Look, Chromebooks weren’t made to be gaming PCs. They don’t come with top-end (or even any, really) dedicated graphics cards, or beefy, expensive CPUs. You buy a Chromebook because you want a cheap laptop that’s really good at browsing Facebook and typing up some documents, with the occasional Netflix marathon streaming-fest on rainy Saturdays. You don’t buy it to challenge your friends in Overwatch or play long sessions of League of Legends.
But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on gaming altogether! The Chrome Web Store is filled with fun alternatives and time-wasters of all sorts of genres: first-person shooters, puzzle games, platformers, and even MMORPGs can all be found right inside the Web Store, often for free or exceptionally low prices. You might not be playing the newest AAA game, but nevertheless, games can populate your C hromebook in spades. Let’s take a look at some of the best titles you can play on your Chromebook right now.
If you've never experienced id Software's second groundbreaking shooter, here's what you need to know about Quake. When the game launched in 1996, it was critically acclaimed for both its gameplay, its graphics, and its sound—featuring audio by Trent Reznor!—but also was one of the first shooters to have online capabilities. Before Overwatch, before Call of Duty, before Halo, there was Quake.
Once you do manage to remap your controls to standard WSAD and mouse buttons, though, the single player campaign I tested worked surprisingly well—and honestly, didn't look too bad. I mean, Quake is certainly dated, but if you have an affinity for retro PC games, or just don't mind the jagged edges on each character model, you'll have no problem playing Quake through your Chromebook. Shockingly, even using a trackpad to move and aim my weapons didn't present any major problems in the game.
Here's a couple notes, though: first, I didn't get a chance to play the multiplayer portions of Web Quake. Reviews seem to be positive, so you shouldn't have any issues setting up a server with a couple of friends, but unfortunately, no one wanted to play Quake with me. Second, playing the game in fullscreen mode on my Chromebook caused the game to cut off UI elements like my ammo and health. If you give Web Quake a shot, you'll want to make sure you watch for the resolution to be set properly for the display you're playing on. Overall, Quake was a fun romp, and surprisingly one of the best ports of a game I've played through a browser window. Definitely check this one out.
This one goes out to the folks missing out on playing World of Warcraft or any other MMO they might be interested in on classic Windows PCs. If you want to try to get back into playing in high fantasy worlds but don't want to invest the cash into an expensive gaming laptop, give Arcane Legends a try: you might just be impressed with what you find.
Arcane Legends started life as a mobile game for iOS and Android, but it's since expanded onto Windows, Mac, and Chrome OS with a browser version. Since it was made to run on mobile devices—and because it's nearly five years old—it isn't the best looking game on this list. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth looking into, especially if you're into MMOs or other co-op RPGs, and you can convince a friend to check out the game with you.
Much like other games in the genre, you begin the game by selecting your class. Classes are pretty limited here: you can select Warrior, Rogue, or Sorcerer. These are pretty standard class-types in RPG games, but if you aren't familiar, the Warrior class focuses on strength and tanking (or, taking damage because you have a high level of defense), the Rogue class focuses on stealthily dealing high amounts of damage while avoiding enemy attacks, and the Sorcerer class can supply crowd control using spells and magic that depend on a sorcerer's mana (or magic) supply. It's pretty standard stuff, which makes it a really good game to check out if you've never dived into RPG territory before.
Beyond that, the game plays like World of Warcraft or other online multiplayer titles. You can select and conquer quests, start guilds, and communicate online to accomplish tasks the game sets out for you. In a cool twist, Arcane Legends allows for gameplay across every single platform its on, so if you choose to play on your smartphone, you can still team up with your friend who has a Macbook and your other friend who has a Chromebook. It's pretty cool.
Arcane Legends doesn't smash open the genre or raise it to new heights with incredible features or innovative gameplay. But if you want to waste a couple hours in an MMO environment with your friends, this is your best bet available on Chrome OS.
Oh Spelunky. You will have my heart forever, even if I have to warn readers about your keyboard controls.
Look, I'll be honest: despite being a dedicated PC gamer, I'm pretty inept when it comes to keyboard and mouse controls. I played League of Legends for a few years, and that's about the extent of my experience not using a controller. In fact, the controls are a major reason I never played the first Witcher game: I'm terrified of using those keyboard controls. With that little note on my skill level, let's talk about Spelunky.
I love this game, and have for a long time. I own it on at least two platforms, and I think it's a great randomly-generated platformer. For those new to Spelunky, you fill the shoes of an Indiana Jones type, exploring infinite caves and collecting money on the way. You fight snakes and other creatures, climb ropes and ladders, and descend deeper and deeper into tombs looking for treasure. It's got a cool retro look to its graphics, and, oh yeah—the game is hard. You will die in this game.
So it's here where I say that I've only ever played Spelunky with a controller, and never with the original keyboard and mouse controls. I don't like them, but I also know that I'm probably in the minority here. Before the game came to consoles in 2012, it was available on PC—that's the version you get here. And it works! It's certainly worth installing on your Chromebook for when you're trying to distract yourself from writing that college essay. But, for me, I found the controls a bit too challenging to fully enjoy the game. I couldn't get used to the button layout on the keyboard, and I died a couple times while trying to descend because I forgot which button did what I needed it to do.
That isn't a knock against Spelunky though, and you should seriously play this game if you haven't. It was one of the best games of 2012, and its earlier version available on Chrome isn't bad either.
I fully expected Polycraft to be a bad Minecraft rip-off. The name has the word "craft" in it. "Poly" sounds like it's describing a low-poly art style (similar to Minecraft), and everyone knows that every platform under the sun contains a thousand Minecraft knock-offs. A search in the Chrome Web Store brought me results for "Block Craft Tetris." It has two-stars, out of 210 reviews. You can probably assume it's terrible.
