The Epic Games Store is becoming something of a PC gaming meta-platform, having recently started making discrete gaming platforms available to download from its own storefront. Earlier this year, Itch.io came to Epic Games Store, and now it also plays host to cloud gaming platform Antstream Arcade, which lets you play over 1200 retro games for free on your PC.
Antstream has a huge games library, focusing mostly on games from the 80s and early 90s. While I'm of the unhip opinion that games from the Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 era are a little too archaic to keep you glued to your screen for more than a few minutes of nostalgic novelty, there are some bona fide 16-bit classics from later eras in there too.
Double Dragon, Gauntlet and Metal Slug are excellent co-op options to bash and blast your way through, the Amiga version of Barbarian is a deceptively realistic distant ancestor of the promising Hellish Quart, and Sensible World of Soccer takes me back to a time when both football and its videogames were more innocent.
I also can't help but be drawn in by the campy hand-painted box art of games like Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja and Burning Fight, an SNK beat-em-up starring a couple of "Butch New York detectives Duke and Billy who travel to Japan to fight a Japanese crime syndicate." A Japanese crime syndicate in Japan? Who'd have guessed?!?
The free tier is ad-supported, but still gives you access to all the games, while the premium ad-free version costs £10 a month. One of the 'free games' on Epic this week is actually a Welcome Pack for AntStream, which gives you 1090 gems that you can spend to participate in tournaments, unlock new in-game challenges and play turn-based PvP against other players. Sadly, the platform is yet to offer simultaneous online multiplayer.
Remember that this is a cloud gaming platform, so a strong internet connection is a must. If you're intrigued by AntStream but can't handle the stark user experience of Epic Games Store, you can also find AntStream Arcade on Steam, where it's been available for several months now and is yet to receive a review. Hopefully its stint as the Epic freebie this week will give it some much-needed exposure.