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Game-On!: The Wonders of Free Online Games

Jan 25, 2015 04:07PM ● By Kieran Gilman

Recently, my laptop’s fan broke.  That means trying to play any of my games on Steam was causing it to heat up to about 200 degrees.  As much as I love Civilization V, it’s not worth melting part of my computer and having to buy a whole new one.  Thus, I turned to one of my old resources for resolving boredom: free online games.  Here, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites.  Some of them I find more interesting than anything I could get for a modern console.  They may not have the fancy visuals or a big budget, but that just goes to show that it’s possible to create a great game even with a small amount of resources.

Note: Most of these links will be from Kongregate, a Gamestop affiliated site that hosts online games and holds miniature contests for developers.  I enjoy Kongregate because they keep everything very organized, and make games easy to find.  However, there are many other places to find online games, and many of the games I list here may have been hosted somewhere else before showing up on Kongregate.  Go to whatever site you’re most comfortable with.

The Company of Myself (Platformer/Puzzle, 2DArray, 2009) and Fixation (Platformer/Puzzle, 2DArray, 2012)

I enjoy enriching stories in the games I play, and I make no exception when it comes to online games.  Many games have shown me that it’s possible to create a deep, thoughtful story even without the power that regular PC and console games have.  The Company of Myself and its prequel, Fixation, are two platformer/puzzle games by 2DArray that I played a while ago, and while I couldn’t tell you specifics about the story, I do remember how well the gameplay meshed with it.  Many story-based games suffer from having the gameplay feel irrelevant to the story, like solving simple math problems to get to the next page of a book.  But these two do it seamlessly.

Play this if you like: Braid.  One of my favorite indie titles.

Upgrade CompleteUpgrade Complete 2Upgrade Complete 3mium (Action/Shooter, ArmorGames, 2009/2011/2015)

These games aren’t overly complex.  They poke fun at games with copious amounts of upgrades, and how players are often drawn to these sorts of games.  I’ll admit: something about upgrades in games feels satisfying.  I think it’s because it’s a clear view of progress, which makes us feel accomplished, and pushes us to keep playing.  The third game, which I recently played, also takes shots at ‘freemium’ games, something I touched on briefly in my last article: free games that encourage you to spend real money for certain advantages.  Sometimes, it’s something as simple as disabling advertisements, and other games, like the recently advertised Game of War: Fire Age, literally reward the players who spend the most money.  The gameplay itself, as in the shooter inside the game, is very simple.  Thankfully, the developers strike a balance by not making it too monotonous of a process.

Play this if you like: Parodies and games that make fun of themselves.  Seriously.

no-one has to die. (Puzzle/Interactive Fiction, StuStutheBloo, 2013)

This one’s unique.  The puzzle game is, again, simple, and nothing to write home about.  But the story in between is fascinating.  This falls under a genre called Interactive Fiction.  Longer games in this genre are called Visual Novels.  The problem I’ve found with this genre is that they have to be done right.  The story has to be compelling enough to continue despite the gameplay being minimal.  The player also needs to feel as though what they’re doing matters to the story.  Poorly made games in this genre don’t come across as games at all, and the stories are often very trope-y.  Again, this is a game where the gameplay itself isn’t great, but it’s all to fuel the story in between.

Play this if you like: Sci-Fi short stories.  It is a pretty twisted game but it’s all text-based.

Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher (Interactive Fiction/Puzzle, Chief Wakamakamu and ToMorning, 2013)

Some more interactive fiction.  This one is pretty funny at times, but is actually really educational.  I’m impressed by how much I learned about classic philosophy from this one.  And while the author clearly states his own view on morality in the end, it’s incredibly thought provoking throughout, and whether you agree or disagree with him is up to you.  A little bit of a puzzle game, but just through trying to figure out what to say (Note: The “Your Face is Ugly!” comment is never actually useful, unfortunately.  I didn’t try it out to see what happens though, so feel free).

Play this if you like: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.  This game is a very obvious parody of the Phoenix Wright series.  Personally, I love the Phoenix Wright games.  They don’t sound like they should be good; you play as a defense attorney.  But you play in the future where trials can only last three days and the standard is “Guilty until proven innocent.”  I highly recommend giving it a shot as well.

Here’s some more games that I won’t go into as much detail about but are still very well made:

Rebuild and Rebuild 2 (Strategy, sarahnorthway, 2011): Strategy game about reclaiming a city overrun by zombies.

Clicker Heroes and Adventure Capitalist (Idle, Playsaurus and HyperHippoGames respectively, 2014): Two of the strongest competing idle games of 2014.  What’s an idle game?  It’s a game that progresses without you even having it open.  When you do open it again, you make choices based on the progress.  It’s more fun than it sounds.  I’ll go into more detail another time.

Bloons TD 5 (Strategy/Tower Defense, Ninjakiwi, 2012): Tower defense is a genre of games where waves of enemies come at you at different intervals and travel along a set path.  You set up towers along the path to destroy them before they get to your base.  There are a few different ones, but I think this one is one of the best.  It’s fun, fast, and pretty darned cute.

Next week, I plan on writing a series of posts delving into the different genres and subgenres of games.  Genres can get a little confusing, especially when you get into the different varieties of strategy games.  I’ll be taking on two a week, and I’ll try to cover as much as I can.

In the meantime, feel free to recommend your favorite online games!

And remember you can e-mail me with questions at:
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