A hidden object game, also called hidden picture or hidden object puzzle adventure (HOPA), is a puzzle video game genre in which the player must find items from a list that are hidden within a scene.[1] Hidden object games are a popular trend in casual gaming,[2][3] and are comparatively inexpensive to buy.[1][2] Time-limited trial versions of these games are usually available for download, although many are free to download on app stores. Popular themes include detective crime stories, adventure, gothic romance and mystery.[4]


In a hidden object game, the player would wander from one place to another where he or she would uncover objects that require a key, a text from scattered scraps of paper, an electrical fuse or a seashell, among other things. The player will pick up objects and add them to their inventory. Thereafter, they would go searching for where they are supposed to use them to progress in the game. Meanwhile, a hidden object puzzle will pop up for the player. If the player discovers all of the things, they generally earn some key required object.[5]

Hidden objects generally tend to feature:[5]


Hidden object games originated in print publications such as the I Spy books or a regular feature in Highlights for Children,[4] in which the reader was given a list of objects to find hidden in a cluttered illustration or photograph. An early hidden object game was Mother Goose: Hidden Pictures, released for the CD-i in 1991. Other early incarnations are the video game adaptations of the I Spy books published by Scholastic Corporation since 1997.[4]

Mystery Case Files: Huntsville, released by Big Fish Games in 2005, is considered the first modern hidden objects game, coming at the rise of casual gaming in the mid-2000s. Mystery Case Files: Huntsville established many of the principles in both gameplay and narrative that would be predominate in hidden object games since.[4]

More recently within indie games, new takes on the hidden object genre have changed the approach these take. For example, Hidden Folks is considered more of a searching game, as to find one character among hundreds on the screen that look similar to each other, similar to Where's Wally.[4]


Huntsville broke prior sales of casual games, and the series' third iteration Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst was the third best-selling game on personal computers during the end-of-year sales period of 2007. This motivated gaming companies to expend in this sort of storytelling, that may be considered a simple development path, that focuses on still puzzles with little animation. Though this also incited a negative view of hidden object games, as they became filled with ads and marketing, which became encroaching as these games moved into mobile.[4]

Even though hidden objects games are popular worldwide, they are dismissed[by whom?] as superficial due to their basic storylines, as well as due to their popularity among women and other marginalized players, such as seniors.[4]


These games were found to draw players who had been fans of games like Myst, as well as a female audience with most between 35 and 50 years old, atypical of the average video game player. According to author and University of Georgia professor Shira Chess, “Hidden object games were one of the first genres that were really meant for an assumed feminine audience”.[4] Big Fish game production manager Christine Zeigler stated that the company's player base was 85% female and 76% over the age of 55.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Ally Noble Desert Island Disks". Retro Gamer. Imagine Publishing (53): 79. Hidden object games ... For example, you're a detective looking for clues in a picture ... they might be in monochrome on the wallpaper or peeping out from behind something.
  2. ^ a b George Roush (October 17, 2008). "Everest: Hidden Expedition iPhone Review". IGN. Archived from the original on February 24, 2009.
  3. ^ Albert Kim (September 30, 2008). "Casual Games: 'Peggle Nights' and 'The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes'". EW.com. Mystery titles, particularly hidden-object games, have become a hugely popular segment of the casual-game market.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Carpenter, Nicole (October 5, 2021). "Video game culture owes a lot to hidden object games". Polygon. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Hidden Object Games Are Mindless Fluff, And That's Why I Love Them By Mike Fahey from Kotaku.com. May 1 2016.