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Can you build a game in less than 13kB of code? Top 5 picks from JS13kGames judge

Michelle Mannering
Developer Relations | Hackathon Queen | Community Manager
・5 min read

Seriously I am often blown away by the skills and talents of developers on this planet. This year I had the pleasure of judging JS13kGames. And what a pleasure it was. The games submitted for 2020 are incredible. They are polished, beautiful, and easy to play.

As a judge, we were given a pool of 25 games to play and scrutinise. So here's my top five picks, plus common elements of good game design. Oh and just for fun I've added in the winning game at the bottom too.

JS13kGames Expert

With over 220 games submitted for 2020, there's no way we can play and judge every single one of them... unless we want to be playing games for a few weeks straight (okay I wouldn't complain about that). In order to make judging a little more manageable, we receive 25 games each.

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For these entries, I'm looking for something specific. As a variety gamer, I've got a keen eye on game design, mechanics, and game play. That's why I was chosen as one of this year's "experts". When I'm playing a game, I'm looking for intuition, dynamics, fluidity, movement, controls, and overall look and feel of the game.

Here's the games I was assigned. Remember, this year's theme was 404:

  • Bard's Fantasy
  • 404 - (remain) not found
  • 404 Princess
  • 404!! Lost treasure
  • 404ms
  • Barry The Bird
  • Cardice
  • CosmoColonies
  • Edge Not Found
  • electron life simulator
  • Exit Not Found
  • Find All Pages
  • HTTP Runner
  • Knights Quest
  • Logic Shooter
  • mastermind
  • MVLM
  • NoteCraft
  • Planetary β€” an starship fight game
  • Raid Area 404
  • Shooooooot!!
  • Shooty Alien Game
  • The Book of Pages Not Found
  • The King's Missing Page
  • You have found

If one of these is yours, be sure to check out your comments section on the JS13kGames website. I wrote some extensive feedback on each game, and I hope it's useful for you. Before I go into my top five, I wanted to congratulate everyone who entered. It's hard work building a game, especially one with size constraints.

JS13KGAMES

I had a lot of fun playing all the games. In fact, I even played them all live on my Twitch channel. Watch the recordings for feedback, tips, and a bit of fun. You'll find Part 1 and Part 2 easily available.

Top 5 picks

It's hard working out your favourite games. But there are sometimes things that just click. Each of these games had great graphics and gameplay. They were easy to understand, initiative, and fun. Some of them have great sound effects and music, and even a couple are just super addictive!

So here's my top five picks in no particular order... okay they are alphabetical! You'll find detailed feedback on each game on the JS13kGames website. Plus all the games are available to play, download, fork, and share.

Barry the Bird

Think Flappy Bird, crossed with Chrome Dino Runner, with some Angry Birds thrown in. It's a super cute and really fun game. Just make sure you gain enough social followers and don't get eaten by the sharks. This one is available on web and mobile and even works with touch controls.

Barry the Bird

Cardice

I'm a card gamer and I love fantasy so this one sat really well with me. Choose two classes at the start and you'll be assigned a persona. I went straight for a ninja - a cross between an ice mage and an assassin!

Instead of receiving mana to play cards, gamers roll dice and play cards in your hand based on your dice rolls. It's a super fun rift on games like Shadowverse. The aim of the game is to save the princess.

Alt Text

Edge Not Found

You've seen those square games where you need to get the boxes in all the right spots? Well this is it... but on an infinitely repeating scale. And it is infinite! I have two 34" ultra wide monitors and it just kept going.

Edge not found

It's so simple, yet elegant. Very nicely executed, some neat sound effects and also HIGHLY addictive - you've been warned.

You have Found

Whilst it's not really clear what this game is supposed to do... one thing is clear; it's pure 'zen'! I mentioned this on my live stream and the developer of this game tweeted me back saying this is exactly what he was going for. Not only that but the graphics, style, and play are all beautiful. Give it a try for yourself if you're in need of some zen.

You have not found

404 Princess

It's either the dungeon style of this game or the ridiculously oversized sword that got me. The animations and avatar are amazing and the storyline pulls the player in. All you need to do is find the princess, but she might be in another castle.

Sword

Honourable mentions

Well those were my top picks. I loved playing all the games and they were really fun. If you take some time to play them yourself you'll see why these ones are at the top of my list. A couple of other honourable mentions I'd like to point out as well:

  • 404 (remain) not found
  • Find All Pages
  • King’s Missing Page
  • Shooooooot!!
  • The Book of Pages Not Found

Each of these has great story, good mechanics, and an objective which makes sense. Congrats again to everyone who submitted for the games this year.

2020 Winner

Finally, because it's awesome, we did have a chance to play the winning game on stream too.

Check out Ninja Vs. Evil to see the benchmark of JavaScript 13kB games.

Ninja

I still can't believe games like this are built in less than 13kB. I mean there are 17 levels to this game! Well done Remi Vansteelandt on taking home the win. This game was super addictive and really fun. I love the attention to detail on the levels and building the game with the theme in mind.

More gaming

If you enjoyed reading this, take a chance to play some of the games for yourself. If you're keen to get involved in game development, don't forget the GitHub Game Off is coming up soon. Be sure to sign up and I'll probably catch you around on one of my live Twitch streams.

Thanks again to Andrzej Mazur, Enclave Games, and the team at JS13kGames for having me as a judge this year. Looking forward to seeing you all next year.

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