Updated on 10.15.14

Six Free Games to Dig Into Over the Holidays

Trent Hamm

One of my biggest time management weaknesses is gaming. I love taking breaks to try out a new free computer game. Most of the time, though, the game’s not engrossing enough to hold my interest.

This list is filled with the exceptions.

Here are six free computer games that are so filled with incredibly enjoyable game play that I find myself going back to them time and time again for just one more play.

Six Great Free Computer Games

1. League of Legends

League of Legends is a fast-paced competitive online game that mixes fast-paced game play and careful planning in an interesting mix. In the game, you play as a champion who battles other champions in online matches. The gameplay is really straightforward – mostly, you’re competing on a large map (that’s extremely reminiscent of Warcraft III) where you move your character around with the mouse and order it into combat against the enemy. As you battle, your character grows stronger, learning new abilities, and it also picks up gold, which you can use to buy better weapons and armor within the match. Usually, you play in groups, where two teams of five players compete against each other. The game also includes a really smart matchmaker which pairs you against people of a similar skill and experience level as you.

What makes this game so interesting is that as you play more matches (win or lose), you slowly earn experience points, which allow you to not only unlock new champions to use in the matches, but also allows you to make your various champions stronger. The addictiveness of the gameplay is immense – you find yourself improving your character a bit, then you want to jump back in and play some more.

If you play League of Legends, you might see me on from time to time. My summoner name is Volarus (a name I sometimes use in online games).

2. Desktop Tower Defense

I’ve mentioned Desktop Tower Defense before, but I’ll mention it again here for two reasons. One, after four years, I’m still playing it. Two, they have a new “pro” version with a ton of scenarios and other features to play through.

Desktop Tower Defense is a very simple game in which you place towers within a small rectangle while little critters run across the screen. The towers you place shoot the critters and, with each critter taken out, you earn a bit of gold. However, each wave of critters is a bit stronger than the next, so you have to use your gold to either upgrade your current towers or place new ones.

It’s really addictive and plays quite easily in your web browser.

3. Line Rider

Line Rider isn’t really so much a game as it is a creative sand box. With your mouse, you draw a line, then you click start. A little guy appears and begins to slide along your line, being pulled downwards by gravity. When he reaches the end, he leaps off into the abyss.

Then you try again, with three or four lines – or whatever you want. Then you click start and see what happens.

And again. And again. And again. Until you make something like this. Well, maybe not, but you’ll almost assuredly make something goofy and elaborate.

5. Bridgecraft

Bridgecraft’s name basically says it all – you build bridges so that a person can easily cross it. The first few are easy, then suddenly the difficulty goes way up. You have to step back and think about the problem for a while – thus, it almost becomes a puzzle game of sorts.

Never mind the cartoony graphics, there’s a ton of gameplay to be had here.

4. The Space Collective

A simple version of Starcraft, playable in a web browser? That’s probably how I would describe this one, as it’s a real time strategy game in which you gather resources, defend your resource-gathering structures, and build structures to attack the resource-gathering structures of others.

The learning curve is a bit steep, but if you play around with it, it’s pretty easy to figure out, particularly if you’ve played games like Warcraft and Starcraft in the past.

6. Fantastic Contraption

This is a very addictive little puzzle game in which you’re simply building contraptions in order to move a ball into a goal. As the game goes on, the required contraptions become more and more elaborate and require more and more forethought to assemble.

Like DTD, above, this is a game I’ve played for years and keep coming back to time and time again.

I actually had an seventh game on this list, but I chose to remove it because it featured a very loud ad for a feminine hygiene product as the game was loading. No matter how good the game is, I’m just going to click away from that. (And, no, this isn’t sexism – I have similar feelings about any male ads along similar lines.)

If you reach the end of this post and haven’t enjoyed yourself for several hours (for free, no less!)… well, you need to go back up there and try out some more links.

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  1. Steven says:

    There goes the rest of my day… lol.

  2. Laura in Seattle says:

    Extra thumbs up on Fantastic Contraption. I used to play a similar PC game called Contraptions. Games like that are a lot of fun even if you’re by yourself – but if you alternate turns with another person, you find there are multiple correct solutions, and sometimes they will use a solution COMPLETELY different from yours. Really good individual and group exercise in creative thinking.

  3. Steven says:

    Oh man… one of the guys who founded League of Legends also did the DOTA. Didn’t realize the reference by Warcraft 3 alone. Man, there goes the rest of the night as well.

  4. Andrea says:

    Oh, great, crack. If the four on this list I haven’t played are anything like the two I have lost days and days of my life to (Fantastic Contraption and Desktop Tower Defense), I am doomed.

    Everybody, you should also avoid Zuma and Snood. Seriously.

  5. Bill in Houston says:

    Space Collective sounds a lot like the early-90s BBS game, Trade Wars 2002. It worked for team play or single on-line play.

    I loved that game! We’re staying home this holiday, so no Punta del Este this year (new roof!). Since I am taking two weeks off over Christmas and New Years anyway I’ll check it out. Thanks!

  6. k2000k says:

    bump on league of legends. great dota type game

  7. Johanna says:

    OK, I’m curious – what’s the male equivalent of a feminine hygiene product?

  8. kristinelevy says:


    Viagra seems to be the reference, as in “private” products. I would not consider it an analogy!

    I do not understand how anyone enjoys playing computer games. Never understood it, never will. The only game I have a remote tolerance for is Sid Meir’s “Civilization”.

    But then again, I don’t enjoy watching sports either- and tons of people do. It all seems so spectator. At least these ones are free!

  9. Bill says:

    @#7 Johanna,

    Feminine hygiene is bad and it is good that Trent protected us from it.

    Actually Trent, I have been playing Desktop Tower Defense since you last recommended it and since I’ve been building silly bridges for the last 3 hours please share #7 I’ll take my chances with the scary ads. I’m sure my wife of 20 years will explain them to me.

  10. Ryan says:

    lol you think products that deal with human health issues are inappropriate.

  11. kristine says:

    I think it’s good that men see those ads too. After all, my husband is the one who sometimes runs out to CVS to get them for me! He has even alerted me to the occasional new product. Now that’s a husband who is truly a best friend!

  12. Line Rider looks like something my son would enjoy, but when I tried to load the game in both Firefox and IE, all I got was a blank white screen….I couldn’t draw a line, and there was no start button. What am I doing wrong?

  13. @KristineLevy-now there’s a viagra ad on this page. lol

  14. Kate says:

    My favorite online game this time of year is FreeRice.com. Helping myself while helping others–it’s a win-win combination.

  15. Nikki says:

    Yeah, echo #9. I promise not to be offended by the ad. I wanna know what the game is. PLEEEEZE?

  16. Stacy says:

    Yikes! I stayed up until 3:00am the day after Christmas playing Desktop Tower. Very cool game. Thanks for the links!

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