Social networks like Facebook and Google+ may steal all of the headlines, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy some gaming in a web browser. The quality of browser-based games is steadily increasing, and the sheer variety on offer is pretty incredible: from full-blown massively multiplayer online games all the way to deceptively simple word games, it’s pretty easy to find a great gaming experience just one tab over while you browser Gamezebo.

Here are our four favorite browser games of 2011.

#4 – RamaCity

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City-building games have become nigh ubiquitous on social networks, and RamaCity manages to capture that same experience outside of Facebook. And it even adds some neat new twists to the formula. The addition of power plants, more in-depth business management elements, and easier to achieve city growth make RamaCity a solid alternative to CityVille. And even better, for those who tend to get stuck in these sorts of games due to a lack of friends who are also playing, RamaCity is very solo-friendly, making it possibly the best single-player, browser-based city building game.

#3 – Shadow Era

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Shadow Era was one of our favorite card games of the year, and with good reason: its intuitive and addictive take on collectible card games is hard to put down. But part of what makes the game so great is the fact that you can play it pretty much anywhere, including your web browser. Your save data transfers from one platform to the next, making it easy to sneak in a few games while you should be working and then sneak in a few more on the commute home. It’s also flush with content, with plentiful cards to collect and regular updates to keep you coming back.

#2 – Gunshine.net

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Free-to-play MMOs are a dime a dozen nowadays, but even still the highly polished, fast paced, and addictive Gunshine.net manages to stand out. Unlike most games in the genre, Gunshine is action packed and, much like classics like Torchlight and Diablo, it’s packed with enemies to destroy and gear and weapons to collect. For the compulsive loot collector, there are few better options. Throw in a large, varied world to explore and interesting multiplayer features and you have a game that’s hard to step away from.

#1 – Panda Poet

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There are a few genres that have seemingly reached their creative peak. After all, what else can you really do with a Scrabble-style word game? As it turns out, you can do quite a bit. Panda Poet breaths new life into the genre, with creative and fun asynchronous word play. And not only is it incredibly enjoyable to play, it also doesn’t skimp with the presentation, with adorable visuals and, surprisingly, a truly great soundtrack. Panda Poet makes word games cool once again.