Most computer games, both mainstream and indie, require a download and installation. If you're looking for some quick entertainment and don't want to wait, online browser-based games take only moments to load and work on almost any computer, Windows or Mac, even on systems too weak to run regular computer games. Keep in mind, however, that browser games can use a significant amount of Internet bandwidth, so they aren't a good choice when you're on a connection with a data cap, such as when using mobile tethering.
Even though Web-based games don't require downloads themselves, you might need to download a browser plugin to get started. Most Web games run in the Adobe Flash Player plugin, which is included with both Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1 and Google Chrome on all systems. If you prefer a different browser and haven't used Flash before, you need to install the plugin from Adobe's website. Some games use alternative plugins, such as Java or the Unity Web Player (links in the Resources section). All of these plugins are free, but installing them might require permission from a system administrator if you aren't on your personal computer.
Kongregate, owned by GameStop, offers a variety of Web games, ranging from the standard browser fare of casual, puzzle and tower defense games to full-length RPGs and even massively multiplayer games. Most games on the site are free, but some offer perks and extra features for Kreds, the site's virtual currency. You don't need an account to play at Kongregate, but if you register, the site can track your achievements across all the games you play. If you're a GameStop PowerUp Rewards member, you can even earn rewards points every day by completing a selected achievement.
One of the Internet's oldest media sites, Newgrounds first went online in 1995. A large portion of the site is devoted to non-interactive Flash animations, music, art and message boards, but Newgrounds also hosts tens of thousands of free Flash-based games across all genres. Any Newgrounds member can create and upload games, which leads to some unpolished titles, but also provides a huge range of creative ideas. To skip over the weaker entries, check the most popular and highest-rated games sections.
MSN Games and Yahoo Games
To play a quick game of solitaire, spin a free slot machine or battle over a chess board, visit either MSN Games or Yahoo Games. Both sites focus primarily on free casual, card and board games, although some titles have premium paid versions. You can start any single-player game with a single click, but if you want to play against others online, you need to sign in with your Microsoft or Yahoo account, respectively.
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