Jerry Bellino became anxious soon after boarding her overnight flight home to Detroit last summer.

The plane’s Wi-Fi wasn’t working, which meant she wouldn’t be able to use the final hours of her trip to maintain her longest streak yet of playing “Wordle” and about a dozen other games like it that reset daily, typically at the stroke of midnight.

“I was devastated,” recalls Bellino, a 28-year-old education coordinator who normally checks off a handwritten list of each game after completing it to avoid accidentally skipping any. She had been playing the games for nearly a year, marking wins on her list with a smiley face and losses with a sad face. Her travel buddy, also an avid player, suffered the same fate and was just as heartbroken. “We stared at each other in disbelief,” Bellino says.

Since launching in 2021, the puzzle game “Wordle”—which calls for identifying a five-letter word in six tries—has inspired varieties of spin offs including “Bardle” (Shakespeare), “Nerdle” (math), “Gordle” (hockey), “Factle” (trivia), “Daydle” (history), “Swordle” (Star Wars) and “Lewdle” (bad words). These mostly free games, available via web browsers or apps, unleash a new challenge once a day, so players have just 24 hours to solve each one.

Drew Patty, 46, a freelance editor in San Carlos, Calif., starts the first offive daily games he’s committed to playing when he wakes up. He aims to get the rest done by 4 p.m., when an alarm he keeps on his phone goes off. “I don’t want to panic late at night,” he says of why he chose an afternoon deadline.

“Xordle,” which is like “Wordle” but with two mystery words, “can be obnoxiously hard,” he says. But reaching the end of each challenge is a must. “It’s just a consistency thing.”

Such dedication came in handy recently when a friend of Patty’s, a fellow daily gamer, was on an overseas work trip and too busy to keep track of time. He texted her a reminder each morning and as a result, she didn’t miss a beat. “I felt honored to be her streak buddy,” he says.

They aren’t all Cal Ripken Jr. (2,632 consecutive games played) but gamesters notch notable streaks.Patty’s longest yet is 270 days tackling “Squareword,” a stretch that ended on a vacation to Hawaii. “I was distracted by paradise,” he says.

Tali Fischer of San Francisco begins tackling the three daily games she’s into around 12:01 a.m. “It’s emotionally damaging for me when I lose a streak,” says the 48-year-old communications professional, which is what happened a few months ago after a 55-day stretch. “I cried. It was just one of those days when everything was crazy.”

Fischer shares results with family members and friends, who reciprocate. Recently, her 15-year-old son joined the group, upping the ante. “It’s extra important that I get on there and show him what mom is made of,” she says.

Some people play daily games as a team.

Charlie Keith and his partner live in separate apartments in Bristol, England, yet they play nine daily games every night together, with him sharing his screen over the app Discord so she can see them. “It’s a completely collaborative effort,” says Keith, a 22-year-old marketing professional.

Over Christmas, the couple was even farther apart when one traveled to Thailand, the other to Spain. The roughly seven-hour time difference required being flexible.One night, he had no choice but to play the games with her from a bar’s bathroom stall.

“It was very crowded,” Keith recalls. “I needed a quiet and secluded space to hear her.”

Daily games are devilishly entertaining, confess devotees such as Ticia Robak. When a snowstorm knocked out power at her North Andover, Mass., home this winter, the retired antiques dealer had yet to play her favorite daily games, which include the culinary inspired “Foodle.” She had little battery left on her smartphone and didn’t know when the power would return.

“I couldn’t fool around because of a potential emergency,” says Robak, 71. But she played them anyway. “I just had to.”

The limited window for completing daily games is largely what makes them so alluring, according to psychologist Louise Packard of Santa Rosa, Calif. “We all have our compulsions and rules,” she says. Failing to keep up “feels like an itch that hasn’t been scratched.”

While on vacation in Greece a few years ago, Packard, 69, found herself thinking about whether she’d be able to finish “Spelling Bee”—a daily spelling game, which, like “Wordle,” is owned by the New York Times—while touring historic ruins. “Then I was laughing at myself because that’s ridiculous,” she says. (She finished the game.)

Tensions can flare up among players when one comes across as suspiciously successful.

Ornithologist David La Puma said his colleagues were skeptical after he correctly identified a bird on his first try while playing “Birdie,” a daily puzzle featuring photos of fowl. Worse, he had edited his results after sharing them in the group’s Slack channel to remove a link. “It was a hard bird, so I understood where they were coming from,” says La Puma, 48, of Cape May, N.J. “But it was a legit win.” (It was a Least Grebe.)

La Puma and colleagues also share outcomes from “Brdl,” another daily puzzle that has players guess four-letter bird banding codes. The goal behind touting scores is to outdo one another.

“The gloves come off,” La Puma says, though he added that because “Brdl” is so hard, everyone posts peacock emojis as a show of respect whenever one of them manages to complete it.

Cathy Douglas, a retiree in Madison, Wisc., likes testing her knowledge of geography with “Worldle” and figuring out four word puzzles in nine tries with “Quordle.”

“A lot of stuff we do in our daily lives is drudgery,” says Douglas. “This is something I look forward to. You’re using your brain instead ofjust doing the dishes.”

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at