The internet is a virtual smorgasbord of awesome, time-consuming content to whittle away the long hours of the day. While Instagram and Reddit give users a chance to catch up on the latest high school gossip and gawk at adorable cat photos, they surely don’t provide the kind of enthralling original content you can achieve from a solid online game. Originally the sole bastion of lame arcade remakes and goofy parodies, cyberspace is now a place of cutting-edge, independent software and unbridled creativity — whether you’re a sucker for a side-scrolling platformer or a fast-paced online shooter you can tackle with your friends.
Here are our top picks for the best free online game sites so you can waste even more hours on the computer than you probably already do. Many of them offer a very similar, if not identical, game selection, but each has its own set of merits that distinguish it from the rest of the pack.
Kongregate, now owned by the Gamestop Corporation, has been a staple of online gaming since it was first introduced in 2007. With a catalog of more than 120,000 titles, the free-to-play site is burgeoning with a vast wealth of diverse games, including shooters, role-playing, puzzle, action, and online multiplayer. Although registration and signing up is free, users who opt for a premium membership ($30 annually) have exclusive access to special themes, icons, ad-free gaming, private chat rooms, and beta releases. We recommend signing up for at least a free account so you can save your badges, points, and games as well as participate in the leaderboards and the helpful community forums.
Armor Games may have changed its name from Games of Gondor — a smooth move — but it’s still a wonderful site for appeasing the gaming nerd inside all of us. That said, instead of games like Hob the Hobbit and Orc Slayer, Armor games now showcases a deep, ever-expanding catalog of some of the Web’s most renowned online games as well as some up-and-coming alternatives. Like Kongregate, users can create a free account to access a slew of assorted features such as achievements, Facebook integration, and the comprehensive support forums that include everything from tips for newcomers to quest guides for particularly tricky game moments.
Addicting Games wasn’t only one of the few online game sites I had access to growing up, it was also one of the best — and it still is. The website has the most extensive category list of any of the sites on our roundup, incorporating categories for girls and “cute shooters,” but it’s also the most childish given the site is owned and operated by Nickelodeon. Still, that fact that it’s aimed toward teens doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out some of the gaming gold the site offers. The Flash-based site has something for everyone, whether you want to button mash or engage in some side-scrolling madness, and even allows you to embed games on your blog or social network for greater integration.
Last time I checked, Newgrounds was one of the best Flash-based game and animation sites on the web. A good deal has changed since I stumbled on the site years ago — it now features music content and serves as an online art portal, for instance — but it certainly hasn’t lost the Flash-based appeal on which it was founded in ’95. It hosts a great selection of games, from your stereotypical “action and adventure” genre to the more obscure simulation and adult-only titles, and can be specifically filtered by rating, popularity, or content views. The forums are bustling and engaging, as is the user community. A free account grants you access to in-game medals, leaderboards, and various online challenges you otherwise would be forced to bypass.
Crazy Monkey Games is rather ad-heavy and limited in features, aside from the robust game collection, but it’s worth checking out nonetheless. Most games are equipped with short game guides as well as tips and tricks for navigating some of the more frustrating portions of your favorite titles. If you’re a Flash-based game designer, the site might even be willing to sponsor your game as part of its lucrative Crazy Monkey Games Sponsorship Program, providing you with a little cash and recognition in exchange for incorporating its logo on your game’s introduction screen. The newsletter, another aspect that differentiates the site from its online peers, is a great way for users to stay up to date on the latest games, contests, and general news coming out of CMG. Also, make sure to try the random game option in the upper right-hand corner if you’re not looking for anything specific.
MiniClip has quite the title to live up to. Since its initial launch in 2001, the site has gradually become the world’s largest privately owned online game website on the planet. Alongside Addicting Games, it takes the crown for the most substantial game library, housing genres that span dancing and shows to holiday and five-minutes (or less). The site also has one of the most social-heavy components of any gaming site out there, laden with player profile pages, online leaderboards, awards, and achievements accessible through Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. MiniClip features all of your standard genre games, not to mention a remarkable selection of sports games, but the site’s past security issues and malware debacle may leave some users hesitant. Regardless, it’s one of the more beefy sites on our list in terms of sheer numbers and international appeal given users can access the site in more than 15 languages.
Despite the most unoriginal and bland website title on our list, Free Online Games (aka FOG) is not a horrendous site. There are plenty of games and categories to choose from, including a category for “fun games,” but the site features some of the most obnoxious and invasive advertising of any of the picks on our list. Although the games are entirely free to play, it would be great if the site at least offered an ad-free premium membership to give frequent users a little more flexibility, customization, and choices when it comes to the site. Users can, however, sign up for a free FOG account to access game chat rooms, view history, favorite lists, notifications, and the intuitive avatar creator.
BGames barely made the cut, but its creative originals and healthy dose of games are worthy of your oh-so-precious time. Titles span a laundry list of genres, from frantic point-and-click titles to Rachael Ray-esque cooking extravaganzas, but the site is loaded with video ads that often plague and ultimately hinder the user experience. There are no customization options and accounts to sign up for (not even free ones), so the myriad ads are unavoidable for the time being. Fortunately, there are titles for all ages of gamer and personal preference.
It’s appropriate that the logo of Zynga is a bulldog, considering the games they’ve launched, such as FarmVille, grab our time and attention and don’t let go, like a tenacious canine. Because Zynga is a “social gaming” company, their games are best played through mobile devices (you can download them as free apps) or on your desktop through Facebook, encouraging cooperation with friends who also play the games. Zynga games are as simple as they are addictive.
There are only a few games on Totaljerkface — it’s all done by just one guy — but, man, are they fun games. Divine Intervention follows a rogue priest as he journeys through a post-apocalyptic cityscape, blowing away demon-possessed citizens in gory detail. Happy Wheels is a racing game in which you zip through a variety of levels, but because of its ragdoll physics and bloodshed, it’s so much more than just a racing game. Play both to maximize your time-wasting.
This site takes the central premise of free online games and strips it right down to its basics. Bored? Then go to Bored and whittle away the boring hours with dozens of simplistic free games. Of course, they make you sit through ads before you can play the games, which is irritating, but it’s a small price to pay for free gaming.
Although they may be catered toward a younger audience, the games available on Cartoon Network’s website are still among the best on the web. If you’re a fan of Adventure Time, Ben 10, Teen Titans Go! or The Amazing World of Gumball, then you’ll find plenty of content to keep you busy. Most of the games are playable directly through an internet browser, and some can even be downloaded to your phone through the app store.
Primarily comprised of puzzle, card, and word games, Pogo is the perfect destination for players who like games with a little bit of thinking involved. Besides a great catalog of titles — including several classic Hasbro board games — Pogo also offers other content to keep you engaged with the site, such as Tournaments and Badges for completing specific tasks.
With more than 1,800 games, you’re bound to find something you enjoy on Shockwave. The website has been steadily growing since it was founded in 1998 and adds new titles every week. Like many other sites on this list, Shockwave offers up downloadable versions of its hit games for offline play.
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