We’ve become used to thinking of Chromebooks as simple productivity machines: a web interface for classwork, online productivity apps, and not much else. But there are many ways to game on a Chromebook, too.
You have three options to play games on most modern Chromebooks: as a web app, in an Android app, or remotely via one of the prior two ways. Gaming on a Chromebook can mean playing the same games you’d play on a PC, but given all the options you could argue that the diversity of games is richer on a Chromebook than on a PC.
As we’ll explain, though, many of the gaming opportunities a Chromebook offers depend on accessing a game on a remote server. The quality of such gaming experiences will depend on the quality of your Internet connection and, to some extent, on what processor the Chromebook contains. Only Android apps, many of which assume the presence of a slower Arm chip, will run natively (and probably very smoothly) on the Chromebook itself.
Below, we’ve included a guide to get you up and running. Feel free to refer to our guide and recommendations for picking a Chromebook (go.pcworld.com/hro), as well as the differences between a Chromebook and a traditional Windows laptop (go. pcworld.com/twl). For gaming, you’ll probably prefer a Chromebook with a touchscreen. A 360-degree convertible that folds into a tablet mode is quite handy for Android games. We’ve recommended a few good models for gaming above.
HOW TO PLAY WEB GAMES ON A CHROMEBOOK
As you might expect, playing a game inside a web browser on a Chromebook is a lot like playing it on a PC’s web browser—load up the site and you’re ready to go. In 2021 there’s one key difference from years past: Chrome 88, released in January 2021, eliminated support for Adobe Flash (go.pcworld.com/ c88), the foundation for an entire generation’s worth of web games.
However, the well-publicized demise of Flash allowed popular Flash entertainment repositories like Newgrounds.com time to convert their games to HTML5 or provide transitional plug-ins. If you visit a site like Newgrounds, you’ll be able to play the site’s simple Flash games and movies with no trouble at all. A competing site, Kongregate.com, asks you to install an SWF plugin (go.pcworld.com/swf).
Just be warned: Flash games on sites like Newgrounds can be notoriously weird. Creative coders used to put their own spins on Nintendo games and other licensed IP, which lawyers have now quashed, leaving games like Wife Quest and Escape from Happy Homes next to a few genuinely interesting games like Pink (go.pcworld. com/pink) or Tiny Fragments (go.pcworld. com/tfr).
Browser-based gaming starts to open up a bit more when you visit the Chrome Web Store, which allows you to download Chrome game extensions. Click with caution here, as Google seems to have ditched its dedicated gaming section for some reason. Chances are that you’ll have to search out older games like Cut the Rope (go. pcworld.com/ctro) or Tank Riders (go.pcworld.com/tri) by name.
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