Josh Wardle changed my life. Like everyone else in the English-speaking world, I tried out his guess-the-five-letter-word-in-six-guesses game Wordle last January and found it to be a fun little breakfast-time diversion every day. Unlike most people, though, playing the one game a day wasn’t nearly enough and, by the time 2022 closed out, I had successfully guessed 14,122 five-letter words. Yikes. And that’s not all the quick daily puzzles I played—I also tried games on stuff endearing to The Arts STL readership, like music, movies, and, er, geography. Ultimately, I settled on these 10 games, which I play pretty much every day without fail. Some I’m pretty good at. Some, I’m pretty awful at. But playing any of them beats refreshing Twitter for the billionth time. Here’s my 10, in the order in which I play them each day.
The original game, wherein you have six guesses to figure out the five-letter word of the day. Wordle appeals because it’s relatively uncomplicated, but the real reason it caught on, of course, is because there is only one word per day and everybody in the world is guessing that same word, and by sharing your score (in the form of Wordle’s ingenious little green and yellow squares showing how accurate you were along the way), you’re able to engage with your friends, compare scores, and compare guessing strategies. It’s that communal aspect that made it a phenomenon.
I developed a daily strategy fairly quickly, starting with RAISE—three vowels, two super-common consonants—then using MOUTH as a second guess to have all of the vowels in play. From there, it was just guessing. At first, I would often find myself with no clue and just two guesses to go, opening up an Excel spreadsheet and creating every remaining letter combination to identify all possible solutions to figure out a fifth guess that would eliminate as many of those combinations as I could. But as my win streak started to get longer and longer, I started to get less precious about it, left the spreadsheets behind, and just winged it.
At first, I kept at it every day out of spite, just to stick it to the author of this Slate article. 83 wins? Pfft! I kept playing the game every day on my phone in the same browser tab to make sure my streak was preserved, and for months after the New York Times bought Wordle, I was still getting the original British word list at powerlanguage.co.uk instead of what the NYT was showing everyone else. This meant I got the words the NYT removed for being too obscure, like AGORA and PUPAL and gradually my puzzle was several days behind everyone else’s, which made the game much less fun because the communal aspect was shot to hell. After 136 days, they finally forced me to switch to the Times site, and my streak was gone. So then, of course, I had to beat that Slate guy’s streak again, right?
Between the two sets of scores, I got up to a total streak of 250 before Wordle #454 finally got me: PARER. I ended guess 4 with PA_ER and open possible guesses of PAVER, PAPER, and PARER. Two words with repeat letters—the horror. I took guess 5 to eliminate PAPER as a choice and figured PAVER was the safer choice because who uses the word PARER? *sigh* Since that loss I’ve remained undefeated, even though on November 7th my streak reset again after I had already solved the word for the day so I got two different puzzles that day somehow. I still do Wordle every day, usually just after rolling out of bed or while eating breakfast, and every day I text my score to my wife who is usually sitting four feet away from me on the same couch. I ended the year with a record of 356-for-357, which goes to why I don’t get too excited about it on social media anymore unless there’s a particularly nasty word that I did particularly well on. It’s still a fun, low-stress way to start the day, but I don’t get as excited about it as I do its cohorts below.
When one Wordle just isn’t challenging enough, what do you do? How about solving four Wordles at the same time with only nine guesses? It sounds pretty straightforward but it took a while to wrap my brain around the best way to play this variation of the game and my win percentage muddled around 80% until I landed on a strategy: I always start with RAISE and MONTH then, depending on any possibilities I see, I play either PUDGY, FUDGY, or LUCKY. With all the vowels and 15 of the 26 letters in play, I then go about solving the puzzles, with only two spare guesses to make mistakes. There’s no “right” strategy, of course—it’s all dependent on what works specifically for the way you reason out the answers—but this one worked wonders for me: I went on a 133-game tear on the daily game and bumped my win percentage to 95%.
Like Wordle, everyone gets the same Quordle puzzles every day, but Quordle has a leg up on the original: there’s a “practice” Quordle that you can play as many times as you want. Granted, you’re only competing against yourself at that point, but man, is it easy to while away way too much time doing them because the game plays so fast. During the spring and summer months, I was watching quite a few shows on Hulu (The Dropout, Life & Beth, What We Do in the Shadows) and discovered that trying to solve a Quordle in the span of one two-minute Hulu commercial break is actually a pretty dang good challenge. So I played 1,000 of the things. No, really. I hit 95% accuracy on those, too!
