As anyone who has followed the games industry over the years will know, online gaming’s boomed in popularity over the last few years. Back in my day it used to be a dodgy internet connection and Diablo II, the Dreamcast, or four mates and a Nintendo 64 with Goldeneye. Mindless reminiscing to one side, it’s 2013 and the games industry is stunningly popular and all about the online experience. However, gaming’s still a very expensive hobby to follow, and in a recession struck world this makes new consoles and games a distant possibility for some.
The excellent news is there are plenty of great online games available to download or play on the internet free of charge. Over the last few months I have had a look online and have put together the ten games I would consider to be the best of the lot (I purposely left out Minecraft, incidentally). And they’re all free! Here’s what you can catch up on.
This isn’t a game, but you’ll want to download it if you’re going to get some of the games listed here. Valve Corporation’s creation is an internet portal providing access to nearly 2,000 online games, many of which are available to download and play for free. They cover pretty much every genre; first-person shooters such as Tribes Ascend, Alien Swarm, Alliance of Valiant Arms and PlanetSide 2, massively multi-player online games such as Age of Conan: Unchained, racing simulators such as RaceRoom Experience, role-playing games such as The Banner Saga: Factions, strategy games such as Stronghold Kingdoms, and many more.
2. PlanetSide 2
It’s absurd this game is actually free! It’s an epic sci-fi MMOFPS where players are plunged into combat with thousands of comrades and enemies. The ultimate aim of the game is to win territory as three factions battle it out for dominance on the planet of Auraxis. The game features the option for various combat classes and specializations and a wide array of weapons and vehicles, game modes, missions, skills and captivating futuristic action.
The graphics are great, the action full-on, and it’s brilliant fun.
3. Alien Swarm
Although it’s basic in setup this main action (which involves blowing up swarming aliens, funnily enough) is surprisingly intense and is a nostalgic hark back to the games of yesteryear. The Arcade styled gameplay, and moody setting, makes for fun bursts of play and an immersive experience. And it’s free, of course, so no complaints!
4. League of Legends
One of the most popular free online games currently available is League of legends (LoL), a fantasy-themed multiplayer battle arena with a choice of 110 different champions to select and pitch in battle. Players start each battle at the side of a map and must defeat their enemies; everyone forms into two even teams of champions and aim to destroy their enemies’ Nexus.
LoL is an addictive, and very aggressive, combat platform with a firm emphasis on a group effort – players must keep in contact with their online friends, coordinate their tactics and communicate effectively during, and between, battles. It’s proved popular, too, and now has a big cult following.
5. Super House of Dead Ninjas
A Flash game on Steam, this game is a traditional 2D action romp of randomly generated adventures through speedy landscapes and violent enemies. It’s full on and you’ll need a quick brain to deal with it all, so only the most daring should take it on.
There is a cheap, extended version you can get, but the free edition is excellent as it is.
6. Tribes Ascend
Tribes Ascend is a critically-acclaimed and immensely popular MMOFPS set in a distant future battle environment. Gameplay involves a choice of three armour and weapon classes and players earning credits for killing enemies, fixing structures and achieving mission objectives; credits can then be spent on purchasing supplies to allow progress through the game. Survival often requires mastering the use of skis and jetpacks to negotiate the battlefield.
The game is spectacular and has a rich backstory of intriguing galactic-wide action. One to own!
7. Sluggish Morss
As innovative as games come, this is a freak-out episode of sci-fi psychedelia. Set in a far-out far-future, the story follows the exploits of a pink pothead alien as he collects gold coins to pay his dealer – along the way he encounters a series of bizarre puzzles and unusual characters. A weird one, for sure, but it’s good fun.
Vested Interest present the simian.interface, a simple yet deep interface to test the aesthetic and special skills of simians, including humans.
Players must experiment with moving shapes around a colourful screen in each level to find the correct alignment. Gameplay starts easily in the early stages as shapes must be placed in the right place but the puzzles become progressively more complex and testing for the simian player’s reasoning skills. Addictive stuff.
9. Hunt’ Em
The stunning artwork featured in Hunt ’Em disguises the rather more dark themes, namely an evolutionary arms race as your character flees from bloodthirsty wolves across a prehistoric styled landscape, gains power-ups from fountains of light and – having evolved into a bigger and stronger creature – becomes a hunter and pursues the wolves.
The wolves also evolve to become more powerful creating a continuously fraught gaming world, but despite this bleak outlook Hunt ’Em is a wonderfully crafted, and enjoyable, experience.
10. Army Rage
Army Rage is a fast-paced and realistic 3D MMOFPS set on the battlefields of the Second World War. Presented by Chinese publisher Yacuba Games, this first-person shooter aims to capture the frantic conflict of the divisive war; players can choose to fight on either Allies or Axis side and there are four different soldier classes to select from: Assault, Scout, Support or Engineer.
Players team up into up to six groups of four soldiers, so as many as 24 people can be fighting in one room, with the action taking place across a variety of maps, missions and game modes. Good old fashioned violent fun!