It has been another great year for free PC games. Many are experimental projects that the developers intend to expand later, some are one-shot proof-of-concept sketches. Some are complete and satisfying games in their own right. From adventure games to puzzle games, city building games, shooters and more, we've rounded up a varied collection of our favourite free experiences from 2017.
A Landlord's Dream
A cyberpunk adventure game in a run-down apartment complex, and a game that feels a lot like a forgotten Phillip K. Dick story, brought to life with great attention to detail. Lovely, crunchy pixel art, careful worldbuilding, and a perfectly mood-setting, Vangelis-style soundtrack complete the package.You can grab A Landlord's Dream from itchi.io now.
A neat take on a traditional RTS with terrain deformation, projectile physics and cool units, and all for free. There is a galaxy-spanning singleplayer campaign to enjoy and a mode that lets you team up with friends to fend off waves of "chicken-monsters". Grab it here.
A Museum of Dubious Splendors
A surrealist art gallery in free download form, A Museum of Dubious Splendors is the latest addition to Studio Oleomingus' long-running Somewhere project. You pick up fragments of story as you explore the museums strange, beautifully textured corridors. Somewhere attempts to interpret different aspects of Indian culture using expressionistic 3D virtual spaces,
Let's not say too much about Embuscade, as it would rob this first-person horror of its surprise, but know that you should play it, and you should play it to the very end. You'll wander around an eerily abandoned city fishing around in bins, and generally appreciating the beautiful combination of low-res pixel art and sophisticated 3D lighting.
Iridescence is an arcade shmup inspired by Ikaruga's colour-changing mechanic—you flip the colour alignment of your ship to avoid damage from projectiles of that colour. Instead of lasers enemies and their projectiles are inkblot splats on a scrolling canvas and, unlike Ikaruga, your hand-drawn little ship deals more damage the closer it gets to enemies, which encourages some nervous brinkmanship as you fly through the hail of bullets.
Enjoy a few minutes of peaceful journeying, in Alexander Perrin's adeptly hand-drawn side-on adventure set on a tram network. You simply have to start and stop the tram on its route, but the countryside between stops is stunning to observe, but the sound design might be even better, Short Trip's rickety rail noises and background atmosphere transport you to another place and time.
The Visible City
In the pretty real-time strategy-ish game The Visible City. You're trying to stop a district in Paris from succumbing to revolution, something you achieve by distributing bobbies (to tackle revolutionaries) and engineers (to fix broken street lights). It's a simple, strong idea, elegantly delivered.
Time only moves when you do in this ode to SUPERHOT and Wolfenstein 3D. There's no mouselook—you move with WASD, and shoot and turn with the arrow keys. The time-pause feature is a blessing, because in RetroHOT a single bullet will kill you. Be careful out there.
Arc Symphony, like Digital: A Love Story before it, will take you right back to the early(-ish) days of the internet—a world of chat rooms, and of cosy, specialist message boards. In these places you could meet people with similar interests, invent a new identity, or become who you were, deep inside. This is a wonderful game: well-observed, authentically '90s, and with excellent presentation, putting you in the midst of a small community dedicated to a fictional, Final Fantasy-like JRPG.
Spikes 'n' Stuff
Alan Hazelden's latest puzzler combines two elements in an ingenious way, fusing the twin challenges of deadly arrow traps and equally deadly floor spikes. It's PuzzleScript, so Spikes 'n' Stuff is a grid-based, turn-based experience that tasks you with traversing a series of dungeon rooms safely—another devious, challenging puzzler from the prolific Hazelden.
Created for the 1-Bit Clicker Jam (only two colours, mouse controls, and chiptunes allowed), City Clickers is a rather beautiful take on the SimCity formula. In this unhurried sim, you're given a big pile of money and an expanse of wilderness to play around with—oh, and access to a range of buildings to plonk on the ground as well. You do this, somewhat gratingly, by hammering the left mouse button, however it's worth the strain on both your finger and mouse, as there's a whole heap of virtual mayoring here to keep you busy. City Clickers will be expanded in the future, but there's a lot here already, and it only grows in complexity as you similarly expand your town.