The best online games of 2017

super-smash-flash-2

If you're after the best free games on the Internet, you've come to the right place.

It wasn't so long ago that text adventures were the most complicated games you could play in a web browser. Nowadays, you can play everything from first-person shooters to sprawling open-world MMOs from within Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or any other modern web browser. More than just an impressive technical feat, being able to play such a wide variety of games by simply loading up a web page makes it easier than ever to drive away the daily doldrums. Whether you've got five minutes to kill or you need something to distract you while you wait for that important email, browser games are a sure-fire way to liven up your downtime.

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Not every browser game is a winner, though, which is why we've scoured the web for the best free games you can play in your browser. Bookmark these time-killers, and you'll never need to twiddle another thumb again.

Agar.io

  • Genre: Multiplayer action
  • Control Scheme: Mouse and keyboard

If you distil the horror movie The Blob down to its core concept, Agar.io is what you get. When you first jump into the game, you're nothing but a tiny blob surrounded by hundreds of other blobs eager to absorb you into their gooey masses. The only way to survive is to hoover up food pellets faster than your fellow blobs, growing larger and larger until you can swallow them whole too. It's a deceptively simple concept that sinks its claws into you as you realise you can also shed mass to increase your speed, giving you the edge when bigger enemies are on your tail or helping you reach a valuable deposit of food pellets faster than the competition. Especially if you can round up a few friends to play with, Agar.io is a wild experience you won't soon forget.

Play Agar.io

Squadd.io

  • Genre: Top-down shooter
  • Control Scheme: Mouse and keyboard
  • Extra requirements: Unity web plugin

You better hope your trigger finger is nice and limber because it's going to get a serious workout in Squad.io. This top-down shooter drops you into a blocky 3D arena and challenges you with blasting your way up the leaderboard, taking down both friends and strangers with a variety of weapons and power-ups. You start out humbly enough with a meek pistol and low health, but as you neutralise other players you'll level up and gain access to a rocket launcher, a flamethrower and even a prickly cactus gun perfect for putting the sting in your foe's defeat. Unlockable skins and weapon upgrades add a layer of progression to the game, making it equally suitable for long stretches as it is for short bursts.

Play Squadd.io

Rhomb

  • Genre: Puzzle game
  • Control Scheme: Mouse only

Untying knots; sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Most of us tie and untie our shoes every day without too much trouble. But Rhomb makes the task a little trickier, demanding forethought as you untangle the interwoven rhombuses it throws at you. With 25 levels presented in a pleasantly minimalist art style, the game won't have you straining your brain for too long, but it's a charming challenge while it lasts.

Play Rhomb

Cosmos Quest

cosmos-quest

  • Genre: Idle clicker
  • Control Scheme: Mouse only

Idle clicker games are far more engaging than they should be. All you're doing is clicking buttons and watching numbers and progress bars go up and up. But a well-designed clicker knows how to sink its claws into the primal parts of your brain that go ga-ga for a sense of progress and improvement, no matter how superficial it might be. Cosmos Quest is a shining example of this. Building civilisation from cave-dwellers to space explorers by click, click, clicking is addictive in all the right and wrong ways. Before you know it, you'll have poured hours into building watermills, developing combustion engines and researching fusion reactors. Careful you don't get too absorbed, though, otherwise you'll be left wondering why it's suddenly dark outside when you've only been playing for fiveoh.

Play Cosmos Quest

Super Smash Flash 2

  • Genre: Fighting game
  • Control Scheme: Keyboard only
  • Extra requirements: Adobe Flash Player

Despite the tremendous popularity of the Super Smash Bros. games, few attempts have been made to replicate their unique style of platform fighting on systems outside of those from Nintendo. Of the handful of games that have tried to capture the series' appeal, Super Smash Flash 2 is definitely one of the most successful. Rather than mess with a proven formula, Super Smash Flash 2 preserves all the classic characters and fast-paced fighting of Super Smash Bros. and turns it into a free Flash game, giving it a lush pixel-art makeover in the process. While the game's still technically in beta, it's already a remarkably authentic recreation of Nintendo's blockbuster series, and you'll have no trouble losing hours to its fleshed-out single- and multiplayer modes.

Play Super Smash Flash 2

Animation Throwdown

  • Genre: Collectible card game
  • Control Scheme: Mouse only
  • Extra requirements: Sign-up necessary

Ever wondered who would win in a fight between Bender from Futurama and Stewie from Family Guy? What about Hank from King of the Hill versus Bob from Bob's Burgers? Or a showdown between Stan and Francine from American Dad? Well, now you can find out for yourself in Animation Throwdown, a collectible card game featuring hundreds of characters from FOX's most popular animated shows. As you battle your way through a wacky story inspired by classic episodes from each of the five shows, you'll collect and combine new characters to build a deck powerful enough to take on your friends in the player-versus-player arena. For fans of FOX's no-holds-barred brand of humour, Animation Throwdown has more than enough laughs to make it worth your time.

Play Animation Throwdown

Pokémon Trading Card Game Online

  • Genre: Collectible card game
  • Control Scheme: Mouse only
  • Extra requirements: Need to download and install the game; it can't be played in a web browser

Forget lugging around hundreds of physical cards and setting aside hours just to play the Pokémon trading card game; now you can unleash your inner Pokémon trainer whenever and wherever you like thanks to Pokémon TCG Online. Signing up for a free Pokémon Trainer Club account gets you four decks to battle with straight away, and scoring yourself more cards is as simple as defeating computer-controlled opponents in Trainer Challenges or pitting your deck against the world in Versus and Tournament modes. You can even trade with other players for those rare cards you absolutely have to add to your collection, all without paying a cent. What's more, certain real-life Pokémon TCG products come with special codes to unlock extra cards and decks in Pokémon TCG Online, bolstering your collection both online and off. What better way to catch 'em all?

