This paper presents a new approach to simulate the propagation of elastic and cohesive cracks under mode-I loading based on the vector form intrinsic finite element method. The proposed approach can handle crack propagation without requiring global stiffness matrices and extra weak stiffness elements. The structure is simulated by mass particles whose motions are governed by the Newton's second law. Elastic and cohesive crack propagation are simulated by proposed VFIFE-J-integral and VFIFE-FCM methods, respectively. The VFIFE-J-integral method is based on vector form intrinsic finite element (VFIFE) and J-integral methods to calculate the stress intensity factors at the crack tips, and the VFIFE-FCM method combines VFIFE and fictitious crack models (FCM). When the stress state at the crack tip meets the fracture criterion, the mass particle at the crack tip is separated into two particles. The crack then extends in the plate until the plate splits into two parts. The proposed VFIFE-J-integral method was validated by elastic crack simulation of a notched plate, and the VFIFE-FCM method by cohesive crack propagation of a three point bending beam. As assembly of the global stiffness matrix is avoided and each mass particle motion is calculated independently, the proposed method is easy and efficient. Numerical comparisons demonstrate that the present results predicted by the VFIFE method are in agreement with previous analytical, numerical and experimental works.