Need a little fun in your life? Host a remote game night from your living room

Once you’re finished watching all the Netflix you can handle, you might be craving some social interaction. During this time of physical distancing, it can be tough to find a way to connect with family and friends. But we have the solution — set up online games to play with friends. With tons of game options and these easy setup instructions, you can invite everyone from your niece to your grandpa to join in on the fun for a game night.

Let your friends know that they will need access to a smartphone and a laptop so they can be prepared ahead of time. Here’s everything you need to know on how to set up your game night with friends, including details on video-chat apps, internet requirements and games to play.

Quick setup guide to playing online games with friends

  1. Have everyone log on to the chosen video-chat platform from their computer or laptop.
  2. The game host can access the game on their computer screen, then share their screen with the group.
  3. Your smartphone will serve as your game controller. Decide if you want to play Jackbox Games or AirConsole. For Jackbox Games, visit jackbox.tv on your smartphone browser and enter the four-letter room code. For AirConsole, go to AirConsole.com on your smartphone browser and enter the six-digit number.
  4. Start your game.

Which video-chat app is best for online games? 

If you want to play online games with your friends remotely, you first need to decide which video chat platform you want to use. Each person will need to connect via the same video-conferencing app. Zoom, Google Hangouts and Houseparty are among the most popular and functional apps for this purpose.

How to use Google Hangouts, Zoom or Houseparty for game nights

You can create a free Google Hangouts account. Anyone with a Gmail address can access Google Hangouts. Zoom is also a popular platform for everything from work meetings to games, but be aware that the free version of Zoom will end your call after 40 minutes. 

Houseparty is growing in popularity due to its free access and unlimited talk time. You can purchase and play popular games, such as Heads Up!, within the Houseparty app, which eliminates the need for a separate computer screen. Houseparty has a limit of eight people per call, so if your gaming group is larger than that, you will need to use another video-chat tool. 

Use this quick side-by-side comparison of price, number of players and recommended internet speed for gaming so you can select the video-chat tool that is best for your group. 

Game night video chat apps at a glance

Video chat toolStarting priceTime limitMax. number of participantsMinimum recommended internet download speed
Google HangoutsFreeUnlimitedTen3 Mbps
HousepartyFreeUnlimitedEight2 Mbps
ZoomFree40 minutes1003 Mbps

Which online games are the best?

Two of the best collections of online games to play with friends games are Jackbox Games and AirConsole. Jackbox has been around for three decades as a video-game developer, so they’ve had plenty of time to perfect their games, while relative newcomer AirConsole hit the market in late 2015.

The nice feature of both Jackbox and Airconsole is that only one person needs a paid account. If someone in your friend group already has an account, then they can simply share their screen with the rest of the group and no one else has to purchase any products.

Want to determine which gaming collection is right for you? Take a look at this Jackbox vs. AirConsole comparison to determine which multiplayer party game is best for your group.

Jackbox vs. Airconsole

GameProsCons
Jackbox Games✔ High-quality games✘ More expensive initial investment – a one-time fee of $24.99 for the average ‘party pack’
✘ Less game selection – 30 titles currently
AirConsole✔ Free version available
✔ Over 130 games to choose from
✘ Graphics quality is average

Jackbox costs more initially, but the quality of games is worth the investment. The graphics are beautifully designed and the interface is intuitive. Plus, the games are clever, fun and easy to learn with the help of a built-in narrator who explains the rules at the beginning of each gaming session. You also have the choice to skip the intro if you already know how to play.  Below is an example of the Jackbox Fibbage game where players make up trivia answers to fool each other.

The AirConsole app costs $4.99/mo. Again, only one person needs to subscribe. Everyone else can play for free. There is also a free version of the app, but it limits the game selection and number of players to four or less. Some of the best games for groups included FriendsQuiz, QuizWitz and Go Kart Go! friends quiz, and very convincing Mario Kart dupe. AirConsole is the better option for kids and younger players due to the amount of simple and quick games. 

Schedule your online game night 

Don’t forget, make sure you have the internet speeds you need to make your online party successful. And before you play your game night with friends and family, send a calendar invite or create a Facebook event to remind your group — it’s easy to forget what day it is when we are all working from home and learning remotely.  

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