GeoGuesser: may be the best Google maps based game so far


You open your eyes and you’re in an unfamiliar place. You don’t know how you got there, you seem to have total amnesia, and you think to yourself ‘Where the *bleep* am I? No, not the plot for some 70’s B-movie, but my attempt to infuse a little drama into‘GeoGuesser’, a browser based game that uses Google maps to virtually insert you on some random location in the world and asks you to guess where it might be. The closer your guess is to the actual spot, the higher your score. Very simple, and somehow delivers a highly engaging game experience.

Now this being Google Maps, you have quite a bit of interactivity. You can look around you in a full circular 360 degrees, walk around, and go nearer to objects or further away from them. You will quickly develop simple strategies which you don’t actually ever have to think about in the real world. The first thing you start to look for, for example, are signs with any kind of writing on them. The language or characters used are amongst the most valuable clues.  Other questions you will start to be mindful of: are the cars/signs on the left or right hand side of the road, what is the vegetation/landscape like, does the environment look well off or poor, etc. But don’t expect to recognize any landmarks; you will very likely NOT be plonked down in Times Square or on the Champs D’elysee, but rather some dirt road in the middle of nowhere in Australia or Brazil or someplace.

Here’s some random highlights with commentary:

GeoGuesser Screenshot1

Ok, so I see the writing on those signs, is that Korean? Japanese? Chinese? It seems generally orderly and the roads seem maintained, so I’m guessing either Korea or Japan.


GeoGuesser Screenshot2

Aha! English. A modern office building, and it does not look like the US to my eye. UK or Australia or some English speaking ex colony, maybe? The light isn’t so bright, so I’m guessing it’s in Europe. I could look up RBS international in Google, but lets walk around a little bit first.


GeoGuesser Screenshot3

‘Bus Vannin?’ A quick Google search shows that the bus company is from the Isle of Man. Another Google search showed that the Isle of Man is right to the left of the main British Isle. Are Google searches allowed in the rules of this game?


GeoGuesser Screenshot4

BAM! My closest guess to date. Can you beat that?


GeoGuesser Screenshot5

Great.  A dirt road with trees, that could be anywhere. I walked around a ton and it just went on and on, road and trees, no signs anywhere, no cars.  I don’t even remember where it turned out to be located. It seems like two out of three locations are like this, by the way, with hardly any landmarks or identifying features.

Spoiler alert:

I did some research and got a map that shows the street-level photography that was done by Google to date. If you need to guess, the map below can help you eliminate large swaths of the world from consideration.
[expand title=”Click here to show the map”]

Google Maps Coverage
Click to see the source.


The Verdict:

A brilliant game and a great implementation of the Google Maps API. The game itself is quite engaging and original, with a problem solving/detective element.

If you play a round, score well, and are quite pleased with yourself, you could send a link to your friends that will present them with the exact same locations, and then compare your score to theirs (which I thought was a very nice game design element).

One thing though: they really should spell out if Google searches are allowed in the rules of this game. I would hope that they are, because it would make looking for clues a much more rewarding prospect, when you can look them up once you find them.

Go here to get started with GeoGuesser [via].

  • Mark Pendragon

    Love the concept. Love browsing streetview anyhow. Will be giving this a road test.

    By the way, it is already a culturally iconic game:

    • Cerberus_tm

      I really like it too! Like Samer, I wonder whether Google Searches are allowed. And the barren countryside roads need to go! I want to see at least something of interest, even if it is a non-random landscape or houses or anything. Tip: the low-res country roads are mostly in Australia or America.

      • Toni

        I think the barren countrysides is where the real challenge is. Even in the most barren landscapes there are clues to find…

        • Cerberus_tm

          Yes, although it is practically impossible in those low-res country roads, if you can’t read any text. Perhaps you will eventually arrive at a town (or not), but those are frankly just too boring…at any rate, I think the convention has been established by now that you’re not allowed to look anything up outside the game.

          • Toni

            But looking things up is one thing I like about the game. Finding clues in company names etc.

            And there are still guessing options in rural landscapes. Hilly or flat, type of trees, thickness of trees (In scandinavia, the more far north you go, the thinner trees are because of the climate.) Color of cars license plates, and even a half readable text can help.

            • Cerberus_tm

              Sure, if you enjoy looking things up, then do so. But the game becomes too easy to my taste if you do that: it’s easy to get 30k that way like the person above.

              Yeah, eventually you will find some clue even on low-res Australian roads…but it takes *ages*. Without Google, it’s nearly impossible to find, say, “Yarbon” in Australia: the only thing you know is that it’s somewhere on the continent. If you keep walking until you come to a city, that could literally take you days. So at some point I usually just pick some place in the middle of the country when that happens, same for the USA and Canada.

    • SamerKurdi

      That’s awesome (and very funny!)

  • Jeff Liu

    I managed to see the Canadian and Quebec flag in one random location.

  • Louis

    score should based on time too, the faster you guess the higher the score.

    • diogenes

      Efficiently processing information is what the game is about. So, it’s more fun if you score it to the guess by the least number of clicks you need to use. That way you’re ranked by how well you navigate for information, not how fast your connection, is or how maniacally fast you can click.

  • Zeus

    Great game! My high score is 12125… got it my second try. 😀

    • Toni

      Beat this! 23366 points 🙂

  • Patrick

    beat your guess at 7.506 km – it put me at my local train station, at the bottom of my road

  • Jon

    30,482 🙂

    Just remember where you started, the direction you went and keep looking for clues; road signs, store names etc.

    • Cerberus_tm

      Well done! First time I see Estonia, by the way.

  • ZoNi

    12.345… Will be better 🙂

    GREAT game, btw!

  • jayjay

    Thanks for the Google maps coverage!

  • Makar Yeliseykin

    I had tough time with some Australian dunes – one street lead me to a dead end after 10 minutes of traveling one way. So I decided to travel the other way and took me another 15 minutes and I got not a single hint of what city is close by. I had to give up. Without searching it through Google its impossible to find – especially all the small towns in Brazil.