The heyday of being to get onto any PC or laptop, open up a browser, and almost immediately start playing video games is thought by many to be behind us. Indeed, the Flash game boom represented an industry-wide shift that has long since ended, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still plenty of excellent places to play online. Here, we’re going to look at some of those places, including not just the websites, but types of games that are surviving and, indeed, thriving, in the online free gaming landscape.
Everything, by Everyone, was the longest-running tagline of the online gaming juggernaut and genuine cultural force that is Newgrounds. There are plenty of fantastic articles like this one at culturalhistoryoftheinternet.com that break down just how huge Newgrounds was as a place to play games online throughout its history. A lot of people think that since the decline of Flash gaming and, indeed, the end of support for the platform as a whole Newgrounds might not have a lot to offer but that is far from untrue. HTML5, Unity, and other platforms still allow for great in-browser gaming, and Newgrounds still has a wide host of games. In fact, one of the recent online gaming crazes as of late, Friday Night Funkin, got its start on Newgrounds.
Kongregate was, to a lot of people, the “grown-up” version of Newgrounds. It was once also a wide-open Flash game platform, and also one of the first platforms to start accepting games in other engines. It specialized specifically in games, while Newgrounds was more a place for Flash media of all kinds, originally. Nowadays, it operates quite differently from Newgrounds, in that it has a specific system for accepting games. As such, new games are not uploaded quite as frequently, but there are plenty of games that can be found exclusively on Kongregate. Games like the Epic Battle Fantasy series got their start on, and are still playable, on Kongregate. Not quite as diverse as the old wild-west days when anyone could upload anything, but plenty to keep you busy all the same.
Miniclip was always something of an odd duck in the Flash gaming scene. Unlike the others, it was never quite as open as allowing devs to upload anything and everything and, as such, it always had a smaller library. So, some might say that Miniclip had the easiest transition ahead of it since it already had quite a limited number of applications. However, that’s not how it happened. We feature Miniclip here not as a particularly great place for a wide variety of games, but as an example of one of the Flash titans that didn’t make that successful transition to HTML5 gaming as, with declining revenue for years on end, Miniclip officially closed its browser gamer portal in 2022. However, it’s still worth including on this list because you can still play Agar.io there. However, from here, the legacy of Flash websites is largely gone from the free online gaming landscape.
Exploring the History of Flash
Or at least, that would be the case if not for the efforts of the video game preservation movement. While some of this movement’s other efforts are perhaps a little more dubious in their legality, no one has raised any legal or even ethical objections to the efforts of the Flash Game Archive. This allows people to download a client that enables them to play a huge selection of the variety of Flash games that were out there. Of course, no one archive is going to be able to capture every Flash game that existed, but if you’re looking to explore some of your old favorites, or just to see what’s the big deal about this Flash era that all the boomers online are talking about, it’s a great portal to a bygone age.
While some free game sites have had to evolve with the times, and others have entirely (or nearly entirely) shut down their online gaming portion, there are those that have risen to take their place or to carve their own path in the gaming landscape. For those who like to keep their finger on the pulse of the amateur and indie gaming scene, itch.io has become one of the recent juggernauts of free games, with many made in HTML5 and Unity available to play right in the browser. It is worth noting, however, that not all of the games on itch.io are free. Some you have to pay to download or play, but there are still more free games than you’re ever likely to get through, with new uploads every day.
Playing with real stakes
Of course, there’s an entirely different landscape of gaming aside from that which has grown out of the ashes of the Flash community. A lot of casino games allow you to play for free to begin with or offer no-risk versions. Others are free-to-play but still require you to wager money. Either way, this is one of the most widespread and popular forms of browser gaming at the moment, as demonstrated by the wide range of Hey Spin Casino sister sites. Of course, only adults should be going anywhere near these and they should always be played responsibly.