What are the best idle games on PC? There are some interesting connotations that come along with clicker games. Also known as ‘idle’ or ‘incremental’ games, the name betrays certain expectations: click your mouse, get a tiny reward, and repeat until you can make the process more efficient and lucrative.
In most cases, there’s a snowball effect that accompanies your progress that makes your clicks more productive, hence the “incremental” moniker. There are also many games that operate automatically even when you’re not playing, which justifies the “idle” nickname.
Clicker games manage to distil high-complexity concepts down into a series of single clicks and automation. It’s an interesting concept that is ripe for study, and really makes you think about what makes a game, a game. The entire concept of idle games is a fascinating experiment in how to squeeze the most game out of a single click of the mouse. In doing so these incremental games manage to make sprawling role-playing games digestible for those who can only spare a few minutes each day for gaming.
Once relegated to the dark corners of Itch.io and Kongregate, the genre has grown in popularity in recent years, and marketplaces like Steam are bursting at the seams with new idle, clicker, and incremental games for you to try. It’s nearly overwhelming.
Luckily, you have PCGamesN to help you find the ones worth playing in the following idle games list. Below are nine games worth a look. One of the great things about clickers is that, with a few exceptions, they’re usually free, so if you’re looking for some of the best free PC games you may find an idle game that suits your tastes.
Here are the best idle games on PC:
AdVenture Capitalist casts you as an enterprising entrepreneur looking to make it big in the investment game. You start with a single lemonade stand, but before long you’ll be making pizzas, managing hockey teams, making movies, and even running banks. Each business you buy increases your profits and the speed at which you can produce goods, but it also makes it tough to split your attention across all of your ventures. Luckily you can hire managers to automate each business so that the money keeps rolling in while you focus elsewhere.
That snowball effect is at the heart of AdVenture Capitalist. Watching each business operate on its own while you expand your ever-growing stable of ventures manages to capture the addicting essence of clicker games. AdVenture Capitalist also takes the term “idle game” to heart as you continue to generate profits even when not playing the game. If only capitalism was this accessible to everyone.
Part RPG, part sidescroller, all clicker. Crusaders of the Lost Idols puts you in charge of a group of fantasy heroes as they hack their way through hordes of monsters. Defeating enemies earns you gold that can be spent on new crusaders. Each character can be leveled up and has a set of abilities that can also be purchased for gold. As you progress further, your small army will keep growing, as will the damage they are capable of dishing out.
Formations are central to the Crusaders formula. Rearranging your party is a big part of maximizing your gold flow. There are certain characters that do more damage when adjacent to specific classes, characters who do more damage from the back row, etc. If you like your clickers with a side of tactics, Crusaders of the Lost Idols is a great choice.
In Realm Grinder, you play the part of a ruler of a small fantasy kingdom. You earn coins by simply clicking on your realm, which can then be spent on buildings that automatically generate income for you. Buildings like inns and blacksmiths continue to automatically gather coins even when you’re offline.
More swords and sorcery: Here are the best RPGs on PC
Where Realm Grinder really stakes its own claim in the world of idle games, and clickers in particular, is the ability to choose a good or evil direction for your kingdom. Choosing one or the other allows you to ally with various fantasy races, and gives you access to unique buildings and upgrades. Once you make your choice, however, you’re locked in for the rest of your game. Replayability isn’t exactly a common theme among clicker games, but Realm Grinder manages to offer up a surprising amount of variety.
One of the originators of incremental clickers, Cookie Clicker is synonymous with the genre. You start by clicking on a large cookie, earning a single cookie per click. Bake enough cookies and you can purchase new cursors to click for you. You can also hire grandmas to make cookies, plant a field of cookie seeds, and upgrade the efficiency of your clicks.
Once you earn enough cookies you can restart your game and aim for new upgrades like heavenly chips, play new minigames to earn a large amount of cookies at once, and even barter with the Cookie Dragon. There are also seasonal events that offer temporary chances to boost your cookie count. If you enjoy idle games at all, you owe it to yourself to to give Cookie Clicker a, er, click. Cookie Clicker also features on our list of cooking games, if you prefer restaurant management games.
If clicking monsters into oblivion is your thing then Clicker Heroes might be for you. You start with a lone warrior, and clicking a monster does a single point of damage. Soon, though, you’ll recruit allies that automatically damage enemies. You can level up each individual member of your party with coins dropped by felled monsters, and every character comes with a host of abilities that can be purchased over time, making them more powerful.
The most satisfying part of Clicker Heroes is watching the amount of damage you dish out snowball from single digits to enormous numbers. There’s also a surprising amount of choice present, as there may be several character abilities to unlock at any given time. There aren’t any wrong choices, though, since everything you do contributes to the damage you’re capable of dishing out, which puts a relaxing spin on the concept of build making in RPGs.
