The best free online games arent just a fun way to waste a few hours. Theyre incredibly convenient, too, because you can play them in your browser without waiting for them to download and install. Web browser games promise instant delight.
Free online games can deliver a quick thrill and a punch line and then let you get on with your day, but there are deeper experiences out there as well. Did you know, for example, that you can play Doom in your browser, or hundreds of classic PC games? You can play whole RPGs, explore intricate works of interactive fiction and wage space-war against your friends. Play some of the best boardgames of all time online for free. Heres our curated list of the best free online browser games. Enjoy!
Compiled by Phil Savage, Tom Sykes, Tom Senior, Wes Fenlon
This recommendation exists outside a genre, because its a collection of thousands of classic PC games playable in your browser. The MS-DOS collection on Archive.org contains more than 4000 games, all emulated and easy to play in just a few seconds. Wolfenstein 3D, Prince of Persia, Jazz Jackrabbit, Carmen Sandiego… you could spend a lifetime of lunch breaks playing these games alone.
Thanks to its shareware past, the entirety of the first (and best) episode of the first Doom is playable in your browser. I shouldnt need to give you a rundown of what to expect here: its Doom. There are demons, doors, switches and keycards, all placed around a sprawling Mars base full of corridors and secrets. The only downside to this browser-based resurrection is that it doesnt support mouse-look, so, on top of a quality FPS, youre also getting a history lesson in how cumbersome shooter controls could be.
The Seven Day FPS competition was created to keep first person shooting interesting. Entrants were given a week to create eccentric, experimental, and high-concept ideas, without a theme to restrict them. It was the perfect breeding ground for a game like SuperHot, which took the tired FPS cliche of Bullet Time and, through a simple twist on the formula, created something completely new. To quote the games opening, its about time.
The elevator pitch is equally pithy: time moves when you do. Stand still and the scene freezes. Walk, strafe or aim, and it starts back up. Instantly it transforms the focus of the men-shooting genre. Playing SuperHot isnt about reflex and reaction, its about precision and choreography. Its these same principles that underpin every action film, but that games frequently miss in the panicked throes of real-time firefights. Its short but, thanks to Kickstarter, a full, commercial release is also being worked on.
A dojo seems like an eminently sensible place for fighting to break out, although it must be hell getting all that blood out of those nice wooden floors. Dojo of Death, then. Its a one-button, entirely mouse-driven little timewaster about a guy fond of chopping people to bits. Not a butcher, no, but a hyper-quick ninja beset from all sides by enemies. Click in the direction you happen to be pointing at to dart forward with your sword drawn and slash any baddie ninjas into ninja ham. Occasionally baddie bow-wielding ninjas emerge from the adjoining room, who can turn you into fine paste from far away. Dojo of Death is endless, and tough, and like many of the best endless-tough games, your first instinct on death will be to retry. And retry. And retry again. Its unlikely youll remember it a week from now, but at least it kept you from finishing that super-important spreadsheetand thats really all you could ever want from a browser game.
The winner of the New Mexico Game Jam, The Last Tango is a game about rhythm espionage survival. Id have called it Dance Dance Execution, but the principle remains the same. You play as two spies, dancing through a variety of deadly locations. Theyll pirouette past traps, dodge under attacks, and take down enemies with an elegant twirl. And a gun.
Each move is performed to the beat, so as the levels get more complicated, youll queue up actions and watch as theyre gracefully executed. Step right, shoot left, step left, spin, shoot up and to the right, get decapitated by a ninja. As the dance becomes increasingly hazardous, timing and order become essential for success.
Part of this years IGF Student Showcase, Rhythm Doctor takes the style and irreverence of rhythm games, but features a much stricter margin of error. Your jobas a trainee doctor for the NHSis to hit a button on every seventh beat of a patients heart rate monitor. That button press will only register if its within 0.02 seconds of the target, so precision is key.
Each patient introduces a different quirk to the rhythmic counting. Certain beats may be silent, forcing you to keep your own time. Other times, multiple blips will appear. To further complicate matters, some patients contain boss viruses. An early one distorts your connection to the monitor, forcing you to keep perfect time as the music warps, skips and rewinds.
In rhythm games, the music is both your adversary and your reward. That principle is taken to the extreme in Soundodger, where the notes fire a wave of spikes towards your cursor. Get hit and the music distortsskipping forward a few seconds like a speeding record. You lose points for this, which is a shame, but the greater punishment is destroying the excellent soundtrack, featuring songs from composers like Disasterpeace and Lifeformed. If you like the free game, an expanded version isavailable on Steam.
Major Bueno are back! Brawlin Sailor is another beautiful/hilarious short story of a game, this time traversing into sidescrolling beat-em-up territory. Theres no challenge to the combat; youre playing for the story, which takes about five glorious minutes to see through.
Like a number of free horror games, Silhouette doesnt rely on high-tech visuals to generate its scares. Its a two-player killer vs. victim game set in a dark house. Control shifts between the knife-wielding killer and their unarmed victim, allowing for turns of real-time movement that shorten as the killer and the victim draw closer together. The increasingly fraught pacing does a great job of inspiring mounting panic in both players, toying with the same manipulative patterns seen across horror cinema, from the Jaws soundtrack to the murder famous murder scenes of Psycho. An effective horror experiment thats worth a go if you can get a couple of horror fans around your keyboard.
My Friend Pedro provides a compelling case for why you shouldnt follow the advice of a talking banana. Its a 2D action platformer with a heavy debt to Max Paynealthough mercifully, this hallucinating protagonist is less prone to questioning his worth as a human being. Instead, he leaps, flip and rolls about each level, using his slow-mo ability to avoid bullets and unload an unnervingly accurate volley of return fire. Its a short game, but one packed full of opportunities to show off your balletic bullet time skills.
A playable music video from Ben Esposito, one of the Arcane Kids, and musician bo en. Interaction in these happy few minutes is limited to tilting objects with the arrow keys or stretching your fingerswell, stretchingsomebodysfingerswith the keyboard, but its just enough to make you feel part of this bouncy, brightly coloured world.
Critical Annihilation is a simple twin-stick shooter-style game about killing an endless wave of voxel aliens with guns, rockets and, for some reason, an AC-138 gunship. With all those resources, you think youd be able to escape your perilous surroundings. Alas, no. Youre in this through to the bitter end.
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