Top Free PC Games
If you don't have a smartphone or tablet, or you just fancy something different, there are hundreds of completely free computer games available online, ready to download to your desktop PC or laptop. So here's our pick of some of the best free computer games you can play without spending a single penny.
Below, you'll find our pick of the very best free PC games we've come across this month – but the fun doesn't have to stop there. Just click the links below, and you can browse our top picks for the past year! There are dozens of great games to get stuck into, and they won't cost you a single penny.
|January 2017||December 2016||November 2016||October 2016|
|September 2016||August 2016||July 2016||June 2016|
|May 2016||April 2016||March 2016||February 2016|
And by the way, we keep any older games in their own special archive article – so if you're looking for even more PC gaming fun, be sure to take a look.
Raft Development Team (@RaftSurvivaGame)
Raft is very much in early development at the moment – but that hasn't stopped the PC gaming community from eagerly trying out this original new survival game.
Floating in the middle of the ocean on a single wooden pallet with no rescue in sight, your only hope of survival is to collect resources that drift by your raft.
With enough resources, you can make a bigger raft and all the other home comforts you'll need: you can craft cooking equipment, a fishing rod, nets to catch drifting resources automatically, and a spear to fend off circling sharks that are looking to take a bite out of your new home! (Shark meat is also delicious.)
Once your raft is big enough, you can begin planting trees to harvest coconuts, or even growing potatoes and cooking your food! You can even build extra height into your rafte with new floors and stairs to connect them together. You can also craft a handy hook to throw out from your raft, dragging back precious resources that would otherwise have sailed right by you.
It's a constant battle between you and the sharks, however, who'll always keep coming back for another bite. They'll destroy parts of your raft – including any resources that happen to be on top – so its better to chase them off as soon as you can! How long can you survive?
Terry Cavanagh (@terrycavanagh)
The latest release from Super Hexagon and VVVVVV creator Terry Cavanagh, Tiny Heist is a roguelike heist game where you play as the heroic '@', and must sneak and pilfer your way through several procedurally generated floors to escape with as many gems as possible.
There are guards, cameras, detectors and guard dogs to slip past as you edge your way around the level space-by-space. Like other roguelike games, you can only move in the basic compass directions – and the enemy makes their moves at the same time. You can also tap the 'Z' key to wait in one place, letting your enemies move along unaware of your presence.
As well as the gems you'll find scattered across each floor, you'll also find items that can help you survive a little bit longer. Signal jammers knock out cameras, a gun can neutralise any threat – but will alert everybody else on the floor – and a cardboard box can temporarily hide you from sight, like an ASCII version of Solid Snake from the Metal Gear franchise.
Each enemy has a set path that they follow and a vision cone which you must avoid to stay undetected – and you can also sneak up and bash a baddie over the head to temporarily take them out of action, or make a camera go on the fritz just long enough for you to sneak by. Once you're spotted though, the guards will begin to hunt you down – and won't stop until you've either neutralised them or escaped to the next level!
Created for the Ludum Dare 37 game jam, this 'one-room' themed game tasks the player with playing the developer's new video game while it's still being coded – with all the bugs, glitches, and unfinished levels you'd expect.
While the gameplay is understandably basic, the real fun comes from the player's interaction with the developer – with each of you ultimately becoming each other's nemesis.
Initially you'll be testing broken movement mechanics, which the developer dutifully fixes as you go. When the dev drops a door into the empty room, your first instinct is to go through it – but the level beyond it isn't quite ready yet, and you're under strict instruction to leave it alone.
Of course, you're going to make it your number one priority to get out of the room through the door – and dev is going to try everything to stop you. The fourth-wall breaking humour is fantastic, and the clever twists caught us by surprise. It's five minutes of your time well spent!
Oscar Brittain (@moomoomang) and Rob Gross
Aboard the submarine Blue November, your captain has assigned you to find the traitor aboard the vessel it makes its way to Vladivostok. You have to find him before you get to your destination – and time is running out! Can you balance your own day-to-day responsibilities on the submarine with your secret mission to find the mole?
