Unleash your inner Cookie Monster with the game that kicked off the idle game genre as we know it. Perfect for mindless achievement with no goal in sight.

UPDATE: After you finish this, or when you are ready, Grasshopper, be sure to check out our advanced Cookie Clicker guide. Because we gave in to the temptation to get really, really geeky about this.

I was going to write about one of the better Android ports of a classic console game. But it’s involving and deep, not suited to these distracting pandemic times. We’ll save it for a surprise for later. Then I saw NY Mag’s identifiable write-up: “It’s Time to Play a Big, Dumb Video Game.” For these stay-at-home times, you need a game that’s big, as in “nearly impossible to finish through normal time commitments,” and dumb, as in “requiring little conscious thought and having no deep involving story to keep track of.”

Buddy, have I got the game for you!

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Cookie Clicker is big and dumb!

Cookie Clicker launched in 2013, so it’s a bit long in the tooth by now. It has had a small cult following, but this is the perfect time to introduce it to a wider audience as one of the first to establish the idle games genre. Developer Ortiel coded the original game in about a day’s work but has since added a Patreon and monetization so he can work on the game full-time, and now adds continuous upgrades to it. So even if you played the game before, it’s worth checking back in periodically.

In Cookie Clicker, the objective is to make cookies. There’s no recipe to follow, you just click. Eventually you buy objects and buildings that automate cookie clicking, turning it into an idle game. Then you upgrade stuff to speed up production. You pay for everything with cookies, in a cookie-based economy on a cookie world with a cookie newticker. It makes you feel like this:

Cookie Clicker is natively a browser game only. There is an Android port in development, even available as an early access beta right now. There’s also plans for an iOS port. But while you’re at it, pop open the game in Chrome on your mobile. It works fine there, as well as flawlessly on the laptop / desktop Firefox (remember this browser?). Since so many users are back in the big screen world for awhile with the pandemic going on, a browser web game fits right in.

There’s a ton more features to Cookie Clicker which we’ll get into below, but fair warning: Your quest will never end!

Resources: Cookie Clicker has a pretty complete Wiki, and a so-so active subreddit.

The Tao of Cookies

For a recent April Fool’s Day gag, this YouTuber did a pretty good introduction to the Cookieverse:

The first thing to know about Cookie Clicker is that the game is designed on purpose to take years to beat. By “beat” we mean at least unlocking all achievements. You can set smaller goals like “speedrun to your first trillion” if you care to call that a goal, but you’re missing out on the advanced craziness.

The more typical play practice is to leave it run in a tab on your browser 24/7. It doesn’t take up that much in resources. Play it actively for awhile, let it sit and run while you toddle off to do something else, come back to check on it after a couple hours to see if you can afford another upgrade.

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Cookie Clicker overview

While the Wiki covers most everything and even the in-game dialogs offer the occasional tidbit, here’s a quick guide to the least of game elements you need to know:

Buildings – Even though this includes grandmas, these are all units which automatically produce cookies from the moment they’re purchased. Like everything in this game, they get more expensive as you go on buying. Many buildings have special aspects.

Upgrades – They affect both building productivity and most other major aspects of the game. Also scale more expensive over time.

Golden Cookies – These randomly pop up and bob about for a short time. Clicking on them activates various bonuses. This can be played as a side quest, or centered as the chief strategy.

Minigames – There are three minigames which affect the status of the rest of the game, tied to three classes of buildings. All of them are only unlocked after upgrading that type of building with a Sugar Lump. The minigames are:

  • The Garden – Comes with Farm buildings. Grow plants in the Garden, win bonus effects for as long as the plant lives. Plants cross-mutate when planted near each other, unlocking new kinds of seeds. The cost for planting them is measured in time periods of cookie productivity, so the better you’re doing, the more expensive they get.
  • The Pantheon – Turned on by Temple buildings, this gives you three slots in which to place your choice of god icons which will have an effect on the game, but all of them have a quirky trade-off.
  • The Grimoire – Activated by Wizard Towers. This gives you a mana meter which recharges and a set of spells you can spend mana to cast. Though here again, each spell has a “backfire” negative effect.

A sort of fourth minigame is unlocked by Ascension (see below) to gain Krumblor, a dragon which accepts sacrifices of buildings in exchange for progressively powerful auras.

