We've already shown you our picks for top-notch open-source (or freeware) graphics applications and system optimizers. To celebrate the start of the weekend, we're going for the gusto this time around: games. But the difficulty in this list stems from the fact that there are a ton of excellent games in the independent scene right now. We frequently profile these as much as possible on the Maximum PC monthly CD, but even then, it's tough to pick five examples of top-quality games--we could fill an article with five hundred. Your favorite open-source game might not have made our list this time around, but feel free to leave comments about other awesome alternatives you've sampled!
Now that the disclaimer's out of the way, cancel your appointments and throw up your away message. It's time to game, and it's time to game for free!
We're starting off with a puzzle game. But before you conjure images of another Tetris or Bejeweled clone, know that "a game about bouncing" is a fun romp through an iTunes visualizer. At least, that's what the simple beauty of the game's vibrant backdrops brings to mind. The game's premise is simple: grab onto shapes to collect them while avoiding "tails" that follow you around. Only, the shapes you're grabbing also serve as pinball-style bumpers, sending you careening around an endless map every time you snag a new shape. Replace the bumpers with buildings and you'll have a minimalistic Spider Man on your hands. Our only reservation? The game doesn't come with a built-in screensaver mode. How cool would that look?
There are more open-source and freeware first-person shooters in existence than strippers in Duke Nukem 3D. But rather than sift through 30 different games to find one that barely squeaks by the others, we've decided to place a genre mainstay into our top 5 list. Tremulous is frequently cited as one of the first-person shooters to play and it's easy to see why. The game's graphics are vaguely reminiscent of the Quake shooters of old. Only this time around, you can play as the good guys or the evil aliens, with each race operating under a unique leveling style. Regardless, you're rewarded for killing the enemy with new weapons and upgrades--making this first-person shooter a fun hybrid of mini-RPG and shoot'em-up gameplay.
We enjoy the fantasy setting of the real-time strategy title Glest as much as we enjoy the game's polish. In fact, we dare say it looks better than some of the earlier RTS offerings of now-established companies (here's looking at you, Warcraft). Pick one of the game's two factions--Tech or Magic--and slug it out on the battlefield using all sorts of arcane powers and plain ol' ass-kickery. You can even fire up Glest over local multiplayer if you want to pour a bucket of open-source ownage all over your unsuspecting friends. If you're of the programming mindset, you can also grab a number of tools for modifying the game straight off of Glest's official site.
We'll be the first to admit that, by itself, Vega Strike is not the prettiest of games. But we're including this on our list for the limitless enhancements stacked onto this title by the open-source community. Although the game itself already looks like a crappier Wing Commander: Privateer, we're more than happy that the community has taken it upon itself to actually recreate this, one of the space genre's better titles, as a direct spin-off of Vega Strike. There's also a Star Trek space-flight mod and a turn-based modification called Armada. No matter which variant you pick, Vega Strike's the framework that starts your journey. And for that, this little space shooter earns a tiny medal on its coat.
Back when games were run from command lines, the software juggernaut Broderbund made a driving game called Stunts. As the name implies, you didn't just race around a track and call it a day. You could race around (and even create your own) series of crazy obstacle courses, featuring full loops, corkscrews, and a variety of other technical challenges. Screw up, and you'd blow up--it was that simple. This once-hilarious title has been rescued from abandonware and been recreated as a souped-up open-source game. You can still design your own killer tracks, only it looks a lot better now than when you used to rock this game on a 486 machine. Oh, how far technology has come!
Got any favorite open-source or freeware games that we didn't mention? Post them in the comments section below!