Updated: Top 100 best free games you should play today


Best free games to play today

Back to Dinosaur Island Part 2

Update: Are you feeling clicky, punk? Then check out the latest free-to-play clicker in at number 26.

Gaming is an expensive hobby. Consoles cost hundreds, and gaming PCs can easily run to over a grand. However, once you’re set up with a rig, the amount of games you can get for free is staggering. Sure, to play the latest AAA console smash, you’re going to have to put your hand in your pocket, but there’s a different route too.

As well as an army of top free-to-play online games that attract players in their thousands, if not millions, there are scores of freeware titles you’d be mad to miss. Everyone from EA to the tiniest indie developer has something to offer.

It isn’t just new games that make the cut either. Some of the greatest titles to ever grace the gaming world are now free to own and play to your heart’s content just like you never used to because they all cost too much money back in the day. There’s even a glut of early browser-based classics that were once the preserve of school kids countrywide attempting to offset the boredom of maths on a Wednesday afternoon

We’ve gathered together over 100 of the best free games available for the PC, and some on the Mac, from browser Flash titles and giant sprawling MMORPGs to sporting classics and fiendishly difficult puzzlers. And there are a few games here that you used to have to pay top dollar for, thrown in for good measure. Of course let us know if you find any of those pesky dead links or whether we’ve missed your favorite one off.

Joe Osborne and Kane Fulton have also contributed to this article

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Planetside 2

1. Planetside 2

Two years before Destiny, back in 2012, we had Planetside 2. It’s an epic, all-out first-person battle so impressive, you’ll give yourself a quick pinch every time you remember it’s completely free. There are in-game purchases of course, but you can still dive into gaming’s biggest ever battlefield and be useful with just default gear.

There’s simply nothing like taking part in a massed assault on an enemy base and coming out on top, or living in a world where an enemy convoy could appear on the horizon at any second. If you need any proof that ‘free’ doesn’t mean making compromises any more, Planetside 2 will provide it.

Dota 2

2. Dota 2

The Dota universe came from a mod made for World of Warcraft 3, but Dota 2 is very much its own entity, not to mention one of the most popular free-to-play games.

This top-down arena battler is incredibly active, attracting multi-million dollar prize funds for serious tournament players. It’s not just for obsessives, though.

A brief tutorial now points out the ropes, with the Steam Community stepping in to provide guides to the original MOBA (or whatever-you-want-to-call-this-genre-if-not-MOBA).

Don’t expect a warm welcome or easy learning curve from this surprisingly complex game, but bring a few friends and you have a good chance of being hooked on one of the biggest crazes in PC history.

Tribes Ascend

3. Tribes: Ascend

Jetpacks rule: it’s one of the few things you can rely on apart from death and taxes. And Tribes: Ascend is the world’s premiere online jetpack shooter. Don your jetpack and launch into battle across huge maps, with weapons that take real skill just to land a hit – never mind a kill.

Tribes: Ascend is fast, furious, and absolutely brilliant, and there’s no reason to spend any money in the in-game shop if you simply want to hold your own in battle. Though there’s plenty of stuff to buy if you do fancy splashing some cash…

You can pay to unlock more classes, weapons and perks, but if you’re going to keep it casual you can still have loads of fun with Tribes: Ascend.

Paths of Exile

4. Path of Exile

A Diablo III-style third-person role-playing game, Path of Exile is a bit different from most free-to-play games out there. It’s not just about whacking real life people until they scream at you in shrill pubescent tones through their Skype headsets.

It’s more of a slow-burner than a multiplayer blaster, but give it time and you may well fall in love with this free-to-play loot-gathering hit. There are hidden depths that you only uncover after playing for hours (and hours), and a huge skill tree to slowly pick away at. There are no game-ruining things like real money auction houses here, either.

Instead, even basic loot can be useful because there’s always an opportunity to enhance even the simplest weapon with magic. If you got tired of the grind of Diablo III, it’s a good one to check out.

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League of Legends

5. League of Legends

Pick your champion and head into battle in this amazing free-to-play game from the creators of Dota. League of Legends’ automated matchmaking, range of characters and excellent maps have made it a multiplayer star over the last year, and one well worth a play.

It’s a very aggressive game to play, but one that rewards good teamwork and careful tactics. Don’t expect to master it overnight, but it won’t be long before you’re having fun.

