Making a game is an expensive affair, often costing millions of dollars. Half Life 2 cost Valve in excess of $40 million. Considering the amount of effort and money it takes to create a game, it’s not surprising that high quality free games are few and far in between. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions. I present to you ten truly awesome free games. Some of them were initially released as commercial ventures and were later re-released as free downloads. But many of the games are freeware in the true sense of the term. Some of these games are in fact so good that you would have a hard time believing that they are free. Here are my top ten free games:
1. & 2. America’s Army 3 and Area-51 (Action)
Choosing the best game for this category was fairly easy. Released earlier this month America’s Army features high quality visuals delivered by the Unreal 3 engine. The games release itself was plagued with problems and mired in controversy. The huge demand clogged up Steam’s servers and many people weren’t able to download it on the day of release. On top of that the game servers also had issues coping up with the demand and often took as long as a day to update your status. A patch has been issued to bypass these initial problems. Ignoring these initial hiccups, America’s Army is a fantastic shooter for its price. It is developed by the US Army and features realistic team based gameplay. Be careful while shooting because, as in real life friendly fires are scorned upon and result in serious penalty. Like the previous instalments AA3 is mainly an online game and online multiplayer is where all the fun is. Head over to the official website to enroll yourself and download the game.
If you are disappointed by the lack of single player gameplay in AA3 and are looking for a solid free single player action game then Area-51 is made for you. This game was initially a commercial release however was later on released as a freeware with the backing of US Air Force. As the name suggests this game puts you inside the secret US Government complex – Area 51. An unknown virus has been released inside the complex that has been mutating people into killers. And it’s up to you to stop the mutants. The story isn’t the best and neither is its presentation. But Area-51 more than makes up for the lacklusture story with action packed gameplay. Download the game from here or check out IGN’s review to learn more about it.
3. The Suffering (Horror)
The Suffering is a fast paced Action Horror game that has usual elements like darkness and truckload of monster to ramp up the scare factor. It was initially released in 2004 but was re-released last year as an ad-supported free game. The Suffering is an entertaining game that manages to keep you interested for pretty much the entire duration of the game by intertwining puzzle elements among all the action. Another nice addition is the insanity mode in which you can temporarily become a monster and pick off your enemies. While playing the game you would often stumble across trapped guards and inmates. You can choose to either save them, or ignore them or kill and loot them. Interestingly enough the game has three endings and which ending you get is determined by how you behave within the game. Download The Suffering from here or check out IGN Review for more details on this game.
4. Dirty Split (Adventure)
Choosing the best free game in this category wasn’t easy. I was torn between Dirty Split and Sam and Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die (Season 1 Episode 4). In the end I went with the former mainly because in order to enjoy Sam and Max fully you would need to play all the episodes in a season in correct order (remaining episodes are commercial releases). Also, I feel that Dirty Split will appeal more than Sam and Max to the casual gamer. It is an ingenious game with visually refreshing and unique graphics. Its distinctive art style stands out throughout the game and along with the jazzy soundtrack complements the overall 60s setting perfectly. The premise is rather simple – you are a detective and your job is to crack a murder mystery. You are hired by a certain Mrs. Vanderbuilt because her son has charged with murdering his sister’s ex-fiancÃ©. Obviously things aren’t as simple as they appear to and it is your job to get to the bottom of the mystery. The puzzles are interesting enough without being too tough and are coupled with humorous dialogues which makes playing the game a lot of fun. But don’t rush through the game. Instead take your time and enjoy this fabulous game as it is rather short. Most people would finish it in less than four hours. Adventure gamers shouldn’t miss this great game. You can grab it from Dreammagination’s website.
5. Crayon Physics (Puzzle)
Crayon Physics may not be a World of Goo or a Braid but it’s still pretty damn awesome (in fact the Deluxe edition won the Grand Prize at Independent Games Festival defeating The World of Goo). This game was developed by Petri Purho within 5 days and instantly received critical. This is a game that is truly hard to describe in words. The objective of the game is to touch all the stars present in the level with the ball that is provided at a predetermined starting point. You have to guide/move the ball in accordance to the laws of physics by drawing and creating objects like hammers, levers, pulleys etc. You can download Crayon Physics from here. And if you really fall in love with Crayon Physics and its awesome puzzles go ahead and buy the more polished and feature rich version – Crayon Physics Deluxe, which allows you to draw objects of any shape and not just squares.
