Promoted from our Community Blogs
[The internet was a very different time in Flash’s heyday, and it’s worth preserving those old games, animations, and even just our memories as much as possible. This blog from Nior brought me back to the early 2000s in the best way. -Jordan]
On December 31st of this year, Adobe is officially “killing” the Flash Player plugin.
I doubt I need to explain to most of you what this plugin even is. It was such a ubiquitous part of the early age of the internet, offering interactivity in the form of games and video players, that it feels weird that we’re about to live in a world without it.
The simple truth is that technology moved on, and the plugin became obsolete ages ago, but those days, that early, wild west age of the internet, when the rules were not defined and no one knew what the hell they were doing, is something that is burned into my mind, in no small part thanks to Flash Player. And today, I’d like to take you back there. One last trip down memory lane, a farewell to some of my favorite things from so many years ago.
Let’s do this.
I feel like there’s no place more appropriate for me to start than here. If there’s one thing everybody likes, it’s stick figures. If there’s another that’s synonymous with the early days of the net, it’s also “stick figures.” The internet in the early 2000s was expensive and slow, so my main method of access was a local Lan House/Web Café owned by my parents. We had a whopping 2Mbps speed split between 12 machines, 13 if you count the main server. Slow doesn’t even start to describe it, to the point where if someone started a large download, the whole place would know immediately because the speed would tank so hard you could play classic Resident Evil with it. Luckily for me, there was something relatively light to load and endlessly amusing: stick figures! Unsurprisingly, I was drawn in by the games first.
I still remember how fun it was to simply run around in Fancy Pants Adventures, how the dumb humor of the Henry Stickmin series kept me coming back just to intentionally fail and see a new gag, and even how Combo Factory gave me the first taste of stringing long, satisfying combos that would eventually culminate in my love for spectacle fighters like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry.
Part 2 starts at 1:54
I came for the games, but what made me stay was the stick fights, and I don’t think people give these enough credit. They might look simplistic at first glance, but one needs but a couple of minutes to realize a lot of love goes into crafting these. It’s not just a cop-out for a lack of resources, stick fights are a legitimate art style that you can use for almost anything! If you want to see frenetic, stylish action, then look no further than the works of animator Philips “Terkoiz” Lacanlale. His “Shock” series is what I consider to be his magnum opus, with “Shock 2” being a fight I still rewatch regularly, and the thing I can thank for introducing me to the band “The Sleeping.” The absolute classic “Xiao Xiao” was like watching a stick version of a John Woo shootout, complete with totally unnecessary but still cool as fuck Gun-Fu.
While not quite as action-packed, the original “Animation vs Animator” is still a fun and creative concept that’s still going on to this day, and it’s some of the best content the internet has to offer! And never let it be said that you can’t make good horror with stick figures, because the “Castle” series used to scare the hell out of me! It has zombies/demons, plenty of action, and lots of blood, but it took its time to build up tension and tries to tell a cool story. It is a damn shame that it might remain unfinished forever.
By the way, I know Super Mario Bros Z exists and it is awesome! I just wasn’t into it back then…
Oh boy, here’s a deep cut. If the previous two paragraphs didn’t give away my age, this one definitely will. Final Fantasy Sonic X is probably the most 2000s thing on this list. Part turn-based RPG, part sprite animation, this was a big hot fudge of a crossover between Sonic, Zelda, Mega Man (Classic, X, and Zero), with a touch of “original characters, donut steal” to seal the deal. The Final Fantasy part comes from the combat system, which is mostly an excuse for interactivity, and to give Sonic a Buster Sword in one of the episodes. No, seriously, he goes Super and just summons Cloud’s sword from thin air.
The fights are heavily scripted as well, so the only way to lose was to royally screw-up, and don’t ask how I know that. But this is not a bad thing. It made me feel like I was the one making each dramatic moment happen. Today, I know that’s not the case, but holy shit did it feel good!
The story mostly revolves around some cursed magic sword that everyone and their mother wants, and like the gameplay, it gets better as it goes on. Fights become less scripted, the action becomes more fluid, there are more effects, and even voice acting! It’s a strange mess, but it’s compelling in its own, strange way, and if you can get past the first two episodes (that are admittedly not that great) there’s a fun ride to be had here.
I’ll be honest, Thing Thing isn’t special by any means. They’re a mix of 2D platforming and shooting, with simple controls and relatively easy difficulty. We follow “Project 154,” a test subject for a government program trying to create enhanced super soldiers. Needless to say, we escape and go on a roaring rampage of revenge against the corporations that ruined our lives, culminating in a fourth game that was surprisingly dark! What stood out the most to me was the art style.