Like Dota 2, League of Legends attracts many high-end players, and the top tournaments offer prize pools of over £1,000,000. The weird world of e-sports, eh?

Hearthstone

6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Ever played Magic the Gathering, the card game? Hearthstone is Blizzard’s attempt at making an online free-to-play alternative to it.

And in typical Blizzard fashion, it’s excellent. It’s immediately inviting, lacking the terrifying learning curve you might expect from an online fantasy card game. Hearthstone plays quickly, boasts an almost casual-style visual approach, and benefits from a basic rule set, all of which adds up to a very accessible card battler that will give you hours of enjoyment.

Duel of Champions

7. Might & Magic: Duel of Champions

There’s one other alternative to Hearthstone we need to mention, too, and that’s Might & Magic: Duel of Champions. It initially seems a bit less accessible, with a less glossy approach that feels a bit closer to card battling’s roots, but there’s actually a bit less grind involved in the game.

That means a bit less of the casino-effect visual hit when you win, but it won’t sap your time in quite the same way either. Unless that’s what you’re after.

Where’s the official Magic: The Gathering take on the fantasy card battler? There is one, called Magic Online, but as there’s real money involved it’s anything but free.

Star Wars Old Republic

8. Star Wars: The Old Republic

Taking over from the original Star Wars MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies in 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic was not free at release. But it has since, like so many games of this kind, adopted the free-to-play model. If you want to get Sith kicks, this is the best way to get them for free.

However, subscriptions are still available, giving you more in-game potential. All the story missions are available without a sub – they just might take you that bit longer.

It’s worth the download simply to experience the Star Wars universe from different perspectives, like the hyper-professional Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter. If you want to go with the dull option and just have a generic Jedi Knight, though, that’s fine too.

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Super Crate Box

9. Super Crate Box

Dullest name in the world? Possibly! Super Crate Box makes up for it, though, with a simple mechanic that’s far more fun than it has any right to be. How long can you last against a stream of incoming monsters? It probably depends whether you’re fighting them off with a pistol or a rocket launcher.

The catch is that you don’t score points for killing, but collecting crates – and every crate gives you a different weapon. And not killing the monsters only makes them crosser. It might not sound like much, but its speed and difficulty will keep you hooked from the off.

Battle for Wesnoth

10. The Battle For Wesnoth

You might have already encountered this little gem on your phone – it’s available for iOS and Android – but it’s totally free on PC and Mac. Those who were avid gamers in the 90s and 2000s will appreciate its old-school blend of turn-based battling.

The fantasy setting and hex-based map make Battle for Wesnoth feel a lot like an indie alternative to the Heroes of Might and Magic games – titles we’ve plunged many hours into over the last two decades.

Younger gamers may notice the game style is a little like Advance Wars, but there’s a lot more beef to this epic strategy battler. It started out with six factions available to play back in 2009, but since then user-generated content has added a bunch of completely new eras, making this a gargantuan game.

World of Tanks

11. World of Tanks

World of Tanks is a different kind of MMO – the clue being in the title. Team-based, massively multiplayer action with a huge range of war machines to drive into battle awaits, with new players able to join the action immediately.

An upgrade system adds a sense of personalisation, while being surrounded by a whole army constantly reminds you that loners don’t do well on the battlefield. Get sucked in, though, and you may find you end up spending a chunk of your wages on great big chunks of virtual metal.

While some premium tanks cost just a few pounds, others tip above £30. You can see where maker Wargaming is going to earn some cash from World of Tanks enthusiasts.

War Thunder

12. War Thunder

Think World of Tanks is a bit too arcade-like for your tastes? You need to try out War Thunder. Despite being lesser-known, it’s a great alternative to that tank battler. And for an extra sweetener, it throws airplanes into the mix too. As you might expect, they’re a great deal of fun.

With a fast enough PC, War Thunder offers visual quality you don’t see too often in free-to-play games. You will need to pay some cash to get hold of the more interesting planes and tanks early on, but getting Battlefield-like play for free sounds like a good deal to us.

There are arcade and historical battles on offer – the former is great for a more casual blast while historical battles are more for players with a few hours on their flight card.