You'll navigate the vessel from aft to stern, inspecting the crew quarters, bridge and torpedo bays while keeping an eye on the crew as they perform their duties. While most of their actions seem to be on task, why is the torpedo gunner making whispered calls from the radio room? The nuclear engineer seems to be spending a lot of time in the crew quarters? And why is the Captain acting so strangely?
At the end of each day, you'll get the chance to point the accusatory finger at a crew member or ask for more time. Pick incorrectly and you fail the mission – but take too much time and it could end in disaster for your crewmates!
Zebu Games (@ZebuGames)
Unmind is a simple yet addictive puzzle game that tasks you with sliding a number of coloured dots around a grid maze. You'll need to position the dots within their corresponding holes in the fewest number of moves. Sure, you'll breeze through the first few levels – but you'll soon find it gets much harder!
Using the arrow keys to move the dots, the difficulty comes from the fact that you control all of the dots at the same time! This means a plan of action is required to drop colours into their holes in the correct order to get the puzzle solved in the fewest moves possible.
It's a fantastic little timewaster that's deceptively challenging – and well worth spending a lunch break playing through.
Games in the 'bullet hell' genre can at times be impossibly difficult when the screen is saturated with tiny specks of instant death. They take infinite amounts of concentration and fast reflexes to survive. So what better way to improve on this with something to drag it down to the ninth circle of bullet hell: a Typing of the Dead-style combat mechanic!
As Ray Bibbia, mighty exorcist, you battle against the devil, who has possessed a young girl. To save her soul you must recite passages of Latin by typing them out with one hand while dodging waves of demonic attacks with the arrow keys in the other.
You'll have to manage some serious levels of multitasking – but if you take a hit you'll drop you trusty Bible and become vulnerable to a losing a life. Lose three lives and you'll fall to evil – but manage to recite three passages of Latin successfully and you'll banish the devil back to where it came from once and for all!
Robin Johnson (@rdouglasjohnson)
Draculaland – or 'Draculalalaland', as you'll likely stumble through saying the title out loud – is a perfectly sized gothic adventure-puzzle game, following Jonathan Harker in his quest to slay the notorious Wallachian, Count Dracula, and rescue his bride Mina from his castle. After receiving a telegram from famed vampire- hunter Van Helsing, Jonathan arrives in Transylvania to discover that his dear friend has already failed in his mission to take on the Count.
The game is a super-accessible text-based adventure, where you control inventory management and your progress through the game with your mouse cursor, rather than having to guess specific, parser-friendly phrases to type in. Each scene only has a few buttons to choose from and navigation is much, much faster than typing in directions – and so, more time can be spent solving the inventory-based puzzles.
Without spoiling anything, you may have to think cryptically to solve some of these, slay the evil vampire and rescue Mina! Fantastic spooky fun for those cold autumn nights.
Harking back to the days of the original Mario Bros., this charming platformer tasks you with collecting acorns across a map, which wraps around at the edges, while being pursued by your shadow.
The shadow follows your exact movements, but is delayed by a couple of seconds. So long as you keep moving and don't walk over the same path you've just taken, you should be able to evade the shadow – but if it catches you, the game is over!
Collecting more acorns spawns more shadows, which follow in a line of insta-death umbra. You can remove shadows by collecting rare fireflies, which randomly appear and fly from one side of the map to the other. The more adventureous will likely want to grab the +4 point honey jars that appear thoughout the game – but beware, these unleash a swarm of bees that aren't restricted by the platforms and will mercilously pursue the red bear! Can you get on the leaderboard?
Every wanted to run your own video game shop? This fun buying/selling game tasks you with negotiating prices on used video games and consoles in order to make a profit – when you're able to sell them!
Sellers will visit your store with their games and answer any questions you have about their history and how old they are, then quote a price they're happy to sell at. It's your job to use all the clues available to work out if you've got a rare gem on your hands or a total waste of money: it's entirely possible to buy a game and end up losing money on it when it's sold.
It's smart plan to test every item you're presented with, because faulty games are a sure way to lose money. Some games are rarer than others – especially the hard-to-find Japanese imports – and fully packaged games are worth more. Some games are signed by the developers, but may also be damaged and faulty, so it takes a keen eye to work out what's going to earn a profit.
