As Voodoo has put it, the key to a successful hyper-casual game is making sure it’s short, simple and satisfying. When working towards this, there are a lot of different mechanics you can use and combine for your gameplay, so we thought we’d explore which ones do the best, and why.

These mechanics are the building blocks of game design. The more you know, and the more you experiment with them, the more engaging your games will become. Please, use this list as a base for inspiration, but don’t be afraid to combine multiple mechanics. We’ve seen that many fusion games with a fresh twist often perform best.

Speaking of performance, we recently released the GameDev Toolbox, a central directory where you’ll find hundreds of leading products and services to help optimize, monetize, or localize your games. If you’re looking for a new service to level up your game, you’ll find it here.

Dive into a specific mechanic

    1. Timing mechanics
    2. Puzzle mechanics
    3. Merging mechanics
    4. Stacking mechanics
    5. Swerving mechanics
    6. Resizing mechanics
    7. Turning mechanics
    8. Pushing mechanics
    9. Agility or dexterity mechanics
    10. Direction mechanics
    11. Rising and falling mechanics
    12. Growing mechanics
    13. Color-matching mechanics
    14. Tidying mechanics

1. Timing Mechanics

Timing games all come down to tapping the screen at that perfect moment. They’re about precision. In some cases, like in Fun Race 3D by Good Job Games, you’ll need to time your jumps. In others, like a sports game, you’ll need to perfectly time when you hit the ball.

The main mechanic in these games is essentially a shrinking window of opportunity over time, like a repeating gauge. If you miss your chance, you’ll need to wait again for the perfect moment.

Find the sweet spot

The key to creating a good time mechanic is balance. While these games are simple to play, they’re not simple to create. Too difficult: people won’t be able to just pick up and play it. Too easy: people will get bored quickly. So you’ll need to create a prototype and iterate often before your final release to find that perfect balance.

How it stacks up

  • Satisfying: 10/10
  • Simplicity: 8/10
  • Short: 10/10

2. Puzzle mechanics

There’s only one thing every puzzle mechanic has in common: you’re challenging someone to think logically. It could be moving boulders around a screen, adding together numbers or solving a murder mystery. These games might be different, but they often involve moving objects around the screen.

In hyper-casual puzzles, like Roller Splat! by Voodoo, the big key is that there isn’t a time limit. And they’re relatively straightforward puzzles, so it doesn’t actually take long to complete. Just because they’ve removed the time limit doesn’t make the level longer, though. Instead, it removes the stress and balances out the gameplay.

Get the most out of one mechanic

Typical puzzles tend to get harder over time, usually by adding more mechanics (think of Portal, for example). But in a hyper-casual game, your player needs to be able to solve it in a minute or less.

So you can’t keep adding new mechanics to make your puzzle more challenging. Instead, you’ll need to explore an individual mechanic in a variety of ways. This can be trickier to build and maintain, though. You’ll need to create a lot of content to keep your game engaging.

When designing these levels, make sure you have a gradual difficulty curve. In a hyper-casual game, each of these should be short and very subtly more challenging. For example, in Roller Splat! the first few levels are extremely simple. This way, players can learn the controls without the game needing to handhold them through a tutorial.

It’s a fine line between a hyper-casual puzzler and a more standard one. The more you focus on a simple idea, and the easier your difficulty curve, the more you’ll engage hyper-casual players.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 8/10
  • Simplicity: 7/10
  • Short: 7/10

3. Merging mechanics

There are usually three mechanics in a merging game. The first is the actual merging: combine two low-tier objects to create a better one (like dogs in Merge Dogs by Zepni Ltd). The second is a method for getting the lowest-tier objects (quite often games will link this mechanic to an in-game economy). The third is the objective, such as racing the dogs you’ve created around a track.

But how do you make a good merging game?

Appeal to the achievers

Ask yourself: Why are people merging these objects? The main driver in a merging game is normally a sense of completion: players combine the objects to unlock upgrades.

For example, in Car Merger by Voodoo the player unlocks faster and faster cars. But it doesn’t need to be purely visual. Perhaps a player could merge guns, which makes their spaceship fire on the alien invasion faster? Going faster, improving weapons, becoming more powerful, getting the coolest dragon: all of these will appeal to that achiever mindset. Tap into that, and reward your players for their time, and you’ll keep them engaged.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 10/10
  • Simplicity: 7/10
  • Short: 8/10

4. Stacking mechanics

There are usually a few mechanics going on in these games. First, objects must fall from the sky. Second, the player can rotate these objects. And third, they’ve got to stack. The obvious candidate is Tetris. But other developers have taken this further. Cat Stack by Full Fat is a good example. In that, they also add physics and challenge the player to reach a certain height, instead.

Think about how the players will stack

Whether the player controls when and where the blocks fall, or if that’s automatic, is up to you. As is how the blocks fall. Do the objects get affected by physics? Can the player rotate them?

