The landscape of browser games has changed a lot since the death of Flash, but there are still a lot of games you can play for free without paying or downloading a thing. So you won't waste your precious drive space or need a full gaming PC just to have a little fun between classes or meetings.
There are countless great games you can run on anything from a work desktop to an ancient laptop. They may not have the flashiest graphics, but these browser games make up for it in pure fun.
Browser games require almost no effort to get going, and there's almost certainly something for everyone. Not only are there lots of multiplayer browser games, but many singleplayer ones including early, free builds of games that went on to be popular full releases. If you've got some small-to-medium slices of time to kill, these are the games you should play.
Singleplayer browser games
If you're looking for something new to try that won't take up precious hard drive space, try out these singleplayer browser games. You can find a few extra solo browser options in our best free PC games list too.
Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup
Play: Dungeon Crawl | Developer: DCSS Devteam
Originally created to restart development on the venerable Dungeon Crawl, DCSS is now the open source, community-created follow up. Incorporating tiles and the ability to play it in a browser from anywhere, one of the biggest and deepest traditional roguelikes can be at your fingertips over a long work day. Every time you set out to try to claim the Orb of Zot is a fresh adventure combining nearly 30 species and 25 classes with the ever-changing landscape of the dungeon.
Play: Fallen London |Developer: Failbetter Games
Fallen London is the long-running narrative browser game that preceded Failbetter Games' later Sunless Seas and Sunless Skies in the same universe. Despite the release of two paid games, Fallen London still gets new content and stories added and recently had a nice update to the look of its map as well. You play as a newcomer to underground London, a person of leisure able to take on odd side jobs while accepting quests to dig up the secrets of the subterranean city.
Read more: Places from the Fallen London Universe
A Dark Room
Play: A Dark Room | Developer: Doublespeak Games
A Dark Room starts off as a clicker game, but don't let that deter you. It quickly becomes a strategy adventure where you venture out to battling enemies in real time to grow your post-apocalyptic town. You'll need to manage your village's resources so you can better equip your character on expeditions. Heck, it even has a bit of a story and an ending to work towards as your learn more about the cold, apocalyptic world.
Read more: The best games to play while doing homework
Play: Wordle | Developer: Josh Wardle
Wordle took the world by storm, eventually being bought up by the New York Times. If you missed the boat, it's a deceptively simple word game. You have six guesses to figure out a five-letter word. After each guess you're given feedback in the form of yellow and green boxes—yellow for letters that, while part of the secret word, are in the wrong position, and green for letters that are correctly placed. It doesn't take long to play each day's puzzle, and you can brag to friends if you got lucky and nailed it on the first guess.
Read more: There are lots of other games like Wordle that are great for playing in your browser too.
Play: Sqword| Developer: Josh C. Simmons
Browser word games still feel like all the rage lately and Sqword is one that will really stretch your skills. The goal is to take each letter you're given from the deck and place it in a 5x5 grid to create as many words as possible. Never have I thought so hard about consonant density. This one was popular enough that it even had some sites illicitly lifting it, causing the developer to teach the thieves a bit of a lesson. You can read about that part in the link just below.
Play: Celeste Classic | Release date: 2016 | Developer: Maddy Thorson
Before it was a popular platformer, Celeste was a free browser game by the same name. You can still play that early version, now dubbed "classic" for a jaunt through the game jam that became an award-winning indie game. The full release is one of the best indie games out there.
Read more: Celeste review
Play: Joe Danger the game| Developer: Hello Games
Before Hello Games made No Mans Sky, there was the silly stunt platformer Joe Danger. Hello Games revamped the Joe Dagnger games on mobile but then also decided to offer them as free browser games. They take a little bit of time to load up, but the auto run bike tricks are a good time.
Play: Townscaper | Developer: Oskar Stålberg
A stripped-back browser version of the popular indie game. Townscaper is the ultimate desktop toy. If you need something relaxing to play with, there are no complex rules here, and not even that much of a UI—just a color palette and the mouse buttons to let you paint an ocean canvas with your very own seaside vacation spot. There's a simple joy to Townscaper, which is essentially a simple but elegant creativity tool. It's the perfect pick for brief respites with soothing music.
Multiplayer browser games
Play: Catan Universe | Developer: Catan GmbH
A classic board game brought into your browser. Settlers of Catan, now just called Catan, helped usher in the golden age of board games as it grew more and more popular outside of Europe. If you've never played Catan, here's a free opportunity to hate your friends because they won't give you any fucking grain.
Play: Agar.io | Developer: Matheus Valadares
Though Agar.io looks simplistic with its colored circles on a checker-lined background, it's surprisingly challenging. Your circle starts off very small, but when you eat all of the little colored dots around you, you get bigger. As a small circle, you move quickly and are able to dodge the bigger circles trying to eat you. When bigger, you need larger portions of food. To grow even more, you must eat the other players.
Since smaller players move faster, you can split your circle into two different circles of equal mass. When splitting your circle, the new one will shoot out, which is useful for enveloping the smaller player running away from you. Once a bigger player gobbles you up, you have to restart as the smallest possible dot. The circle of life is brutal.