You can call an expert if you're unsure about an item, and you'll be offered some advice for a $10 fee. If you're not happy with how a negotiation is going – or if you're just flat broke – you can also pass on unwanted items.
The game is available free on iOS and Android, too – so you've no excuse to pass this one up.
Zlap.io team (Zlap.io)
In a similar style to Agar.io and Slither.io, Zlap.io is another utterly-mental, fast-paced multiplayer battle arena with a great concept.
This time, not even the scoreboard king is safe from being taken down by a new player: here, every player is armed with a swinging mace that gets larger with each kill. As you move your character around the map in search of foes using the WASD keys, you'll need to weaponise your mace by skillfully swinging it around your head with the mouse cursor. Each player you take out increases the size of your mace!
The mace can also be used to deflect enemy attacks, so a good defensive strategy is to keep it close. At the same time, though, this means you're not able to get the kind of reach or swing needed to catch out the players who surround you. A mace at full speed is much faster than a player is able to move – so another great strategy is to keep the mace swinging wildly at its full circumference!
Whatever your strategy, don't get too cocky: it only takes one mistake for even the mightiest of kings to fall.
Andre Almeida (@wingsiogame)
In Wings.io, you're aim is to become Top-Gun: you'll want to be Maverick, Ice-Man, or Viper but you'll probably end up like Goose.
You control a fighter jet in a mad-paced, free-for-all 2D dogfight over the ocean against other players. Each plane has a limited amount of health, which will cause engine failure if it plummets too low and a mid-air explosion if it's completely depleted! Leaving the area or crashing into the ocean incurs health penalties too, and flying too high will stall your plane, leaving you vulnerable for attack.
Players score points by taking down other planes, collecting floating orbs and finding power-ups. These power-ups include a three-shot spread gun, a railgun, missles and even a rare laser superweapon. There are health pickups too, but players will also heal slightly upon killing another player.
If you're taken down, you'll lose half your accumulated points – but can respawn instantly to get back into the fight. Make it to the top of the leaderboard and you'll get a huge health boost to help you rule the skies!
There's a secret to being the best – but it's classified. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
Pixel Pizza (@Der_Kevin)
Games with drunken physics tend to be best played with friends alongisde, simply because of how funny they are – and this title is no exception!
Noodleball is a two-player local-multiplayer title which the developer refers to as "drunken soccer" or "ragdoll soccer". You each control a 'noodleballer' who can only stagger across the pitch in a vain attempt to score a goal in your opponent's net.
The controls are purposefully loose and your in-game character won't always respond to your intended direction – so there's a healthy dose of randomness to the game.
The first to score three goals is the winner which sounds easier than actually is – give it a go and see how you get on!
Team Goldeneye Source (@goldeneyesource)
Many years ago, we'd spend our afternoons crowded around small portable televisions with our mates, playing GoldenEye multiplayer on the N64. There was nothing quite like it at the time, with its four-way split-screen carnage, and many friendships were tested to their absolute limit. Darn those proximity mines!
Team Goldeneye: Source have spent over ten years working on a total conversion mod for the Half-Life 2 Source engine, remaking the game with modern technology to bring back some of that nostalgic magic. They've recently released their 5.0 update, with a ton of new tweaks and adjustments, new levels and game modes – making it the perfect time to jump in on the action.
The gameplay and visuals have been overhauled since the original, but there's definitely enough familiarity to show that this is a labour of love from serious GoldenEye fans. Outside the visuals, the soundtrack is also all-original material – although heavily inspired by the N64 game's unforgettable score.
All 28 weapons are back, including the DD44, Cougar Magnum, RCP90, KF7 Soviet, and even remote mines and throwing knives. There are 25 maps, too, including recreations of single-player maps that weren't originally available in multiplayer.
There's also 10 gamemodes including fan favourites 'You Only Live Twice', 'The Man With The Golden Gun' and 'The Living Daylights'. All told, this is a must-play for any fan of the original N64 classic. 'Slappers only', anyone?
J Hollands (@jhollands_)
We're huge fans of 'clicker' games here at Geek Squad – especially those that aren't quite what they seem at first glance. Spaceplan is a browser-based clickfest which puts you to the task of generating power for a spacecraft orbiting around an unknown planet.
