Being in quarantine means so many of us are looking for new ways to connect. If you’re like me, online gaming has become one of the most fun and effective ways to hang with friends. Just click a button, and you and your crew can have fun no matter where you are. There are tons of great online options out there, so we’ve rounded up the best ones to help you and your friend group stay connected—and socially distanced—through the rest of the lockdown.
Games with a Price TagAnimal Crossing: New Horizons
Even though this is the first game on the list, it technically isn’t an online game. With a hefty price tag of $60, it’s the latest addition in the Animal Crossing series available exclusively for the Nintendo Switch where you set up life on an island and slowly, but surely, make a new home there.
New Horizons gets top marks for the gameplay, but it’s the community feel that has turned this option into a gaming phenom. You can chat with the mobile app and, if you have a Nintendo Online subscription, you can connect, trade, and visit each other’s islands in the virtual world. Unlike some other cut-throat games, players often share gifts and free crafts with one another. For me, that generosity of spirit is exactly the mood-booster I need right now.
If you’ve never played New Horizons before, this all might seem pretty boring. But for many, the alternate universe is a welcome escape from the real world scaries. The game’s adorable islanders become your neighbors; flowers can hybrid and grow at your whim; the clothing options include your fave designers and centuries, and the sounds immerse you in an experience that’s completely personalized. One of the best aspects of the game is that it doesn’t have a definite ending.Pokémon Sword and Shield
Sword and Shield are divided into two separate games, and you can pick up either one for your Nintendo Switch. Each game comes with a $60 price tag, but you only need to drop cash for one to get the full experience—a big part of the fun is trading Pokémon with friends who are on the other side of the game.
Players can become a true Pokémon master by battling with friends and trading League Cards to raise their stats. Sword and Shield is great for gamers who like a little competitive action, but then again, who wouldn’t love the thrill of winning a Pokémon battle? The gameplay graphics are exciting without being too violent, and each battling move is totally unique. Players can even battle with friends after the main gameplay is finished, so there’s always a reason to head back into the stadium.Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
This latest addition to the Mario Kart series puts all of the other ones to shame. Available for $60 on the Nintendo Switch, Mario Kart Deluxe 8 gives a whopping 42 different characters for players to choose from— the largest character roster Mario Kart has ever offered. Players can use these characters and race against up to 12 friends for trophies and glory on 48 different courses and on all kinds of different terrain.
This game is great for people at all different skill levels. You can unlock new features like karts, tracks, and characters at your own pace. Unlike some other buzzy games like New Horizons, this one doesn’t progress without you. But if you’re all about getting those locked features, you’ll definitely race your way through Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.Minecraft
Minecraft is always a fun game to play, but at a time when everyone is flexing their creative muscles, you realize there’s so much you can build with those 1×1 squares. Minecraft lets players customize a world that Wired estimates is bigger than Earth.
The game also has two modes: creative and survival. Each mode lets you play the game however you’d like. The sky is the limit when you’re in creative mode, and you’ll be able to literally fly. For some action, switch to survival mode, and battle until all your hearts run out.
Beyond solo gaming, you can also play with friends. Visit and customize their worlds or invite them over to yours. Build the perfect city or destroy it all on your own. Rally a team to change an entire landscape or join forces to defeat a swarm of Endermen.
Minecraft is super accessible with a version on almost every gaming device. You can download a free trial of Minecraft for a desktop, but the full experience comes at a price. An app for iOS and Android that costs $7.
Free GamesAnimal Crossing: Pocket CampPhoto credit: Nintendo
Pocket Camp is a free mobile game in the Animal Crossing series available for both iOS and Android. It allows you to do many of the same fun things possible in New Horizons without the price tag. The Nintendo Switch is basically sold out everywhere right now, so if you don’t already have one, Pocket Camp is perfect for a case of FOMO or a spotty internet connection. To play with friends, all you need to do is share friend codes, no subscription needed.
This option is especially good for those who are new to Animal Crossing and don’t want to shell out the cash for something they’re not sure they’ll like. More casual gamers can get into the fun and avoid buying a whole new device for one game. Pocket Camp is also good for those who aren’t looking to play consistently or who may not want to dedicate big chunks of their time to the game. Ssible with a version on almost every gaming device. You can download a free trial of Minecraft for a desktop, but the full experience comes at a price. An app for iOS and Android that costs $7.Harry Potter: Hogwarts MysteryPhoto credit: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery – Warner Bros.