Play: Isleward | Developer: Big Bad Waffle
Isleward doesn't look like a multiplayer game at first. It's a low-res roguelike that has you choosing what character you want to play before dumping you on your own into the city of Strathford. In Strathford you get your bearings, learn how to queue up actions and explore. There are also a few low-level monsters that you can find and kill to level up.
Eventually you'll run into other people and hopefully convince them to adventure with you. A party of different characters is much stronger than one player alone, and significantly more fun. There's a whole world to explore, loads of islands, and lots of loot to find.
Play: Slither.io | Developer: Steve Howse
Like Agar.io, Slither.io is about eating small dots (this time ones that glow) to grow bigger. The twist: you're a snake. Your body gets longer as well as slightly wider as you eat the various dots that are littered around. You can't eat your enemies, but if you time it well, you can force another snake to run into your body. This will make them vanish, leaving behind loads of body dots to collect.
Slither.io also lets you customize the skin of your snake, and there are some awesome options. Consider pimping out your snake with a necklace that dangles as they slither.
Kingdom of Loathing
Play: Kingdom of Loathing | Developer: Asymmetric Publications
Kingdom of Loathing is a sort of pseudo-mmo kind of thing, firmly embedded in the web interface, with drop down menus letting you select your attacks, and page refreshes for every new area. It's a little ugly, but Kingdom of Loathing isn't trying to be pretty. It's trying to be funny, and it's been going strong for years.
Take, for instance, the pun-based classes. The Sauceror flings hot sauce in people's faces, and they get damaged, because hot sauce would really hurt if someone threw it at your face. The Disco Bandits dance at their enemies, fuelled by moxie. And then there's the Haiku Dungeon, where not only are all the descriptions of your enemies in haiku form, but so are your attacks.
The whole game is consistently absurd and amusing, from the enemy types, to the genre conventions it apes so cleverly. And while you can't directly play with other people, you can steal their stuff, join guilds and interact.
If you like Kingdom of Loathing's sense of humor, check out the non-browser cowboy RPG West of Loathing, by the same developers.
Read more: Best Comedy Game 2017: West of Loathing
There are a lot of multiplayer Pictionary-style browser games out there which achieve the basic premise of drawing prompts and guessing them. Skribbl.io is a handy one as it lets you set up a private room without creating an account and includes quite a few custom options like hints, drawing time, number of rounds, and a custom set of words. It has a nice little avatar maker too if you're determined to be a Skribbl.io regular. Of all the many choices out there, Skribbl makes it quite easy to shoot your pals a link to play together without making them jump through hoops.
Play: Pokemon Showdown | Developer: Zarel
If battling trainers is the part of Pokémon games you enjoy, then Pokémon Showdown is for you. This entirely unofficial battle simulator lets you jump straight into matches against other players without having to level up or care for your pocket monsters beforehand. If you die, you don't need to go back to the Pokémon Center and rest up either—you can bounce straight into a new battle.
Pokémon Showdown lets you battle using either a random or a custom team. You can then quickly go through a match, selecting moves and countering the other trainer. This fast-paced game takes all of the work out of raising pokémon, leaving just the gratuitous pokémon takedowns.
Town of Salem
Play: Town of Salem | Developer: BlankMediaGames
If you've ever played the party game of betrayal Mafia or Werewolf, or indeed Among Us, then Town of Salem should feel familiar. You're randomly cast as either a townsperson, a neutral, or one of the mafia. If you're a townsperson, you need to track down mafia members and stop them before they kill everyone in town.
There are many different roles for each category of player with unique abilities to use in the night phase of the game. At night, players plan out their moves and make notes in their will. If they die during the night, the remaining players can use their wills to, hopefully, achieve their goals.
Read more: How Among Us became so wildly popular
Play: Wilds.io | Developer: Rezoner
This hack and slash follows the core principles of the genre: killing people you don't like the look of, and finding loot. There are a bunch of different modes, but the most popular is the default Ruins mode.
Ruins gives you the chance to explore as a member of one of three teams. You can kill other players on different teams, break boxes, and find loot. Armor, potions, and new weapons will help you survive longer in this desert wasteland. Your main objective is to gain bones which appear when people die. If you get enough bones you become the king of the ruins. There are a bunch of other modes, some with shorter times and easier objectives, including soccer. Yes, soccer.
Read more: The action-RPGs you should be playing
Play: Neptune's Pride | Developer: Helmet Games
Neptune's Pride is the epitome of backstabbing, two-faced, genuine human nastiness. Up to eight players start with a few star systems, and then expand outwards, until they meet someone else, and either decide to not kill each other immediately, or have at it.
It's real-time strategy in the same way that glacier movement is real-time. Because the fleets take hours—sometimes days—to get from star to star, you're left with a good deal of time to play the diplomacy game, trying to cement alliances and sabotage those of your enemies. You try to get them alone and start to gently wear away at their trust, leaving a human-shaped receptacle for suspicion. Before you know it you've got galactic civil war on your hands, and you can mop up the pieces.
Or you could play it like an honorable, decent human being. But where's the fun in that?
Read more: Neptune's Pride was PC Gamer UK's Webgame of the Year 2010