10 Most Popular Games on Facebook – A Closer Look

Facebook has become the most popular casual games platform around. There aren’t many casual games that can boast tens of millions of active users each month, and it seems that getting into the top-10 list of Facebook games is a very sought-after achievement.

Is there a formula to it? Can you easily create a successful Facebook game? Let’s take a look at the 10 most popular games on Facebook and see what we can find.

#10 – Zoo World by RockYou!

Cute animals are a sure magnet for kids and cute-crazed people. Zoo World has over 18 million monthly active users. This game offers basic, childish graphics and annoying MIDI music. The goal is to manage a successful zoo. The social features are the regular ones – send gifts to friends, boast your zoo achievements and more. The game sends constant status updates about your activity to the profile. You can also buy items and animals using real money – the usual scam. Despite its popularity, the game has a rating of only 3.5 stars.

#9 – PetVille by Zynga

Again with the cute animals. This time – tamagotchi style. In PetVille, you take care of one pet. You need to dress, feed, and decorate its house. The game borrows heavily from PlayFish’s Pet Society. It was launched about 2 months ago, and has over 18 million active users per month.

#8 – Pet Society by PlayFish

This game (again) allows you to grow a virtual pet and interact with it. In Pet Society, you can play games, decorate your house and bring gifts for your friends when you visit them. You can also compete against other pets in the stadium. These are all familiar features if you’ve ever been to NeoPets.com. As we can already see – originality isn’t a required feature when it comes to popular Facebook games. The game has about 18.7 million active users per month.

#7 – Mafia Wars by Zynga

Mafia Wars was more popular in the past, but it seemed to have slid down in the rankings. In the game, you need to start a Mafia family with your friends, do crime jobs for cash, buy weapons and fight – your regular life of crime. Mafia wars leans heavily on its social features – the more members you have in your mafia, the more options you get. This turned the game into a spam machine, where people constantly implore you to join their mafia. Mafia Wars has 24.6 million monthly active users.

#6 – Texas HoldEm Poker by Zynga

This game simply rides on the huge popularity of Texas Holdem, with some added social features, free chips and many announces to remind you that you didn’t play today. There’s also a leveling system to keep it a tad more interesting. Zynga’s Texas Holdem has over 25 million active users per month.

#5 – FishVille by Zynga

Fish are a strong theme among the popular Facebook games. They are, apparently, cute and attractive enough to gain the favor of Facebook users. This game replicates the successful model of FarmVille – raise fish, invite your friends and gather items. FishVille has 25.3 million active users per month.

#4 – Happy Aquarium by CrowdStar

Fish theme, remember? Yet another grow-your-fish game, this time by CrowdStar. Players can purchase tropical fish, teach fish cool tricks, decorate their fish tank, and visit other facebook friends in Happy Aquarium. There are over a 100 levels in this game, which accounts for long playing hours and stickiness. This game has 26.3 million active users every month.

#3 – Café World by Zynga

Café World puts the player in charge of a restaurant where they can serve food, collect money, and decorate their restaurant. Time management game developers already know that restaurant management and food games attract a big crowd. Gameplay is very simple and it’s time-based: dishes take a predefined amount of time to prep, and you have to coordinate your game accordingly. The game has 30.2 million active users per month.

#2 – Birthday Cards by RockYou!

Why is this app considered a game? Don’t ask me. Using this app, you can send cards and gifts to your friends, create a custom card or choose from pre-made card designs. This might be a useful app, but that doesn’t explain its popularity, especially after the security blunder, in which 32 million passwords were compromised by a hacker. Still, this app has over 45 million active users per month – which is rather impressive.

#1 – FarmVille by Zynga

The top of the top of Facebook’s games can hardly be considered a game, really. You are a farm owner – raising crops and gaining money by selling them. You can’t lose or die – only advance. The only challenge is how to design your farm and where to stuff your animals. There are many tips and guides on how to make tons of (virtual) money on FarmVille, but in the end it’s basically the ultimate, easy time-killer. Just point and click, and cute sheep will come to you. The lack of challenges and the easy, mindless gameplay are probably the explanation to the huge popularity of the game, which currently has over 70 million active users per month. Sending ducks to your friends has never been more popular.

So, what have we learned from looking at the top 10 games on Facebook?

  1. Not for hardcore gamers – Facebook games are obviously not created for serious gamers. They are even below the average when it comes to casual games – they are easy, you can’t really lose and the main purpose is to keep you around and maybe make a buck or two when you are tempted to use real money to buy virtual products.
  2. You don’t need to be original – On the contrary! Take an already popular game and copy it – the users will come. Zynga’s games are all the same one, basically, only with different graphics and “plot”. Even Texas Holdem, which breaks the pattern, isn’t original in any way. Facebook players, it seems, like the familiar.
  3. Cute RULEZ – Cute animals, cute fish, cute burgers – whatever. Just form a cute game with cute graphics and cute sounds, and the players will flock over.
  4. KIVVSS (Keep It Very Very Simple, Stupid) – Facebook users don’t want challenging levels or mind-flexing games. They want it simple and easy – point, click, get duck. That’s it.
  5. Tons of levels – 100+ levels that can be reached is a surefire way of keeping the players playing.
  6. Social Features – Invite friends and get a bonus, send gifts, get your neighbors to help you around the farm – all of these are good social features which helps games advance and gain more users.
  7. Achievement for every move – You planted your first tree? Achievement! Reward! Invited 3 friends? Bonus! Got a pink fish? Here’s a medal! Well, you get the point – create a huge amount of possible achievements, and make them really easy to achieve.

5 thoughts on “10 Most Popular Games on Facebook – A Closer Look

  1. Pingback: Top Games on Facebook – Why are They so Popular? | My Shits and Giggles

  2. Pingback: What Makes a Game Popular on Facebook? | Shark Lady Tech

  3. dubi

    A good example of the dangers of selecting on the dependent variable.

    Or, in other words: how many cute, animal-themed, unoriginal casual games tried their luck on Facebook and never got anywhere? We don’t know. You don’t tell us. Without looking at the failures, you can’t possibly try to tell which aspects are those that actually work and which will leave you hanging. You most certainly can’t say “make it (cute) and they will come” only by looking at the successes.

  4. Shark Lady Games Post author

    @dubi – Welcome to the games site :P
    Anyway, these aren’t the only factors, but it seems like these are the common themes among popular games on Facebook. There’s also marketing, internet buzz and other factors, but if you dig even deeper into the top games in Facebook, you will find these characteristics.

  5. dubi


    That may very well be, but you wrote in the language of “sufficient” (“Just form a cute game with cute graphics and cute sounds, and the players will flock over”), when at most you can claim necessity (which is doubtful, given MafiaWars).

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