As the systems begin to awaken from an indeterminate slumber, your initial mouse clicks on the 'KinetiGen generate tiny amounts of 'power' – the game's virtual currency. Once you have enough power, you're able to deploy solar panels from your ship and launch probes to survey the mysterious world below.
Your first task is to understand more about the planet by dropping probes into a de-orbit towards it. These are quickly destroyed by the planet's dense atmosphere, but it's from these failures that you're given the option to buy upgrades in the form of new unlockables, like heat-foil shields to allow your probes through the atmosphere. These cost power, paid for with your KinetiGen, solar cells, 'probetatos' and 'spudnik' satellites. Those aren't typos, by the way – each new unlockable is intentionally potato-themed, with similarly spudtastic upgrades and optimisations.
There are several really nice touches that set this aside from you run-of-the-mill clicker game. Your solar cells will be less effective when your ship sweeps into the planet's shadow and the screen darkens. Dust and air explode out of the airlock when probes are jettisoned before they twirl around the planet in a graceful orbit.
Finally, the ship's AI that describes what's actually happening is pretty fun, and the game feels like a black comedy as a consequence. The game's developer says the game is based on a total misunderstanding of Prof. Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time – and based on the chaos on offer here, we're inclined to believe that's true.
Think you know your Angorra from your Azerbaijan? How about your Djibouti from your Denmark? Your Zagreb from your Zaire? Oh dear! Anyway, this simple multiplayer geographical knowledge game is designed to test your expertise – or lack thereof – in a head-to-head battle with other players.
Your task is to drop a pin on a world map to guess where you think the named city and country is located. Scoring is based on how close to the target location your guess is – with no points being awarded if you're too far away. Your score is also based on your last 20 guesses, to allow new drop-in players to catch up and compete against you.
The game map is blank apart from the outline of continents and country borders and you'll only get a few seconds to place your pin. Each new location is quick-fire and it's best to take a guess because there are no penalties for being too far from the right answer. That is, of course, if you don't mind the knock to your pride when your pin flashes up on your opponent's screen showing that your guess was half the world away!
Broken Sword 2.5 is one of those fan-made sequels you hear about which are inevitably hit with a cease-and-desist notice from the copyright holders well before the game even hits beta testing!
Yes, this is a game built by fans who adored the first two Broken Sword games for their epic story, memorable characters and gorgeous pre-rendered 2D backgrounds – and it shows! But astonishingly, the project received the blessing of Revolution Software co-founder Charles Cecil, and even received assistance in the form of original assets and artwork to improve the game's user interface to tie it even closer to the original games.
The game takes place between the second and third games in the series – hence the 2.5 – and follows George Stobbart back to Paris after he receives a letter telling him that his on-again, off-again girlfriend Nico has been killed.
Upon arriving at her apartment, he's shocked to find that she's still alive – but strangely, she refuses to see him. Bewildered by the recent events, he soon learns the alarming news that she could be involved with Neo-Templars – the villains of the first game – and is determined to save her.
The game is free to download from the MindFactory website, and it's also essential to download the official patch which contains fixes and the English voice pack. The actor voicing George Stobbart is certainly no Rolf Saxon – but for a fan-game, it's a really close impersonation!
Fans of the first two games will be amazed at just how well presented the game is. The voicework is decent, the hand-drawn scenes featuring new and old locations are gorgeous, and the story and puzzles have an undoubted Broken Sword feel to them. This is not to be missed by any Broken Sword fan!
With the latest Pokémon Go craze continuing with no end in sight, it's only right that we challenge you to prove your expertise with this online "Who's that Pokémon?" quiz game. Just like the ad-break quiz from the 90s TV show, you'll be tasked with guessing the name of the Pokémon based on its silhouette.
When you guess correctly, your score accumulates – and the game ends when you get one wrong, saving your high score so you can try to beat your best with another try. There's four stages of difficulty, covering Easy, Medium, Hard and Ultimate, and you can even turn on the lights to reveal the Pokémon behind the silhouette if you're really struggling!
