane. You can even choose whether to fly an SR22 or F-16 jet and play using a joystick, if you have one. Our advice is to turn on 3D buildings as well, which means you’ll get to experience cities like San Francisco (pictured) in their murky-textured but nonetheless 3D glory.
To access it, you need to download and install Google Earth on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer, then from the menu, click “Tools -> Enter Flight Simulator” at the top.
3. T-Rex Run (Google Chrome Browser)
Google knows that the absence of the Internet can make people lose their minds. Luckily, Google hopes to stave off violent reactions with this cute and addictive game. One of the more well-known “hidden” games, this one requires Google’s Chrome browser.
Starring a lone T-Rex in 8-bit glory, you jump over cacti and evade flying pterodactyls in this endless runner.
To play, shut off your device’s WiFi or fire up Chrome when you have no access to the Internet. When presented with the “Unable to connect to the Internet” screen (featuring the aforementioned T-Rex), hit the Space bar (or tap on your screen if you’re on a tablet or phone). Get ready because the deceptively-easy game is about to begin. Just keep hitting that space bar to jump.
4. Zerg Rush (Google Search)
Referencing the seminal real-time strategy game Starcraft, Zerg Rush is a little simpler than Blizzard’s seminal game. For those who have never played Starcraft, the Zerg are a race of insect-like aliens. Performing a “Zerg Rush” requires a player to quickly amass a large army of weak units and use them to overwhelm an enemy.
Search “Zerg Rush” in Google and prepare yourself as Google Os swarm in from all corners of your screen. Eventually the Os will destroy the search results, but you can eliminate them by clicking on them with your mouse. How long can you last?
5. Pac-Man (Google Search)
This custom Pac-Man game appeared as a Google “doodle” on May 21, 2010. This playable version of Pac-Man was made to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the incredibly popular arcade game. To start munching on pac-dots, simply Google “pacman,” and you can get down to the timeless business of avoiding Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde.
6. Snake (Google Search)
Prepare to feel like Marty McFly and go back in time. The Google Doodle commemorating the 2013 Chinese New Year features a classic game from Nokia-era mobile phone dominance. That’s right, a version of Snake is playable within Google’s search engine. To play, punch in “Google Snake Game,” and click on the top result.
7. Breakout (Google Search)
Breakout is a 1972 arcade game developed by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Players control a paddle that bounces a ball into bricks arranged at the top of the screen. The goal is to volley the ball back and forth between the paddle and the bricks until all the bricks are knocked out. To access this classic, type “Atari Breakout” into Google’s Image Search. All of the search results will morph into bricks. Control the paddle with the arrow keys or your mouse.
Honorable Mention: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
In a 1994 interview with Premiere Magazine, actor Kevin Bacon made an offhand comment about how he had worked with everyone in Hollywood or someone who’s worked with them. This spiraled into a game based on the six degrees of separation between him and other actors. This concept suggests that any two people on Earth are six, or fewer, links apart. In Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a player names any actor and attempts to connect him or her to Bacon in six or fewer people. Google technicians must have a lot of free time on their hands since they integrated the game into the Google search engine. Simply type in any actor’s name followed by “Bacon number” to see how far removed that actor is from Kevin Bacon.
Bonus challenge: can you find an actor with a Bacon number of four or above? If so, post the actor’s name in the comments and revel in your mastery of Kevin Bacon-related movie trivia.
This post was first published in Oct 2016 and was updated in October 2017.