How to create a Hangman game with Vanilla JS

July 27, 2021

The Hangman game is a word-guessing game where one player picks a secret word, and the other player tries to guess it.

In this article, I will take you through building a simple Hangman game using vanilla JavaScript and more importantly, how to make it accessible to players who navigate with their keyboards, without using any frameworks.


  1. A good code editor. Visual Studio Code can do the job.
  2. Some knowledge of HTML, Bootstrap CSS, and JavaScript.

Designing the game

The first thing you have to do is to create two files in your code editor. Name them index.html for your HTML code and a script.js for your JavaScript code.

We will use Bootstrap CDN for styling this game. You can add the Bootstrap CDN by adding the code below inside the head tags of your HTML file.

<link rel="stylesheet" href="">

Below is the entire HTML code. The images used in this project can be found in my Github repo.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
  <meta charset="UTF-8">
  <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
  <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="ie=edge">

  <link rel="stylesheet" href="">

  <title>Hangman Game with JavaScript</title>
<div class="container">
  <h1 class="text-center" style="padding-top: 2em;">Hangman</h1>
  <div class="float-right">Wrong Guesses: <span id='mistakes'>0</span> of <span id='maxWrong'></span></div>
  <div class="text-center">
    <img id='hangmanPic' src="images/0.jpg" alt="">
    <p>Guess the Social Medium:</p>
    <p id="wordSpotlight">The word to be guessed goes here</p>
    <div id="keyboard"></div>
    <button class="btn btn-info" onClick="reset()">Reset</button>

<script src='script.js'></script>


In your JavaScript file, you need to create an array containing all the words to be guessed inside the game. I used social media as my niche keywords. You can use any one of your choices.

Here’s how the code should look like.

var socialMedia = [

These words are going to be randomized in the game.

Next, you have to define the IDs you created. Here is the code:

let answer = '';
let maxWrong = 6;
let mistakes = 0;
let guessed = [];

The answer id contains the correct word to be guessed. The maxWrong id contains the maximum number of times you can guess wrong. The mistakes id contains the number of times you have guessed wrong so far, while the guessed id contains the letters you will guess.

The game functions

The randomWord() function

This function will help to randomly pick any of the words you placed in your social media array, which now makes the game more interesting as you do not know what word you are guessing next. Here is how the code looks like:

function randomWord() {
  answer = socialMedia[Math.floor(Math.random() * socialMedia.length)];

Then you call the function by using the code below:


The generateButtons() function

If you notice, there are alphabet buttons in our HTML. Without them, how are we supposed to guess the words?

This function helps us generate those buttons. This is a good way of creating these buttons rather than creating 26 different button tags in the HTML file. It is a good representation of “don’t-repeat-yourself” coding technique.

Here’s the code:

function generateButtons() {
  let buttonsHTML = 'abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz'.split('').map(letter =>
        class="btn btn-lg btn-primary m-2"
        id='` + letter + `'
        onClick="handleGuess('` + letter + `')"
        ` + letter + `

  document.getElementById('keyboard').innerHTML = buttonsHTML;

In the code above, we defined all 26 letter buttons while styling them with Bootstrap. “letter” in the code represents each of the looped items in the array of alphabets that we created.

You then connect it to your HTML using the document.getElementById('keyboard').innerHTML = buttonsHTML.

Remember, we defined the keyboard id in the HTML. Also, .join('') was added to eliminate the commas between the alphabet buttons.

Then you call the above function with the code below:


Here’s what the game looks like at this point: the-game-buttons

We will update the wrong guesses, that is, setting the maximum number of wrong guesses a player can get per game. You can do that using the code below:

document.getElementById('maxWrong').innerHTML = maxWrong;

The guessedWord() function

This function takes care of the word to be guessed. First, you have to define the wordStatus and render it null by default. Here is the code:

let wordStatus = null;

This function helps to set each letter of the word to be guessed as underscores(’ _ ‘) util they are guessed correctly.

You then connect it to the HTML tag containing the wordSpotlight id.

Here’s how the code will look like:

function guessedWord() {
  wordStatus = answer.split('').map(letter => (guessed.indexOf(letter) >= 0 ? letter : " _ ")).join('');

  document.getElementById('wordSpotlight').innerHTML = wordStatus;

Then run the function using this line:


Here’s how it looks like at this point:


Now let’s actually guess the letters.