Play Pokemon TCG Online

klocki

  • Genre: Puzzle game
  • Control Scheme: Mouse only

It's always heartening to see small browser games do well enough to spawn fully-fledged, standalone experiences. Such is the case with klocki, a pleasant tile-swapping puzzle game first released as a free prototype on Kongregate. You can, and should, go play through the 28 levels available there, as they showcase how a fairly basic concept can nonetheless be quite satisfying. And if you're craving something a bit more challenging, the full version of klocki is available for just $0.99 on Steam, iTunes, and Google Play.

Play klocki

Spaceplan

  • Genre: Idle clicker
  • Control Scheme: Mouse only

Most clicker games are content to hook players with constantly filling progress bars and ever-increasing numbers alone. Spaceplan, however, is not. Sure, you'll click your fair share of buttons and research countless upgrades to make the numbers tick up faster and faster, but you'll also experience a genuinely funny story with a definitive ending—something that few clicker games have. Without spoiling anything, you're a satellite orbiting a mysterious planet, and it's your job to build and upgrade probes to figure out where you are, what you're there for and why the entire universe seems obsessed with potatoes. For its terrific tuber puns alone, Spaceplan gives you plenty of reason to keep on clicking.

Play Spaceplan

The Internet Arcade

The Internet Arcade is a web-based collection of hundreds of arcade games from the 1970s through to the 1990s, all playable in your browser for free. Not only does this serve the critical role of preserving the history of the arcade era, but plenty of the games from that time are still a blast to play to this day. If you lived through the rise and fall of the arcade, you'll likely have personal favourites you'll want to go back to, but for everyone else, we've picked out some of the best below:

Defender

  • Genre: Shoot-'em-up
  • Control Scheme: Keyboard only
  • Extra requirements: Mozilla Firefox recommended

A side-scrolling space shooter from 1981, Defender was one of the first truly difficult video games ever made. It introduced revolutionary concepts like the mini-map and led to the creation of an entirely new genre in the form of the tough-as-nails shoot-'em-up.

Out Run

  • Genre: Racing
  • Control Scheme: Keyboard only
  • Extra requirements: Mozilla Firefox recommended

Out Run was a smash-hit when it was released in 1986. Not only did it feature graphics and music far superior to anything else at the time, it popularised the idea of non-linear gameplay by allowing players to plot their own course through the game's different environments. In the 30 years since its release, Out Run has seen numerous sequels and remakes, but few can hold a candle to the original arcade release.

Q*bert

  • Genre: Puzzle game
  • Control Scheme: Keyboard only
  • Extra requirements: Mozilla Firefox recommended

Like most successful arcade games, Q*bert's simple design conceals a dastardly difficult puzzle game with a voracious appetite for quarters. Fortunately, extra lives are free at the Internet Arcade, making the task of guiding the titular Q*bert across every cube of the pyramid-shaped levels far less frustrating than it was back in 1982. That doesn't mean it's easy, though. Prepare to strain your brain if you want to make it all the way through Q*bert's nine devious levels.

Visit the Internet Arcade

The Internet Archive: Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis)

Staying onboard the nostalgia train, the Internet Archive has recently added a number of Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in the US) games to its web-based historical catalogue. Many of these are seminal titles with a direct lineage to the games of today. What's more, a lot of them hold up surprisingly well for 20-year-old games emulated through a web browser. Of the hundreds of games available, we've picked out our favourites below:

Sonic The Hedgehog

sonic-the-hedgehog

  • Genre: 2D platformer
  • Control Scheme: Keyboard only
  • Extra requirements: Mozilla Firefox recommended

You can’t talk about Sega without mentioning the spiky blue hedgehog that saved the company from being crushed beneath Nintendo's heel. As many fans will attest, the original Sonic The Hedgehog is still better than nearly every Sonic sequel that's been released since, and it stands as a solid 2D platformer worth giving a crack even if you've never touched a Sonic game before.

Streets of Rage 2

  • Genre: Beat 'em up
  • Control Scheme: Keyboard only
  • Extra requirements: Mozilla Firefox recommended

You don't see too many side-scrolling beat-'em-ups these days, but back in the early 90s, they were everywhere. Along with fighting games, they owned the arcade, and it wasn't long before they took over the home console scene, too. Streets of Rage 2 emerged as one of the best to grace the Sega Mega Drive, and its memorable chiptune soundtrack makes it a game well worth jump-kicking back into.

Disney's Aladdin

  • Genre: 2D platformer
  • Control Scheme: Keyboard only
  • Extra requirements: Mozilla Firefox recommended

There was a time, back in the 16-bit era, when games based on movies and TV shows weren't just cheap cash-ins or shallow clones of whatever's on top of the App Store charts. The likes of Disney's Aladdin proved that quality games could be built around popular licenses, provided they weren't rushed out the door to make a quick profit. Released a full year after the movie it was based on, Disney's Aladdin became the third bestselling Sega Mega Drive game thanks to its tight 2D platforming and crisp animation. Whether you're a Disney fan or not, Disney's Aladdin remains as charming as ever.

Check out the Internet Archive's Sega Mega Drive collection

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