The 50 best free PC games
Graham: Transport Tycoon Deluxe is a classic of the management genre, created by Chris Sawyer before he discovered rollercoasters. This open source recreation was built by and for those who would rather vomit over an improperly balanced spreadsheet than a stick of candyfloss. One of the best, and most frequently updated, indie strategy games ever made.
Developer: Brian Walker
Graham: It simplifies roguelike controls by using the mouse, but it’s the monkeys that made me love it. Free them from their goblin captors, and the little thieves become your friends, following you on your adventure until you drink the wrong potion and teleport yourself over a cliff.
Graham wrote many more words about Why He Loves Brogue (not to mention Brogue's monkeys) here.
18. Nitronic Rush
Developer: Team Nitronic
Chris: Initially a university project by students at DigiPen, Nitronic Rush is an arcade racing game inspired by Tron, WipeOut, and F-Zero. You drive a transforming virtual future-car in a twisting neon city, and a series of jet engines mounted around the chassis enable you to twist, airbreak, spin and even fly, limited only by your vehiclefs heat level. The gamefs fantastic presentation enables it to compete with the best arcade racers on the PC, if you ask me . and Team Nitronic are clearly having more fun with the format than most of their peers. A Kickstarted successor, Distance, is due later in the year.
We made Nitronic Rush one of our Free Games for the New Year way back in 2011.
17. Alien Swarm
Rich: Valve’s four-player arena game has a deep understanding of the kind of cooperative interaction that makes you love, hate, love, and then really hate your friends in the space of a 20 minute mission. It’s chest-burstingly full of opportunities for both heroism and public failure.
It turns out Tom Francis wrote a lot of words about Alien Swarm, including a touching tale of heroics, a guide to playing the game in first-person, and an interview with Valve revealing why it was released for free in the first place.
Developer: Tim Baker
Graham: Released in 1990, Angband was a traditional roguelike – ASCII graphics, permadeath, fantasy setting. It begat Zangband, based on Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber series, and which in turn begat ZangbandTk, which added a graphical interface, sound effects, and other things to make the game playable by human minds. A great starting point.
15. Digital: A Love Story
Developer: Christine Love
Phil: Part visual novel, part investigative adventure, Digital returns you to the world of the late ’80s internet. You dial up BBSes, message their users and hunt through their forums. All to understand the mysterious disappearance of a girl who sent you poetry.
Graham: Your first time around any of the user-created tracks is a minutes-long exercise in failure: you’ll round the first corner and fall down a pit you had no way of seeing. Instant restarts are a salve for frustration, and it’s not long before you know when to hit the accelerator hard, when to prepare for a jump, when to bank hard left when sailing through the air. After that, it’s all about becoming the fastest in the world.
Developer: Arcane Kids
Phil: A high-speed skating game that’s somehow more stylistic and exaggerated than Jet Set Radio. There are missions to complete, secrets to uncover and a bizarre Twitter obsession to ponder. But all are distractions next to the effortlessly cool feeling of building momentum through the weird cel-shaded city. You can grind, slide and wall-ride your way to improbable speeds, using the ever increasing velocity to launch yourself towards the game’s ultimate goal. For reference: the game’s ultimate goal is skating to the moon.
12. Battle for Wesnoth
Developer: Battle for Wesnoth
Chris: This is a massive fantasy turnbased strategy game developed, run, and continually expanded by a dedicated community. Battle for Wesnoth is one of my favourite netbook games because there are so many campaigns that you’ll basically never run out of things to do – and the turn-based pace is perfect for short sessions or gaming in places where you can’t use a mouse. Extensive guides for creating your own races, campaigns and maps make it easy to shift from player to developer, too.
Developer: FreeCiv Community
Rich: It’s Civ, right, but it’s free. Oh, if only the developers had thought of a way to express that in a name. We’ll just have to make do with a version of the classic turn-based strategy game that we can play in our browsers thanks to the witchcraft of HTML 5. There’s an installable version, too, and although FreeCiv doesn’t have the glitz or polish of Civ III and onwards, it’s still tapped into that voodoo current of compulsion.