The best online games for staying in touch with your friends
Picking a game to play with friends can be easier said than done. It has to be multiplayer, of course, and if it’s too simple, there won’t be enough meat on the bone to sustain long-term play. If it’s too complex, then there’s not a lot of room to chat and hang out.
Here’s a list of games that are perfect for just hanging out and staying in touch with people, even if they’re on the other side of the world. Whether you’re stuck inside, or just maintaining a long-distance friendship, these are great options that will allow you to shoot the shit (and occasionally, some aliens).
Jackbox Party Pack 3
Every Jackbox Party Pack contains a selection of party games, ranging from standard trivia to complex hidden-role games that are guaranteed to cause some delicious chaos. Only one person in the group needs to own the Party Pack, and the rest of the group can join in by entering the party code on jackbox.tv.
If you’re not sure which selection of games would suit you best, I’d recommend Jackbox Party Pack 3 — Tee K.O. and Quiplash XL are all-time greats, while Trivia Murder Party and Guesspionage can be played with basically any group of people. 6 is also fantastic, with Push the Button being worth the price of admission alone. – Cass Marshall
Jackbox Party Pack 3 is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows PC, and Mac.
Buy Jackbox Party Pack 3 here: Amazon | Steam | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Nintendo eShop
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
When you need to get away from it all, a tropical vacation with friends, family, or a loved one can really help. But when you can’t physically travel, the next best thing is a virtual vacation. Thankfully, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is just that, an island getaway full of fun activities like fishing, catching bugs, gardening, and DIY building projects. Plus, you can take this vacation with your friends. Hang out, exchange some fruit, watch an intimate performance with dog singer-songwriter K.K. Slider. Pop an ice-cold glass of vacation juice and chill out with your friends in the most laidback co-op experience of 2020: Animal Crossing: New Horizons. — Michael McWhertor
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available on Nintendo Switch.
Buy New Horizons here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop | Walmart
Sea of Thieves
Image: Rare/Microsoft Studios
Sea of Thieves is an incredibly wholesome pirate game that gives players a ship, a goal to find treasure, and a host of skeletons to defeat. Things get really fun when you encounter other players out on the sea; there’s a surprising amount of depth to building alliances, choosing when to betray, and executing PvP combat maneuvers.
I’ve found the key to making everyone mad in Sea of Thieves
Since launch, Sea of Thieves has worked hard to be accessible. A PvP mode, The Arena, offers 24-minute matches of PvP combat oriented play. There’s also a relatively new tutorial, Maiden Voyage, that can ease in new players that might otherwise find themselves lost at sea.
The appeal of Sea of Thieves is simple: It’s the best pirate simulator on the market, and it offers lots of sandbox shenanigans. The only downside is getting more than four players together on one server is prohibitively difficult, so larger groups of friends may want to find a different way to play together. – CM
Sea of Thieves is available on Xbox One and Windows PC.
Buy Sea of Thieves here: Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart | Xbox Store
This pick is obvious — who doesn’t like playing with Lego? Minecraft allows players to build whatever they like, from vast underground caverns to high-tech cities. Along the way, there are beasts to fell, like a horde of Creepers, spooky Endermen, and a host of pig warriors in Hell.
Players can either rent a “realm”, which allows up to 10 consecutive players, or pay for a larger private server. Personally, I find the best way to play Minecraft with friends is to set out and build a city, and have everyone work together to collect materials and create one cohesive set of buildings. But the beauty of Minecraft is you can do anything you like, as long as you can imagine it. – CM
Minecraft is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC.
Buy Minecraft here: Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Nintendo eShop
Red Dead Online / Grand Theft Auto Online
Image: Rockstar Games via Polygon
While Grand Theft Auto Online was a rough experience at launch, Rockstar has gotten very good at creating compelling ongoing worlds. Jumping into Grand Theft Auto Online is like a Fast and the Furious movie. Meanwhile, Red Dead Online offers a satisfying cinematic Western experience. Both games have activities that can comfortably host more than four players, and there’s plenty to do.
While players can build their own criminal empires in both games, some of the most fun I’ve had is brawling in a bar with my friends, horseback riding, or playing ping-pong with anti-gravity guns and passing cars in the street. Rockstar’s online games offer a good mix between hijinks and structured activity that works really well for online play. – CM
Red Dead Online and Grand Theft Auto are available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.
Buy Red Dead Redemption 2 here: Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store
Buy Grand Theft Auto 5 here: Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store
Image: Digital Extremes
Warframe is an impossibly deep game with lots of systems to master, but it’s also incredibly fun to jump into just because the core gameplay is so good. Players take the role of a space mecha-ninja with the ability to triple-flip and an arsenal of deadly sci-fi weaponry. Because there isn’t a traditional leveling system, players are rewarded from completing content at all tiers. That means a veteran can help a new player out without wasting their time, and a new player can even tag along on a few higher level expeditions.
There’s a solo campaign that’s worth exploring, but Warframe is at its best when players are engaged in spaceship combat or storming a high level mission. The Empyrean expansion, with its customizable ships, shows that the future for this kind of gameplay is only going to get better in Warframe. – CM
Warframe is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.
Buy Warframe here: PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Nintendo eShop | Steam
Final Fantasy 14
While the main scenario quests for Final Fantasy 14 is mostly solo content, there’s plenty to do in the game with friends. You can fight through underground waterways to find treasure, fish with buds on a huge boat, and progress through hard bosses together until you clear them. You can also just opt to hang out in one of your player-made homes, if you’re lucky enough to have one. Whether you want to play through as much of the story as you can or just hang out and chat in the port town, Final Fantasy 14 is a great way to pass the time with a group online. – Julia Lee
Final Fantasy 14 is available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Mac.
Buy Final Fantasy 14 here: Amazon | Best Buy | PlayStation Store | Steam
Overcooked 2 is a game that’s great if you’re tired of team-building with your buddies, and instead you want to wreak all kinds of havoc on your relationships. This culinary game is bursting with opportunities to cause chaos. If you looked at the other games on this list, and thought, “No thank you, I would rather cause problems instead,” then this is the four-person game for you. — CM
Overcooked 2 is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC, and Mac.
Buy Overcooked 2 here: Amazon | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Nintendo eShop | Steam
There’s a lot to do in Destiny 2, from low-key Strikes and player-versus-player modes to raids that require the full attention of your and five of your pals. There’s also a chill quality to getting a Fireteam together and just enjoying Destiny 2’s excellent gunplay with a couple friends. Bungie has give us dozens of ways to grind and helps keep Destiny 2 fresh with seasonal content, so it’s almost always a good time to head to the Tower and connect with your long-distance Guardian buds. — MM
Destiny 2 is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.
Get Destiny 2 here: PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Steam
You’ve heard of this: It’s soccer, but with cars! Even if you’re not a sports fan, Rocket League is easy (and pretty inexpensive; it’s usually $19.99 or less) to get into. Plus, it’s broadly cross-platform compatible, letting you get your Nintendo, Xbox, PC, and PlayStation pals into the same game. — MM
Rocket League is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC.
Buy Rocket League here: Amazon | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Nintendo eShop | Steam
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