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The Best Games for Chromebooks | Digital Trends


Google’s Chrome OS platform wasn’t exactly built for gaming, but thanks to web apps, Android, and Linux, it can be a capable machine — especially if it has decent hardware.

Whether you prefer free games or those you can purchase, there are plenty that work well on Chromebooks. Here are our recommendations for the best games for Chromebooks.

Further reading

Streaming services

If you want to get the best gaming experience out of your Chromebook, perhaps you should consider a game streaming service. Sure, they may require a monthly fee, but you eliminate all the compatibility and most performance issues by streaming games from the cloud. Your Chromebook is essentially the receiver, requiring very little resources.

Google Stadia

This should be your default go-to streaming service on Chromebooks. You can purchase games outright and stream them to your Chromebook in 1080p at 60 frames per second.  Google’s library continues to grow, featuring AAA titles like Doom Eternal, Destiny 2, Baldur’s Gate 3, Marvel’s Avengers, Borderlands 3, and more.

For $10 per month, Stadia Pro provides an all-you-can-play library of games similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription. Currently, these include Dead by Daylight, Metro Last Light Redux, Human: Fall Flat, and many others. The subscription also increases the stream resolution to 4K HDR — even with your purchased games — and offers exclusive discounts.

Nvidia GeForce Now

Nvidia takes a different approach with its streaming service. The company knows most PC gamers use Steam, Epic Games, Uplay, and other digital platforms. Rather than make you re-pay for games like Google Stadia, why not stream the games you already own by linking those accounts?

Here’s the catch. The free account places you in line. In other words, when you launch a linked game, you remain in queue until there’s a spot for you on Nvidia’s servers. Moreover, you can only play for one hour at a time.

With the Founders subscription, you get “priority access” for $5 per month. The session length extends to six hours, and RTX hardware kicks on for games that support Nvidia’s ray tracing technology.

Android games

Alto’s Odyssey (free)

If you like endless runners, then this is the game for you. Following Alto’s Adventure in 2018, this sequel ditches the snow-covered landscapes for rolling hills of hot orange sand. Players jump on a snowboard and slide up and down the endless hills performing flips and collecting coins.

The object is to travel as far as you can without wiping out. That includes jumping over rocks, jumping over chasms, and avoiding other obstructions, which in turn add points to your final score. There are also stunts to perform, biomes to discover, and goals to complete. In-app purchases include coin stacks and removing ads later on in the game.

Asphalt 9: Legends (free)

Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

Windows 10 gamers can enjoy racing game series like Forza, but if you own a Chromebook and want a real racing game, Asphalt 9: Legends is your virtual road warrior. It packs many hit hypercars, including models from Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, and W Motors. You’re free to pick the dream car you need and race across spectacular locations against rival speed machines around the world.

The game runs smoothly on Chrome OS, with occasional frame drops, but it’s still a great experience. You can play with touch controls or just use the keyboard if your device doesn’t have a touchscreen.

Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition ($9.99)

Baldurs Gate Enhanced Edition

Baldur’s Gate is one of the greatest isometric role-playing games ever. Developed by BioWare before its Mass Effect and Anthem days, it takes place in the Forgotten Realms from Dungeons & Dragons. It’s also based on the 2nd Edition rules to provide a more authentic feel.

Players assume the role of Gorian’s Ward, who must deal with all the drama surrounding Baldur’s Gate and the Sword Coast region. Your character eventually discovers that the Iron Throne is causing all the chaos and attempting to start a war.

This is an “enhanced” edition of the 1998 game, running an “upgraded and improved” version of the original Infinity Engine. It includes the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion along with a new adventure and three new characters. The game supports mouse/touchpad and keyboard support along with touchscreen input, but it does not support game controllers.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ($2.99)

Castlevania Chromebook

If retro side-scrolling action is your thing, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night will thrust you into one of the best Castlevania games to date. Picking up five years after Rondo of Blood, Maria Renard heads to the reemerged Castlevania to find her missing brother, Richter. Meanwhile, Alucard, the son of Dracula, investigates the castle as well to confront his resurrected father.

Everything you loved about 1997’s PlayStation hit remains intact, including an awesome soundtrack. It includes a Continue feature so you’re not starting over from scratch each time your hero dies. Without a controller, touchscreen controls appear on the screen, though you can use a mouse/touchpad (but we wouldn’t recommend it). These on-screen controls disappear when you pair a game controller.

