Even in this cash-strapped economy, the words "free" and "awesome"
are often mutually exclusive. A free car typically means it has no
engine, wheels or interior. A free meal? Mostly made of corn syrup, we'd
venture. Don't get me started on free checking accounts.
But between the breakout success of the App Store, a slew of online
role-playing games, and a renewed interest in old classics, free games
are all the rage these days. And unlike the shady shenanigans that make
other kinds of free goods no bargain at all, many of them are pretty
darn fun -- in some cases, downright excellent. Before you blow $60 on
yet another bright, shiny blockbuster, take a cruise through the
following 25 fantastically free games.
Is World of Warcraft putting you in the poorhouse? If you're looking
for addictive gameplay and loads of depth at precisely zero the cost,
you're looking for one of these five free online games.
Now that's a straightforward game title. This sumptuous
online role-playing game boasts top-of-the-line graphics and a fun, safe
virtual world for kids to explore. With over 5 million players, it's
one of the fastest growing games out there, too. Join in.
You wouldn't think that a company as interested in money as EA would
offer a high-quality game for free, but that's exactly what you get in
this cartoony take on the great Battlefield franchise. Capture points,
upgrade your abilities, and laugh at your friends who paid full price
for an inferior game.
Bigger than the mighty Warcraft and more powerful
than all but a handful of Yahoo!'s most popular search terms, this
well-worn game has a dedicated player base and proven fantasy gameplay.
Looking for free, frenetic, first-person fun? Then you're looking for
Quake Live. Using a simple plug-in, this arena-based update to the
legendary shooter series runs right in your browser. With great graphics
and patented Quake gameplay, it's not to be missed.
Dungeons & Dragons Online
What once was just another pricey online game has been reworked into
one of the most robust free-to-play games around. Lob spells at creepy
monsters as you romp around vast continents in an effort to become the
most powerful yada yada yada. What do you care? It's free!
And by social, we mean Facebook. Hey, it's not our fault that the
powerhouse site also happens to have the best free games of any social
network on the planet. Since you're headed there later today anyway,
here are five to try:
Fancy yourself a blazing fast typer? Put your QWERTY skills to the
test in the addictive Typing Maniac. Spell words as quickly as possible
while using an assortment of power-ups to put you over the top.
Facebook is overflowing with word games, but few are as smooth as
Word Challenge. Spell words using the pool of letters -- bigger words
net bigger points, naturally -- then see how you compare to your
There is simply no good reason to refuse this free offer from
Facebook game godfathers Zynga. Run jobs, whack enemies, buy and sell
properties and trade loot as you climb the family tree. Best of all, you
can do it all in just a few turns a day.
From the maker of all things addictive -- PopCap Games -- comes a
brilliant one-minute version of their hit Bejeweled gem-swap puzzler. If
you can play only once, you're not playing it right.
Dungeons & Dragons: Tiny Adventures
Grab a twenty-sided die, strap on some chainmail, hoist your vorpal
blade and start swinging away at this simple-yet-addictive take on the
fantasy board game that started it all. With 20 character types, loads
of monsters to poke and countless treasures to claim, it's very nearly
as good as its bigger, geekier cousin.
Rumor has it that not everyone has an iPhone. Lucky for you, we don't
believe rumors. Instead, we believe in the power of these five free
Note: iPhone app links require iTunes installed on your computer.
Tap Tap Revenge 2
What happens when you take the gameplay of Guitar Hero, remove the
wonky instruments, change the music and cram it on to the iPhone? A
brilliant mainstay on the App Store, that's what. Fun, colorful and
immediately familiar to fans of console rhythm games.
There are lots of cool tower defense games on the iPhone
(Fieldrunners, I'm looking at you), but few can match the cost/quality
ratio of freebie TapDefense. Build and upgrade towers, research new tech
and take down hordes of enemies without paying a penny.
Fan of the classic board game R.I.S.K.? Then you're also a fan of
this spirited remake. Capture countries while protecting your own in
this pocket-sized game of global domination.
iSports (iBowl, iBasketball, iBaseball)
If you're more into virtual sports than virtual war, check out this
trio of sporty freebies from SGN. Bowl strikes, shoot hoops and smack
homers -- all without any risk of injury to yourself OR your wallet.
This quirky game's premise -- drive a squishy car through obstacles
to reach a goal -- sounds simple enough. But with all sorts of wobbly
physics to contend with, it's easier said than done. Good for us that
it's also a ton of fun.
Just as you don't buy every new car that catches your eye, don't feel
compelled to constantly drop old games for shiny new ones. In fact,
some classic games pack just as much entertainment as new releases --
and if they're among the five below, they won't cost you a dime.
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
Originally released in 1996, the second game in the vaunted Elder
Scrolls role-playing series packs roughly 3 million hours of gameplay
into its ancient frame, yet is now available for free. Most
cost-efficient game ever?
Before they made headlines with Halo, ace game developer Bungie made
this great first-person trilogy. Now freely distributed, it's a
fantastic bargain for Mac gamers looking for a little fragging fun
(sorry, PC players -- getting it working on Windows is a bit of a pain.)
Beneath a Steel Sky
Courtesy of the fine folks at Good Old Gaming comes this classic point-and-click adventure game, which was originally penned by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons. If you're a fan of near-future sci-fi stories brimming with intrigue, you've got to check it out.
A smash hit with critics, this top-notch action/adventure from design
legend Tim Schafer lets you hop, skip and jump through the minds of
psychotic campers. And thanks to Gametap, it's currently free for
download. You'd have to be crazy to pass it up.
Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2
Though they often get slammed for their controversial games, Rockstar
has decided to give back a bit by making the first two GTA games
totally free. Relive the top-down glory days and download away.
Five More Freebies
Compiling this list was, in a word, impossible. Such is the wealth of
freebies out there. Here are five more that you simply shouldn't miss.
Ben There, Dan That!
Never heard of this adventure game? Not a shock, as its developers,
Zombie Cow Studios, are small, witty and great at what they do: make
critically-acclaimed adventure games. If you dig this one, be sure to
check out BTDT's sequel, the not-quite-free Time Gentleman, Please!
Talk about a fire sale: not three months after being released, this
card-based strategy game was re-forged into a free-to-play title.
Considering it got some pretty solid reviews as a full-priced title,
this might be the steal of the year.
Turn your platform game expectations inside out with the smart Shift
series. If you get stuck, pressing 'Shift' will flip the world upside
down. It's a clever mechanic, and one that you can tinker with endlessly
across four full Shift games.
We're big fans of the Steam downloadable games service, in no small
part because it offers the fantastic Peggle Extreme at the exorbitant
cost of nothing. Fling balls on to the Peggle board and watch the hours
melt away. Yeah, it's good.
We don't know who stuck the golden idols on top of those precarious
totems, but we do know that it's a blast trying to get them down safely.
Soothing, smart and loaded with levels, it's as good as flash gaming