There are times in life when the price of something does not directly relate to its quality. I’ve bought many games that were developed by big companies with huge budgets, yet they somehow managed to disappoint. That’s why I’ve decided to compile a list of free games that prove you don’t always have to spend a lot, or in this case anything at all for a quality gaming experience.

Soldat

Official Website: http://www.soldat.pl/

The best way I can think of describing Soldat is that it’s basically what you’d get if you took Soldier of Fortune 2 Deathmatch and turned it into a 2D side-scrolling shooter. Playable online with random strangers, offline on a LAN or with bots; Soldat gives you a chance to cause some virtual carnage with 18 weapons across 51 maps. There are several game modes including (but not limited to) Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Hold the Flag. The map editor, which is available as a separate download, allows users to create new battlegrounds and expand number of playable maps beyond the included 51. Soldat is free, but it does offer the option of registering for a modest fee. Registration gives you access to custom interfaces, multiple user profiles, a built-in MP3 player, unlimited demo recording (free version limited to 3 minutes), support for resolutions up to 1600×1200 (free version limited to 640×480), an in-game mini-map and colored jet flames. I highly recommend checking out the free version, and if you like it enough feel free to show a little support for an independent developer by registering.

Armagetron Advanced

Official Website: http://www.armagetronad.net/

Armagetron Advanced is a pretty well executed attempt at bringing Lightcycle racing to the PC. For those of you that have never seen the 1982 cult classic or played any of its video game incarnations (the most recent being Tron 2.0, which was developed by Monolith and released in 2003); a Lightcycle is basically a Motorcycle that can only turn at 90 degree angles. As you drive your Lightcycle around the game grid you leave behind a long “Tail,” a wall that you use to trap and destroy other players by making them crash into it. You can also ride along the side of a wall to gain extra speed, but be careful not to kill yourself in the process. To win you simply have to be the last man standing. The gameplay mechanics are as simple as they get, but sometimes simplicity is a good thing. Armagetron Advanced is playable online or offline with bots or on a LAN.

Freeciv

Official Website: http://www.freeciv.org/

As the name suggests, Freeciv is a clone of Sid Meier’s Civilization. It’s not the most attractive girl at the prom, but after downloading one of the separate user-made tilesets you can get it looking about the same (if not slightly better) than Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. Then again, who plays Civilization for the graphics? Everybody knows that it’s the gameplay that matters the most, and in that respect Freeciv does an admirable job at creating a free alternative to the Sid Meier originals. Freeciv can be played offline with AI or with up to 30 players over the Internet or on a LAN.

Frets on Fire

Official Website: http://fretsonfire.sourceforge.net/

Musical games have been popular for a while, with the trend first being started by Konami’s DDR games. The Guitar Hero series of games is one of the latest crazes in this genre, and with GH costing upwards of $80 USD for the game and special guitar controller who wouldn’t want a free alternative? Frets on Fire takes a stab at bringing GH’s gameplay to the PC. The only catch is that you use your keyboard instead of a plastic Guitar, but if you happen to already own a GH Guitar you can hook it up to your PC and get the bonus of being able to play songs not found in the original games (ask around on the official forums for details). The music selection included with FoF is rather slim, but the library of music is easily expanded by searching through various fan sites for songs to rock out to. A fan site called “Keyboards on Fire” (linked to from the FoF homepage) is a good place to start for additional music. The site has a small collection of free music, as well as some frets-only releases for some commercial songs (meaning you have to supply the song itself from your own collection). This game is a little more demanding than the previously mentioned titles, but it should still run fine on the majority of systems out there.

Marathon Trilogy

Trilogy Release: http://trilogyrelease.bungie.org/

Setup Guide: http://www.calormen.com/mwd.htm

Aleph One: http://source.bungie.org/get/

Marathon, Marathon 2: Durandal, and Marathon Infinity were originally released for the Mac in 1994, 1995, and 1996 respectively. Now that it’s as old as that unknown tin foil wrapped “food” item in the bottom right corner of your refrigerator that nobody dares to touch, Bungie has officially released the Marathon trilogy of games for free. Playable on Windows through the use of a third-party program or natively on a Mac, the Marathon Trilogy takes you through a story that inspired, if not directly spawned the Halo series that you know today. The games take a little work to get up and running on windows, but with the setup guide I’ve linked to it’s not much trouble.

Unfortunately for you, I must bring this list to an end. Why? Because I plan making future installments, you silly goose! Why would I let everything hang out there at once? That’s just not smart. For now you’ll just have to settle for the hours upon hours of entertainment that the games listed so far will bring.

– RAY16 (a.k.a Neo-Humanity)

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