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25 years of Google Doodles: Here are our favorite 25
25 years ago, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were attending the Burning Man festival and decided to add a whimsical stick figure to the second “O” in the Google logo to indicate their out-of-office status to employees. The first Google Doodle was born then, on August 30, 1998. But it wasn’t until two years later that the Doodles became a mainstay of the Google logo and a way to celebrate impactful people, historical events, important dates, and other cultural gems like pizzas and bubble teas.
Today, 25 years later, I can’t imagine how boring the web would be if we didn’t have the delightful little moments of discovery each time a new Doodle pops up on the Google Search page. Is it a static image or a video? Maybe an animation? Or is it interactive? Or could it be a full-fledged game? It’s safe to say we’ve seen so many excellent Doodles over the years.
Luckily, these are only ephemeral on the Search page, because Google has kept an archive of all of these Doodles so you can go back and find your favorites. Beware, though, you’ll waste an entire day — if not more — on that mission. So I’ve done you a favor. I’ve wasted my own time to unearth some of the best Doodles that Google has released over the years.
1. Champion Island Games
Made in partnership with STUDIO 4°C (a Tokyo-based animation studio) to celebrate the Tokyo Olympics of
2020 2021, Champion Island Games is probably the most elaborate Doodle of all. So elaborate it’s a full game with teams, multiple users, NPCs, challenges, mini-games, and missions to complete. You play as a cute cat, Lucky, and you get to explore a retro 8-bit world, play table tennis, skateboard, race, and more. I say “more” because, after an hour of play, I had to stop myself and get back to work. Yup, this a multi-hour Doodle. Don’t blame me if your boss/teacher/parent yells at you for being glued to your phone today!
2. 100th anniversary of the Crossword Puzzle
For the 100th anniversary of the Crossword Puzzle, Google made a — you guessed it — crossword puzzle. Frequent puzzlers won’t find much difficulty here, but for a noob like me, it took over an hour to get most of it. The rest, well, I had to Google because some of the clues are aimed at an American audience who knows the local culture, geography, and history. Still, it was “fun” to try my hand at this. The quoted word alludes to something, but I’ll let you discover that on your own.
3. 30th anniversary of PAC-MAN
Fancy a bit of arcade nostalgia? Well, you can head straight to the PAC-MAN Doodle to play a game. There’s only one level as far as I can tell, but hey, it’s PAC-MAN, for free, on your phone, with monsters. And if you insert another coin, you get Ms. PAC-MAN as a second player. This was the first playable Doodle, so it has a historical importance too.
4. Celebrating Pizza
We shouldn’t need a specific day to celebrate pizza or the absolute genius of mixing cheese, tomato sauce, and dough. Still, Google picked the fourth anniversary of the Pizzaiuolos being inscribed in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list to create a fun little Pizza Doodle game where you must slice the famous cheesy pie in different ways to get a set number of slices with specific toppings. You get to play with different kinds of pizzas, ranging from the regular Margherita to a white sauce pizza, the pineapple-topped Hawaiian, and yes, a dessert pizza. Just don’t tell the Italians.
5. Swing Dancing and the Savoy Ballroom
Tappity-tap-tap. To the rhythm of “Let’s call the whole thing off,” “Solid as a rock,” and “Bei mir bist du schon,” you will tap your fingers or click the keyboard keys in this Swing Dancing Doodle. Three levels await you, with increasing difficulty. Playing on a touchscreen is easier and, if you’re not a gamer at all (like me), you’ll find that the third level is absolute hell on a computer keyboard.
6. Garden Gnomes
In this Garden Gnome Doodle, you sling a garden gnome over a lush greenery and watch as it plants flowers across your garden. The further it travels, the more flowers it plants. You get to choose the gnome shape, size, and color, and see how each one bounces differently on mushrooms and the ground. Aim for tree trunks to propel you further.
7. Kids Coding
The first coding Doodle ever, Kids Coding celebrates 50 years since the introduction of kids programming languages. Over six levels, you have to help a furry rabbit catch all the carrots by executing moves and turns while speeding things up with repetitions. The game uses the Scratch language and building blocks. It’s relatively easy, but the challenge lies in figuring out the fastest and most efficient way to get the final answer.
8. Johann Sebastian Bach
The Johann Sebastian Bach Doodle is the first Doodle to use AI to harmonize any series of eight notes you choose in the unmistakable style of Bach. You pick your notes and the AI will run through 306 chorale harmonizations from Bach and build something that could’ve almost been written by the German composer himself. This isn’t a game, but a wonderful and delightful little experiment that you can keep coming back to.
9. Birth of Hip Hop
Continuing with the music creation theme, the Birth of Hip Hop Doodle celebrates one of the most influential music genres in the world. Like Kool Herc, you get to spin two different discs of known tunes, focusing on their instrumental breaks. You choose the music, control the volume between the two discs, and you get to scratch too. There are some challenges to unlock, which can make this a fun little game as well.
The word “zamboni” always made me think of Italian sausage until I learned it’s an ice rink cleaner machine. So it only makes sense that the Zamboni Doodle is an ice rink cleaning game and not an Italian sausage flicking game. Over several levels, you have to manage your fuel and clean and smooth out an ice rink after some skaters and hockey players mess it up. Banana peels spin you out of control, fuel cans give you more time on the rink, and I’ll let you discover the other power-ups on your own.
11. Pony Express
For the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express, the grandfather of today’s email and instant message, Google released a fun Doodle where you control a rider and have to collect as many letters as you can before relaying them to the next rider. Rocks, cacti, snow avalanches, and other fun obstacles stand in your way. It’s a short game, but a fun one nonetheless, and despite my best efforts over the last 30 minutes, I’ve yet to grab all the letters. My horse is also very, very angry at me given how many times I ran it straight into a boulder.
