The 100 best free online games on PC

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PLATFORMER

N 2.0

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It’s all about the replays. After hundreds of attempts in which your walljumping ninja is sliced by lasers, burst by missiles and crushed by thwomps, you get a replay of your successful run to the level exit, in which you seem to dodge each threat with psychic reflexes. There are hundreds of levels, and thus hundreds of opportunities to feel so satisfied.

Meat Boy

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It lacks its paid-for older brother’s flashier features, but the original Meat Boy is a chunk of PC platforming history. The series’ fantastic controls—at once crisp and squishy, ping-ponging Meat Boy bloodily off the environment with each leap and slide—got their start here, and the first set of vertically-scrolling levels offer a stiff challenge. Very much worth upgrading to Super Meat Boy once you’re done.

Pause Ahead

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Here's a novel idea: a 2D puzzle platformer with a time-bending twist. Okay, so Pause Ahead might not be original in concept, but it's proficient in execution. You must make your way through the difficult trap filled levels, completing them within the time limit despite a control scheme that seems unsuited to twitch acrobatics. Why it works is that with a tap of the Shift key you freeze time, rendering you unable to course-correct, but keeping your momentum. At the most basic level, that means running towards an approaching buzzsaw, freezing time and skidding past. As long as time's not moving, you'll pass through the danger unharmed. Hit a wall, however, and you'll lose your speed. If you're hovering over an obstacle when you resume, you'll instantly be killed.

Escape Goat

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Ian Stocker's excellent Escape Goat is now available in browser form, should you want to play the goat-based puzzle platformer without having to download or pay anything for the privilege. (Of course, you should consider buying the game's recently released Steam version if you like what you see.) Either way, you'll be playing a smart, witty puzzler with one hell of a soundtrack, and the cutest mouse companion you'll ever met.

Wonderputt

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Shybot

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Sometimes I'm in the mood for a silly-physics-based kissing game, an experimental first-person wanderer, an exquisite text adventure—or an unassuming robot-based platformer featuring a Game Boy colour palette and an infectious chiptune soundtrack. I suspect most of the words I've supplied to descriptions of other sidescrolling platformers would apply equally well here, but at the risk of repeating myself, Shybot is a mechanically exact jumping game with an adorable main character, set in a fairly sizeable, open-ended world. There will always be a place in my heart for one of those.

Atum

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In Atum, you play as a person sitting at their desk playing a side-scrolling 2D platformer. That desk is littered with detritus; everything from magnets and batteries to cigarettes and the lighter that lit them. Meanwhile, the white silhouette in the screen inside your screen keeps running into a variety of seemingly impassable objects on his way through this extremely meta puzzler.

OWWW

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There have plenty of games riffing off Terry Cavanagh's VVVVVV, but OWWW is probably the oddest, and definitely the only one to be set in Terry's mouth. I like to think of it as retribution for VVVVVV's bastard hard Veni, Vidi, Vici section.

You must explore the teeth and atriums (yes, really) of the oral dungeons, flipping gravity to avoid spikes as you navigate to each screen's key and unlock the exit. Each level has critters that move across the screen, but instead of hurting you, you can flip onto them to be carried past hazards. Delightfully weird and expectedly difficult.

Bubsy 3D: Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective

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Don't worry, Bubsy—the '90s gaming C-lister—isn't about to make a comeback. Instead, Bubsy 3D: Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective is a weird art-platformer by Zenith creators Arcane Kids. It's a punk edutainment game, in which the titular cat-thing takes a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Using a deliberately awkward control scheme, you jump and glide your way across floating platforms, moving towards the museum and receiving hints from the talking frogs.

Spin Spin, Episode 1

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It's happened again! Someone's let the indie platformers out of their cage and they've started breeding. Spin Spin plays like the lovechild of And Yet It Moves and VVVVVV, taking the former's world-rotating mechanic and latter's clean, spike-filled presentation.

You play as Spin, trying to get back to his girlfriend after he fell down a hole, the klutz. He can't jump, but can turn the world clockwise or anti-clockwise to navigate through the deadly maze. Crucially, this can only be done once per fall, with the direction locked until Spin lands on solid ground.