Fallout Shelter (free)

Fallout Shelter Chromebook

How do you spend your time after the nuclear fallout settles? Manage a shelter, of course! Your task is to reel in residents and create a thriving underground community so humanity can grow and thrive once again. That means building rooms dedicated to generators, food, water, and getting frisky (hey, you need to procreate). It’s presented in an “ant farm” view, though you can zoom in to each room and watch your residents “work.”

Despite its simulator roots, Fallout Shelter feels very much like a “lite” Fallout game. For instance, each NPC has a SPECIAL profile that determines its overall role. The game plays great in full-screen mode and supports mouse/touchpad, touchscreen, and controller input.

Pac-Man (free)

Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

Pac-Man is one of the most beloved videogames of all time, and it’s now available on Chromebooks through the Google Play Store. In this game, you earn high scores by steering Pac-Man through mazes as he eats all the Pac-Dots and fruits while avoiding enemy ghosts. Power Pellets and your strategy are his only defense.

There’s a lot of old-school action here, but you’ll also be able to enjoy new daily Pac missions as well as tournaments and token rewards. Best of all, you don’t need a Chromebook with a touchscreen to enjoy. The game uses the up, down, left, and right arrow keys, which is far better than using the worn-out joysticks hated by players during the arcade days.

PUBG Mobile (free)

PUBG Mobile Chromebook

The battle royale shooter frenzy began with this game, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. Rated as one of the best mobile games of all time, you can play this Android favorite on your Chromebook. However, due to the emulation, you’re placed with other players that fall under the same umbrella. If you want to play with the general PUBG population, you’ll need to switch to a mobile device.

Because this version is optimized for mobile, there’s a steep learning curve with the mouse and keyboard support. The settings are somewhat customizable, allowing you to move the on-screen buttons that are otherwise hidden. Overall, the game pits you against 99 other players in a Last Man Standing battle. You can fight solo, in a team of two, or in a squad of four.

Sonic the Hedgehog Classic (free)

The hit game that kicked off the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise is now available on Chromebooks via the Google Play Store! With Sonic the Hedgehog Classic, you can speed across the seven classic zones as Sonic the Hedgehog and run or sprint through loop-de-loops as you defeat enemies.

The game is optimized for touchscreen Chromebooks, but you also can use Xbox Controllers if needed. It’s extremely lightweight and is quite fun to play.

Stardew Valley ($7.99)

Stardew Valley Chromebook

If you’re totally sick of working at an office desk day in and day out, then it’s about time you looked into that farm you just inherited. It’s not much more than a dilapidated shack sitting on an overgrown plot of land, but it’s yours. Away from the city, you’ll have to suck in the clean Pelican Town air and dig in to clean up grandad’s abandoned farm, plant crops, raise cattle, and so on. That’s the story behind this popular farming simulator released on every platform under the sun.

If you remember FarmVille or love the Harvest Moon games, Stardew Valley should be familiar farming grounds. Your first quests are to clear some land, plant parsnip seeds, and go wander the Pelican Town streets. The game plays beautifully in full-screen mode and supports mouse/touchpad, touchscreen, and controller input.

You can still get this game free through Google’s Perk program for Chromebooks.

Web games

Agar.io (free)

Agario

The sleeper hit Agar.io is a web-based game that swiftly grew in popularity due to its easy handling — being featured on House of Cards helped, too.

The game itself is surprisingly mesmerizing. You begin life as a simple blob on a world made from graph paper, then go around snacking on other players until you grow and become more powerful. As you grow, you learn how to use the few tricks unique to your blob, where to hide, and so on. It’s pretty addictive and always lots of fun to see other players around the world running from you — or gobbling you up.

Arcane Legends (free)

Arcane Legends

There are a lot of great free-to-play, RPG-focused Chromebook games, and most can be handled by any computer, but Arcane Legends is one of the most dependable and fun RPGs to date. The game allows you to create a character, do some hacking and slashing, cast some magic, tame some cute pets — the usual RPG fare.

