The 26 best casual games you can play online, and for free, right now.
'We have all the time in the world', sang Louis Armstrong, a man famous for his love of wiling away that time with a casual game or two. We love casual games: time-sinking guilty pleasures that make your web browser into the greatest games console of all. Here with help of some of our colleagues we've collated a list of our favourite 26 best casual games which you can play in your browser. These are all online games, and all are free. Let us know if your favourite is missing or if you disagree with any of our choices. (See also: The 31 best OS X games for Mac and The 18 best role-playing games for iPhone and iPad.)
Best free online games: 26 best casual games for your browser
Best free casual games: 1. 2048 online
The great thing about playing 2048 online is that you can play even faster with keyboard arrows. 2048 is seriously addictive. The aim of the game is to get the 2048 tile, which is certainly no easy feat. You'll start with some low tiles like 2s and 4s, which you can slide in any direction (but not diagonally). When two tiles of the same number touch, they'll join to form one tile with a higher number created by adding the two numbers together. So two 4 tiles make an 8, two 8 tiles make a 16 and so on.
You need to continue merging the tiles until you get that all-important 2048 tile, which will win you the game. But the catch is that every time you move your tiles, even if you don't manage to merge any in that move, a 2 or 4 tile will appear on the grid. Run out of space and it'll be game over. The original app code for 2048 is open source and so clones such as this one have appeared all over the place. A good thing too. Our favourite online waste of time.
Best free casual games: 2. Cut the Rope (various)
We, along with many others, are big fans of the Cut the Rope series of games featuring the lovable Om Nom. Not only are the games available from various app stores for mobile devices, but you can play many of them online for free. Cut the Rope, Cut the Rope 2, Cut the Rope: Time Travel and Cut the Rope: Experiments are all playable in your browser. That's four games but we're putting them as one entry here. Simply use your mouse instead of your finger to play.
Best free casual games: 3. QWOP
QWOP is super hard, and super funny. In this game you are Qwop, your small nation's sole representative at the Olympic Games. It's like an old-school athletics SIM in that you have to use the QWOP keys to move your athlete's legs. It sounds simple, but it's not easy. And with around 30 million users around the globe it's pretty popular. With justification.
Best free casual games: 4. Plants vs Zombies online
Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defence video game that involves a homeowner using a variety of different plants to prevent an army of zombies from "eating their brains". Players place different types of plants and fungi, each with their own unique offensive or defensive capabilities, around a house in order to stop a horde of zombies from reaching the house of the residents. Fiendishly fun, amazingly addictive. And it will help you eat your greens.
Best free casual games: 5. World of Goo
World of Goo is a puzzle game, built around the idea of creating large structures using balls of goo. The main objective of the game is to get a requisite number of goo balls to a pipe designed to represent the exit. In order to do so, the player must use the goo balls to construct bridges, towers, and other structures to overcome gravity and various terrain difficulties such as chasms, hills, spikes, windmills, or cliffs. Got it? Of course you have. Now get on with the Goo.
Best free casual games: 6. Peggle
Like shooting balls at pegs? Of course you do. Each level of Peggle challenges you to shoot a limited supply of balls - usually 10 - at a field of coloured pegs. You need to clear out only the specifically marked pegs. Pegs light up when hit, and once the ball either falls through the bottom of the screen or is caught by the ball catcher that moves back and forth along the bottom in a fixed manner, the pegs will be removed. Struck pegs are also removed if the ball is stuck on them. Trust me, if you have time to kill there are many worse ways of doing so than in shooting up some pegs with your Peggle balls. Not a sentence I have written before.
Best free casual games: 7, 8 & 9. Bejeweled, Bejeweled Blitz, Bejeweled 3
We couldn't have any sort of list of online casual games without including the Bejeweled franchise, for franchise it now is. These are our favourite three online-playable Bejeweled games, but you will find others. In all the objective is to swap one gem with an adjacent gem to form a horizontal or vertical chain of three or more gems of the same colour. Like 2048 it couldn't be any more simple.