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The Ur Quan Masters

13. The Ur-Quan Masters

This game proves you don’t need flashy visuals to create an offering with a compelling narrative. The Ur-Quan Masters is a fan-tweaked version of one of the classic PC space operas, Star Control 2. It’s an action-strategy game where you build up a fleet of spacecraft from various races, to finally do battle with the Ur-Quan.

Adventure, strategy, action – it’s all bunged into this melting pot.

The Ur-Quan Masters sees you navigate through an intergalactic space war where the politics are more tangled than that bag of cables you have stashed in a cupboard somewhere. You have to convince races to join you in battle, or risk taking them on as enemies.

Black Mesa Source

14. Black Mesa

Remember a little game called Half-Life? It was quite popular. Black Mesa Source is the long-awaited rebuild of it in Valve’s Half-Life 2 Source engine, and a must-play for any fan of the series.

It’s not simply a pixel-for-pixel recreation, but a re-imagining of it – adding detail so seamlessly that you’ll forget how primitive the original was, as well as a few extra elements of its own, like female Black Mesa scientists.

It was an epic project, and the (mostly) complete version was finally released in late 2012. It’s worth experiencing. You can download the full version as a legal torrent. In 2013 some improvements were made to certain levels in Black Mesa, so be sure to grab those files too.

Runescape

15. Runescape

Runescape is one of the biggest free-to-play MMOs out there, and now would be a good time to take a look. In 2013 it entered its third reboot – this is actually ‘Runescape 3’, although just jumping in now you might not appreciate it has been around in one form or another for more than 10 years.

It’s certainly not the shiniest MMO in the world despite the revamp, but hanging onto this many players shows it’s doing something right. The big change introduced in Runescape 3 that made it appear a lot more modern was the ability to see much further – in Runescape 2 the horizon quickly gave way to fog. Not so now.

You can download the game or run it in your browser using Java, making it much more convenient than most other online role-players of this epic scale.

FreeOrion

16. FreeOrion

Ever wanted to run your own galaxy? Such real life aspirations might be a sign you have a hint of a megalomania problem, but in the game world it’s perfectly acceptable. The dominance of consoles mean that we rarely see games of such scope, but for the more ambitious gamer, there’s FreeOrion.

It’s a free indie title inspired by the classic space strategy series Master of Orion, the first two instalments of which were adored back in the 90s. But as games that old seem a bit musty these days, we have FreeOrion.

As it’s still in the thick of development, it’s best for those who have some experience of the genre. Let’s just say it’s not exactly user-friendly yet.

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Warframe

17. Warframe

If you’re into third-person co-operative shooters, Warfarme is one of the best free games out there. After joining one of three factions: Tenno, Grineer or Corpos, your soldier is decked out in a Crysis-styled exosuit and equipped with guns or melee weapons. Better looking than your average free-to-play shooter, much fun can be had in Warframe’s player-vs-enemy raids — so much so that some gamers see it as, “The Destiny that never was”. High praise indeed.

Smite

18. Smite

Gods from around the world get together to battle it out in a Dota/MOBA inspired clash of divine vengeance in this effort. Despite Smite’s obvious inspirations, it comes from the same developer that made FPS smash Tribes Ascend – a completely different beast.

The camera is behind the characters this time, making for a more direct connection to the action than simply guiding your lord around with a mouse, but the premise will be either familiar if you’ve played its inspirations, or a way to get the feel for the style if you haven’t. Gods include Zeus, Thor, Kali, Artemis and… Cupid? Well, at least he has his own bow…

LoTR Online

19. Lord of the Rings Online

Many MMOs are being launched or relaunched as free-to-play at the moment, but Lord of the Rings Online is one of the titles that most warrants a second look. Not only is it an excellent game in its own right, it’s one of the more mature MMOs out there.

You will likely have to pay eventually, if only to unlock adventure packs, but there’s no subscription fee and nothing to buy up-front. If you missed it at launch, it’s time to give it a try.

Quest for Glory II

20. Quest for Glory II VGA

While many veteran gamers remember the LucasArts classic adventures – the Monkey Island games, Grim Fandango, Sam & Max and so on – AGD Interactive has busily been recreating some of the lesser-known 90s adventures. Quest for Glory II is our favourite of the lot.