A game where you can choose where the blocks fall from, but can’t control them once you’ve let go, is significantly different to one where you can blow feathers from the left or right but don’t control where they start. It’s a simple mechanic change, but one that’ll set your game apart.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 10/10
  • Simplicity: 9/10
  • Short: 8/10

5. Swerving mechanics

These games always focus on moving from the left or right, and the primary mechanic is getting the player to swipe. Maybe you’re dodging objects or racing down a tube. The key is in the player’s precision; how far left or right they move. Take Aquapark by Voodoo. In that, skilled players can swerve off the track, and skip huge chunks of the race.

But it’s still hyper-casual, as it’s quite forgiving.

Make your game rewarding to all players

Swerving mechanics are among our top-ranked in this list. And that’s because they work well for hyper-casual games, while giving a huge amount of satisfaction to those who stick with the game and master it. The main concept might be simple, but it can also pose a challenge.

They’re also suitable for games without a hard ending. For example, you could make a game where you’re hurtling through space, avoiding asteroids, but never have an end goal. Instead, you can just make it about surviving the longest. A simple leaderboard, along with the swerving mechanics, and you’ve got a game that appeals to hyper-casual gamers and those with a more competitive streak.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 10/10
  • Simplicity: 10/10
  • Short: 9/10

6. Resizing mechanics

Hyper-casual games lend themselves well to resizing objects. It’s a simple mechanic, which you can easily adapt to any theme. These games focus on taking the player’s avatar and allowing them to shrink or grow it, usually to fit through specific gaps. They’re similar in style to swerving games, but there’s a lot more potential to branch out and create something unique.

Jelly Shift by SayGames is a good example of this. Players can resize a block to fit through gaps, but failing it doesn’t break the flow of the core gameplay.

Think about what you’re challenging

As with all hyper-casual games, it’s important to remember what the core challenge is. In resizing games, you’re challenging spacial awareness, rather than reflexes. But most resizing games tend to use similar mechanics to swerving games, and often end up challenging people’s precision on the screen.

But when the player can resize an object, you can experiment much more. What if you take away the movement, and let the player rotate the object instead? This would make it less about precision and reflexes, and more about that spacial awareness. (You could keep in the movement, too. But it’s likely to be too complicated for a hyper-casual game.)

Doing that, you might end up with a game where players are essentially solving a puzzle, resizing and rotating objects to fit through holes.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 10/10
  • Simplicity: 9/10
  • Short: 9/10

7. Turning mechanics

In turning games you control a character and control when to move left or right. As they’re usually 3D, the turning is normally a fixed amount. They make great driving games, turning a car from left to right along a windy track, like in Skiddy Car by Kwalee.

The key difference between turning and swerving is that in turning games are about one harsh swipe from left to right, while in a swerving game your thumb doesn’t leave the screen, and you control how far left and right you move. It’s a very subtle difference between the mechanics. But an important one. The 3D effect of a turning game makes it more difficult to judge when to turn. Simplifying the controls here is vital to keep it a true hyper-casual title.

Give your player notice

In a swerving game, you might have obstacles heading toward your player, and they need to dodge it in time. There’s usually little notice that these are going to appear. But in a turning game, it’s the level itself that you’re trying to navigate. And under very rigid constraints. So you want your player to be able to predict what’s coming up next.

This is why you’ll often see that the camera is zoomed out, and giving people a broader view of what’s coming up. Maybe even the next two or three turns. So it’s worth considering where you place your camera. The closer in you are, the more frantic your game will feel.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 9/10
  • Simplicity: 8/10
  • Short: 8/10

8. Pushing mechanics

These games are all about a character pushing other objects or players. Often, you’re pushing objects off the map, so that you can continue or be the last one standing. (Push em all by Voodoo is a perfect example of this.)

The main mechanics are usually being able to move your character freely and some sort of physics. But the way a player pushes another object can differ: either an ability, or by literally ramming into them like a sumo wrestler.

Focus on the satisfaction first; simplicity will follow

Games like Push em all really lock into what makes the game feel satisfying. It’s pleasing to bump something off a map, like a cat knocking a glass off a table. So if it’s fun to knock one thing off, how does it feel to knock two things? A dozen things?

By increasing the number of objects the player needs to push off, Voodoo made the game much more satisfying, without needing to add any more mechanics to the game. (Which keeps it simple.)

That isn’t to say that more is always better. In a stacking game, it might be that feeling that you’d only just managed it. Well, maybe you can deliberately code in a wobble, even when the tower won’t fall, just to give the player that sense of achievement.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 10/10
  • Simplicity: 10/10
  • Short: 8/10

9. Agility or dexterity mechanics

These games shouldn’t be confused with timing games. While timing games are about tapping the screen at the right time, agility mechanics are about repeating a motion. Fast. For example, the player could be alternating from swiping left to swiping right in rapid succession. On screen, this could be chopping down a tree while avoiding branches or bouncing along pads, like in Tiles Hop: EDM Rush! by Amanotes.

Balance speed and ease

It’s easy for games like these to become irritating and hard because the difficulty ramps up too much. Too many curveballs or complex motions, and the player can become overwhelmed. The best games speed up slowly, letting players get used to the pace. This can either be level by level, or over the course of a single run.