Bonus points are given when chains of more than three identical gems are formed and when two chains are formed in one swap. Gems disappear when chains are formed and gems fall from the top to fill in gaps. Sometimes chain reactions, called cascades, are triggered, where chains are formed by the falling gems. Cascades are awarded with bonus points. But really all you need to know is that swapping gems and making them disappear is simple, repetitive and a lot of satisfying fun.
Best free casual games: 10. Wandering Willows
Wondering what Wandering Willows is all about? Wonder no more. Wandering Willows takes place in a whimsical world full of wondrous wildlife and engaging quests. Your job is to befriend and train a variety of enchanting pets, and then complete a series of quests. Garden, bake, and create clothing and bouquets with the treasures your pet fetches for you.
Rinse, then repeat. It's fun!
Best free casual games: 11. Airport Mania: First Flight
The perfect casual game for those people who just don't get enough stress at work. Airport Mania: First Flight is a game in which you have to manage the wants of planes as they come in to land. This includes landing a presidential plane, very quickly, and without inadvertently committing treason. Come fly with me!
See also: The 26 best role playing games ever.
Best free casual games: 12. Bookworm
Help Lex the Bookworm spell words in this hit word-puzzle game. Go on, help him.
Best free casual games: 13. Westware
A game in which you control the destiny of the West as you build thriving towns and seek fortune. Yee haw!
Best free casual games: 14. Pure Hidden
An amazing game of hidden object discovery and amusing interactive surprises. Not my words, Lyn, the words of Top Gear. Well, actually the words of Pure Hidden's publisher. But it is a cracking game.
Best free casual games: 15. Dojo of Death
Super-fast Ninja sword-thrusting action. What more do you want?
Best free casual games: 16. Bomber Mine
A Massively Multiplayer Online game, but not a role-player. This is one of the most fun retro arcade games on the web.
Best free casual games: 17. Cat Box!
From the infinite cat project comes Cat Box! In this game you click green dots to form barricades, and box the cat into a single dot to win. Take revenge for all the catfood, cat sick and cat hairs, and for the fact that your lazy moggy has never done a day's work in his life.
Best free casual games: 18. JetPunk quizzes - Countries of the World
Okay, we are going slightly off brief for the next couple, but online quizzes are worth a mention and they are the definition of casual entertainment in the form of a game. We love this countries of the world one...
Best free casual games: 19. Sporcle quizzes - Can you name the presidents of the United States of America?
...and this one will make it clear to you how few US presidents you know. Er, Washington, Addams... miss a few, Kennedy, Nixon... er, Reagan, Bush, Obama. Did I get them all?
Best free casual games: 20. Pole Riders
The brother of QWOP, Pole Riders is a pole-vaulting polo game for two players only. It's a bit silly, but fun. Like the whole concept of gaming.
Best free casual games: 21. Pacman
Gobble. The original and best Happy Eater SIM you can play. Now available to play for free online.
Now read our controversial: 18 Worst Video games ever
Best free casual games: 22. Insaniquarium
Feed, breed, grow fish. Make money, fend off attacks. Life as the owner of an aquarium. It rocks (and sands and pebbles).
Best free casual games: 23. Burger Shop 2
Create tasty and in no way nutritious food items for hungry customers. Your very own McJob.
Best free casual games: 24. Chocolatier 2: Secret Ingredients
Much sweeter than Burger Shop 2 is the opportunity to build a confectionary empire. Best played with a good supply of Revels.
Best free casual games: 25. Totem Tribe
A combination of casual strategy, adventure, puzzles, and hidden objects.
Best free casual games: 26. Plant Tycoon
Percy Thrower's favourite casual game is a virtual gardening sim game. Breed and cross-breed more than 500 species of plants.
Is your favourite online casual game in our list? Tell us what we are missing, and why you agree or disagree in the comments below. (See also: The 5 best gaming PCs in the UK.)