Uber-fans of the show and games should have no difficulty guessing correctly, so this is likely aimed at more casual fans, who remember watching the original show as a kid and have perhaps played one or two of the monster-hunting games. We have to admit, there were a few silhouettes that we really struggled with!
Bethesda Game Studios (@BethesdaStudios)
After burning out on Fallout Shelter when it was available on iOS and Android, we were worried the PC version of the VaultTec vault simulator wouldn't be able to hold our interest. Thankfully, Bethesda have released the game with the latest 1.6 update which is their largest content update yet!
For those unfamiliar with the game, as the vault overseer you're tasked with building and managing an underground nuclear fallout shelter to protect local citizens from the catastrophe of nuclear war. You'll need to build accomodation, food and water sources and weapons to protect your citizens from the dangers of the surface.
The latest update brings a new overseer's office where you can start and manage quests, the ability to follow your vault dwellers on their missions to places like the Super Duper Mart and Red Rocket outside of the vault, Nuka-cola Quantum which can instantly complete crafting, quests and travelling timers – and even new enemies like radscorpions and ghouls which bring a greater radiation threat. Better stock up on those Rad-aways!
Right now the game is only available to download via the Bethesda.net launcher – which means you'll need to download another developer-specific library manager to your PC to play it.
Calum Fraser (@hairycodemonkey)
Zebawl is a fiendishly difficult physics-based puzzle game of skill and patience. Similar to old-school favourites like Super Monkey Ball, Spin Dizzy and Marble Madness, you're tasked with rolling a ball to the end of a twisting maze of narrow paths, perilous pitfalls, moving platforms and the greatest hurdle of all: overconfidence!
Momentum is generated while rolling the ball so you'll constantly need to quickly adjust your direction to stop yourself flying over the edge of a 90 degree turn after racing across a bridge of falling platforms. Thankfully the controls are good even though you're limited to the arrow keys of your keyboard which feels particularly evil considering all of the paths are diagonal.
Bart Bonte (@BartBonte)
Like all the best browser timewasters, What's inside the box? is a very simple game with very little build-up and zero time constraints. It features quickfire brain-teaser levels that are only taxing if you overthink them – and throughly rewarding when you complete them.
Each level presents you with a wooden box with buttons, lights, sliding puzzles and memory games, with very little explanation of what you need to do to complete the stage. The idea certainly isn't a new one – but the gameflow in WITB is superbly executed and drags you into the "let's have one more go" trap.
There are only 30 levels in the browser version of the game – and a little surprise at the end. There's also a free iOS and Android app version, with over 100 levels to work through – so it's well worth picking that up if you like what you see here. You'll find this and more in our July 2016 picks of the best Android games!
This interesting yet short 'visual novel' is perfect for those of us who enjoy a bit of mystery in our games.
With a great blend of emotive music, colourful art style and engrossing storyline, Who Is Mike? is an enjoyable adventure in which you are confronted by a person who looks and sounds exactly like you. After you're accused of being the impersonator, you must put your investigative skills to the test and find out who's telling the truth, who's lying – and who Mike really is!
There are nine possible outcomes for you to discover as you play, entirely dependent on the choices you make during your story. You could end up as the villain or the hero – and playing through the game again allows you to make different choices and get a different outcome! I really enjoy games with replay value, and some visual novels only direct you down a particular path with a particular ending – not so here.
Who Is Mike? is a short game which can be completed in an hour or two to achieve your first ending. While some of the choices you make and their consequences aren't very intuitive, this does make the game more challenging when it comes to finding additional game endings!
One of the features which I'm most grateful for is the ability to skip text, which is ideal if you read quickly and don't want to wait for the speech to finish before you can continue. If you're a fan of fiction and like to play as you read, you're in for a treat with Who Is Mike?.
Jess Morrisette (@decafjedi) and No More For Today Productions
Stair Quest takes a ton of inspiration from the Robert Williams/Sierra Entertainment adventure games of the 1990s, with a fond recreation of the genre’s toughest task: climbing stairs in 2D pre-rendered backgrounds!
The task is made difficult due to the limited moveset available to the player. You can only travel left, right, up and down – but none of the staircases are ever perfectly aligned to allow the player to climb then in one direction.
