Free adventure Penitent Dead evokes FromSoftware's atmospheric PS1 games

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(Image credit: Tom Sykes)

Fear not, I'm not about to compare the excellent Penitent Dead (opens in new tab) to Dark Souls. That would be rather lazy. No, I'm going to compare it to King's Field, and to Shadow Tower, two of FromSoftware's early games. It's the closest a game has come to the smeary, leaden ambiance of those atmospheric PlayStation games, and I love it for it, even if I couldn't figure out how to end the game (or even if I could).

Penitent Dead, like King's Field, like Shadow Tower, is a game about wandering around a gloomy world, with only a vague idea of what you're supposed to be doing. There are no murderous slimes, or sudden instead deaths, unfortunately, but you do have a reassuringly sluggish sword to wield, and of course the textures judder and warp when you get too close—just like a PS1 game.

Am I recommending this free first-person exploration game because it reminds me of those classic games, or because it's good in its own right? Yes, and yes. The gothic atmosphere is so rich you could almost drink it, and unlike many walking games there is actually stuff to do: a few goals to achieve, a few corpses to examine and items to collect. As I said, no idea about the ending, but I love what I played of this authentic, creepy, ambiguous, mysterious artefact. (Thanks, Warp Door (opens in new tab).)

For more great free experiences, check out our roundup of the best free PC games.

Tom loves exploring in games, whether it’s going the wrong way in a platformer or burgling an apartment in Deus Ex. His favourite game worlds—Stalker, Dark Souls, Thief—have an atmosphere you could wallop with a blackjack. He enjoys horror, adventure, puzzle games and RPGs, and played the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VIII with a translated script he printed off from the internet. Tom has been writing about free games for PC Gamer since 2012. If he were packing for a desert island, he’d take his giant Columbo boxset and a laptop stuffed with PuzzleScript games.