8 Best Idle Games to Play While Doing Nothing

An idle mobile game

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If someone told you ages ago that you could play a game by doing nothing, they wouldn’t believe you. What’s the point? Turns out, idle games are a nice distraction from the heavy time and attention investments of modern titles. Explore the best options for having something to do when you have a few minutes of downtime.

What Is an Idle Game?

Idle games are also sometimes called incremental games or clickers, depending on the mechanics and gameplay style. Typically, they refer to games with minimal player interactivity, where linear progression occurs offline. Some even call them games that play themselves, though the definition has expanded to more involvement variants and styles over the years. This is likely due to the rise in mobile games.

The best idle games combine these elements. The first is longevity. Developers want players to engage with idle games potentially for years. Therefore, the progression must be expansive yet scalable in a rewarding enough way. People should feel their sense of progression and gameplay elements change as time passes, depending on their degree of engagement, obviously.

Additionally, there is a grinding element. Usually, players create automated systems to farm for resources, currency, levels, experience or other metrics. Seeing numbers change provides players with a sense of accomplishment. This happens in real time, either by letting time pass and letting the game work as it’s closed, or by short spurts of active gameplay. This could be more traditional or be primarily click-based.

So, what are some of the best idle games with incremental elements?

Fallout Shelter

From one of Bethesda’s most beloved franchises is an idle game variant. It has the classic aesthetic of the popular game with a management twist. Oversee a Vault of Dwellers, and time passes as they leave to go on missions. They come back with resources you need to survive in the shelter. The game is all about survival. Fortunately, there is more depth than that. You can also foster relationships and see them blossom in real time.

fallout sticker and watch


Forager is an innovative title from Humble Bundle and HopFrog because it blends the elements of an idle game with a crafting experience that you’ll want to actively engage with. With nostalgic pixel graphics and a banger soundtrack, you play as a cute marshmallow-looking fellow ready to fight, harvest and expand. Explore dungeons, find secrets and level up for new ways to get rich and make the most resources imaginable.

AdVenture Communist or Capitalist

This is an idle game in two flavors. AdVenture Capitalist is the original, which lets you become the mega-millionaire you’ve always dreamed. This comedic idle game is a commentary on wealth accumulation, as most of the money is generated while you sit and do, well, nothing. The game takes fun twists and turns as you make your corporate vision a reality.

In the Communist version, you combat all of your progress from the previous game by making a collaborative resource management system. What starts off as a simple farming-style sim gets more involved, especially as the developers send out regular updates and challenges weekly.

Cats & Soup

In beautiful pastels is one of the coziest idle games that exist — Cats & Soup. All they do is exist in a forest you build out to make new types of soup. Gather different breeds of cats and ingredients like fish and vegetables to make you countless dollars. Unfortunately, like many idle games, there are microtransactions. However, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the game if you don’t want to go past the free-to-play elements.

someone taking a picture of cats with their phone

Neko Atsume

Neko Atsume is a cat collecting game where players design a dwelling to attract different types of cats. Yes, this is the second idle game about cats. No, it is not the last one you’ll ever come across. There are plenty of cat-laden games not featured here to get a cuteness fix. 

Like many idle games, it doesn’t have a concrete ending. However, the point is to adjust the home and place certain treats and toys to collect and photograph new breeds. Its popularity earned a sequel, coming out in 2024.

Idle Zoo Tycoon

Who doesn’t want to relieve their glory days from building intricate yet inefficient zoos in the original Zoo Tycoon in a more bite-sized, idle format? Idle Zoo Tycoon has myriad options for constantly improving your grounds. Just like in traditional tycoon games, you construct the perfect tourist attraction to garner more guests, and, therefore, more money. Use that money to ever-expand the land to house more animals — then rinse and repeat.

If zoos aren’t your vibe, there is also Idle Theme Park Tycoon.

AFK Arena

Are there idle RPGs? For fans of Genshin Impact and similar games, AFK Arena could scratch that itch of feeling like you’re playing an in-depth RPG with the low-stakes grind of an idle game. It has a pretty high learning curve compared to other idle games, but it’s nice to see this genre have diverse difficulty options. There are plenty of ways to set up your party and learn various builds. The game updates regularly, so the meta is always changing to keep things interesting.

two people playing phone games

Cookie Clicker

This list wouldn’t be complete without arguably the most legendary idle clicker out there — Cookie Clicker. Made by Julien “Orteil” Thiennot in 2013, it is often considered the world’s first successful incremental game. The goal is to bake cookies by clicking on the game’s big cookie icon. However, players can purchase cursors and other resources to do the work for you. 

The game’s seemingly endless support has expanded on its foundation, adding complex exponential growth features and really learning from its dark humor and cosmic horror elements. The game has a cult fanbase that took over a decade to form.

The Best Idle Games for Casual Gamers

Idle games are incorporating more mechanics than they used to when they first became popular. Many incorporate active gameplay alongside the passive elements, making games more engaging in the long term. What are some of your favorite idle games that allow you to enjoy little pockets of time?

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