Chances are you’ve gotten bored on your PC before and wanted to kill time playing games. It’s OK, we’ve all been there… some more than others. But anyway, you just want to play a good computer game that isn’t Solitaire and you really don’t have the cash to shell out for a brand new game off of Steam. Then again, you don’t want to play one of the countless terrible Flash games that litter the internet and clog out the good ones. So what’s a discerning yet cheap gamer to do?
Luckily for you, we put together this list of some of the best PC games that you can enjoy for the enormous financial burden of zero dollars. These games aren’t just crappy browser games, these are some truly fun titles that can stand proudly next to commercial games. Some of them require some major downloads, but most will run on even an average computer. They’re divided by the relative amount of computing horsepower necessary to run them.
My Computer Is Dying (Or Runs Vista)
These games are the absolute bare minimum in system requirements. If your computer can’t handle these freeware games, you may be in serious trouble. No, really. These are easy games to run. Not that they’re bad, they’re just not too demanding in graphics, one of the biggest hurdles to running any game.
I shouldn’t even have to explain this one. By now probably everyone has heard of the mobile phenomenon that is Angry Birds. It’s an oddly addictive physics puzzler about launching birds at poorly built structures and knocking them down. The concept is bizarre, but as the levels progress the game becomes more and more fun. If you don’t have a smartphone or want to get your feet wet before buying Angry Birds on iPhone, this is a good way to try it out.
If you have Google Chrome, Angry Birds installs right there in your browser.
Every Day The Same Dream
This is… this game is a weird one. EDTSD is the existentialist version of a video game. Every day you wake up as a common corporate worker. You dress, greet your wife, eat breakfast, suffer through traffic and work, and then go home. The game doesn’t change. Every single day is the same, without exception. Eventually, though, you start to wonder.
What if I don’t get dressed? What if I disobey my boss? What if I don’t go to my cubicle? That’s when the game really starts, and when things start changing. You’re better off experiencing it yourself in all its unexplained glory. Like other existentialist works, don’t expect much from the ending.
Playable in Flash form over at the developer’s website.
My Computer Works (Mostly)
So your PC can boot up in under ten minutes. That’s good, it means you’re ready for some of the bigger games. These won’t require a good graphics card or anything, you just have to have a working PC with some spare room for gaming. A high-speed internet connection is pretty much essential for these games too.
If you ever wondered what Halo would have been like as a side-scrolling shooter, Halo Zero is the answer to that question. Even if you didn’t ask it. It’s a classic Contra-style 2D shooter with all the weapons and enemies Halo fans know and love. It’s pretty cool to see the Halo universe rendered in classic pixelated graphics.
Be sure to spend some quality time in the options menu before starting, though. The default controls are god awful and you have to change the language to English. Still, if you’re looking for a challenging shooter, Halo Zero’s got you covered.
It’s free to download in its finished form.
Runman: Race Around the World
Out of all the games I played, Runman was probably the most purely fun. It’s a platformer where you can’t die, you only lose points. The concept is pretty fun by itself, but what makes the game special is its cheerfulness. Runman is drawn in intentionally terrible squiggles that look like somebody unleashed a three-year-old in MS Paint.
The music is some guy singing hilariously awful songs on a banjo. It’s just a happy game. I had a smile on my face the entire time I was playing Runman. Highly recommended.
Download from the developer’s website.
I Wanna Be The Guy
I’ve played my fair share of hard games. I beat N+, Resident Evil 4, and Mass Effect on Insanity. It is with that qualification that I can safely say I Wanna Be The Guy is the hardest game I have ever had the misfortune to play. Classic platformers of the ’90s like Ninja Gaiden were known for their punishing difficulty. IWBTG is a “sardonic love letter” to those games by taking their already ridiculous difficulty to utterly insane levels. If you play this game, you will die. A lot.
The game is “played” by slowly advancing forward and falling into all the traps, which you learn to avoid by trial and error. The obnoxious music and huge blood splatters make things only worse. Play this game only if you want a challenge or feel like your life is lacking in frustration.
Download at your own risk.
