Games to Play Online with Friends

by Ashley Wirgau

Longing for the good old days when we could gather in stuffy living rooms playing board games against friends and loose acquaintances? Who would have thought? We actually miss the Jones’ with their fancy hors d’oeuvres and mandatory coasters. Fret no more, forlorn party-goers. There’s a new way to play, one that doesn’t require hand sanitizer or non-negotiable coasters. Since the pandemic put us on lockdown, virtual games and gatherings have dramatically increased in both popularity and variety. So, bust out the chips and dip because your social scene is about to get back on track as we introduce you to a new way to game night.

The Classics

Words with Friends and Angry Birds - even the least techy among us has heard of these online attractions. Dating back to the dawn of smart phones, most of us have dabbled at least a time or two with these classics. Both games have received a facelift in recent times, though, and Words with Friends 2 now lets players battle bots should they happen to lose all their real friends (or their competitors take a bathroom break). Angry Birds has updated, as well, adding a new party mode which allows multiple players sharing the same wifi network. While this doesn’t help you compete with friends across town, you can battle your husband without having to hear his commentary.

Draw Something, an undisputed favorite, is another easy and entertaining way to hang with friends during social distancing. Think Pictionary-for-your-phone. Just like the traditional game, the worse you are, the more fun it is, so don’t let a lack of artistic ability scare you away. Finally, there is everyone’s go-to pastime – trivia. The gold standard for online trivia options likely goes to Quiz Up, a free and simple way to connect around similar interests with both acquaintances and strangers. Users can narrow in on preferred areas of expertise and challenge others skilled in similar arenas.

Traditional Games Gone World Wide Web

If you have a collection of tried-and-true board or card games, chances are pretty good those traditional games have found their way to the virtual world. Family favorites like Scattergories, Clue, and Connect 4 all have their own online adaptations, each one closely resembling the original. UNO also has a popular virtual version called UNO & Friends while Scrabble GO serves as the online platform for that beloved word-nerd game. You don’t have to be a techy type to give these games a go, either. Each is relatively easy to start up and can be enjoyed with cross-town companions.

What the Kids Are Up To

Unless you’ve been living under a giant soundproof rock, you know that Fortnite is all the rage for the teen and tween crowd. Rated 12+, this virtual environment includes Battle Royale, Party Royale, Creative and Save the World game modes which allow users to participate in a wide range of activities with friends and other users. And the entertainment isn’t just reserved for kids. There are plenty of adults logging on to pass some of those extra hours stuck inside this winter. For the younger ones who aren’t ready for the armed warfare of Fortnite, both Minecraft and Roblox are great opportunities to encourage creativity and collaboration. These buildable virtual worlds keep kiddos engaged for hours, offering a window of rest for exhausted parents trying to keep up with the demands of this most unconventional year.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Mario Kart, a longtime favorite of kids and adults alike, has an adaptation allowing fans to play in an online environment outside of their chosen gaming system. While it does require a Nintendo account to play, Mario Kart Tour now provides the chance for multi-player use via the App Store and Google Play, however, some tracks are only accessible with a paid Mario Kart Tour Gold Pass.

Programs that Make It All Easier

There are tons of apps out there housing one-off games to play with friends, but there are also options like Houseparty and Jackbox that provide users with a one-stop shop for a variety of games. Houseparty is a social networking app that makes game night more convenient. It includes access to private rooms where friends can hang out virtually, and also comes loaded with four different games: Trivia, Heads Up, Quick Draw, and Chips and Guac. The best part? It’s completely free to use.

Jackbox, on the other hand, is a pay-to-play option. Unlike Houseparty, though, Jackbox has a large assortment of games to choose from and users are able to select and pay for individual games or can purchase discounted party packs. Once purchased, the selected games are yours to play indefinitely, and users can choose friends to join in the fun (none of whom have to pay any additional money). In the end, Jackbox provides a lot of bang for just a few bucks.

2020 has come and gone, but the pandemic and our social distancing guidelines are still holding steady. If at the start of this new year, you have found yourself running out of shows to binge and puzzles to assemble, maybe it’s time to jump aboard the online game train. Truth be told, the party has been going for a while, but since it’s no longer confined to that stuffy living room, there is still plenty of space for you.


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