A unique blend of Wordle, crossword puzzles, and a word jumble that just might be more fun to play than anything else on this list. You’re trying to solve six five-letter words, but they’re laid out like a crossword; all of the letters to solve the words are on the board, but they’re all jumbled up. The game uses the same yellow-and-green coding for the letters as Wordle does, but in an excruciating twist, a yellow square at one of the intersections means that the letter could be in the horizontal word, or the vertical word, or both. You play by swapping the letters around the board until you spell all six words, but you have a maximum number of 15 moves you can make to get every letter in its proper position, and earn stars (which the game tallies) based on how many moves you have left at the end. It’s fun to compare stars with friends that play day to day, plus the entire archive is out there if you want to play over and over to earn a perfect 5 stars on every puzzle (a challenge even if you already know the solution). And just to make it extra fun, once a week there’s a deluxe Waffle using a bigger grid full of seven-letter words that’s infuriatingly hard to beat.
Note, there’s also a similar variation called Squardle that’s the same basic idea but without giving you the letters up front, but the user interface on that one is so counterintuitive that I found it frustrating to play and didn’t stick with it.
I love movies, and there’s a ton of movie-based daily internet timewasters out there—two that friends of mine play are Framed (guess the movie from six or less still photos) and Box Office Game (guess the top 5 movies of a historical week based on box office results) but I, frankly, suck at them. But I like Emovi, which gives you three guesses to guess a movie title based on emojis that describe either the title or plot of the movie. Miss your first guess (or take a hint) and it gives you the release year; take a second guess/hint and you get the director and two leading actors. The answer field autopopulates as you type and has a fairly small list of movie titles within it that can make it a little too easy on some days. Generally, I find I can either solve it in one guess or three guesses (the release year by itself rarely helps me much) the vast majority of the time, and the days when it’s so easy that you guess it in a tenth of a second are a little bit of a bummer. That said, it isn’t always a cakewalk, and the longest win streak I’ve been able to eke out is only 33.
As a music writer for some 19 years, a music guessing game would seem right up my alley, so it’s kind of a bummer how bad I am at this game. The gameplay is straightforward enough: it plays you one second of the beginning of a song, each wrong guess or press of the skip button reveals more of the song, and you get six guesses/skips (which reveals up to 16 seconds of the song) to guess correctly. For a long time, my winning percentage hovered around 67%, with my results being about 1/3 guessed in the first second, 1/3 that I flat out missed, and 1/3 that I managed to suss out with more of the song or by educated guessing (a.k.a. “I know this is Imagine Dragons, but which song?”). But as time has gone on and the song choices have leaned more heavily on modern pop and hip hop, my win percentage has dropped to 60%.
What’s more frustrating than the song choices, though, is the ways in which the gameplay has gotten worse since Spotify bought Heardle a few months ago. To start, it used to be when you won, it would reveal the answer by playing the entire song in question, or at least the first 30 seconds of it. Now you just get a link to stream it on Spotify, which is not as satisfying or convenient. But even worse, they took out the game’s best feature. It used to be that you could click back through all of the daily songs and (after a few days had passed) you could see how your score compared to the entire Heardle playing population. This was beyond cool, and a fascinating look at how widespread knowledge of certain songs is, at least among the subset of (presumably) younger people who mess with the game. (94% of people guessed Britney’s “Toxic” in one second? That absolutely checks out. But 85% missed Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.”? And here I am ashamed it took me the whole 16 seconds!) This feature was the most fun thing about the game, and made it so much more engaging than any of the other games on this list because you could see, in a way, how you were doing against not just your friends, but the rest of the world. But unfortunately, Spotify killed it.
In 7th grade, I won my school’s geography bee and scored myself a trip to the Illinois State Geography Bee in scenic Normal, IL. I say this to at least partially explain my interest in a geography-based Wordle variant. The first one I tried was Globle, which somewhat follows the template of Wordle by selecting a mystery country every day. You pick a country, and it color codes it on a globe by varying shades of red as to how close it is to the mystery country, the redder the better. I grew frustrated by this one after a while, because the game frequently takes a lot of guesses to drill your way down to an answer and it just felt too random.