Sugar Lumps – Ripen in a corner of the interface, acting as a small currency. You can use them to upgrade building types or spend them on boost effects for the minigames – the latter is universally considered not worth it. Sugar Lumps even grow when the game is closed.

Ascension – You can commit this at any time, forfeiting all cookies and buildings but keeping a few things like achievements, Sugar Lumps, unlocked Garden seeds, and whatnot. Ascension grants you Prestige, which adds a bonus multiplier, and Heavenly Chips, which can be spent on meta-game upgrades. This is determined by the Legacy meter in an upper right corner. Make more cookies, get higher Legacy, redeem for Prestige and Heavenly Chips, then “reincarnate” to start over again with bonuses to get back where you were faster. Ascension periodically is pretty necessary to complete the game, but choose the time wisely.

Milk – Passive goop floating under the cookie. Goes up based on your number of completed achievements, grants a production multiplier. Only activated by the Kitten upgrade series.

That’s the basics. As you play along, you’ll absorb the concepts of seasonal events, challenge modes, and eventually the “Grandmapocalypse,” which turns the game into Eldritch Lovecraftian horror – and yet you can still keep playing. This is triggered by upgrading to the Bingo Parlor where grannies do scientific research for more upgrades you can buy, but eventually you get upgrades cautioning you that you’re pushing your luck with the elder ones!

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Simple Strategy to Cookie Clicker

You’ll find yourself applying two different mode of play, passive and active. In the beginning, clicking the big cookie on the far left is a solid way to make progress. Once you start buying buildings and making upgrades, clicking rapidly makes less of a difference compared to your CPS (Cookies Per Second). Leaving it run idle and checking in occasionally becomes a more viable strategy. After you’re advanced to later game and been through a couple Ascensions, it’s time to start playing actively again.

Passive mode strategy:

You’ll want to let a balance ride as much as practical, never spending down too far. This is because several bonuses in the game reward you for keeping a large balance, capping their payoff at a percentage of your total.

  • In the Garden, plant Baker’s Wheat, Cronerice, and Bakeberries. Harvest the Bakeberries only when you have a healthy balance.
  • In the Pantheon, slot Holobore, Jeremy, and Mokalsium, which will add bonuses to your passive production but restrict your clicking on Golden Cookies. If you intend clicking any Golden Cookies at all, even when you’re checking in, do not slot Holobore. Substitute Rigidel and keep your building purchases in lots of ten, easy.
  • Not much to do in the Grimoire, but it’s occasionally beneficial to cast Diminish Ineptitude followed by Conjure Baked Goods, which is capped at a percentage of your total balance. You might be able to re-cast Conjure several times off one Diminish. You want Diminish because a backfire Conjure really hurts.

Active mode strategy:

While you still want a decent balance of cookies in the bank at all times, you’ll focus more on short-term gains. Clicking Golden Cookies speeds things up considerably. If you hit the Click Frenzy cookie, click the big cookies like mad until the timer runs out. There are many combo plays you can set up involving Golden Cookies chained together. You will also be purchasing buildings and upgrades too, so just stay busy.

  • In the Garden, plant Thumbcorn, Gildmillet, Clover, and Shimmerlily. These will increase your Golden Cookie frequency and clicking power.
  • In the Pantheon, slot Vomitrax, Muridal, and Godzamok. Godzamok makes clicks more profitable after selling a building, but you can easily sell a bunch, click off a combo, then buy the spent buildings back quickly.
  • In the Grimoire, you will be focusing on Force the Hand of Fate, and sometimes Stretch Time to boost temporary buffs. You’ll still want to chain Diminish Ineptitude for Stretch Time, but if Hand of fate backfires, it’s no biggie, just don’t click on the Wrath Cookie.

Unleash Your Inner Cookie Monster!

Cookie Clicker becomes one very long journey if you get hooked on it. Check out the Wiki and the forums for more advanced strategies and features, because there’s whole chunks of this game we didn’t even have room to include here. Also see our advanced Cookie Clicker guide with strategy and tips for the very, very late game.

About the author

Penguin Pete

Penguin Pete

Geek tribal bard for the Internet, before "geek" was cool. Linux power user, MTG collector, light saber owner, cult movie fanatic, comic book memer, video gamer, Unix beard currently measures six inches.