If you’re on a tight budget, then no doubt you’re the owner of a thousand and one worries. Here’s a nice revelation, though: if money’s a bit scarce but you have a semi-decent computer, you already have access to hundreds of free games.
Not surprisingly, only some free-to-play games are worth experiencing, while others are better off festering in a pit somewhere. Part two of our guide to online free-to-play games will direct you to some of the best free game offerings in the Sports/Racing, Simulation, and Kids/Family genres.
TOP FIVE FREE SPORTS/RACING GAMES
Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online — Tiger Woods’ real-life golf record has seen better days in recent months, but EA’s Tiger Woods franchise is still brimming with vitality. Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online is an online variation of the series, and offers dozens of courses as well as integration with the PC version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12.
World Golf Tour — World Golf Tour is a Tiger-free environment, but its online options are top-notch. Up to four players can play online, and can compete in tournaments for prizes. Realistic 3D graphics do a good job of re-creating golf courses from around the world.
Need for Speed: World — This free-to-play take on the famous Need for Speed franchise combines massively multiplayer online (MMO) gameplay elements with the stuff that makes offline racing games good (namely, illegal racing and the cop chases that follow). Choose from a garage of 50 cars, but don’t go with anything named “Pinto” or “Gremlin.”
Project Powder — Project Powder is an online racing game that does away with wheels and puts players on snowboards instead. Up to eight players can shred at once, and the game is so easy to get into that anyone outside of the world of snowboarding can pick it up and have a good time.
FreeStyle Street Basketball — An online 3D basketball game. Freestyle Street Basketball is an exemplary specimen of a rare genre, as MMO basketball games are very hard to come by. Like the hands-on version of basketball you were probably humiliated at during your high school career, FreeStyle Street Basketball is very easy to learn–and even if you do fail in your earliest games, nobody has to see your shame.
TOP FIVE FREE SIMULATION GAMES
The Sims Social — The Sims Social combines the addictive gameplay of The Sims with online elements that encourage you to get your friends involved in your attempts to play God. We can only surmise that EA conceived this free-to-play game in a bid to flatline the world’s online productivity.
CityVille — Zynga’s take on city-building is as charming as the classic SimCity, and it’s fun to get your friends involved in the construction process. Best of all, your friends don’t stay with you forever, so there are no nightmare roomie scenarios.
Zoo World — Zoo World puts you in charge of running a digital animal menagerie. Collect different species of animals, breed them, trade them, and become the greatest zookeeper of all time (or the greatest animal-hoarding tyrant of all time, depending on who’s looking at you).
Millionaire City — In Millionaire City, you become a CEO and acquire direct control of the design and flow of a virtual city. The idea is to build up your own concrete empire and, well, become a millionare in the process.
Nightclub City — Nightclub City lets you pull double-duty as a nightclub manager and a rookie DJ. You can hire on your Facebook friends as bartenders and bouncers, which will please any of your pals who like booze and fighting. After decorating your club with the comfiest chairs in the land, you can select your background music courtesy of Lady Gaga, Daft Punk, Crystal Castles, Jay Z, and other hit artists (including Justin Beiber, but you don’t have to listen to him if you don’t want to).
TOP FIVE FREE FAMILY/KIDS GAMES
NeoPets — NeoPets offers a combination of virtual pet-raising, exploration, communication, and mini-games. Its colorful graphics and endless activities make it a huge pull for kids.
Monster Galaxy — From the same group that publishes Gaia Online, Monster Galaxy lets players capture, train, and battle “Zodiac Creatures,” which (as you might guess from the species name) go way beyond your average dog or cat. You can also perform quests for villagers in need of a favor. If being a good citizen doesn’t appeal to you, just fight the night away.
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures — An online slice of the Star Wars universe that takes after the popular Clone Wars animated series. You can engage in lightsaber battles, play mini-games that revolve around several different genres, and even raise a droid as your very own pet.
Free Realms — Sony Online Entertainment’s Free Realms provides a fun and colorful online world where families and kids can interact with each other, play games, and take on neat jobs like Ninja, Pet Trainer, Brawler, and…mail person. Hey, the mail’s gotta get out there somehow.
Monkey Quest — Monkey Quest is a side-scrolling massively multiplayer game by Nickelodeon. You customize a monkey character(!), and explore a side-scrolling jungle world that’s filled with fun puzzles. Its simple controls and fun, bright graphics make it an ideal choice for kids.