The best online games to play with friends

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Carlos Laforet Coll
@carloslaforetcoll

From Among Us to Jackbox Party Packs and Virtual Escape Rooms. The pandemic and social distancing recommendations may have changed your usual plans with family and friends this year. But you can still play online games together, even from afar. This list brings together the best online games to play with friends.



Whether you're looking for old-school favorites, Party games, escape rooms, or hard-core board game options, there's likely a virtual option as more people turn to technology for creative socializing during social distancing. Watching movies and shows together through extensions like Netflix Party (now called Teleparty), Amazon Prime Video Watch Party, Disney Plus GroupWatch and Airtime for YouTube has also become a popular way to meet virtually.

Here are some of the best online games you can play with friends, no matter what kind of experience you're looking for. We will update this list regularly as we find new games you might like.

Best game for easy online party games

Jackbox Games are the holy grail of social distance gaming: the multiplayer party game options are incredibly simple to learn but still a lot of fun to play and it's also easy to stream or share screen games from one device to a group to a virtual game night. Everyone plays in a web browser on their phones, so no app or console is needed. You can even mirror your Android or iOS device to your TV.


Here's how the Jackbox Party Pack works: A person must purchase one of six Jackbox Party Packs, or one or more individual games, on Steam (for PC, Mac and Linux). The packs contain five games, and are also available on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and other devices.


After purchase, you can join a video chat via Zoom call, Skype, Google Hangouts or wherever you prefer for a video call, launch the game on your laptop and use the screen sharing option so that all other players on the call can see the screen as well. As mentioned, everyone plays together on their mobile devices using a browser and going to Jackbox.tv, where you will be asked to enter a code.

Other options include using Steam Remote Play Together, sharing your Discord screen, sharing through your game console, or just setting up a webcam in front of your TV. Jackbox also provides information on how to stream your games.

Each pack includes a variety of different games that might ask you to answer trivia questions, draw weird doodles or write the best joke. The games are light, humorous and include clear instructions, so they are easy for novice players to learn.

Best game to fool your friends (in good fun of course)

Among Us

If you're a fan of games like Mafia or Werewolf, you'll love Among Us, an online multiplayer social deduction game from developer InnerSloth. Play as a crew member aboard a spaceship, sky headquarters or planetary base, trying to keep your ship together and return to Earth with a group of four to ten people (be they you know IRL or strangers online). But one crew member has been replaced by a shape-shifting parasitic alien who wants to eliminate the rest of the crew before the ship gets home. The problem is that the imposter looks like everyone else and will sabotage the ship, sneak through vents, trick other players and try to frame others, all in an attempt to go undetected and kill the crew.



Meanwhile, non-alien crew members must perform tasks to repair the ship and cannot speak unless a death is reported. Then, the surviving crew can openly debate via chat who they think is the imposter and make their best guess as to who to vote to get off the ship. If the imposter is eliminated, the crew wins. But if the group accidentally votes for a crew member, they all return to the ship until another body is found, and they vote again.

Among Us is free to play on iOS and Android devices (you can download it from the App Store or Google Play Store). You can also buy the game to play on a PC (you can download it from Steam or itch.io). A big benefit is that you can play with people seamlessly across different platforms.

Be warned, the free mobile version has ads. After downloading and opening the game on your device, you will see a pop-up detailing AdMob usage and data collection. If you want to opt out of ads and data collection, you can purchase the ad-free version of the app by tapping Remove Ads and following the instructions to select your payment method.

Although this game was released two years ago, Twitch streamers caught it in the last few months, and it has now been downloaded over 86 million times.

Best all-in-one game and video chat experience

Backyard

If you want to play together virtually but don't want the hassle of setting up a separate zoom or chat, try Backyard, a free platform that combines gaming, video and chat in one place. It was released to the general public recently.



Sign up with your Google or Apple account and create a Space. You will receive a code to share with others (similar to Jackbox Games) so they can enter your Private Space. Then choose a game to play. Backyard has slightly tweaked versions of popular games such as Letter Tile (Scrabble), Codewords (Codenames) and Wordplay: Cards Against Humans (Cards Against Humanity). You can play directly from your web browser.

Games range in size from one to twelve players. Backyard will be free to use until 2021.

best virtual escape room

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The Escape Game

Put your puzzle solving skills to the test with a virtual escape room. Try to solve all the puzzles and follow the clues to escape the computer room before time runs out, just like you would when playing the real world version.

One option for ages 12+ is TEG Unlocked: The Heist from The Escape Game. In the two-part game for one to four players, you'll work as a secret agent trying to thwart an alleged art thief.

If you're looking for a more kid-friendly option, there's a free Harry Potter-themed escape room created by the Peters Township Public Library in McMurray, Pennsylvania, using Google Docs.

best virtual board games

Tabletopia

If you're looking to play traditional tabletop board games online, check out Tabletopia, which calls itself an "online arena" for playing over 900 board games just like you would in real life. You can play in a desktop browser for Mac or Windows, or download the platform from Steam, App Store or Google Play Store.

You'll find fun classics like chess and Texas Hold 'Em, or more in-depth options like Scythe and Clans of Caledonia to play with. Start your own game with friends or join a game in progress with spots available.

You can play some fun game options for free with the bronze pack, or upgrade to the silver or gold pack to access premium games.

Another similar option is Tabletop Simulator, which includes classic game options like chess, poker, dominoes, Mahjong, and puzzles. Create your own original games on the platform, as well as play those created by others.

You'll see some familiar titles here, but note that most of them were created by other users, as opposed to real game developers. You can buy Desktop Simulator on Steam for Windows and Mac and then share your screen to play with friends.

Best heads up game and easy mobile games

House party

Just a heads up: the app has been rumored to have enabled Netflix account hacks with lax security protocols. However, the company said it was not breached or that no data was exposed and offered a $1 million reward for proof of the issue, claiming it is most likely linked to the reuse of login credentials and passwords. Houseparty is available for iOS, Android, MacOS and Chrome.

Best game for a low-key hangout

Animal Crossing: New Horizon

Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched on Nintendo Switch in March, right at the start of a lot of coronavirus shelter orders. This video game took the world by storm and its social aspect in gameplay made social distancing a little easier. While you can do simple tasks like growing fruits, planting trees and designing rooms by yourself, you can also invite friends to visit your island and go fishing and exploring together. Additionally, a November update adds a Turkey Day meeting on your island that you can help host for other residents. If you don't have a switch to play, you can also check out the mobile version, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.

Best games for those short on time

Jogos para celular: Fortnite, Words with Friends 2, Scrabble GO, Uno & Friends, Draw Something

You may already be familiar with popular mobile games that you can play with friends anytime. Fortnite, Words with Friends 2, Scrabble GO, Uno & Friends, and Draw Something are great options for simple games that let you keep in touch and get away when you have time throughout the day.

If you mostly play solo, you might want to check out a mobile game subscription service. Apple Arcade has a library of over 130 original games, including nostalgic favorites Pac-Man Party Royale and Frogger in Toytown, along with new hits like Crossy Road Castle and Ultimate Rivals: The Rink.

For Android users, Google Play Pass gives you access to over 350 games, including Monument Valley, Risk, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

There's always the option of going as traditional as possible in your virtual games: you can find free online versions of some classics like Battleship. You can also do crossword puzzles with friends through The Washington Post. The Table Simulator mentioned above also includes games like chess, poker, dominoes and puzzles that you can play with friends if you both buy the platform.

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