The best online games come with a few benefits over their offline brothers. Namely, in contrast to the best PC games, online games require less investment, not only in money since they’re cheaper, but in the amount of time needed to enjoy them and finish them. Basically, you can have a good time playing these games without dropping a huge chunk of change, which is probably why they have such a large following.
While they may not have the same emotional pull of something like Red Dead Redemption 2, the best online games are perfect for a quick virtual vacation during a school or work break. They’re ideal, in fact, for a little distraction. And, no matter what your taste in games are, there’s something for you, whether you like puzzle-based games like Samorost, something ridiculous like Robot Unicorn Attack, or a sprawling MMO like Runescape.
We’ve used our gaming knowledge to help find and pick the best online games of 2021. No matter if you’re looking for something to end the day with or to distract yourself for a few hours, you’ll find something on this list that will keep you entertained for some time.
Game of Bombs
Bomberman on the original PlayStation was one of the best crafted and most addictive multiplayer games ever to be created. Game of Bombs seeks to emulate this virtual drug. As an added bonus, to get the multiplayer experience, you'll no longer need to fish around a drawer of knotted cables for a MultiTap – just go to the website and play a gigantic version of Bomberman online with players from around the globe. Oh, the joys of the digital world!
If playing all by your lonesome is more your speed, then the single-player RPG game, AdventureQuest, is worth checking out. Almost 20 years later, and this turn-based monster fighting game still holds up. Although keep in mind that you do have to make sure you’ve got Adobe Flash installed on your computer, and you have to pay to play as a Guardian.
Choosing between Good and Evil through your actions, your task is to defeat monsters in order to gain points, Z-Tokens and gold, as well as special items called Mastercrafts. Of course, the more skill points you gain or have, the more high-level monsters you can fight. Those points are also used for such things as armor skills, upkeep of miscellaneous items and potion usage.
Powerline.io’s concept is simple. In this strategy game, you need only boost and grow your line to become number one. But, as easy as that sounds, the gameplay is hardly effortless. First of all, you’re also going against other players, some of whom can sense a newbie from a mile away and are ruthless. In order to survive, you must be quick, smart and ruthless yourself.
Growing and boosting your line is done in a couple of ways. Get close to other lines and generate electricity to boost. Cross or corner them and eat their neon bits to grow. And, neither is as easy as it sounds. You have to be fast and limber with your fingers, and be able to think on your feet. You’ll catch on pretty quickly, but it’ll take quite a bit of time to get to the top of the leaderboards in this game.
Die 2 Nite
This text-based online multiplayer zombie game is filled with little in-jokes. Upon starting the game you're greeted with the cheerful message "Be positive! You're going to die. Every time."
In the top right is actual server time and, when that hits 23:00, the zombies will come out to play. During the daylight hours, you and the other players must work together to build defences for the following night, a tactic reminiscent of Fortnite. This game is surprisingly involving and you'll constantly have to remind yourself that it's not really impacting your life, but you'll definitely become invested in the online community.
If you haven't played any of Czech developer Amanita Design's games, then you are missing out on some of the quirkiest, funny and elaborate point-and-click puzzlers of recent memory.
The third game in this space-aged series is was released back on March 24 on Steam, but you can play the one that started it all back in 2003 for free. Chapter One of Samorost 2 is also online. And, be sure to check out their other games, Machinarium, Shy Dwarf and Botanicula.
This isn’t a game you’re going to be able to put down – this is more than your average tower defense game. Polycraft is kind of like if you took Zelda and crossed it with Crash Bandicoot. Collect supplies, build bases and explore dungeons, you get the idea. It can be installed as an app from the Chrome Web Store or played online in any browser using HTML5.
A lot of popular Steam games and console titles owe their popularity to sites like Miniclip and Newgrounds, hosts to countless free-to-play titles from small studios with marginal publishing budgets.
Few of these success stories ring as true as Superhot, a first-person shooter developed in Unity where time comes to a standstill when you do, giving you plenty of time to form coherent strategies. In a sense, Superhot blends elements of both popular FPS games with turn-based strategy mechanics, for a genuinely unique and fun browser-based experience.
Of course, you can always buy it as a full game, too – three, in fact, counting Superhot, its VR version and Superhot: Mind Control Delete.