The handleGuess() function

First, we are going to pass down a chosenLetter. The handleGuess() function handles the letters to be guessed and determines if the answer is true or false.

In the function, if the chosen letter does not exist, we go ahead and push chosenLetter into the array but if it exists, do nothing. Next, you run an if statement: if (answer.indexOf(chosenLetter) >= 0). Meaning that if it exists, then run the guessed() function to update the letters.

Now we have to start incrementing the number of wrong guesses if the player gets it wrong. We can do that by using the else if statement inside this function and passing in the answer.indexOf(chosenLetter) === -1. This way the mistakes will be added by one.

Here’s how the code will look like:

function handleGuess(chosenLetter) {
  guessed.indexOf(chosenLetter) === -1 ? guessed.push(chosenLetter) : null;
  document.getElementById(chosenLetter).setAttribute('disabled', true);

  if (answer.indexOf(chosenLetter) >= 0) {
  } else if (answer.indexOf(chosenLetter) === -1) {

The updateMistakes() function

You also have to run the updateMistakes() function so that it actually updates the number since we are not using any framework like ReactJS. Here’s how it would look like in the code:

function updateMistakes() {
  document.getElementById('mistakes').innerHTML = mistakes;

Now, the number of wrong guesses will always keep updating by +1.

The next thing to do is to check for wins and losses so that the player does not keep playing endlessly. To do that, you run checkifGameWon() in the if statement of the handleGuess() function and checkIfGameLost() in the corresponding else if statement.

The checkIfGameWon() function

We will start by creating an if statement to check if wordStatus is equal to the answer, then print out “You won!!!”.

Here is the code:

function checkIfGameWon() {
  if (wordStatus === answer) {
    document.getElementById('keyboard').innerHTML = 'You Won!!!';

The checkIfGameLost() function

Here’s the code to check if the player lost.

function checkIfGameLost() {
  if (mistakes === maxWrong) {
    document.getElementById('wordSpotlight').innerHTML = 'The answer was: ' + answer;
    document.getElementById('keyboard').innerHTML = 'You Lost!!!';

In the code above, we set the game to print out “You lost!!!” when the player has reached the maximum number of wrong guesses. We also set the game to print out the correct answer too.

The reset() function

In this function, we are going to set everything back to default. Here is how it looks like:

function reset() {
  mistakes = 0;
  guessed = [];
  document.getElementById('hangmanPic').src = 'images/0.jpg';


The updateHangmanPicture() function

First, we are going to call the updateHangmanPicture() in the else if statement of the handleGuess() function so that the image updates every time the player gets a letter wrong.

function updateHangmanPicture() {
  document.getElementById('hangmanPic').src = 'images/' + mistakes + '.jpg';

In the code above, we set the images to update each time the player gets an answer wrong continuously. I named all six images (0-6).jpg, and we have a maximum number of 6 mistakes to be made.

This conveniently helps us set the pictures to update every time the player gets a letter wrong.

Lastly, we need to make the game accessible to players who wish to navigate with their keyboard.

First, you need to define the alphabet keys on your keyboard using the code below:

let alphabets=["a","b","c","d","e","f","g","h","i","j","k","l","m","n","o","p","q","r","s","t","u","v","w","x","y","z"];

Next up, you need to create a function that will link these keys on your keyboard to the game and make them appear as valid guesses as they are clicked by using document.onkeypress.

Here is the code:

document.onkeypress = function (e) {
  e = e || window.event;
  var charCode = e.charCode || e.keyCode,
      character = String.fromCharCode(charCode);

  if (alphabets.includes(character))

The code above translates to: “in the event of a key being pressed, handle it as a guess in the game.

Below is a video of the game in action with both the mouse and keyboard in use:


We made use of vanilla JavaScript and Bootstrap CDN to build a Hangman game. We also used the onkeypress event to make the game accessible to players who wish to use their keyboards.

With that, you have a fully interactive Hangman game. You can also add other features to the game if you wish to.

The source code of our application is available on Github.

Happy coding!

Peer Review Contributions by: Geoffrey Mungai