There are a staggering amount of choices and options for anyone who wants to play games online for free. From brainless sidescrollers to immersive console experiences, nongamers and lifelong players alike can find something to love.
Casual Online Games
The internet is awash in free, simple, time-killing games. From classic solitaire and brick-breaking games to Mario clones and small-scale shooters, there are free online games to suit any taste. Most are designed to fill a few minutes of downtime with mindless fun. A few, like Bejeweled and Asteroids clones, are so addictive you may find yourself playing them for more than just a few moments here and there.
A simple Google search for "play online games for free" will bring back more pages than you could ever need.
Hardcore Online Games
While the vast majority of free online games are quick and simple, a handy have the depth of a console game. Perhaps the best example is the internet phenomenon Runescape, a fantasy role-playing game in the same vein of World of Warcraft. Although free games can not compete with the graphics and features of subscription-based games, Runescape and games like it offer a surprisingly deep gaming experience. Players can sink months into its complex leveling system and dozens of quests.
Social Networking Website Games
Both MySpace and Facebook, the leading social networking sites on the web, allow you to play online games for free. These games are usually less complex than their console counterparts. Most can be played unfairly; rather than progressing level by level, players are faced with daily challenges. The popular Facebook application FarmVille, for example, tasks players with caring for their own farm and constantly generates new events to keep players interested.
Most of these social networking games allow players to post updates on their progress into their "feed," an excellent feature for encouraging friendly competition.
PlayStation 3 and Wii Games
Although you'll have to pay for the game disc itself, online play for the Wii and PlayStation 3 is completely free. The Xbox 360, on the other hand, charges a fee for access to its online Xbox Live service.
The two consoles are radically different in how they approach online play. The Wii's online catalog stays consistent with the console's mission to make gaming accessible for nongamers. Most of the Wii's online games tend towards casual, friendly competition rather than hardcore match-ups. The PlayStation 3 is the console of choice for the hardcore crowd who wants to play games online for free.
The nonexistent price tag for playing Wii and PlayStation 3 online comes with a few drawbacks. Quite often players will find their games riddled with glitches or time lag. The PS3 and Wii networks lack the ease of use and connectivity features of Xbox Live, and they are much more susceptible to manipulation by cheaters and crooks. Sony and Nintendo are much slower than Microsoft to update and improve their online infrastructure. Still, there's no cheaper console alternative for anyone who wants to play games online for free.