Best online games to play with friends during quarantine

Best online games to play with friends during quarantine
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“Player two has entered the game!”

Seeing those sensational words appear on the screen — an indication that a friend has joined me on an online multiplayer game — reinvigorates my social-craving heart that’s darn-near lost its thump-a-thump while being shackled in quarantine hell.

With search phrases like “What are the best online games to play with friends during quarantine?” skyrocketing in popularity on Google, I’m not alone in my yearning for virtual companionship. To answer that search query, the best online quarantine games to play with friends are browser-based and free, they don’t require too many additional steps for guests to join the gaming party (e.g. downloading an app), and they include a spunky communication feature (e.g. a live chat).

I’ve experimented with oodles of online multiplayer games, including Jackbox Games and UNO!, but they got the boot from being crowned top-notch quarantine games for requiring private-game hosts to make a purchase and enforcing an app download, respectively.

Here are the best online games to play with friends during quarantine — just share the provided link to your private game, and voila, it’s on like Donkey Kong!

1. Krunker

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Krunker is a badass first-person shooter game with bloodthirsty, weapon-wielding blockheads who are out to kill without rhyme or reason. There’s live chat and microphone support so you can trash talk your friends throughout the game: “You’re going down, Karen!”

Krunker is arguably the best quarantine online game to play with friends —  by far. When you create a private Krunker room for friends, you can choose from several spacious maps littered with fun hideouts and there’s a plethora of game customization options. There are 16 multiplayer game modes hosts can choose from, including Free for All (survive and kill as many enemies as you can), Hide and Seek (a seeking team finds hiding players) and Parkour (win points by getting to hard-to-reach places on the map).

How to host a private Krunker game with friends

Krunker allows you to host up to an hour of gameplay with your friends. You can also choose from a myriad of game settings, such as the number of lives players can have and whether only headshot kills count. The only downside with Krunker is that it doesn’t announce when your friends have entered a private game. Here’s how to host a private Krunker session.

1. Click on “Host game.” This will lead you to a window that will allow you to customize the perfect private online game for you and your friends.

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2. Select the maps you’d like to add to your private game. This lets you  choose the environments you’d like to play in, whether it’s desert-like surroundings with pyramids or a bleak, snowy city.

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3. Select the classes allowed in your game. Before entering a Krunker game, players can choose their class, which determines his or her primary weapon. The default class is Triggerman, whose primary weapon is the assault rifle. There are other classes such as Rocketeer and Detective; their primary weapons are the rocket launcher and the revolver, respectively.

4. Set your server settings. Under server settings, you can customize the game’s duration, the number of players allowed in your game and more. As a tip, if you’d like players to have unlimited respawns in a game, set the number of lives to zero.

5. Set physics and game logic to your liking. Here, you have options to make several tweaks, including changing up the gravitational pull in your environment and disabling Krunker’s announcement of kill streaks (e.g. “Player two is on a five-person kill streak.”). Under “Teams,” you can select whether you’d like to include two teams in your game.

6. Under “Other,” make sure to tick “Private.” If you don’t do this, uninvited randoms from all over the world can wander into your game. 

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7. Once you’re done, click “Save” and “Start game.” Click on the “Invite” button to share the link in your private room with all your friends. Click anywhere on the screen to exit the window. When you’re ready to join your game, tap on “Click to play.”

2. Shell Shockers

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Shell Shockers, filled with egg-like characters, really “cracked” me up as I shot my enemies into a gnarly heap of yolk and egg whites. This first-person shooter is an “eggscellent” browser-based game that allows you to equip your egg with weapons, such as the EggK-47 and the Scrambler. There’s also a live chat option, so in private rooms, you can torture your friends with your favorite egg puns such as “Omlette-ing you get away this time!” and “I’m a hard-boiled egg you can’t beat!”

How to play Shell Shock with your friends online

Get “eggscited” because Shell Shock is all that it’s cracked up to be as a private multiplayer game. You can choose from three game modes: Free For All, Captula the Spatula (i.e. Capture the Flag) and Teams. 