Just like in real life, you’ll need a second player to enjoy this Pétanque Doodle. Sure, you can practice by yourself, but playing against a real opponent and trying to push their metal boules away from the target ball while keeping your boules closer is much more fun. Odds are you won’t find anyone online playing this still, but you can create a game code, share it with a friend, and challenge them. And if you don’t know what any of this means, just click and enjoy a small tutorial.
Wilbur Scoville is the chemist, researcher, and pharmacology professor behind the test that determines how hot a pepper is, and Google’s Scoville Doodle celebrates him with a fighting game where an ice cream cone has to eliminate an evil pepper. It’s a simple game where you have to tap at the right time on the meter for maximum ice-creamy impact, but the animations and reactions are just wonderful.
14. Fourth of July Baseball
If you’re jonesing to grab a bat and hit some balls, the Baseball Doodle for the fourth of July 2019 should help you get your digital fix for a few minutes. You face swerving balls, low balls, powerful fastballs, and you have to swing at the right time to hit a home run. Or bunt. And if you prefer heavier balls and flatter bats, try the Women’s Cricket World Cup Doodle game instead.
15. Pangolin love
Perhaps the cutest Valentine’s day Doodle, 2017’s Pangolin Love is a four-level side-scroller game where you have to help a pangolin collect the ingredients to make a cake, play music, learn how to sing, and dance. For a bit of extra love, I recommend you check out the 2022 Valentine’s Doodle where you have to manipulate some Google-shaped plumbing to get two lovers together or the 2013 Valentine’s Doodle that involves odd animal couples and ferris wheels.
16. 2016 and 2020 Halloween
The 2016 Halloween and 2020 Halloween Doodle games are my favorite of all the scary Doodles. You play as Momo the cat and have to defeat ghosts by drawing the shapes above their heads. Playing on a touchscreen is a million times easier than on a computer, but either way, you’ll have to exercise speed and critical thinking to combine as many deadly movements as possible in one symbol sketch. Other cool creepy Doodles are the 2022 Halloween game (which seems to still have some online players) and the 2015 Global Candy Cup.
17. Celebrating Loteria
Loteria is a chance and speed Mexican card game and, if you want to learn how to play it or waste a half hour challenging other players while learning some Spanish words and looking at beautiful and colored graphics, you should check out the Loteria Doodle. Even though it’s four years old at this point, there still are online players, so sharpen your eyes and your fingers and start playing!
18. Jerry Lawsons’ game cartridges
Time to celebrate one of the fathers of modern gaming, interchangeable game cartridges, and video gaming at home: Gerald Lawson. With this Jerry Lawson Doodle, you not only get to play multiple games from block breaker to side scrollers by switching cartridges, but you also get to edit each level to add blocks, flags, save points, coins, and more. Consider it a cool build-your-own game.
19. 2012 Olympic Games
Not one, but several Doodles were made for 2012 Summer Olympic Games. You can shoot some hoops in a game of basketball, try to stop another player from scoring as a
soccer football goalkeeper, canoe and slalom down a river while avoiding obstacles, or run a 110m hurdles course. Whatever floats your boat.
20. Doctor Who
For the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, Google built a multi-level game where you control the beloved Doctor and help him recover the letters of the word Google that were stolen by the Daleks. And yes, you get to step into a Tardis to move between levels.
21. Oskar Fischinger
German-American filmmaker Oskar Fischinger pioneered work in abstract visuals set to music, which influenced many other artists, including Walt Disney. And to commemorate him, this Oskar Fischinger Doodle lets you create your own visual music with different sounds and instruments, and play with tempo, key, delay, and more. For more music creation, check Clara Rockmore’s Doodle where you get to play the theremin or the Ludwig van Beethoven Doodle where you have to arrange different bits of sheet music together to create his famous melodies like Fur Elise.
22. Pi day
For the most delicious Doodle ever, look no further than the 30th anniversary of Pi Day where Google collaborated with renowned pastry chef Dominique Ansel for a mash-up like no other: Ingredients, math, equations, geometry, and pie! There’s a recipe to make your own salted caramel apple pie too 🥧.
23. Stephen Hawking
For his 80th birthday, Google celebrated Stephen Hawking with a Doodle that recounts his life and achievements in a two-minute video animation, narrated in the famous scientist’s same computer-generated voice.
24. Total Lunar Eclipse
Although it seems pretty basic today, this interactive Total Lunar Eclipse Doodle was quite fun back in 2011. You simply drag the slider to reveal, partially eclipse, or fully eclipse the moon. And the images came straight from the Slooh Space Camera.
25. George Méliès
Georges Méliès was a French illusionist, actor, and film director. He is considered the “father of special effects” in cinema, and his films are known for their fantastical and imaginative stories. To celebrate the anniversary of the release of one of his best masterpieces, A La Conquête Du Pôle, Google made the first virtual reality Doodle. Although you can’t watch this with a Google Cardboard or Daydream today, it still lives on as a 360° YouTube video that you can spin and control to see everything going on.
And there you have it, our 25 favorite Google Doodles among a selection of more than 5,000 different ones. Several other Doodles almost made the list, like the Jules Verne submarine, Freddie Mercury animation, Charlie Chaplin movie, Little Nemo comic book, Moon Landing animation, Alan Rickman unmistakable eyebrow rise, Perseid Meteor Shower, John Lennon message of peace, Claude Debussy synchronized MIDI animation, Isaac Newton apple fall, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz undulations, and George Boole mathematical representation.
Some static Doodles also deserve praise, like Albert Einstein, the World Wide Web, Lego, the London Tube, Tetris, and the Wizard of Oz. And here’s to 25 more years of delightful, whimsical, fun, educational, and interesting Doodles!