It’s eat or be eaten in Slither.io, the HTML5 game where your cursor controls a reptilian long boy (also known as a snake) to eat dots in order to become an even longer boy. It’s much like Pac-Man, in that the goal is to eat as many dots as possible with the ultimate goal of winding up on a leaderboard. The challenge lies in the way of avoiding other snakes, because if you touch one it's game over.
Your score is measured by the length of your snake, the longest of which, at the time of writing, is about 20,000 points. If your snake makes its way into the top 10, it will then be featured prominently on the leaderboard. There isn’t much nuance beyond that, aside from the fact that you can change the skin outfitting your snake to one of several different colors and styles. It’s a simple game, but one that’s perfect for the workplace due to the lack of clicking required.
Spelunky HTML 5
Just like the previously mentioned Superhot, Spelunky has humble origins. First developed by Derek Yu as freeware, then ported to the Xbox 360 in July 2012, the game was then ported to HTML 5 by Darius Kazemi (and made available as a Chrome app). Spelunky may not be visually impressive (it was created in GameMaker after all), but its randomly generated levels and brutal permadeath mechanics make it a modern classic.
The goal of the 2D platformer is to collect as much loot as possible in a series of underground tunnels. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Populated by obstacles like traps and enemies of various species, Spelunky's world is as challenging as it is addictive.
Luckily, by default, you're equipped with a whip and your own two feet with which you can besiege enemies. And, if that's not enough, you can always be resourceful and use surrounding objects as weapons. Good luck.
Runescape is a free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and while it may not seem that important on the surface, it's actually a huge deal. Documented by the Guinness World Records, Runescape is known as the world's most popular free MMORPG, with over 200 million registered players. It also has the title of the most frequently-updated game too.
Like many MMOs, the latest version of Runescape – namely Runescape 3 – takes place in a medieval setting, filled with queens, goblins and, perhaps most importantly, dragons (and we can’t forget to mention the chickens). It's not exactly an example of fine art in terms of its visuals, but for a game that's been around for over 15 years how could it be?
As long as your browser is rocking some recent version of Java, you’ll be good to start fighting, trading and even playing mini-games with other players in the world of Gielinor. Be careful, though, as Runescape is kind of known for being addictive. And, hey, it’s on mobile devices too, now, so you can take it on the go.
If you recently played Doom, or are excited by the likes of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, you may be wondering how developer id Software got its start. Well, look no further than Wolfenstein 3D. Though it wasn't the first title to come from superstar duo John Carmack and John Romero, Wolfenstein 3D was essentially the basis of the entire first-person shooter (FPS) genre.
And, even if it’s vastly different than the shooters of today, Wolfenstein 3D is often considered the first true FPS by purists. Kill Nazis and see how gaming has improved since 1994 in this important snippet of history. Experience Wolfenstein 3D for yourself entirely for free, thanks to the Internet Archive.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
There are few games as close to their source material as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Created by the writer of the original novel, Douglas Adams, in conjunction with Infocom's Steve Meretsky, the game is more of a historical relic than a piece of software which stands the test of time.
A text-based adventure, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was originally released in 1984 for Apple II, MS-DOS and Commodore 64, among other platforms. Since it's only vaguely based on parts of the book, you're sure to have a unique experience that Douglas Adams so lovingly tailored to us so many years ago.
On the surface, Spaceplan is yet another repetitive clicking game designed as a means to distract you from the tasks at large. But dust off that geometrical cover and you'll realize there's something really special about this game.
If you're not one for games that take themselves too seriously, Spaceplan is for you. In fact, you spend most of your time fixing a ship using an interface called the "Thing Maker," which, as the name suggests, lets you build things to repair your ship and navigate through space. Once you get a few "things" up and running, the core game mechanic works on its own.
You'll spend most of your time waiting as you do other stuff (like your job, for example) as you accumulate watts used to power your things. It's the perfect game to keep open in another tab to poke at for a few seconds when your boss is looking the other way. The witty dialog is an added bonus.
Robot Unicorn Attack
Our Instagram feeds may be filled with unicorn bagels, unicorn ice cream, and unicorn hair but the only thing we truly care about is unicorn robots.