It’s an adventure/RPG hybrid that can be played as a Warrior, Magic User or Thief, with each path unlocking new challenges and opportunities. It’s funny, exciting, and incredibly open, and one of the most beloved adventure games ever made – both in its original form, and in this more recent remake.

On the ADG website you’ll also find remakes of King’s Quest I-III. All for free.

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Battlestar Galactica

21. Battlestar Galactica

The official Battlestar Galactica MMO is interesting for two reasons – it plays in the browser (and looks pretty good), and it’s completely free-to-play. That’s unusual for any licensed game, although as ever, the words ‘free-to-play’ have the words ‘with-optional-purchases’ slapped right onto the end.

The story is that both Galactica and the Cylons have been blasted into a new area of space by a mysterious bit of technology, and now both sides are fighting over outposts and control points. You can choose either, with a bit of wandering around the ships, and lots of mouse-based space combat and mining.

Flight of the Amazon Queen

22. Flight of the Amazon queen

One of a handful of classic adventure games now available for free, Flight of the Amazon Queen is the story of the wise-cracking, slightly bone-headed Joe King. Think of Indiana Jones with about 90% more buffoonery and you’re there.

The old-school interface may take a little getting used to, but this classic adventure is worth downloading, particularly for fans of the genre. It also offers full speech, giving it more of a vibrant feel than some older point ‘n’ clicks.

Available from GoG, there’s no messing about needed to get it working on modern operating systems, despite being originally released back in 1995.

Hawken

23. Hawken

Jump behind the controls of your own mech and fight it out in a gloriously realised future world with Hawken. They’re the agile kind of mech rather than the slow lumbering tanks of MechWarrior Online, so purists should head there instead, but still, this is a change of pace from blitzing around in soldier uniforms with automatic rifles.

Expect to pay to upgrade your starter mech if you enjoy the action, but you can jump in and get the flavour of the thing without paying a single penny.

Hawken is also one of the higher-profile games to support Oculus Rift. No one may own one of those virtual reality headsets yet, but using one as a giant mech sounds fun, right?

TrackMania Nations Forever

24. TrackMania Nations Forever

Prefer cars that fly through the air, performing tricks like a 20 year-old Tony Hawk, rather than ones that come with a £20,000 bill should you nudge them against a bollard? The OTT style of TrackMania Nations Forever will be hard to resist.

The real laws of physics have little to do with the way this racer plays, but it provides more action than your average power sliding arcade racer as a result. It’s racing meets extreme sports with an unlimited rev counter – and that’s a great combo.

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Elder Scrolls Daggerfall

25. Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall

Played Skyrim or Oblivion? You should at least give the classic Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall a nod. This 1990s RPG is a precursor to those incredibly popular RPGs, and is a bit of a classic in its own right.

Its game world is many times the size of any of its successors, and indeed it’s the size of a continent, one absolutely packed with atmosphere. You might not all be able to stomach the old-fashioned visuals, but it’s worth investigating if you want to see where Skyrim came from.

It’s available direct from Bethesda. The publisher started offering it for free to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the game. As if we didn’t feel old enough already.

Epic Clicker Journey

26. Epic Clicker Journey

Spanning 20 levels, Epic Clicker Journey will have your right mouse button begging for mercy by the time you get to the finishing line. Your cursor is your weapon, and you’ll need to use it to take on the game’s various grotesque monsters. Featuring attractive, cartoon-influenced graphics and a rocking soundtrack, Epic Clicker Journey sees you collect gold to upgrade your weaponry and pounce on unmissable loot. There are multiple ways to grow your stats, which keeps things fresh – and you can even team up with other gamers online if you get bored of playing on your own. Check it out on Steam.

Wolfenstein 3D

27. Wolfenstein 3D

Want to know what FPS games started out like? You can now play the classic Wolfenstein 3D from Id Software directly in your browser.

Despite being released all the way back in 1992, Wolfenstein 3D is still fun for a few minutes’ blasting. And you can even head straight to the final level where you battle a giant robot Hitler. It’s the stuff of nightmares. And despite the kind of antics developers get up to, we’re not sure they could get away with pitting you against a giant Hitler today.

World of Warcraft

28. World of Warcraft

No, you haven’t missed the front-page story suggesting Blizzard is in such desperate need it has had to make World of Warcraft totally free-to-play. But you can play the first 20 character levels without paying a penny these days.