This game is pretty cool. Originally a Japanese freeware game, it was translated into English where it gained a large cult following. There were enough fans that eventually Cave Story got released on WiiWare and the new 3DS. The original PC title is still free, and it’s an excellent throwback to the classics of the SNES. You explore a large 2D world on a suitably epic quest. If you grew up on Earthbound and Chrono Trigger, you’ll probably enjoy this.
(image credit to nerdsociety)
Free to download from the developer’s website. Be sure to get the English translation pack.
Any good fan of strategy games knows and reveres the name of Civilization. One of the great pillars of PC gaming, the Civilization games are known for their strategic depth and pure addictiveness. FreeCiv is a freeware remake of the original Civilization I. While the interface and graphics definitely show their age, the core gameplay of leading a nation into war and peace as its president is still fun in 2011, over a decade since the official release of Civ I.
If you can get past the awkward interface, FreeCiv is a fantastic way to experience one of the best strategy franchises ever made for free.
Download is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.
My Computer Is Awesome
If you’re looking under this section, then you have a true gaming PC. Upgraded graphics, a fast GPU, plenty of RAM and a Steam account just waiting to be used. You’ve probably heard of some of these games but may not have known that they’re actually free to play. These games are pretty large and require some serious power under the hood. Still, if you can run it, you’ll definitely enjoy it.
One of the most well-known indie PC titles around is Minecraft. The game isn’t even really a game, more of a virtual sandbox for your creativity. The game drops you in a massive virtual wilderness with no objective or instruction. You can’t “win” Minecraft, you can only survive against the unending hordes of monsters that come to every nightfall.
The game is the definition of directionless, but if you can keep yourself entertained with grandiose building projects it can be quite fun. Plus, you can save your world and everything with an account. If Minecraft Classic tickles your fancy, I recommend picking up the paid version for the vast improvements and general enjoyability.
You can play Minecraft Classic for free in a browser at Mojang’s website.
The old-school PC multiplayer shooter is now free for your deathmatching pleasure. The gameplay isn’t exactly Call of Duty, but if you want to get some quality FPS action without a huge download then Quake Live will work for you. Blasting away at other players while doing backflips through the air is a great throwback to the yesteryear of shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake III when realism was second to having a rocket launcher that could kill everyone on the map with one well-placed shot.
Long story short, it’s a blast. Prepare to get thrashed at first by the good players, but the Quake Live’s brand of shooting craziness is still a blast.
You can get a Quake Live account over at its home.
Ever wanted to try World of Warcraft or another massively multiplayer online game? Here’s your chance. RuneScape is an absolute marvel of programming, building an entire MMORPG that can be played within a browser. You can have friends, quests, skill trees, and all the other trademarks of MMOs, all without that expensive subscription to WoW.
You can subscribe to RuneScape, but even that’s pretty cheap at $5 a month. The free version of the game is still very playable and extremely addictive, so be prepared to lose some serious time leveling up your character.
RuneScape can be played in browser at runescape.com.
Battlefield is another one of the stalwarts of PC gaming. From its 1942 roots to the upcoming Battlefield 3, the series has always stood by the PC. But not everybody can afford to shell out for a new copy of Bad Company 2. That’s why BF publisher EA created Battlefield Heroes, the free version of the main franchise. It’s definitely not the same as the other BF games, but it’s another solid shooter you can enjoy for free.
(image credit to pinoytutorial)
BFH can be enjoyed in the browser at its website.
Team Fortress 2
Out of all the freeware games I tested, Team Fortress 2 was probably the very best. If you have a Steam account, you can download Valve’s premier multiplayer shooter totally for free. TF2 isn’t just a browser game, it’s actually a full-fledged shooter equal to Call of Duty or Battlefield.
It’s particularly ingenious in its class system. Not everybody is good at shooting, so you can play as an engineer, medic, or spy too. I greatly enjoyed being the medic and scoring lots of points by healing people. If you’ve got the space and the graphics card for it, Team Fortress 2 is an absolute must-have.
TF2 has to be downloaded from Steam, which you should have anyway for its solid catalog of paid games.
That’s about it. Did we miss any of your favorite free games? What games do you enjoy playing? Let us know in the comments.