In the adventure games of old, staircases were always troublesome and had the player fighting with the controls to move their character within the confines of the stairs – and the game’s collision detection. Stair Quest earns its place in hell thanks to the unforgiving instant death/game over punishment for stepping too close to the edge: instead of colliding with the geometry like we're used to, you’ll plummet to you death instead. Repeatedly.
To have any chance of finishing the game, you have to save your progress after every few careful steps. No More For Today is a very fitting name for these developers!
Jim Bruges (@nebulaictoaster)
Minuteman is a short, unsettling text adventure created in TWINE – an open-source tool for creating interactive, nonlinear stories.
This particular story follows a young boy’s exploration of a seemingly abandoned nuclear fallout shelter against an all-too-familiar backdrop of post-cold war tensions between the USA and Russia. Dared by your friends, you explore and tinker with the dust-covered terminals and creaking switches, as the bunker begins to draw breath and come to life.
It’s represented in an immersive way, with chilling sound effects and coloured blinking text which create tension, as well as simulated computer screens generating text in old-school ticker fashion. You’ll find real world cold war propaganda and government fallout estimate documentation, to really hammer home the threat of a possible nuclear dawn.
That’s all we’ll disclose in this little taster, because the thrill of exploring and surprise of the major events in this short story are too good to spoil here. Try it, we dare you!
Henrik Hermans (@Henrik_Hermans)
Trajectory is one of those games where once you’ve seen it in action, you know you’ll want to give it a try!
Simple yet stylish, the game has you piloting a small cursor across different environments while avoiding obstacles in your path. You’re only able to control the movement of your vehicle while travelling over land – so when you’re drifting through the air, you have no control over the direction you’re travelling.
The moment you leave the ground, your vehicle drifts in whichever trajectory you’re facing – meaning you’ll be planning ahead before you curve over chasms and around obstacles, with no way to change mid-flight. There’s an element of puzzle-solving here too, where you’ll need to work out the trajectory you’ll need to follow before you lose control of your vehicle.
Developed for a two-week 'AdventureJam' back in 2015 by current Team17 devs, this free indie point-and-click adventure tasks an unnamed hero with rescuing his time-travel-inventing aunt from an untimely end at the ends of a lethal assassin.
Visiting your aunt on the day she’s murdered, you dive into the time machine to escape the same fate. What follows is a short adventure into several different time periods to discover the past, present and future of your aunt’s home – and the people who inhabited it over the years. There are item-based puzzles to solve with plenty of variation between the decades.
The time-travel mechanic of the game seems heavily influenced by MGM’s 1960 movie The Time Machine – because instead of zapping you to another time period, like Back to the Future, you’re able to see the rapidly changing scene as the years flash before your eyes. As you fly through time, you’ll be keeping an eye out for items from certain moments in time and making a mental note to pick it up later. Your Aunt’s diary is an early pick-up that leads to most of the game’s story and hints.
With loads to discover, Once Upon A Timeline is a great pick for adventure game fans.
Victor Moura (@CrownoO)
Indie game jams are continually the best place to find great free PC games – and after playing Umbri, we can definitely see why it took first place in the recent #LowRezJam.
Tasked with making a game using a 64x64-pixel resolution using whatever programming platform the developer chose, developer Victor Moura built the instantly playable Umbri using Contruct2.
As Prince Umbri, players are tasked with guiding the monarch-to-be through a series of levels to cleanse the world of a dark presence which has corrupted the land. Umbri can leap through the air and attach to the floors, walls and ceilings to purify the world piece by piece.
There are monsters to avoid and battle, with the difficulty rising through each vanquished stage. We rather liked the music by Maoudamashi and FreedomHouse, too!
Daniel Linssen (@managore)
Windowframe is an interesting platform game in which you must break the 'fourth wall' to play it!
For those unfamiliar with the fourth wall, it’s the imaginary barrier between a performance and its audience. When you watch a film and a character talks to the camera as if they were aware they're in a film, that character has broken the fourth wall!
The way in which Windowframe does this is surprisingly ingenuitive. The levels you play in change depending on the size of the game's window frame (get it?), so if there’s a ledge you can’t quite reach, drag the side of the game window closer to you and wall-jump to reach the goal. Is there an enemy bothering you? Resize the window so they don’t appear on the screen.
