Five Cool Places to Play Games Online

In the old days, playing games on your PC meant driving to the store and perusing the shelves in search of the latest and greatest titles.

Now, you can just fire up your Web browser. The Internet is home to an amusement park’s worth of fun for all ages, including first-person shooters, flight simulators, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and even old-school stuff like Checkers and Hearts. Best of all, many gaming destinations charge you no fees; at most you’ll have to sit through an ad or two.

Before you start warming up your trigger finger, however, keep in mind a few safety measures. First, it’s always a good idea to use a different password for each gaming site you visit. On the off chance hackers break into one system’s password database (it’s been known to happen), you won’t have to worry about them gaining access to other sites in your name.

Second, certain less reputable gaming sites may deliver toolbars or even malware to your PC, either surreptitiously or to unsuspecting young users (read: Your kids who are so excited about gaming that they’re not paying attention to security). That’s why it’s essential to run comprehensive security software and keep it up to date.

1. Addicting Games

One of the Internet’s oldest and most popular destinations, Addicting Games is home to literally thousands of browser-based games. They’re divided into categories like Action, Car, Funny, Sports, and Strategy, so rest assured there’s something for everyone.

That said, this collection was definitely designed with kids in mind, so if you’re looking for more sophisticated fare, check out MSN Games (below). Unless, of course, you get a kick out of titles like Urine Trouble.

2. DC Universe Online

Look, up on the Web! It’s DC Universe Online, a massively multiplayer online game (or, as the kids like to say, MMO) built around comic-book characters.

After creating your very own superhero (admit it, you’ve always wanted to), you engage in missions and combat to improve your stats and make your character more powerful.

In its early days, DCUO access would cost you $14.99 per month, but now you can play in this virtual world absolutely free. Sure, the site still offers premium options and monthly subscriptions, but freebie players get more or less the complete gaming experience: unlimited access to the world, slots for two characters and 28 inventory items, 12 bank slots, and so on. Holy lost weekends, Batman!

3. Kido’z Games

Kido'z Games offer age appropriate games and fun.

If you have younger kids and you’re concerned about the quality and suitability of the games they might find online, have a look at Kido’z Games.

The site offers a safe, kid-friendly environment that lives entirely in your Web browser (meaning there's nothing to install). It offers more than 100 games for kids in the 5-10 range, everything from block-sliding puzzles to arcade racing to simple Tic-Tac-Toe.

All the games are free to play, though kids will have to sit through a very brief ad before each one.

4. Microsoft Flight

There’s something very relaxing about soaring through the sky—without paying exorbitant fares or worrying about crashing! Microsoft Flight puts you in the cockpits of various airplanes and lets you fly them across the lush landscapes of Hawaii. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time pilot; Flight caters to all skill levels.

The game does require a download and a Games for Windows Live account, but both are free. If you want to expand the experience, Microsoft does offer additional planes and scenery for purchase.

5. MSN Games

Let the kids have Addicting Games; for more grown-up diversions, head to MSN Games. The site is home to some of the best puzzle, card, word, and trivia games the Web has to offer—everything from Backgammon to Bejeweled to Texas Hold m.

Even better, many of the games can be played with other live humans, so it’s not just you against the computer—it’s you against the world. And virtually all the games are free to play.

[ This sponsored article was written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of PCWorld. ]

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