Blasts From the Past
If you've never gotten over your first console love affair, you'll want to head immediately to this favorite of Matt Peckham. Here you'll find hundreds of old Nintendo (as in NES), Sega, and Gameboy classics, all playable for free (no ads, either) via your browser with Java 1.5 or later installed.
It's not complete--you won't find franchise titles such as the original Legend of Zelda or Mario Brothers. The emulation plays in a fairly tiny screen, and the sound on the games I tried out was pretty scratchy. Still, I had fun revisiting the Back to the Future games, and Matt's blog post about the site mentions several other oldies but goodies, including Double Dragon, Ultima Exodus, and Wizards and Warriors. All in all, a nice trip down game memory lane.
In a similar vein, 1980-games.com is a treasure trove of old arcade and NES games. Here I did find Donkey Kong, Galaga, and a really well-done Ms. Pacman. The emulators are excellent, with none of the audio issues I found on Every Video Game.
There are some fairly unobtrusive Google ads; the only display ad was in French (typing 1980-games.com without the /us extension at the end gets you a French-language version). The selection, while impressive, falls short of the numbers on Every Video Game, but there are a lot of links to even more game sites. Be aware, however, that I saw at least one link going to adult content.
If World of Warcraft is too pricey for you, head over to UK developer Jagex's Runescape to get your free, ad-supported, massively multiplayer online role-playing game fix. A $5-a-month membership dispenses with the ads and provides access to more content, but the free version is eminently respectable and has already reportedly attracted some 10 million signups.
I walked through an elaborate and fairly lengthy in-world tutorial that teaches you the basics of the interface and game skills, from cooking meals to casting spells, creating weapons, and fighting. It felt to me like a souped-up version of a MUD (multiuser dungeon)--the largely text-based multiplayer games that first appeared on electronic bulletin boards. If you're on a quest for quests, start here.