6. Volvo – The Game (Racing: Simulator)
This game is made by SimBin – the guys behind the famous Race and GTR series. And as you would expect, Volvo features high quality gameplay. The cockpit view is extremely detailed and the overall handling of cars is excellent. Considering its price the game’s graphics are more than decent. However, the main problem with Volvo – The Game is its lack of content. It features only 2 tracks and 7 cars. Even game modes are few and nothing exceptional. Hence, chances are that you are going to get bored very soon. You can head online and face-off against other players around to world to extend the game’s appeal, but there isn’t any extra content in the multiplayer modes either. The multiplayer mode supports up to 12 cars and features ghost mode – i.e. other cars can not affect you in anyway (car’s can’t crash with each other). All in all it’s a decent game with good gameplay but extremely limited content. Volvo the game can be downloaded from here or here.
7. TrackMania Nations Forever (Racing: Arcade)
If realism isn’t what you are after then this game is made you. TrackMania Nations Forever is truckloads of fun. TrackMania is all about driving at crazy speeds and performing incredible stunts in carefully constructed stadiums. It also features a puzzle mode but that’s not the real reason for playing this game. TrackMania is a simple yet dangerously addictive game. You would almost certainly find yourself playing the same track over and over again just to better your timing. And timing those jumps, drops and stunts definitely takes some skill. This is where TrackMania excels : it is a simple game without any learning curve, yet there is enough depth in the gameplay to make you want to play it again and again. Once you have tested the waters with single player mode you should definitely head online. If the single player mode is fun the online multiplayer mode is just plain crazy. You play against competitors who can’t crash with you (i.e. like Volvo – The Game, TrackMania also employs ghost mode) and this is definitely a good thing considering that you can have in excess of hundred cars racing on the same track (they created Guiness World Record by having 250 players simultaneously race on the same track). Check out the EuroGamer’s review here and download the game from here. This game is highly recommended. Just have a look at the trailer and you would know why I love this game so much.
8. Iffermoon (Role Playing Game)
This is one genre where I had trouble finding good free games with decent single player missions. Finally I settled upon Iffermoon. You play the role of Silence who has been adopted into the Kingdom of Dinost, an ancient land full of mystery. And your objective is to save the kingdom from a creature called Cosmose that emerged from the mechanical menace that crashed – Iffermoon. The game is a 2D side-scroller with well-detailed worlds and excellent music. The gameplay is surprisingly good and rarely gets dull. There are plenty of mini-missions to keep you busy through the game. Everything about the game seems right – from the storyline and characters to dialogues and ambient music. This is definitely a game RPG fans would enjoy. Read a review of Iffermoon here and download it from here.
9. Runes of Magic (MMORPG)
Runes of Magic is often criticised for being similar to World of Warcraft. And in fact it is. But being similar to the best in your genre isn’t such a bad thing. Runes of Magic features six classes of players – Knight, Mage, Priest, Rogue, Scout, and Warrior. Each player can also select a secondary class which provides certain additional benefits. He can swap between secondary and primary class anytime he wishes. Each class has certain special attributes that are enabled only when it is used as primary class. The worlds are fairly expansive with each area being visually distinct. Graphically this game is similar to most other games in this category. It’s not spectacular, but not shabby either. There are plenty of missions and side-quests to keep you busy. Runes of Magic gets its basic gameplay aspects correct and this makes it an enjoyable experience. Runes of Magic plans to become financially viable by selling cosmetic upgrades and diamonds. These are totally optional items and enough care has been taken to ensure that you will enjoy the game even without purchasing anything. Although there are plenty of free MMORPGs, Runes of Magic is probably the best. For more information check out IGN’s review. You can signup and download the game from here.
10. Command & Conquer : Red Alert (Strategy)
Creating a good strategy game is never easy. Even the smallest thing can be the difference between a rich enjoyable experience and an annoying and boring chore. It all about maintaining a proper balance between various gameplay aspects and make them work in tandem. Command & Conquer : Red Alert is more than a dozen years old, yet very few games since then has managed to do the balancing act so well. This game is now available as a free download and if you haven’t played it before its still worth giving a shot. C&C takes place in a mythical alternate universe that was inadvertently created by Einstein when in attempted (unsuccessfully) to prevent the Second World War. Germany has been taken care of but Soviet Union has managed to take its place due to unchecked growth. C&C:Red Alert focuses on the battle between the Soviet Union and the allies (various nations of Europe). You can read the review here and download the game from here.