[Last updated: March 2019]

There is a growing number of people around the world that take up the keyboard and decide to learn to program. Some do it for a hobby (like me), while others are either doing it to build useful tools at their job, or with the goal of making coding their job.

It’s become such a phenomenon that there are even games about coding now. Being a fan of the games that let your program genre, I thought it might be an idea to share the list of games I’ve started keeping. So here you are. If you know of any suggestions for additions to the list, feel free to reach out.


Either by abstract logic layers, or by direct code language input, there are a fair few games that let you play around with programming concepts and logic puzzles without having to go the full hog and learn a real full-fledged coding language.


Try your hand at simplistic assembly programming where the goal is to reproduce the colorful pixel screen shown to you using either the list amount of code, or the least amount of cycles. There is no set limit or clear goal except the memory restrictions and trying to paint the preview image. There is even a Reddit dedicated to the game where people post challenges and leaderboards.

Box-256 is freely available to play online or as a download you can run on your Windows computer. Have not tried running it under Wine on Linux but it might work.


else Heart.Break() is a hacker-adventure game from Sweden (available in English and Swedish). You are Sebastian (or Seb, possibly), a young guy that just got a job as a soda salesman in a town on an island far far away. The island is complete with workers, restaurants, cafes, several hotels, criminals, secret police agents and hackers. What you do once you get to the island is up to you, the storyline is not clearly signposted so you will need to make a note now and then.

Once you unlock the hacking tools (within the first 30 minutes of the game) you will find yourself examining everything


You play as a recent graduated electrical engineering that promptly fled the US to Shenzhen, China, the city where makers and inventors come to fulfill their creative dreams. Here you work for a small microcontroller factory, designing various products. Shenzhen I/O is challenging, but definitely a lot of fun.

This game, like a few others in this list, is by Zachtronics, a small studio (and their lead designer) known for odd and difficult logic games.


Both of these games have you work as an office drone in charge of programming.. well.. yourself. Using a drag-and-drop prgramming interface you solve tasks like sorting the mail, returning sums of values and similar abstract tasks. First there was Human Resouce Machine, which was soon followed by 7 Billion Humans which expands upon the idea and have you program multiple office peons rather than just one.


You are a hacker with a problem. You caught the phage and it is slowly turning your body into machinery. It will consume you, unless you can pay for the medicine to keep it at bay. Hack, earn money, compete, survive. Exapunks is, like the other Zachtronics games, difficult but incredibly fun and imersive.


You are one of a trio of hackers, cobbling together a job simulator that allows you to simulate various missions to perfection. The coding might be a bit lighter than the other games on this list, it is akin to basic batch scripting, but it still scratches that ithc with it’s DOS-esq coding environment and interesting graphics. QC is definitely worth a look.


Another option for the assembly-currious. TIS-100 is an old machine, left to you by your recently deceased uncle. To unlock the story, you have to solve the various logical coding challenges. How do you multiply a number if you only have addition? How do you detect a zero terminated string?

Again, this is a Zachtronics game.


The first version of Core war was released in 1984, making it the one of the oldest entries on the list. It is a PvP assembly-esq game where two players release their programs (“warriors”) on a virtual machine with the goal of causing the other warrior to crash and burn.

Multiple versions exist, all based around a assembly language called RedCode. I would provide links but this is one of those things you will have to query yourself as there are just too many options and depth for me to look into at the moment.


If the list so far sounds bereft of multiplayer, fear not. Hackmud, once you complete the tutorial, has you engaing with other players online—trying to help, scam, steal, create or find resources . The best description I’ve found of the experience so far is Brendan Caldwell’s piece Lizard Games: My sordid double life among Hackmud’s failing newspapers and rigged casinos (i).


If artificial semi-intelligence, resource gathering, base building and robots is more your thing then have a look at Screeps. Here you will also learn JavaScript, as that is the language of the AI’s you program.


Continuing in the same vein as Screeps, Colobot has you searching for a new home for humanity. How? By programming robots, sentries, turrets and gatherers to establish a base and clean up the planet in anticipation of the arrival of humanity. The programming language used is a synthesis of C++ and JavaScript.


Some times there is that itch for something a little closer to the metal than a GO compiler, some times there is that want to get your hands dirty and wire up some contraption. If that is more your speed, then these hardware focused games are for you.


How would you like to build a CPU circa 19**? That’s what I thought. In Silicon Zeroes you are the latest engineer hired by an early Silicon Valley startup that aims to build a CPU.

Using diagrams and wires, you start by building counters, adders, multiplicators, dividers, logic gates, and all manners of odditites.


How would you like to build a CPU—no, wait, it’s not Silicon Zeroes again. In MHRD you work for Microhard (hah) as their latest hardware engineer circa 198*. Using nothing but your DOS-esq environment you have to code logic gates, which you then use to code multiplexers, demuxers and all manners of other logical constructs, all with the aim of building a fully functional CPU in the end.


Released in 1984 as a piece of educational software, Robot Odyssey is equal parts wiring, logic gates, chip design and fantasy robots. Having had a nightmare of being kidnapped by robots, you awaken to find yourself falling down a hole in your bedroom (don’t ask) into the city of Robotropolis. Here you are given three robots which you have to wire in logical manners to complete tasks that allow you to escape the cursed robot city and return to the human world.

The game is available as downloads on multiple abandonware sites, the Internet Archive, or for those that have no interest in playing around with emulation, there is the 100% online-in-browser version at www.robotodyssey.online. A followup game was planned but sadly never got developed.


KPHCTPYKTOP is another Zachtronics game from the earlier parts of the developers career. It is hard as nails, entirely hardware focused with no coding, and is freely available to play online though you may have to dig out a flash-compatible browser, and the in-game video tutorial does not work so you will have to use the youtube one.


There is a growing number of fantasy consoles — emulators emulating 8-bit-esq consoles that never existed.

Essentially these emulated consoles, with their often quite strict limitations on resources, are for those that want to try their hand at making retro games without having to dive into the arcane assembly coding magix of yore and perhaps even have to track down a hardware developer kit to get their project off the ground.


The first I found was PICO-8 - a NES-esq fantasy console programmed using LUA.

If it seems interesting, Christian from Lazy Devs has two great video series on making games for the PICO-8 (a roguelike and a breakout clone) that are well worth a look.


Inspired by PICO-8, the TIC-80 is a fantasy console with focus on portability. The games can be exported as HTML, and it works across platforms.


LIKO-12 is FOSS which makes it one of the most open and customizable option for someone looking to get stuck into the world of the fantasy consoles.


The Pixel Vision 8 is not a single console but a system you can define yourself. Want it to have the same hardware limitations as the original NEW? or perhaps make it a super-pixel-console with insanely huge boundaries that was way beyond the hardware of the 8-bit era? Supposedly it is all possible with PIXEL-8.

It is however released a pay-to-make model, so you would have to suppor the development of the platform with a donation in order to get access (from what I gather from their site).

I’m always looking to expand the list, so if you know of any other games that belong here, please reach out and I’ll happily add them.