Get ready to deep dive into the world of Harry Potter in this free mobile game. Hogwarts Mystery takes place seven years before Harry Potter steps foot into the famous wizarding school, and once you become a new Hogwarts student, the game takes you on a journey of magical hijinx and run-ins with the dark arts. Basically, you get to be Harry Potter before he was the Harry Potter.
Wait, you haven’t been binging an endless loop of Harry Potter movies over quarantine? Be sure to stream all the films to refresh your magic memory or get a first-time intro into the wizarding world. With a little bit of background, you’ll enjoy Hogwarts Mystery even more. The game is available for iOS and Android.Pokémon GOPhoto credit: Niantic
So you’re not interested in dropping cash for a new game—we totally hear you. Luckily, Pokémon GO is a free option that lets you catch and battle your favorite pocket monsters with others. And though the game has a rep for getting people out of the house, the creators at Niantic have just given the app a few social distancing upgrades. Just check out Niantic’s games help section for instructions on how to remote play, and catch ’em all from the comfort and safety of the indoors. It’s available on iOS and Android.Mario Kart TourPhoto credit: Nintendo
To avoid giving all your spare cash to Nintendo, check out this free app. The mobile version of the classic Mario Kart racing game allows you to pick your fave character from the Mushroom Kingdom and race on different tracks from all over the world. You can challenge up to seven friends and show them what those blue shells can really do. You can download the game for iOS and Android.FortnitePhoto credit: Epic Games
By now, there are probably very few people who haven’t heard of Fortnite. The game has been topping charts for what seems like forever, and last year alone, Fortnite was reported to have made almost $2 billion in revenue.
Part of the reason behind its popularity is the game’s accessibility— the base game is free, and you can play with other people on almost every gaming platform. The animation of the characters has some next-level detail, and gamers can create individual worlds to battle and share with their network.
Even though Fortnite has been around for years, there are always new upgrades and items to collect. The game’s chapter 2, Season 2 expansion was just released in February 2020, and there are even more chapters in the works.Kim Kardashian: HollywoodPhoto credit: Glu Games
I am not ashamed to say that I played this game way too much when it first came out back in 2014 and was low-key crushed when I accidentally saved over my original save data. This game is still going strong for a good reason—it keeps you busy with a variety of different challenges as you rise in the influencer ranks. On the quest to become the hottest star in Hollywood, you meet the rest of the Kardashian/Jenner fam, and basically become Kim’s bff. Win-win!
In the game, your character can date, marry, have a family, and experience those unique challenges along the way. There are also tons of cute looks to experiment with, and fun challenges that help you unlock new features. Ultimately, you get to skip the real-world struggles and jump right into creating your larger-than-life alter-ego. Download it for iOS and Android.HousepartyPhoto credit: Houseparty
Houseparty has become a popular way to video chat with friends over lockdown, but a big reason behind the app’s success is the gaming feature. When you’re chatting with friends, just click the dice icon for access to all sorts of quick and hilarious games. Party favorites like Heads Up, Trivia, Chips & Guac, and Quick Draw are all available and a great option if your friends aren’t into the online gaming scene. You can download the app for iOS, Android, and Chrome.Playing CardsPhoto credit: Playing Cards
This website lets you play all kinds of board games with friends for free. Choose between Checkers, Go Fish, and a bunch of other card games, so you have the option to play on desktop or your phone.
This is great for players who enjoy the classics and those who want to try something new. Playing Cards also lets you create and customize your own games to really make the experience your own.Social Media
Social media isn’t really a game, but all sorts of platforms have recently added gameplay features. Facebook Messenger allows users to play games—like Words With Friends 2 (which is also an app), card games, and more—while connecting with their network. Snapchat has a range of new and rotating games—like 8 Ball and Wild Checkers—where you can play through your snaps. And most of us have probably seen one of the game filters pop in our Instagram stories or done a wild TikTok challenge that sent you on a full-on IRL experience.
These quick games are great for more casual players who are looking for fun and easy ways to connect and share with others. For most social media games, the play is super relaxed, and you can pick it up pretty quickly.
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