Forager isn’t strictly an idle, clicker, or incremental game. Progress through this crafting game requires a lot more active input, as you engage in combat, build your base up, and, er, forage for materials. However, as you approach Forager’s endgame the pace shifts as more and more of your systems become automated, allowing you to sit back and relax while your machines churn out all the goods you’d normally have to fight for or plunder from the surrounding wilderness. If you want an incremental game with a little more action, then this adorable top-down indie is tough to beat.
If Crusaders of the Lost Idols is an approximation of RPGs, then Time Clickers is the incremental version of a first-person shooter. In this futuristic game, you click to destroy cubes that drop currency. The money is used to buy new guns that automatically fire for you. You can upgrade each gun to increase its damage output, and even buy activatable abilities that dish out loads of extra damage.
The game is broken into stages called “arenas,” and a massive boss awaits at the end of each one. The bosses serve as a sort of progress check for the player; they’re veritable bullet sponges and the fights are timed. If you fail you’re booted back a couple stages so that you can grind for gun upgrades. It’s an addicting loop that puts a futuristic twist on the clicker games genre.
Plantera starts off simple enough: catch a butterfly in a net and gain one coin. Soon, you’ll have enough coins to plant a small carrot patch. Gather carrots to earn money in order to plant a blueberry bush. Sell enough carrots and blueberries and you can plant an apple tree. Soon, you’ll have a thriving garden rich in tasty fruits and vegetables. A much healthier idle game than Cookie Clicker, that’s for certain.
As you progress you’ll gain helpers that will automatically gather ripe crops. You’ll also have to ward off unwanted scavengers such as magpies and rabbits who are looking to snag the fruits of your labour. Plantera is one of the few games on this list that actually costs money ($2.99 on Steam), but the tradeoff is that it feels like a robust game with plenty of choices. Oh, and it’s cute as heck, too.
Creature Card Idle is a marriage of idle games and the best card games around. By placing cards on the field, you gain gold per second, which you’ll need to save up to buy card packs and unlock slots in which to place your cards. These creature cards have different buffs, such as the Ice Sword, which gives 100% production to the card above it, and Beer, which gives three gold per second but disables the production of other cards in its row.
The game is all about arranging your cards optimally to squeeze out every last drop of gold possible, then using the money to buy more powerful cards and rearrange your field all over again. You don’t leave those older cards behind, however – once your pockets are heavy enough you’ll need to purchase and combine ten of the same card to create an upgraded version and keep that coin rolling in.
NGU stands for Numbers Go Up, a hilarious RPG style idle game that puts you in the shoes of a feeble amnesiac who has somehow ended up in the sewer and must train up to defeat their various adversaries to progress through the story, taking on increasingly challenging foes – starting with beating on a piece of menacing fluff. Energy is generated every second and can be spent on training attack and defence skills, more of which are unlocked in time. As you grow stronger, you’ll make your way through various bosses, who once defeated you can fight again in the Adventure tab, grinding out gold and item levels.
The game’s developer, 4G, guides you through the first minutes of the game in an endearing tutorial – the narrative style is its own reward as you unlock new features and bosses, though of course the ultimate reward is watching those numbers go up.
Trimps begins like many other clicker games: you need to gather one resource via some clicks. Because you can only have one task (gather wood, check traps, etc.) active at a time it won’t be long until you find yourself stretched thin. Soon, though, you’ll meet the titular Trimps, small creatures that you can employ in order to automate most tasks.
As your small army of Trimps grows, you’ll find yourself awash in resources and food. You’ll use your Trimps build a small village, fight monsters, and even assault a towering, mysterious spire. Entirely text-based, the Trimps interface resembles a spreadsheet, and there are a lot of numbers to manage. Math geeks are sure to get a huge amount of entertainment from this idle game.
Along with Cookie Clicker, A Dark Room is one of the forebearers of the incremental games genre. What makes it unique among other games on this list, though, is that A Dark Room revels in its mystery and minimalism. The story is presented entirely through text and slowly reveals information about the world around you.
You begin the game in a dark room and must light a fire. Soon, you’ll run out of wood and must go gather some from the nearby forest. Before long, a stranger comes into your home and you set out on a mystery that’s part text adventure game and part optimization puzzle. It’s oddly unsettling and atmospheric, which is a grand achievement given the limited presentation and gameplay scope of A Dark Room.
Idle games have gained something of a cult following in recent years. The snowball effect of leveraging a small amount of resources into enormous gains simply by clicking a mouse appears to scratch a common itch. In a medium filled with complex control schemes, it can be nice to unwind with something a bit simpler.
The experience doesn’t necessarily need to be shallow, however, as games like A Dark Room prove. Watching developers and programmers experiment with genre conventions is fascinating, and a surprising amount of innovation is happening in the space. Just because a game is labelled as “idle” doesn’t mean it’s not immersive.