But Polycraft had a strong 4/5 on the Web Store, so I had to check it out, and—color me surprised—it isn't a take on Minecraft. Really! Polycraft is a tower-defense game that utilizes a resource management system similar to 2016's indie darling Stardew Valley, while also featuring crafting and gathering. It's sorta like Minecraft, but also, not really at all. You don't build houses or forts of your own design; instead, you focus on gathering materials on your island and building up defenses against the small enemy creatures spread throughout the world.
The game also has a pretty distinct visual style. I wouldn't call it beautiful, but it certainly isn't trying to rip off Minecraft with its design, and for a game with "craft" in the title, that's a benefit for sure. The game does have a lot of in-app purchases, so do be careful when building that you don't accidentally waste money on a simple web-based game like Polycraft (unless, of course, you want to. That's your prerogative, man). I also thought the game was a bit challenging to control with a trackpad; unlike Quake, which just had me rotating the camera and clicking down when I wanted to shoot, you move your character around in Polycraft with the mouse. Using a trackpad instead of a traditional mouse means you're going to be sliding and moving your finger a lot, and to me, it got a bit frustrating after only a few minutes of playing. This one might be a game I recommend picking up a mouse for, just so you can more easily move your character around the environment.
I don't have a clear winner out of the games I played on this list, but I probably had the most fun playing Polycraft. It's a surprisingly well-built game, with a simple and easy-to-use interface, and I wouldn't mind wasting some more time in this world.
Whether or not you try out Polycraft, though, just promise me you won't download Block Craft Tetris.
While the title Funky Karts might imply that the game is a direct take on a game like Mario Kart or similar kart-based racing games that have been popular since the mid-1990s, Funky Karts is actually a cute, well-animated racer that I really enjoyed playing. The game isn't as complex as a platformer you might get from Nintendo or Ubisoft (their recent Rayman games are woefully underrated), I really enjoyed playing through the first few levels of Funky Karts.
The gameplay is simple: your kart is always propelling itself forward, and your job is to make sure the kart lands the necessary jumps needed to make it through the level. There are coins to collect, for those who enjoy collecting items in similar titles, as well as a time-based trial, and if you're trying to earn all achievements throughout the game, you're going to have to finish the level with all coins and under a pretty strict time limit. It's challenging. The game is rather forgiving, thankfully: for example, despite the kart always moving forward, it actually doesn't move too fast (this isn't a Sonic-type platformer). Likewise, the game is built around wall jumping, which is pretty easy to perform, as well as just floaty enough that you always feel in control of your character.
The controls, I should mention, are simple but effective. Unlike a game like Spelunky, I didn't have any problems using the arrow keys and space bar to jump and move throughout the game. Everything felt as tight as I wanted it to be, and I never had any deaths or missed jumps due to control mishaps.
Funky Karts isn't going to light the world on fire, but it's well animated, features smooth and intuitive gameplay, and enough content to keep you busy while you're waiting for a meeting to start or a project to render. I'll definitely be returning to this one.
Entanglement is a puzzle game that can be played both solo (in solitaire mode), or with other players (in co-op mode). In solitaire mode, your main goal is to work around the tiles featured on the game board and connect a path spawning from the center of the board. The default (and only free) board is shaped as a hexagon, meaning your goal is to work slowly out of the center of the hexagon while rotating slowly around and making sure you don't hit the outside of the ring. Connecting the path involves you placing smaller hexagons inside the larger arena, and rotating them to connect your path. Once you've decided on a path, you click on the board to lock your hexagon piece in. From there, you move onto the next piece. If your path hits a dead-end, it constitutes a game over, and your final score is tallied and recorded.
Co-op mode is, perhaps, more interesting, because it's here where Entanglement becomes a competitive puzzle game (a genre not particularly known for its competitiveness). You can select up to four players (I tested it with two), and the game becomes a race to see who can connect the longest trail while also shutting out their opponents. It's ridiculously fun, and, I imagine, only more difficult the more players you add.
I'm a big fan of this one, especially since it's the only game on this list with local co-op. Grab a loved one, and try this one out—though, don't be surprised if the game ends with a good shouting match after one of you screws over the other.
Heroes of Loot will be immensely familiar to anyone who's played The Binding of Isaac, because it takes a lot of the exploration and dungeon-crawling elements from that game and combines them with loot collecting like Diablo 3.
You select a character, each with different stats, and begin exploring a dungeon. In a similar twist to Isaac, the game's shooting is automatic and without reloading (which, in more difficult levels, almost makes the game resemble a shmup or a bullet-hell game). I prefer the controls in Isaac, in which you use WSAD in conjunction with your arrow keys to move and shoot at the same time. Here, your aiming is relatively automatic, and done with a mouse-click instead of with additional keyboard keys. You explore the dungeon, each floor growing deeper and harder. It doesn't quite have the same difficulty or novelty as a game like Isaac, however, and I found that I wasn't immediately grabbed by the game at first.
However, gathering loot is fun, and the intercut loading screens is filled with some fun dialogue exchanges between characters that I enjoyed. There are also multiple power-ups per level, such as electricity weapons or flamethrowers that rotate in circles, destroying enemies faster and more efficient than typical arrows. Multiple characters means that you can change up the game whenever you start to grow bored, and the game itself has a nice, retro aesthetic to it (again, quite similar to The Binding of Isaac).
Heroes of Loot isn't a free game, but it does have a pretty extensive demo if you want to try out the gameplay for yourself or test how the game works on your Chromebook.