Free games for the New Year: Marathon Trilogy

Marathon 1 Pistol

Halo creators Bungie have given the official nod to Aleph One , fan-made updates and remakes of the originally Mac-only Marathon series. The project reached version 1.0 in early December, with all three games now available for free. It's an impressive update, too: all three games include HD texture packs, network play, and work on modern operating systems.

They're exploration-based FPS games that look a little like Doom but play rather differently. From the beginning, Bungie were more interested in narrative than combat, and it shows: weapons and enemies are fairly standard fare, but its doomed starships and alien worlds still retain a bit of their old atmosphere. There's more writing than you'd expect, too, with world building-handled by AI-controlled computer terminals that feed out in-character plot and location info.

Marathon 2 even has voice-acted, short-lived teammates that fight alongside you for brief periods before biting the dust or teleporting away. The games feel like a glimpse into a parallel evolution of the FPS, one that - for better or worse - did a better job of anticipating the explosions-and-exposition future of the genre than anything id were making at the time.

As a package, it's something of a museum piece: but a well-curated one that's worth getting to know. The games themselves are polished, fun, and even creepy from time to time - just be willing to re-learn how to run around with the map open pressing use on everything. A note of warning: some of Marathon 2's menu noises sound exactly like an incoming Steam message. Don't be fooled! Your friends aren't really talking to you. Happy New Year.

Download it here.

Chris Thursten

Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.