The best online games to play with your friends via Zoom video calls
Cabin fever sets in very quickly, and while once new, catch-up sessions and video-call conversations don’t quite cut it anymore – after all, how many times can you ask ‘how are you? spend life at home” without getting the same tired response? At least we live in the 21st century. animal crossingconsoles and mobile games aside, virtual board games are now a reality, thanks to the wonders of technology.
You have a game for every occasion – now digital classic board games, hit card games or casual icebreakers – most of which are available online for free. We are at a strange time in our lives; even extroverts and introverts agree on the virtues of virtual socialization for mental health. So why not give them a try the next time you’re bored on Zoom? Ahead are some of the most popular multiplayer games, plus a list of the pros and cons of each that I’ve personally tried.
1. House party
You love seeing your friends on FaceTime, but know that if the conversation ever hits a lull, now there’s a way to break that awkward silence. house party is a social networking app that offers games built into the chat window – a great option for those with a short attention span (that’s all of us). All you have to do is hit the dice icon to rate a number of games, including Heads Up!, Trivia, Quick Draw, and Chips and Guac. I would personally recommend Draw quickly on your cellphone, which is essentially Pictionary now simplified with a touchscreen, and Anecdoteswhich includes many areas of expertise, if you and your friends like to compete on general knowledge and pop culture.
The set up: Each player downloads the application and opens a free account. Start a game by inviting friends to a room/group video call, then tap the dice icon to choose a game. Up to 8 people in one room.
Benefits): Fun board games are fun. Not much configuration required, you can easily rate games during chat. You can save really bad cartoons to post on your Instagram stories.
The inconvenients): Even with 4 game options, they can get tired quite quickly due to the repetitive format. Very few free categories for Heads Up!, which is a shame.
Think, updated Pictionary. Instead of pulling out an old-fashioned pen and paper, skribbl.io lets you select digital tools to draw on a screen instead. Each game consists of a few rounds where you and your friends will take turns drawing a selected word, while others try to guess it in order to score points. You guess by typing answers in the chat, and here typing speed and accuracy are important – the faster you guess the word, the more points you will get!
The set up: Start a game by creating a private room, then sharing the link with other players. You don’t have to make a video call for this, but it would be fun to discuss the answers
shame on your friends along the way! Up to 8 players.
Benefits): It’s easy to get everyone involved when the game is so universal, no lengthy explanation required. There is a competitive advantage thanks to the fastest point system and finger format.
The inconvenients): You’ll be at a huge disadvantage if you’re using your laptop’s trackpad… or if you mistype while doing this on your mobile device – choose your weapon of choice wisely.
skribbl.io, available in line.
3. Jackbox Party Pack 3
jack box has been around for a while, best known for its brand of irreverent digital board games that you can play on just about any device. A lot of their games rely on wit and intelligence if you want to come out on top, and I would say, try this with a group of close friends where you share the same kind of humor, for the best results.
How irreverent you ask? There are quiplash, an innocent-sounding game that’s truly a fierce battle of wits; players enter their best answer to given prompts and vote on others’ answers to determine the next comedian among your friends. Warning: the most inappropriate answers that use crude, dirty or just very dark humor usually win. Then there is fibbagewhere you try to fool your friends by making up the answers to real but nonsensical trivial questions.
The set up: Every player needs a phone or other web-enabled device to use as a controller. To play on Zoom, you can use the screen sharing feature. A person starts a game and will be assigned a unique on-screen room code to be shared with all players. Each player then goes to Jackbox.tv on your device’s web browser and enter the room code to play. Up to 8 players.
Benefits): Only one person needs the game to host, while other players can play on their own devices. You won’t need to explain the instructions for each game as they will be provided at startup. Multiple games, each with high replay value since they rely on user input; the prompts barely repeat. Can be as outrageous as you want.
The inconvenients): Not free. Not suitable for children. You actually have to use your brain for this, which not everyone appreciates (no shade!).
Jackbox Party Pack 3, $24.99. Available on all platforms such as Steam, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, etc.
4. “Cards Against Humanity” / Ranged Insensitivity
For fans of Cards Against Humanitytry this free online version, now repackaged in Ranged Insensitivity. The same rules apply to the popular game which bills itself as “a party game for horrible people”: in each turn, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with the white card. the funniest in their hand. The player asking the question will then select the most appealing answer from the submissions. There’s obviously no way to tell which card goes with which answer, if someone chooses to bet on obvious slapstick, socially inappropriate humor, sarcasm or meta-irony, but that’s why this game is up there in terms of replay value – depending on how funny your group of friends can be.
The set up: Start a game by creating a private room, then sharing the link with other players. Video call encouraged. Up to 6 players.
Benefits): Easy interface and setup, looks almost like Hearts on the computer. High replayability. Wildly inappropriate.
The inconvenients): Not suitable for children. Only as funny as your bandmates.
Remote insensitivity, available in line.
5. Secret Hitler
I can’t recommend this hit social board game highly enough. Set in 1930s Germany, this dramatic game secretly divides players into two teams – liberals and fascists – where each faction must compete to see who can adopt the correct policies to win the game. The Fascists must coordinate to sow distrust and elect their leader, Hitler, as Chancellor, while the Liberals must uncover and uncover the hidden Hitler before it’s too late. Yes, it’s a board game, but the context creates an interesting backstory for your game. You can also imagine the amount of intrigue, lies, sabotage, and betrayal that goes into protecting and defending your true identity. While having fun, of course. Although I’m more used to playing the game in person, the online versionworth a shot too – there’s an in-game chat feature for chatting between players.
The set up: Start a game by creating a private room, then sharing the link with other players. The video call is somewhat necessary to understand everyone’s motivations and make your case, but it can get messy. Up to 10 players.
Benefits): Easy installation. High replayability. Very funny; you’ll discuss strategies, must-haves, and smart and dumb moves in hindsight, long after the game is over.
The inconvenients): Requires above average thinking skills if you want a worthy game. Can take a long time. Unfortunately, video calling isn’t the best platform to raise valid arguments and counter-arguments, which is what this game needs; some opinions may go unheard, while passive players may prioritize game progress over logical choices.
secret hitler, available in line.
Another old school game gone virtual, this one relies on a free game generator, although the concept still requires you to activate actual brain power. Here you have one letter and five categories (things like “band or musician”, “girl’s name” or “animal”), plus 60 seconds to come up with a word for each category that starts with the chosen letter. You even get rewarded if your answers are more unusual than most, while the best part, in my opinion, is that you won’t have to manually calculate the points.
The set up: Start a game by creating a private room, then sharing the link with other players. Up to 20 players.
Dispersions, available in line.
7. Code names
While it was usually a card game and a popular enough game to feature frequently on pre-Circuit Breaker Instagram Stories, now you can relive the same excitement over video chat. Code names is a guessing game played with 4 to 8 players, where players are divided into two teams, red and blue. Each round, each team’s spymaster gives their team coded clues so they can correctly choose the correct word card on the board. You’ll probably need a good grasp of the language and abstract concepts, but it’s that difficult element and high margin of error that makes this game fun – that and how you’ll definitely want a rematch afterwards.
To start: Read it Rules of the game before starting. Start a game by creating a session and then sharing the link with other players. Accompany this with a video call. Up to 8 players.
Code names, available in line.