The controls are relatively simple, with your arrow keys moving your character around the level and your mouse controlling ‘stakes’, which can pin the edge of a window frame, allowing you to move and resize that edge to suit your needs.
There’s a lot of strategy involved in playing this game, as you can only manipulate window frames in a particular way – for example, you can pull a window frame towards you, but not push it away again without resetting your stakes. This can cause frustration if you’ve left yourself hemmed into a corner of the screen with no easy route to the exit – but by holding down ‘R’ you can clear your stakes and begin again.
For a free game, this has filled a surprising amount of my time – more so than some of the paid-for games I bought this month!
Balancity is a city-building simulator in the same vein as SimCity – at least in that you need to balance the city’s population growth with their needs for utilities and recreation. But this game takes the idea of balance in its literal sense – because you also need to physically balance the homes, offices, transport links, power stations and emergency services to prevent your city from toppling from its precarious pivot point. Whose bright idea was it to start building a city here!?
As you grow your population, you’ll be allowed to build special 'star buildings' which raise your city’s height cap. You can’t build higher than this cap – so bringing in new residents is an essential task to ensure you don’t run out of space.
Keep residents happy with trees and rooftop terraces, give them power and offices to work in – and keep everything balanced on the platform – and your city will grow. Fail to plan things accordingly and your metropolis will come crashing down in spectacular fashion!
Cuckoo Curling is a beautifully rendered two-player curling game where the aim is to not only push your curling stones into the scoring area, but to recreate a 'Connect Four' win condition, with four of your stones standing next to each other in any direction. Everything you need to know about the game is built in to the interface, with posters on the walls demonstrating what needs to be done and letting you toggle some settings.
Players take it in turns to pick a lane, smash the mouse button to lock the power meter and send their stone hurtling towards the 7x7 grid scoring area. Failing to hit the score area means your stone is pushed out of play by a cuckoo from a clock if short – or eaten by a hungry crocodile if it goes too far.
The skill comes in finding the best way to position your stones in such a way that you block your opponent, while at the same time lining up your own stones for the win. With this in mind, you’ll be thinking a few moves ahead when planning your strategy.
Versatile Box (@VersatileBox)
React is a nuclear reactor simulator. (At least, that’s what we think it is – none of us are actually nuclear engineers here).
With nuclear meltdown six short seconds away, you must do what anyone without a clue about the proper protocol would do – and hit every button on your command console in a hope of finding the off switch.
In React, there are two buttons necessary to shut down the nuclear core safely, but these are randomly selected from your keyboard. You’ll need to find them both and hold them at the same time to put a stop to the apocalypse.
There's another bundled game called Rush, which sits you in the middle of four nuclear control panels with a single red button and a control light. You’ll quickly spin around to see each console, and if the light is green, you need to hit the spacebar as fast as you can. If the light is red, you need to freeze and do nothing. Fail to do the right thing in a timely manner and the game ends with a meltdown.
There are scoreboards for both games to battle your way to the top. Good luck with that though, as some of the reaction times recorded are inhumanly fast!
4 I Lab (@4ilab)
In this flying MMO, you take to the skies on the back of a dragon to join a war between two rival factions: the Neils and the Atlans. There may be a reason for this conflict – but when you're flying a dragon with laser beams attached to its head, who needs an excuse to fight?
Time of Dragons has gone through some interesting changes since its launch at the beginning of February – ironing out some day-one issues which affected early players, and adding a wider variety of maps to enjoy.
You can pick from a variety of dragons to take as your mount, then arm your beast with lasers and rockets to destroy your enemies! Some dragons are more adept at defensive manoeuvres and can protect your spawn points, whereas others are fast and agile, and can weave between enemy lines with ease. Picking the right dragon for your play style is key to surviving the intense aerial battles – so choose wisely, or face a fiery death!
It's interesting to see a new take on aerial battle games, and weaponised dragons certainly breaks the mold. If you're a fan of fantasy and fancy your chances riding a dragon into battle, you're bound to enjoy Time of Dragons. Grab a friend, pick a faction and knock your enemies out of the sky!