Just remember, in a hyper-casual game you’re not trying to beat your player. You’re trying to give them a small, but possible, challenge.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 9/10
  • Simplicity: 8/10
  • Short: 9/10

10. Direction mechanics

In these games, the player is creating or removing obstacles to some sort of flow. The point is to use the physics in the game to coax a tide of objects, whether they are balls or liquids, to a destination. For example, in Sand Balls by SayGames the player simply wipes away sand to give a route for the balls to the bottom of the level.

Give your player control over different elements

Traditionally, we’re used to controlling our character directly. But in games that use direction mechanics, we’re actually controlling the walls. The level itself. This shift in perspective is why these games have so much versatility. (And why we’re seeing a lot of these games coming out recently, from Happy Glass by Lion Studios to more complicated titles like Where’s My Water? by Disney.)

You can do the same with other elements of your game. In a platform game, what if you could only control the monsters? What if you had to move them out of the way of a character jumping between the platforms, so that the hero could continue to their castle?

Hyper-casual games are great for these kinds of experiments. You can try them out, see if they’re fun, and then explore the concepts in a different project.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 8/10
  • Simplicity: 10/10
  • Short: 9/10

11. Rising and falling mechanics

The primary mechanic in these games is that an object is either rising or falling through a series of obstacles. Usually this is a ball, like in Helix Jump by Voodoo, which you’re trying to get through the correct path.

In these games, you either choose to allow the player to move the level itself, perhaps by rotating a column, or by moving yourself. Fluffy Fall by What(games) (and published by JoyPac) does this well, by subtly increasing the speed as the player continues through the level, it gives the sense that you’re closing in on terminal velocity.

The mechanics in falling games often overlap with swerving games, but the key difference is that sense of gravity.

Give people a chance to recover

In hyper-casual games, you don’t want to punish your player too harshly if they fail. If the ball hits an obstacle, it’s better to let it bounce and give the player time to recover, than to get them to start from scratch. This is especially true in games that need fast reflexes, where it’s likely the player will make a mistake.

Giving that leeway also means you can add harder levels, which reward higher-skilled players, without scaring away those who would get frustrated.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 10/10
  • Simplicity: 10/10
  • Short: 10/10

12. Growing mechanics

The objective of growing games is to become the largest object, whether that’s a crowd, a black hole or sticky ball. Players usually move around their character as an attempt to find another object and bump into it. This is then ‘absorbed’ into the character.

Slither.io by Lowtech Studios is perhaps the simplest of these, where you’re just a circle trying to bump into other circles. In fact, it’s so simple, it’s almost the perfect game. There are only two mechanics. Moving around and getting bigger. The art style is as simple as could be: colored blobs. And each round only takes a minute or so to complete.

Because it hits that sweet spot that hyper-casual games are looking for, it proves that these mechanics are perhaps the best out there.

Give your player feedback

Satisfaction comes from the feedback you give players. Whether that’s the phone vibrating, sound effects or growing in size because you’ve absorbed enough enemies. Your mechanics can be the simplest ever, but if you’ve got great feedback, your game will also be extremely satisfying.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 10/10
  • Simplicity: 10/10
  • Short: 10/10

13. Color-matching mechanics

These games are about the player’s ability to distinguish between objects. The core difference in color-matching games is that the only way to spot the difference is the color itself. It could be guiding snakes to food or getting three colored gems to line up.

Keep your design minimalist

In a hyper-casual game, players need to be able to know the difference between two objects immediately. Colour is a quick cue to tell players which objects are related, without needing to design lots of different objects.

This is perhaps why color-matching games are on the rise. They’re useful to test out a new idea, without needing a massive budget for the art department. But do be careful, there are downsides. You’ll need to swot up on color theory if you’re going to work on this type of game. Some players might be colorblind and could find your game impossible.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 8/10
  • Simplicity: 9/10
  • Short: 9/10

14. Tidying mechanics

These games are all about scratching that itch we get when something is off-kilter. It could be peeling a fruit, cleaning a window or painting a wall. But the idea is to fill in or take away all of a selected area.

Appeal to the completionist

These games work well as the mechanic is basically just coloring in between the lines. (And in hyper-casual versions, you’re not penalized for going too far.) We humans naturally want to finish something we’ve started, so these games feel quite therapeutic (and satisfying). And we’ve all had that feeling when the kitchen is spotless, and you can finally relax. The trick is to make sure that the tidying is easy, as you don’t want to stress out your player. Give them leeway. Make it easy to tidy up their game, even if their actual bedroom is a mess.

This theory is something you can use in a variety of games, not just hyper-casual. If you’re looking to keep players engaged, give them that sense of ‘tidying up’.

How do they stack up?

  • Satisfying: 10/10
  • Simplicity: 9/10
  • Short: 9/10

Experiment with your mechanics, but keep it simple

Hyper-casual games usually only have one or two mechanics. And broadly, when you’re designing one of these games, you’re focusing more on how to manipulate those mechanics for different gameplay experiences than on creating anything from scratch.

So keep your games short, simple, and satisfying. But experiment with the mechanics that are already out there and themes, if you want to stand out. And if you’d like more inspiration, or just want to stay in the loop, subscribe to our newsletter below.