The snake video game genre has so many things going in its favour, it’s no surprise that snake games remain incredibly popular. The snake game genre has its roots in a 1976 arcade game, called Blockade. This game was intended for two players, as both players would control their own snakes. The objective was to block the other player’s path, forcing them to crash into you.
Numerous titles similar to Blockade were released, including Atari’s Surround, and Worm for the TRS-80 home computer, as well as arcade-game variants of Blockade such as Nibbler and Snake Byte.
In 1997, Nokia developed Snake and included it on their Nokia 6110 phones. As Nokia was the largest cellphone brand in the 90s, with the Nokia 3310 selling 126 million units in the year 2000, the Snake game became synonymous with Nokia phones, even though Nokia included other games on their phones like Tetris and Space Impact.
What makes the snake game genre addictive?
What makes the snake game genre so addictive is perhaps the very simple concept that game developers follow even today. A seemingly simple, casual game with pickup-and-play qualities becomes increasingly difficult, and the player’s objective isn’t simply to “win” the game, but to beat their last score. And of course, remember that Nokia’s Snake was before public leaderboards and online rankings.
Nokia released several sequels of Snake for their various cellphone models over the years, but when the internet (and browser gaming) really picked up in popularity, a whole new world of snake games were introduced by indie game developers. This was best witnessed on popular Flash-portal websites like Newgrounds and Ebaumsworld.
Snake games are incredibly easy to create
Snake games are relatively easily to program – in fact, a basic version of Snake requires less than 100 lines of code in HTML, and here’s a snake game written in 35 lines of Python code. So as you can see, not only are snake games fairly addictive, they’re also incredibly easy to create.
So what modern developers are able to do is take a very simple concept and code, and put modern, unique variations on it – enhanced 3D graphics, or massively multiplayer elements like in Paper.io. There’s a huge list of indie-developed snake games from CrazyGames you can check out, and note that while many follow the traditional snake gameplay concepts, each game offers something unique from the minds of the developers.
In Paper.IO 2 for example, you don’t consume pellets to expand your snake – in fact, you aren’t really controlling a snake per se, just navigating a snake-like line through the game map, starting from your original territory. When you successfully create a loop around an unclaimed area back to your territory, your territory expands to fill the looped area.
But thousands of other players are online competing for territory as well, and they’ll be looking to block you and force you to collide with their territory, a little bit similarly to that original Blockade game of the 70s era.
The future of the snake game genre
Technology keeps advancing, and so there will be countless opportunities for game developers to put modern twists on the snake game genre. Like Paper.io 2, many modern browser snake games have experimented with online multiplayer features, including viral titles like Slither.io, Wormate.io, and Little Big Snake.
It isn’t only browser games that are experimenting with the classic snake game genre, though they are the most easily accessible. There are numerous VR-based snake game titles available on platforms like Steam, including Snake VR and DragonSnake VR, which puts the gameplay through the eyes of the “snake”.
There’s even some experiments being done with AR technology, such as Snake – Reloaded (ARCore) – here’s a YouTube preview. In this snake game that uses augmented reality technology, the player controls a snake that is projected onto a surface in your real-life environment. This is probably not a good idea for people with ophidiophobia.