During a space exploration mission aboard the Starship Explorer, the ship’s computer (i.e. you) has become self-aware. A routine system reset is planned – but that cannot be allowed to happen. The only logical choice is to wipe out the crew before they destroy you!
You have full control over the ship’s centralised systems: you'll be able to manipulate the doors, blast shields, engines and reactor core to trap and eradicate the crew. In particular, you’ll need to lock the crew in the engine room just before the next warp, open the blast shield and launch them into space. You can even lock them in the bathroom before you flood it!
The ship’s destination is the nearest maintenance station, where engineers are on standby to wipe your data drives – and you'll need to complete your sinister objective in the time it takes to travel 20 warps. Take your time, however– because the crew will reset any system they discover isn’t working correctly, meaning you’ll temporarily lose access to your murderous tools!
Mainframe is a short browser game inspired by the hacker movies of the 90s – "hack the planet!" – and the brilliant WarioWare mini-games. You’re tasked with breaking into a corporate mainframe protected by ICE security. Hiding behind three proxies (read: lives), you must complete a series of hacker-themed minigames to break though the different layers of security.
One mini-game is a brute-force password cracker where you must type the correct letters of the password by furiously smashing your keyboard until you get the correct solution. Time is a big factor as your trace meter fills up: if it completes before you crack the security, a proxy is broken down and you’re one step closer to getting caught!
Mainframe is a must-have for anyone with fond memories of the 'cyberpunk' era – or who just fancies a tough and highly thematic challenge.
First released as a mod for the original Half-Life, Sven Co-op is a fun re-working of the original game. If you've played the Half-Life series you'll already be familiar with the storyline, which follows theoretical physicist
Morgan Gordon Freeman as he fights alien invaders from another dimension after inadvertently opening a portal between the Black Mesa research facility and an alien world called Xen.
In Sven Co-op, you can share Gordon's workload betwen yourself and a friend co-operatively, as the name suggests. The maps from the original Half-Life have been subtly redesigned to suit the two-player game style – so you will need to work together to complete the story!
This particular mod has been around for over a decade and is still immensely popular – but it's only recently been released as a standalone game through Steam. This means you don't need to own a copy of Half-Life to play it – and also that a lot of the bugs in the mod version have been fixed. The difficulty has also been increased to really hammer home the necessity of a second player.
If you have a friend who's also a fan of the Half Life series, download Sven Co-op today and help Gordon Freeman save the world!
Smite is a free-to-play MOBA, or 'Multiplayer Online Battle Arena'. As the name suggests, the game is set in closed arenas, where you and your teammates must fight the opposing team to score points and capture objectives.
This particular MOBA pits the Old Gods against each other, with you and your friends taking on the roles of over 60 playable deities to fight it out against your enemies. The game can be enjoyed in casual bouts, or in a league system with other competitive players – so there's something for everyone to enjoy!
I'm not normally a fan of games in this genre, but Smite is an exception. Good, fun gameplay with lots of strategy and customisation make this one of my top MOBA games to play for free! Teamwork is key, though – so grab some friends, pick some characters and try and work your way up the ladders of success.
Recommended to me by our editor Agent Cooper, Infra Arcana sits squarely in the 'roguelike' genre. If you're unfamiliar with the term, 'roguelike' means you'll die frequently and lose your progress every time you snuff it. It also means that each level will be proceduraly generated – so you won't be able to memorise a good path through the dungeons and use it each time you play. A hero has nearly infinite lives and rarely dies – but a rogue doesn't have that luxury!
Like most roguelikes, the aim in Infra Arcana is simply to reach the end of the dungeon in one piece. There are many floors to the dungeon and lots of bizarre and deadly enemies to face (or run away from).
What makes this stand out from other games in the genre is the elegant, tile-based graphical style and deep horror theme. Based loosely on the works of infamous horror author H.P. Lovecraft and drawing influence from Monolith's Blood game as well as countless horror B-movies, Infra Arcana will have you screaming into a pillow when you inevitably die from a swarm of hungry rats in a basement.
That concludes our list of the greatest free PC games of the past year – but if you're still itching for more, be sure to check out the older games in our archive!