Then I found Worldle, which shows you the outline of the mystery country of the day, and ranks your guesses based on distance from the right answer as well as giving a hint at which direction the right country is. A little under half the time, I nail it on the first answer, but it can be challenging, and the days when the answer is an island chain and the outline it gives you looks like someone spilled specks of pepper on your phone screen can be downright infuriating. But you only get six guesses so, if you’re lost, your frustration is at least over a lot sooner than it is with Globle.
One question, of course, is what constitutes “cheating” in a game like this. I resist temptation to look at a map, but I will sometimes google things like “list of Indian Ocean island countries” to jog my memory. I mean, that’s fair, right?
It’s eight, eight, eight times the fun! Yes, Octordle is just solving eight Wordles (or two Quordles, I suppose) at once with 13 guesses, and yes, I use the same basic strategy on this one. But the fun new wrinkle is that Octordle issues you a score. You get one point for each round it takes you to solve each word, which means the best score possible is 36 and the highest score possible (while still solving all 8 puzzles) is 76. The scoring feature adds one more fun wrinkle to the comparison game when you have friends that play. Using my normal Quordle three-word strategy with no misses gets a 60. Pulling the score down in the 50s is tough; the one time I got a 49, I felt like a superhero.
It’s Octordle, only you have to solve all eight puzzles in the order they appear on the screen, and it doesn’t even show you how the letters in your guesses show up in any individual puzzle until you solve the one before it. Thanks to that added wrinkle, it also gives you two more guesses than the standard Octordle, although interestingly, it’s very rare (less than 10% of the time) that I’ve actually used those extra guesses.
Because of the extra guesses, and the fact that you have to solve that first word but any letters you burn through will likely help on the puzzles further down the sequence, I’m much more likely to burn past my RAISE-MONTH-PUDGY/FUDGY to my semi-standardized fourth guess of BLACK/BLOCK/FLECK/FLOCK depending on what vowels I’m trying to nail down, which means after the first puzzle, 19 of the 26 letters will already be in play and the remaining seven puzzles are that much easier to solve. Thanks to this, and the extra guesses, I am at 100%, undefeated, 128 games and counting. Why do I still play it? Well, it’s really just an ego boost before I ruin my day with…
Oh my god, how devious this game is. Yes, it’s Octordle, but with an evil twist: the computer took the first four guesses for you, and their guesses are mediocre at best. That means you have only one guess to spare, only two mistakes you can make before the game is over. God forbid you’re stuck staring down one of the dreaded combos like STA_E, S_ARE, _AUNT, _IGHT, PA_ER, or any of the other multi-answer monstrosities that keep me up at night.
Simply put, this game is tough—so tough that the instructions even tell you that you should strive for solving the most words you can, and not stress out that you can’t get all eight. It’s hard not to feel dejected—whereas my win percentages on all of the games above (besides Heardle—UGH, Heardle) is 85% or higher, on Rescue Octordle it’s a paltry 47%, and I’ve gotten as few as four of the eight words right before. But yet I still slog my way through this one every day. What can I say—the days that I do win, it really makes my day.
I know what you must be thinking—”Arts STL guy, you’ve already done…one plus four plus eight plus…29 five-letter word puzzles today. You’re really going to wrap up your day by doing 16 more? This is just silly. What’s next doing 32 Wordles at once? 64? Where does it end?” Believe me when I say, 16 is the line. How do I know? Well, you thought you were joking, but there really is more than one 32-Wordle game, and yes, even a 64-wordle game. But those games suck: they take far too long to play, they involve way more puzzles than you could ever feasibly keep in your head so there’s no real strategy, and it doesn’t take long before you’ve already put every letter in every possible position so the back half of the game is just typing in answers that are already all-the-way green. Boring.
But 16 is the sweet spot, an endurance test unlike any of the previous ones, challenging but not tedious, just large enough that it’s hard but not impossible to strategize across the whole thing. It’s also great practice for all of the other ones, because when you play these things 16 at a time and are trying to keep from wasting guesses on one of those dreaded “this could be 6 or 7 different words” answers, you really start to recognize those patterns quick. In my earliest days doing all these games, Sedecordle was the one I looked forward to the most, and as I grew more economical in my guessing strategy and improved my stats on this one up to 90%, I found being my Wordle, Quordle, and Octordle scores creeping up too. Not to mention, as satisfying as it is to beat Wordle first thing in the morning, it’s even more so to knock out a final 16 right before bed. | Jason Green