Online gaming isn’t a new phenomenon, and there are more titles than ever before to choose from.  Whether you’re brand new to the world, or an experienced gamer looking for the next big thing, you should check out our gaming guide for the inside scoop on hot titles for single and multiplayer online action.  We also give you tips on where to game online for free to get your fix without breaking the bank.

What is Online Gaming?

The first video game dates back to 1958, over a decade before pong became a worldwide sensation.   Since then, technology and gaming have come a long way.  Today, online gaming brings it to a whole new level.

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Any title that’s played either partially or primarily through your internet or computer network is considered an online game.  This includes ones on a PC, a console like a PlayStation or XBox, as well as your smartphone.

You don’t need to play a multiplayer title to be online gaming, although they are some of the most popular.  By connecting to the internet, you can play against other players, be part of an online community, and use integrated features that aren’t available during solo campaigns.

Types of Online Games

There are two main types of online games available today: those that use a LAN and those that require high-speed internet connections.  Here’s the difference.

Local Area Network (LAN)

Local network games allow you to share across any computers and electronic devices within one home network connection.  Every device will need to run its own copy of the game, but you can play cooperatively with others on your network.

Internet or Online Multiplayer 

If the title requires an internet or online multiplayer connection, you’ll need to plug into a high-speed internet connection to play.

Note that all of the modern gaming consoles, like PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii have local and internet-based play options for any games that support them.  The console manufacturer has a unique, separate internet service that users plug into in order to access the web.  For example, a PS3 console connects into the Sony PlayStation Network where you can share live sessions with others on the same console and network with other players.

Best Online Games for One

While most online games are famous for their multi-player features, there are a few that are arguably more fun when you play them by yourself.  Here are three picks for online individual gameplay.

The Walking Dead 

Battling zombies all by yourself wouldn’t be much fun, but the single-player mode in The Walking Dead allows you to recruit non-player allies to your team.  Your character is a man named Lee with a questionable past who braves the zombies, connects with compelling characters, and protects a little girl all while making life or death decisions.

Tomb Raider

In this genesis story of a well-known heroine, Lara Croft is a naive rookie who is marooned on an uncharted island.  This reboot gives you a chance to work with Lara from the beginning, helping her learn new skills and start kicking butt in no time.  You’ll learn combat skills and avoid other violent islanders in a quest to save her friends from the driver’s seat in this engrossing title.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

If a compelling storyline appeals to your inner gamer, The Elder Scrolls might be the perfect pick for you.  Be prepared to spend an inordinate amount of time creating your character during the setup process, but after that’s complete, you can delve into the intricate world that matches your focus.  Lively characters, unique towns, and multi-step quests are perfect for immersing you in single player action.

Best Online Multiplayer Games

There are thousands of multiplayer options in the online gaming world.  Here are our top five picks that each has unique qualities to make for an immersive and fun experience.

Pokémon Showdown

If you’re one of those people that thinks the best part of a Pokémon game is battling trainers, then this version is perfect for you.  Here, they remove all of the work around raising a Pokémon and let you just fight battle after battle for a lot of fast-paced action.

You can immediately jump into matches against other online players without the work of leaving up or caring for your Pokémon ahead of time.  If you’re defeated in battle, you don’t need to head back to the Pokémon center to rest; you can get right back to it without any downtime.

With the online option, you can either use a randomly assigned team, or you can build a custom team based on your personalized criteria.

Don’t Starve Together 

This free expansion to the original Don’t Starve title is perfect for anyone who loves the look of Tim Burton films like “Nightmare Before Christmas.”

A multi-player game where cooperation is key, the goal is to find enough food for your group before you die.  Simple, right?

It is, only if you’re working with the right team.  The trick to this game is delegating responsibility and working together rather than fighting over scraps.  With six or more players, you can easily create a sustainable base and eventually win if everyone respects their roles and is willing to share resources.

The best part is the story generator, which produces even better tales the more people you have around the campfire.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Not your average multiplayer, Divinity: Original Sin 2 supports up to four players, but won’t always all you to play cooperatively.  This competitive-cooperative RPG isn’t a new concept, but this game does it better than most any other.

While there are opportunities to work together, there are also scenarios where you’ll be pitted as rivals going on quests with contradictory objectives.  You might be required to kill off characters that your friends need to complete their mission, or complete stealthier tasks, like poisoning your health potions before sharing them with friends.

While the campaign mode is engrossing and beyond fun for a single player, this is one game that becomes even better if you have a few frenemies to backstab along the way.

Borderlands 2

This massively multiplayer online game, or MMO, is perfect if you prefer something not so massive.  Here, you’ll recruit a party of three friends and complete quests together while getting your hands on awesome and interesting weapons and gear.

Although it’s not thick on plot, it is engaging.  Expect to follow the traditional format of going to a hub, getting a quest, and then completing the quest.

What makes this game notably fun with friends is the probability of some type of exceptional gear being found in the weapons chests.  If you have a competitive nature, you’ll love trying to be the first there to secure the best stuff for yourself.

Call of Duty World War II

This recent Call of Duty online title is essentially three full games wrapped up into one title.  You can play in single-player campaign mode, a multiplayer mode, and then the Nazi Zombies co-op mode.

While this CoD title returns to its roots with more realistic animation, historical battles, and time period appropriate weapons, the Nazi Zombie mode gives the fantasy gamer an option to suit their fancy as well.

How to Play Free Games Online

There are dozens of places to download and play free games online.  You can start by looking in the App store for your mobile device, or just do a general search for games.

You will typically need to download the application or software to your gaming device before you can play.  Some free games will allow you to play directly in your browser without any additional downloads.

There are three main types of free online games available.

  • Free Play:  This game type gives you both software and gameplay for free.  Typically funded by sponsors or through donations, there are 2D, 3D and MMO gaming options available.
  • Free Play with Ads:  In these cost-free games, in-game advertising is what pays for the game.  Expect to see banner ads during gameplay, or pop-ups that appear at intervals.
  • Free Play with Micro-Transactions:  While these games are free to download and play, to win you’ll need to purchase items or currency through an in-game transaction periodically.

Must-Play MMO Free Game

One free game that’s hitting the radar of anyone who loves online gaming is Ascent: Infinite Realm.  This MMO is a role-playing game with a steampunk vibe that takes place in a sky-based realm.  Fittingly abbreviated AIR, it’s visually similar to Tera, but with a completely different vibe and storyline.

Expect fast-paced action featuring battles and combat, crafting, building, and unique challenges like barrel racing as you progress through the approximately 30 hours of initial gameplay before the post-game content.

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