1. Click on “Create” on the main page.

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2. Customize your private game. Select your game type, map and location. Click “Play.”

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3. You’ll be prompted to copy a link. Share it with all your friends so they can join you in — one last pun, I promise -- the scramble to eggscellency in a super-fun game called Shell Shockers.

3. Skribbl

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It’s time to channel your inner Bob Ross with this fun, artistic multiplayer game. On Skribbl, you can show off your drawing chops in an online game of pictionary. Each round, the game will prompt you to choose from three words. You’ll then have to draw your chosen word on the digital canvas for your friends to guess. When you’re not drawing, you’ll have to guess your friends’ artistic creations. The player with the most correct guesses wins. There is also a chat box so that you can tease your friends about their funky drawings.

While experimenting with Skribbl, my friends and I concluded that we’d all strongly recommend using a laptop with a stylus — a trackpad just doesn’t cut it. If you don’t have one, we suggest the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga or the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15. Check out our best 2-in-1 laptops page for more options.

How to play Skribbl with your friends online

Creating a private room to play online pictionary with your friends is a breeze on Skribbl. As the host, you can even add your own words to the pictionary lexicon, which can add a personal touch to the game. Here’s how to create a private game on Skribbl.

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1. Click on “Create a private room.” This will lead you to a lobby where your friends will join you.

2. Customize the game to your liking. You can choose the number of rounds you’d like for your game; you can also select your desired drawing duration for each player. 

3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page. Copy the link and send it to your friends. When all your friends have arrived in the lobby, click “Start game.”

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4. Bonk

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The masterminds of Bonk aptly named their game after an onomatopoeic word that means to knock or hit something. You’ll be playing as a ball, and the objective of Bonk is to knock out all the players in the game and be the last one standing in each round. This game is simple, but addicting — it’s also unexpectedly hilarious. In the same way that you may laugh at someone getting bumped off a trampoline, Bonk offers a dose of humor as you bonk your friends off into the abyss. 

How to play Bonk online with your friends

When creating a private game for friends on Bonk, you’ll be happy to know that the game is equipped with a chat box, which can be activated by pressing enter. You, like myself, may find yourself taunting your bumped-off friends by spouting a few petty “hahas” in the chat à la Nelson from The Simpsons. Here’s how to create a custom game on Bonk.

1. Register and login. Click on “Custom game.”

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2. Click on “Create.” A small window will pop up. You cannot give your room a title until you’ve reached level 10 status in Bonk. You can add an optional password. Type in your maximum number of players (you cannot invite more than eight guests). Again, click on “Create.”

3. Choose a map. Bonk allows you to choose an environment of your choice — you can knock your friends off a cliff or even bonk them into a moving elevator.

4. Click on “Mode” until you land your preferred gameplay. You can choose between Teams and Free for All. Under the Teams mode, players can select whether they’d like to be a part of the red team or blue team. Or if they’re observers, not participants, they can choose to spectate instead.

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5. Click on the link icon. This will generate a link in the chat box that you can copy and paste, and share with your friends.

Bottom line

From premium workstations to earbuds, here at Laptop Mag, we all have an affinity for testing and experimenting with a critical eye — online multiplayer games are no different. I analyzed some of the most popular quarantine games one can play with friends, and Krunker, Shell Shockers, Skribbl and Bonk all proved to be the crowning champions of providing exhilarating gameplay for remote friends practicing social distancing.

The four games provide an easy avenue to invite guests into one’s private rooms. All feature a communication channel — Krunker takes it one step further with microphone support — so that players can engage with their friends during gameplay.

This tetrad of games also provides a good number of customization options to tweak your private game into multiplayer perfection so that you can create a fun, personalized experience for you and your friends.

You may be blasting your friends into pieces in a savage game of Krunker or knocking your friends out of the ring in Bonk, but you’ll ironically form a closer bond with your good ol’ buddies as you face them in a series of online multiplayer battles.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!