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Best online games: top browser titles you can play right now

Best online games: a man holds a staff
(Image credit: Future)

The best online games allow you to hop into a quick session effortlessly. No lengthy installation, no queues, no ‘how does this work again’ or ‘what did I do last time’. Just some simple, browser-based fun for a lunch break or any idle downtime.

Some people may think of these games as inferior to the best PC games, but not everyone wants to spend a lot of time or money on gaming, and online games are a fun way to try something new. Many of us had our first gaming experience with online games like this, and online games are still going strong. It’s great that someone would offer you a high-quality game to play for free, in many ways that’s the magic of the internet. Online games have inspired entire platforms such as Roblox, some games have started their life as browser games before coming to platforms like Steam – online games are truly a large part of gaming history.

But with so many games out there, it can be difficult to find the best online games and avoid potentially dodgy websites, so we’ve compiled this guide for you, full of games of different genres, playable directly from your browser. So read on for the best online games available to play right now.

Best online games

A grid of wall-like tiles and bomb icons

Game of Bombs (Image credit: Game of Bombs)

Game of Bombs

Browser-based Bomberman

Reasons to buy

+
Fun game mechanics
+
Like multiplayer Bomberman
+
Different modes

Reasons to avoid

-
Size can be overwhelming

The similarities to Bomberman are certainly no coincidence, but the couch co-op classic wasn’t available to play on PC for a long time. Thankfully Game of Bombs successfully emulates the original’s fun game mechanics. 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!

a yellow, blue and pink line moving close to each other

Powerline.io (Image credit: Profusion Studios)

Powerline.io

MMO Snake

Reasons to buy

+
Simple concept
+
Element of surprise keeps it engaging
+
Snake with more strategy 

Reasons to avoid

-
Takes a while to get top of leaderboard

Powerline.io’s concept is simple. In this strategy game, you need only boost and grow your line to become number one.  You can grow and boost your line 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. Neither is as easy as it sounds. You have to be fast and nimble 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. That’s because you’re playing against other real players, many of whom will likely have a lot of experience already. This element of surprise however is also what keeps Powerline so engaging.

The Die2Nite user interface showing a chat window

Die2Nite (Image credit: Motion Twin)

Die2Nite

An addictictive zombie survival game

Reasons to buy

+
Filled with in-jokes
+
Surprisingly involving
+
Work with others

Reasons to avoid

-
Need to register for account to play

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 defenses 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.

A number of bases at night

Polycraft (Image credit: Wonderstruck)

Polycraft

Not your average tower defence game

Reasons to buy

+
Addictive gameplay
+
Persistent strategy world
+
Unique art style

Reasons to avoid

-
Some glitches

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 red man wields a gun in a gray corridor

Superhot Prototype (Image credit: Superhot Team)

Superhot Prototype

A success story

Reasons to buy

+
Unique and fun
+
Let's you try before you buy full game
+
Excellent slo-mo mechanic

Reasons to avoid

-
A bit rough around the edges
-
Short

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.

Red, yellow, blue and purple worms with googly eyes

Slither.io (Image credit: Slither.io)

Slither.io

Extreme Snake

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to pick up
+
Addictive gameplay
+
No clicking required

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite simple

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.

A small male spelunker in a 2D dungeon

Spelunky HTML 5 (Image credit: Derek Yu)

Spelunky HTML 5

Where it all began

Reasons to buy

+
Try before you buy full game
+
Challenging
+
Excellent randomly generated levels

Reasons to avoid

-
Not amazing visually
-
Brutal permadeath

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.

Two male characters in armor fighting each other

Runescape (Image credit: Jagex)

Runescape

A free MMORPG

Reasons to buy

+
Lots to do
+
Regular updates
+
Still extremely popular

Reasons to avoid

-
Need to be paid member for certain features
-
Visdually aren't amazing

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. 

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.

A diminutive character with a moustache holding a gun

Wolfenstein 3D (Image credit: Future)

Wolfenstein 3D

A FPS history lesson

Reasons to buy

+
Classic soundtrack
+
Simple to pick up
+
Mecha-Hitler

Reasons to avoid

-
Feels quite outdated now
-
Controls are sluggish

If you recently played Doom Eternal, 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.

A keyboard with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 30th anniversary written on it

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Image credit: BBC)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

As close as you'll get to the real thing

Reasons to buy

+
Great writing
+
Unique experience
+
Close to source material

Reasons to avoid

-
You'll die, a lot

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 that 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.

A view from a spaceship port window looking onto a red planet

Spaceplan (Image credit: Devolver)

Spaceplan

Unlock the mysteries of the galaxy

Reasons to buy

+
Witty dialogue
+
Interesting story
+
Great soundtrack

Reasons to avoid

-
A lot of waiting
-
Short

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.

A band fighting aliens in turn-based battle

Japanese Breakquest (Image credit: Zauner)

Japanese Breakquest

One for indie fans

Reasons to buy

+
Great music
+
Cool indie references
+
Lighthearted and bizarre fun

Reasons to avoid

-
A bit too bizarre at times

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.

Two characters in a village. One is saying ‘there is this mysterious lady I saw the other day’

BrowserQuest (Image credit: Mozilla Foundation)

BrowserQuest

Explore the world

Reasons to buy

+
Oozes nostalgia
+
Aged surprisingly well
+
Plenty to do

Reasons to avoid

-
Need to register to play

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, 10 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.

Words like ‘help’ ‘long’ and ‘night’ on a screen

ZType (Image credit: PhobosLab)

ZType

Asteroids with words

Reasons to buy

+
Simple premise
+
Challenging
+
Educational

Reasons to avoid

-
Gets difficult quickly

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 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 screen giving you different options such as ‘stoke fire’ or ‘build trap’

A Dark Room (Image credit: Doublespeak Games)

A Dark Room

A story-driven adventure

Reasons to buy

+
Choices add tension
+
More complex than it appears
+
Reminiscent of classic text-based adventures

Reasons to avoid

-
Primitive interface
-
A lot of waiting

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 title screen featuring the game’s name and an options menu

The Oregon Trail (Image credit: MECC)

The Oregon Trail

Revisit a classic

Reasons to buy

+
Educational
+
Very simple
+
Lots of choices and conequences

Reasons to avoid

-
Primitive graphics and gameplay
-
Dysentery 

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 measles, snakebites, exhaustion, typhoid, cholera or – even worse – dysentery

A jungle in Bitsy graphics

Isleward (Image credit: Big Bad Waffle)

Isleward

A beloved MMORPG

Reasons to buy

+
Moddable
+
Combines great MMO elements
+
Crossplay support

Reasons to avoid

-
Need to register

As far as old school MMORPG games go, Isleward definitely sits at a lofty spot and is one of the most beloved out there. Lauded for its gameplay, and the fact that it’s 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 roguelike 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. 

With contributions from