The characters in this look like if you tried to draw using the style of the Rayman series but were only allowed to use circles (pieces of clothing being the exception). It’s pretty unique all things considered, and if you’ve played any of them, you’ll instantly remember from a screenshot alone. The other thing that stood out was the series’ affinity for weapons. There are a lot of classic firearms represented here, with great sprite work that captures the feel and looks of them, and I’m not ashamed to admit that this is how I learned the names of many iconic arms. So if anything, this is an educational experience!
Do consider supporting the series by buying it on Steam!
If you’re into RPGs, there’s a non-zero chance you’ve heard of Epic Battle Fantasy. The genre is saturated like a bad TikTok meme, yet the EBF series has managed to stay relevant since its inception back in 2009! The reason is very simple. For one, these are full-blown RPGs and making one of those in Flash is pretty impressive. And two, they are charming as all hell!
There’s a plot but that’s not important. You’re here for the surprisingly well-thought-out combat and the frankly staggering amount of content on offer! The fourth game, for example, took me around 30 hours to complete! For free! Coupled with an art style that is simple but expressive—a perfect complement to the lighthearted tone of the games—EBF wants you to have a good time all the time. The games are full of humor and although it’s often as silly as the art style, it lands more often than it misses. If you enjoy RPGs (or want to find out if you do) give these games a chance. You won’t regret it.
Don’t be fooled by the graphics. This stupid game will end you!
There are two things I like: MMOs and shoot-’em-ups, and Realm of the Mad God combines both with roguelike elements. There are traditional RPG classes, like Warrior, Rogue, and Archer, but unlike a traditional RPG, RotMG is played in real-time and everyone fires projectiles.
How it works is that you join a server and are given some random quests automatically. Then you teleport the nearest players around said quest, who definitely have the same quest, and start killing, and the amount of dakka only increases as you level up and join bigger groups to take down massive bosses. Once enough quests are completed, the Mad God Oryx will close the Realm (meaning no new players can join that server) and teleport all players to his castle dungeon. Survive and you get the chance to face Oryx, in a boss battle with three phases of increasingly stupider levels of danmaku. Thrive and your rewards include bragging rights, status, and some of the best gear available.
Simple enough, right? Wrong! This fucking game will ruin your productivity! The hunt for better gear will consume you, the power scaling will intoxicate you, and the pick-up-and-play nature of it all will make sure you keep coming back for more! It’s a high that only the massive gut-punch of losing a super powerful character can destroy (I told you this was a roguelike). But you’ll still come back for more just for another shot at taking down the titular Mad God. It’s a simple and satisfying co-op bullet hell, and I can’t recommend it enough.
This is the best Kingdom Rush game. Fight me!
C’mon, you probably saw this one coming from the moment you clicked this blog. You can’t talk about Flash games without getting into the tower defense genre at some point, and this is one of the best.
Kingdom Rush asks you to defend the realm from orcs, vampires, trolls, and all sorts of monsters from classic medieval fantasy tropes. Spells complement your arsenal, but what makes this one stand out from the rest are the towers. You have barracks that produce units that can body block monsters, and all towers have a tech tree that splits into two, allowing further specialization and the ability to unlock special powers that can drastically change the tide of battle. There’s a damn good reason why the series is still going on to this day, with each new game iterating on the concept in creative and clever ways.
Do you know what’s cool? Speedrunning. There’s something mesmerizing about watching people break the games we love in half, either by exploiting engine quirks or just some good old-fashioned skilled execution. It’s even better when games are designed around speedrunning, and 2D platformer Exit Path is one such game. The single-player mode consists of a gauntlet of increasingly deadly rooms, asking you to guide our test subject towards freedom. It has an atmosphere that reminds me of the original Portal, only with a lot more violence. Multiplayer was a different beast, putting up to 40 players in deadly races to see who could reach the end of a room with fewer deaths, and that was my preferred method of play. The servers are unsurprisingly dead, but if you want to have an idea of how it was, imagine the game Speedrunners but without the grappling hook or Mario Kart power-ups.
The history of Flash involves way more games, animations, and websites than I can possibly hope to cover here. This list is but a microcosm of the things that I grew up with. However, this is not goodbye. Preservation efforts like the Flashpoint Project and Internet Archive are already hard at work to keep this part of internet history alive—and Newgrounds has a dedicated player to keep its games alive.
The successful among them have moved on to Steam and App/Apple Stores, and Hyun’s Dojo is a hub for animators that have kept the art of stick figures alive for all these years. This is the end of the plugin, but it’s far from being the end of its legacy. These games will live on, if only in the memories of people like you and me.
So long, and thanks for all the memories, Flash Player. You will be missed.