Experts may be able to blast though these initial levels in just a few hours, but if you’re yet to walk into Azeroth, it’ll keep you busy for a long, long time. Watch out, though, World of Warcraft is… a mite addictive.

This freebie is also worth investigating if you haven’t played WoW since the early days. While much of the content added in recent years has focused on high-end players, the whole game has evolved.

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Team Fortress 2

29. Team Fortress 2

It may be an old vet in gaming terms, but nothing offers so much crazy fun as Team Fortress 2. Unlike most shooters of its age, players are still there to have a good time rather than hurl abuse at newcomers, and there’s no shortage of cool toys to have fun with. Endlessly silly and amazingly fresh, it’s still one of the shooter genre’s kings, free-to-play or not.

As you might guess, there are some micro-transactions involved. You can buy additional items, often used to customise your character. You can create your own. It’s fun, and gets you even more involved in TF2. Those cheeky devils at Valve know what they’re doing.

Reprisal

30. Reprisal

Populous returns in Reprisal – a gorgeous pixel-art reinvention. As a God, use your powers to build a civilisation and crush all who oppose you – but don’t think magic powers will make things too easy. Best of all, it’s playable right from your web browser.

The game’s maker said Reprisal was made as an homage to the early God games. There’s now also a larger, paid version called Reprisal Universe – but there’s more than just a taster on offer in the browser version.

Realm of the Mad God

31. Realm of the Mad god

Online RPGs have never been so streamlined, or so insane. Join groups of up to 85 players to fight through an insanely lethal world that borrows as much inspiration from bullet hell shooters as hack and slash action games.

When you die, you die for good… but Realm of the Mad God is so fast that rolling a new character and jumping back in from the start is no real hardship.

Age of Conquest

32. Age of Conquest IV

Remember Risk, the game that tapped into your inner warlord tendencies? Age of Conquest IV offers a similar appeal, featuring turn-based gameplay that sees you attempt to conquer the world one country at a time. The fourth game in the series has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2010, and while it’s simple to pick up and play, it’s mighty hard to master. From the start you’ll be thinking about the best way to grow your army, which of your neighbours pose the least of a threat and how many soldiers you’ll need to conquer them.

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DC Universe Online

33. DC Universe Online

DC Universe Online lets you create a hero and leap into action in the streets of Gotham and Metropolis, either backing up Batman or signing up with your favourite super-villains.

The outside street action is pretty bland, but the dungeon design includes just about everyone from the DC Universe to fight or team up with, and is just as much fun whether you want to form your own Justice League or live the life of a super-powered lone wolf. (But not Wolverine.)

It’s one for superhero fans only, perhaps, but who wouldn’t want to try out life as a flying super villain for a few hours?

Fallen London

34. Fallen London

Descend if you dare into a vision of Victorian London abducted by a swarm of bats and moved to the edge of Hell. Fallen London is the digital equivalent of a classic ‘choose your own adventure’ book.

Slightly simplistic mechanics don’t spoil a gorgeously written world of demons and social intrigue, and while there are some social elements, you don’t need to annoy friends to make the most of your new life in this surreal underworld.

Auto Club Revolution

35. Auto Club Revolution

There are plenty of free-to-play driving games out there, but one of the few not tied to a single car-maker is Auto Club Revolution. Instead, there are two – it was made in association with BMW and Renault.

The game lets you drive some of the world’s best cars for free – especially if you play through the BMW Experience, which gives you the Series M Coupe as your starter vehicle. Auto Club Revolution features racing, driving for pleasure, and a huge community waiting to welcome you onto assorted real-world courses.

If you want to get your hands dirty, you can also customise each car with actual parts, and give them a full makeover with decals and other neat touches.

Spelunky

36. Spelunky

You can now get Spelunky on all sorts of platforms – it’s pretty high-profile for an indie title. But it began its life PC-only, and it’s this original ‘non HD’ Classic version you can still get for free today.

Spelunky is about anger, hate and, most of all, death. It looks like a simple enough platform game – an Indiana Jones pastiche set in a cavern full of tricks and traps – and it is.

There’s nothing complicated about it. Every enemy is avoidable. Every trap can be dealt with.