This WoW-lite approach is particularly balanced in Arcane Legends, which is why it’s hard to find a bad word said against this game. One thing worth noting is that diving into its deeper elements, like guilds, requires lots of time. It’s not exactly for casual players, like Pocket Legends.

Technically, this isn’t a Chrome Web Store game, as Spacetime Studios now offers its web-based games directly from its website rather than offer Chrome extensions. Other titles in the Legends series include Pocket Legends (casual animal-based RPG), Dark Legends (gothic), and Star Legends (sci-fi). The Android versions may or may not work on your Chromebook.

Entanglement (free)

HTML 5 Games Entanglement

Entanglement is one of the most lauded Chromebook games in recent times, receiving accolades for both its beautiful, organic design and bewitching gameplay (well, bewitching as long as you like thoughtful puzzlers). The goal for any given map is to create a path by moving tiles around. The longer and more labyrinthine your path, the better your score. It’s easy to learn and surprisingly soothing to play.

Save the Day (free)

Save the Day

If you love old-school arcade games with lots of challenges, here’s a new take on the formula. Instead of shooting aliens or thugs, you’re zipping around the screen in a helicopter to avoid the fire while rescuing survivors caught between the flames. The “save ’em up” approach is pretty cool, the game’s cartoony graphics are easy on the eyes, and the challenge level is just right.

Spelunky (free)

Spelunky

The original Spelunky is a fun throwback to the 8-bit console days. Slap on your miner’s hat and climb down into the dark depths to explore, dig for treasure, and save people in distress. Use the Arrow keys to move, press Z to jump, X to use your whip, A to throw grenades, and C to throw ropes to climb.

The only object is to grab all the loot you can. Once you reach the bottom and find a door, you progress to the next lower level. You can climb rock walls, ladders, and ropes to explore every inch of this digital underworld. However, watch out for traps, lurking creatures, and fall damage.

TagPro Capture the Flag (free)

HTML 5 Tag Pro

Although its graphics are inspired by the ancient Minesweeper, TagPro is a surprisingly complex game of capture the flag. So if you’re looking for a team-oriented game that’s main focus is using strategy, this is it. It’s also a great option for those who enjoy short, competitive games.

The super-simple graphics mean there’s no need to worry about popping open a quick window to play. Rather, you are better able to focus on the combination of bombs, blocks, and power-ups in your arsenal, essentially building your own little video game levels to thwart flag stealers. Create your list of teams, and get to capturing those flags. You should not be surprised to know that chaos quickly ensues in this game.

Web Quake (shareware)

Web Quake

Doom may have established first-person shooters in the mainstream, but id Software’s Quake revolutionized the format, eschewing fake pixel-based 3D rendering in favor of polygons and vector-based geometry. Introduced in the id Tech 2 engine (dubbed the Quake engine at the time), this change allowed players to circle enemies who no longer resembled digitized one-sided (albeit moving) cardboard props.

Quake can also brag that it was the first game to utilize the “mouselook” function. It was even one of the first PC games to utilize that new thing called a GPU, and introduced an eight-player online deathmatch mode via dialup (CTF was still just a user mod). The game originally ran in DOS but a special executable called WinQuake allowed it to run within Windows 95.

Now Quake is repackaged as Web Quake so it runs through Javascript. It features the first full episode we played so much back before the full release in 1996, leading up to the lava-filled arena where you battle Chthon. In addition to game controller compatibility, you’ll get full keyboard and mouse support. It even supports multiplayer.

Install Linux

While this doesn’t necessarily fall under the “best games” theme, many of the best games you can play on a Chromebook are accessible through Linux. That requires you to enable and install Linux on a Chromebook and then use the Linux terminal to install Steam. It’s a lengthy process but worth the effort if your Chromebook meets the hardware requirements for the Linux games you want to play. Be sure to check the requirements via Steam before going through all the trouble.

To get you started, here’s a guide on how to install Steam on a Chromebook. Once you have it installed, here are some great Linux-supporting games available on Steam:

  • Ark: Survival Evolved
  • BioShock series
  • Borderlands series
  • Civilization VI
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offense
  • Dead Island
  • Deus Ex series
  • Dota 2
  • Left 4 Dead 2 (any Valve game, actually)
  • Mad Max
  • Metro series
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Rocket League
  • Shadow of Mordor
  • The Witcher series

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