Robot Unicorn Attack is a simple endless-runner that will hold your attention for hours. It's been popular online for a while and there's good reason for that – it's simultaneously stylish and silly, but utterly addictive at the same time. The inclusion of Erasure's 'Always' endlessly looping in the background might have something to do with that: it should be grating but somehow it only improves the game.
You'll always want to be with it, and make believe with it, and live in harmony, harmony, and love.
If you’re a fan of indie music, then you’ve probably heard of Japanese Breakfast. This rising star of the indie scene, in promotion of her sophomore album, released this retro-styled turn-based RPG.
Not only does Japanese Breakquest have great music, as you would expect from a game ostensibly made by a musician, but it also has a ton of cool indie references scattered around that will delight anyone who is a fan of that kind of music.
The game basically expands on the story for Japanese Breakfast’s “Machinist” music video, wherein she is stuck on a spaceship and tries to build a mechanical body for her AI lover. It’s a little bizarre, but it’s lighthearted and fun throughout, and even has midi versions of all of the songs off of her 2017 album “Soft Sounds From Another Planet”
While the game’s target audience might be indie fans, there’s still plenty of charm that will affect anybody who plays it.
In this day and age when games are competing for the best cinematic experiences, a 2D massively multiplayer browser game sounds like a welcome respite, one with oozes nostalgia. BrowserQuest is among those games, and it’s aged surprisingly well, making it among the best online games you can play today, almost eight years after its release.
Made in HTML5, this action RPG game starts you off as a simple villager, and it’s up to you to go on a quest to explore the world, hunt, collect items and gain achievements. You can also connect with other players all over the world, as well as team up with them to fight enemies or go on hunts. Whether you’re playing on your own or joining a co-op, there’s lots of nostalgic fun to be had playing BrowserQuest.
What do you get when you take a classic arcade game and make it controllable entirely through keyboarding skills? That’s right, you get ZType.
This deceptively brilliant browser game takes the simplistic formula of Asteroids, and replaces the joystick with your keyboard, spitting ships down at you that you can only take out by quickly typing the words attached to them.
It might sound easy but as the waves get higher and higher, the game only gets more difficult. This means that you’ll need to type quickly (and accurately) in order to make it to the higher levels. Eventually you’ll start getting extremely long words that’ll fire one-letter missiles at you that you have to take out in order to proceed.
Plus, I mean, you can legitimately use the excuse “it’s educational”. What’s not to love?
A Dark Room
There aren’t a lot of story-driven browser games to choose from, so when one suddenly pops up, our interest is naturally piqued. A Dark Room is an homage to classic text-based adventure games, so its interface is primitive, but intentionally so.
Initially, the story takes you to a cold room where all you can do is light a fire and keep it going. Meanwhile, the text on the left side of the screen explains everything that’s going on around you, and eventually A Dark Room opens up more ways to interact with its heavy survival-based narrative.
Along the way, you’ll have to make choices that impact the events that take place in A Dark Room. Likewise, you’ll have to decide whether to keep playing or get back to work.
The Oregon Trail
These days, its utility is limited to history classrooms for the most part, but The Oregon Trail still has a special place in our hearts. Originally released in 1971, The Oregon Trail was intended as an educational tool for students learning about the very real 19th century pioneers who famously surmounted the non-fictitious Oregon Trail.
Because it came bundled with the Apple II during the height of its success, The Oregon Trail is primitive in its graphics and gameplay, though it fundamentally operates much like a modern day survival game. You have to collect resources by hunting animals found throughout your journey, which extends from the Kansas River all the way to Willamette Valley.
In the end, the goal is to avoid subjecting yourself to the measles, snakebite, exhaustion, typhoid, cholera or – even worse – dysentery.
As far as old school MMORPG games go, Isleward definitely sits at a lofty spot and one of the most beloved out there. Lauded for its gameplay, and the fact that it’s an open-source so players can write mods or spot bugs, this is one of the best online games you’ll find out there. That’s especially if you’re looking for something with rougelike elements.
Starting the game as an owl, bear or lynx in spirit in the skin of a wizard, warrior or thief, you basically form a party and explore different islands by spelunking caves where you’ll find treasures and equipment. The better equipment you find and obtain, the stronger your character is for combat.