The catch is that every time you play, the entire game is randomised. In one game you’ll stumble through screen after screen of spiked horrors and swarming monsters; in the next, the software will bend over backwards to give you gold and help you on your way.

The trick is learning the ropes, figuring out how to get past every obstacle, and then doing so perfectly as and when the game throws things at you. You will die. You will die a lot. But the important thing is that in death, you learn.

You discover ways of stealing from the shopkeepers who inhabit the levels, or find out that the damsels you can rescue for a health boost can just as easily be taken to the nearest sacrificial altar, or thrown around to trigger traps before you go down yourself.

You learn how each randomised world ticks and which equipment will give you a fighting chance. And then you’ll die some more. And scream. And restart. Again.

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Super House of Dead Ninjas

37. Super House of Dead Ninjas

This is one of the most enjoyable Flash games in recent memory, which is also available as an expanded commercial-but-cheap release on Steam if you fancy more toys and full-screen action.

The free version of Super House of Dead Ninjas feels like a complete game in its own right though, as you guide the Crimson Ninja from the top of a demon-infested tower to the horror waiting at ground floor.

Randomly generated adventures keep things fresh, with the speed of the action more a challenge than any individual enemy. You can handle any situation in front of you – you just don’t get to stop to catch your breath. Ever. Until you die, of course.

Tiberian Sun

38. Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun

Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun got a bad rap at its original release back in 1999. It was too slow and buggy, people said, but many of the issues were patched out. If you remember turning your nose up, it’s time to take another look.

EA made the game freeware to celebrate the release of Command & Conquer 4 back in 2010. It didn’t work too well – C&C 4 hardly resurrected the brand.

In standard EA fashion, Tiberian Sun is no longer widely available from Origin, the EA Steam equivalent, but you can still find the freeware installer package for the game and its expansion online.

best free games

39. Spiral Knights

Many free-to-play (F2P) gamers (even we) look to RuneScape as one of the most storied, revered online games, and they’re absolutely right. However, I doubt many of those folks have played Spiral Knights from developer Three Rings and Sega.

Available both in your browser and through Steam, think of Spiral Knights as a massively multiplayer The Legend of Zelda – and you and your comrades are each unique little Links. It’s your job to dig deeper and deeper through a series of isometric dungeons to find a secret – any secret – that will get you and your people off of this planet.

Frankly, it’s a crazy fun, low-impact romp of hacking your way through dungeons teeming with monsters and puzzles that will require some friends to enjoy to the fullest. Plus, it’s five years old and still going strong with updates, so that’s a good sign.

Beneath a Steel Sky

40. Beneath a Steel Sky

Beneath a Steel Sky is a classic adventure from British developer Revolution, the maker of the Broken Sword games.

It’s a sci-fi adventure with more than a hint of Blade Runner flavour. Like all the best point ‘n’ click titles, though, there’s also more than just a little humour in the script.

A Remastered version is available for iPad and iPhone, but it’s the original you’ll find on Mac and PC. While the game runs through the ScummVM system, you can grab it on GoG to avoid any fiddling about.

If you’re still thirsty, check out Lure of the Temptress, another Revolution adventure.

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Slender

41. Slender

The question of whether games are art or not is a dull debate that has raged on for years. But making you terrified from one minute to the next is an art in itself. An art Slender has down.

Although it’s just a simple 3D exploration jaunt where you look for eight pages seemingly scribbled by the Slender Man’s victims, this game is terrifying. Our monster in this little slice of horror is a tall faceless man who stalks you, hunts you.

Set in a dark forest with nothing but a flashlight to keep you company, if this doesn’t give you chills, nothing else on this list will. Once you’ve completed the Eight Pages, you can also check out the slightly beefier horror-adventure Slender: The Arrival. It’s not free, but is a good way to test your nerve.

Trove

42. Trove

If you’re looking for a game that looks, feels and probably smells a bit like Minecraft, but isn’t Minecraft, then step into Trove.

Heavily inspired by Microsoft’s game, Trove is a quintessential casual MMORPG. Traversing its bright and colorful block-filled lands, you’re free to raid dungeons on your own or with others, slaying anything from dragons to giant blobs of weirdness in a bid to get your hands on rare loot.

Its classes are wonderfully varied, but you’ll need to sink hours into the game to find out what your character can really do. Randomly generated environments and enemies help keep boredom at bay.

