The 50 best free PC games
Developer: Terry Cavanagh
Chris: Hexagon is essentially Super Hexagon’s Hexagon mode, in its entirety, for free. The premise is incredibly simple: you rotate an arrow around a circle and try to thread a path through a pulsing neon hexagonal maze. As an exercise in focus, reflexes and pattern recognition, it’s every other arcade game triple-distilled: a quick, high-yield dose of flashing lights, pounding music and inevitable crushing failure.
29. Red Rogue
Developer: Aaron Steed & Nathan Gallardo
Phil: This side-scrolling action roguelike posits that anyone who delves into a dungeon full of monsters is more than a little unhinged. Red Rogue’s heroine feels like the most monstrous thing in the game’s randomly generated levels. It’s the way she and her minion calmly despatch imps: blood spurting across the otherwise monochrome rooms. That feeling can easily slip into overconfidence. Whether it’s forgetting to scan for traps or making a poor deal with a chaos god, careless decisions are quickly punished.
Developer: Amanita Design
Graham: Samorost and its sequel are adventure games as Moomin creator Tove Jansson might have made them. Its patchwork art is made out of photographs of logs, plants, old cans; its white, handanimated main character speaks in whoops and illustrations; and it all takes place on asteroids in space. With no inventory, it’s your job to solve puzzles by poking and prodding this world to reveal charming animations. Its creator went on to make the paid-for point-and-click Machinarium, but I prefer this.
Developer: Ivan Zanotti
Chris: An inventive horror game that takes over a folder in your hard drive. Every time you boot it up it will place you somewhere new, and somewhere scarier. It only takes half an hour to complete, and the standout moment is a puzzle sequence that remixes the basic item-collecting of Slender and accelerates it over a couple of frantic minutes spent being chased around in circles in an underground carpark.
We were, understandably, a bit scared upon first discovering Imscared back in 2012.
Developer: Bennett Foddy
Chris: It’s just as easy to fail at as QWOP, but I find GIRP gentler somehow. You climb a rockface (and avoid falling into the sea) by holding down various keys on your keyboard to indicate where to place your climber’s flailing hands. Let go, and he lets go – turning the game into a kind of small-scale Twister – or full-scale Twister, if you’re lucky enough to get to play it on a set of rejigged dance mats.
25. Diaspora: Shattered Armistice
Developer: Diaspora Dev Team
Phil: A standalone FreeSpace 2 mod set in the Battlestar Galactica universe, Diaspora dispenses with heavy-handed real-world allegory in favour of recreating the show’s most iconic and exciting space dogfights. Good choice, modders! As a hotheaded Viper pilot, you battle toasters, pull 180 spins, and ‘come in hot’. The presentation is fantastic, and the voice acting solid, but it’s the scale of battles that sells the experience. Your first encounter with a Cylon Baseship feels as overwhelming and dangerous as the show suggests it should.
24. One Chance
Developer: Awkward Silence Games
Developer: Toribash Team
Graham: This turn-based, physics-driven fighting game arrived in the PCG office in 2006. We would crowd around a single PC to watch each other flail, directing limbs individually in a hopeless attempt to connect a punch. Search YouTube today and you’ll find slickly edited montages of players performing the most absurd tricks, but it’s no less fun to fumble and feel your way towards some gory end.
22. SCP: Containment Breach
Developer: SCP CB Team
Rich: Seen in the cold light of day, your main antagonist – a bulbous white Tellytubby of a thing – couldn’t frighten a particularly frightened child. But put it in an endless succession of gloomy rooms and its Tinky-Winky arms suddenly look like they could snap your neck in a second, its Po-face becomes a scary mess of yonic slashes and sick-green eyes. Containment Breach’s power is doubled by drawing on the SCP mythos: a set of invented (or are they?) internet stories about horrors and monsters locked up by a shadowy organisation. The terror-Tellytubby is SCP- 173, and later versions of the game have added more monsters.
21. Super Crate Box
Graham: A single screen of platforms, with a steady stream of monsters pouring in at the top. A crate appears. Grab the weapon inside. Collect as many crates as possible to reach high scores, but each crate gives you a new weapon, and each weapon forces you to adapt your tactics.