Digital a Love Story

43. Digital: A Love Story

Remember the excitement of logging into your first BBS? What if you’d found something more than just files and chatter and naked pictures of assorted Star Trek actresses?

To explain Digital: A Love Story would be giving away too much, so let’s just say that it’s a great nostalgia trip with a bit of future-gazing thrown in for free. Played out entirely on 1988-style bulletin boards, it starts when you respond to an email from a lonely sounding girl called Emilia.

The relationship plays out as a hacker’s romance as you jump between BBS systems to uncover a conspiracy, mostly interacting by firing off emails to the characters. You never get to see what you’ve said, only the responses, which adds an unusual but effective disconnect to the conversations.

It’s not a long game – only an hour or so of action at most – but it’s a testament to the writing that you quickly get sucked into what is basically just typing out a lot of phone numbers. The authentic sounding music and sound effects help: the sweet siren song of a modem connecting still sends a chill down the spine.

Neptune s Pride 2

44. Neptune’s Pride 2

Where some free-to-play games want to consume hours of your life every day, Neptune’s Pride 2 only wants a handful of minutes.

It’s an intergalactic version of Risk you play with real people, over a period of weeks or months. You can forge alliances and work together, but every player has to know there can only be one winner… the one who ‘owns’ more than 50% of the galaxy.

Every day you earn more money and make your strategic decisions. It’s like chess, but with star systems instead of pawns. If you want to deep-dive into a game with some friends, Neptune’s Pride 2 is great. But be warned: this stuff can ruin friendships.

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Dwarf Fortress

45. Dwarf Fortress

If you find games like SimCity or Civilisation a little too simple, Dwarf Fortress is the game for you. Technically, its full name is Slaves to Armok: God of Blood: Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress, but absolutely nobody calls it that.

It procedurally generates a whole work, complete with its own history, in very (very) basic visuals. But to get hung up on the graphics is to miss the point of Dwarf Fortress.

You can build your own fortress, or go out adventuring. It is not easy or at all forgiving, though. When adventuring, it’s roguelike in style, meaning that when you’re dead, you’re dead. Casual this is not. And as the game looks like it has been drawn with a typewriter, you will need to use your imagination a bit.

However, Dwarf Fortress is quite unlike anything else on this list.

Sarien net

46. Sarien.net

Remember the Sierra adventures of old? Sarien.net revives them, and makes them multiplayer – at least, partly. Technically, you still play on your own, but you can see other players wandering around the world as you do. That said, there were only a few players online when we last tried the site.

Sarien has access to King’s Quest I-III, Space Quest I-II, Police Quest, and a lesser-known game, The Black Cauldron. These are titles from the early days of games, so be aware that the visuals are not going to wow you. For a better-looking adventure, check out the remakes of King’s Quest, available online.

We’ve hesitated to mention this one before due to legal questions over it, but now it’s been officially approved by Activision, there’s nothing stopping you from jumping right in.

Vindictus

47. Vindictus

The sequel to a Korean MMO virtually no one we know has even heard of, Vindictus doesn’t have the clout of something like Dota 2, but it offers something quite different too. The visual style is distinctly Asian, giving it an unusual feel in a world of fairly West-friendly free-to-play role-players.

It is an online RPG, but one focused on hack and slash action over questing and levels. It looks great thanks to the Source engine, and the combat is enough to get you past the inherently grindy nature of much of the progression curve. Arachnophobes beware though – the tutorial has one of the biggest spiders you’ve ever seen, and yes, you do have to get right up into its face to fight it.

Desktop Dungeons

48. Desktop Dungeons

Ah, the quest you can complete without ruining your appetite for monster slaying. Desktop Dungeons is as simple as heroics get – really, the entire game is about fighting your way up the local monsters’ organisation chart without picking a fight with something capable of crushing you back.

It’s Rogue in style – meaning when you die it’s really game over – but without the usual complexity, and it’s still very moreish. This is the perfect way of killing a boring lunchtime.

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Cave Story

49. Cave Story

This is a classic Japanese freeware game with a lot of shooting, even more jumping, and a five year development time that still barely explains where all the great ideas came from.

Cave Story is a little fiddly to get running, but an absolute must-play that’s influenced a great many other indie developers since it came out.