Major computer games are complex and very realistic. The upside is that games are very deep and engaging. But what if you’re a busy person with busy things to do, and you just want to unwind after a long day? Here are 30 free indie games which are boatloads of fun, while simple to play – with video previews so you can see before you try :)
4 Free Racing Indie Games
Nitronic Rush is easily the prettiest, and possibly the most well-developed indie game to grace our PCs for a long time. It’s developed by Team Nitronic of game studio DigiPen, perhaps as a side project that didn’t make it to the main arena, but all the hints points towards a beautiful project crafted with care and detail.
Nitronic Rush is basically a racing game set in a digital ‘Tron’ like setting where your cars can hop, boost and even fly. Throw in an online multiplayer component and a few amazing racetracks which includes loops, broken tracks, and revolving obstacles, and you have an amazing racing game which rivals the likes of top names like Need for Speed or Burnout. And unbelievably, it’s all absolutely FREE!
In case you haven’t had enough of racing games, here’s one more to add to your list. Unlike Nitronic Rush, with its bright, shiny colors and uber smooth controls, SWERVE is more of an old-school style of racing games, where all the cars move at around the same speed and strategy is key to winning the races.
If you’ve played the Rush Hour games before (completely unrelated to the Rush Hour movie starring Jackie Chan), you have a good idea of what SWERVE is all about. Old timers who want a taste of nostalgia will be delighted to learn that the controls handle well, and the toy car setup with realistic engine sounds reflect almost identically the way Rush Hour used to play.
3. Dirche Kart
If you’ve ever fallen in love with the go-cart racing genre, such as the wildly popular Mario Kart series, you’ll have a ton of fun with Dirche Kart. Even though the trailer above showcases the Xbox 360 version, the PC version is “even better”, in the sense that the director has already begun work on Dirche Kart 2 and is making the beta available for anyone to try.
In any case, it’s clear that a lot of work has gone into Dirche Kart. The controls are butter smooth, which are all-important in this game given the tight corners you’ll be turning, and the cell-shaded graphics pay a tribute to Mario Kart, giving gamers a sense of familiarity from the moment they start. Overall, the gameplay experience is just delightful. You can even play with your friends, if you hook up enough controllers or keyboards. If there’s one thing you’ll never get bored of, it’s pitting your driving skills against 3 other friends in a race to the finish, with super powers and go-karts to boot.
Physics-based games are the best. They incorporate the game mechanics of the real world, so you’d somewhat know what to expect when your ball or cloud falls off from a ledge or gets trampoline-d up by a fan, as opposed to the unrealistic, flailing physics in most games. So how do we make it better? By including sweet, toothache-inducing graphics and throwing in a racing component.
Wroom does just exactly that. The artwork is so cute and sweet, you can’t help but marvel at its ingenuity. In addition, there’s a huge array of levels for your car(s) to roam around in with the object of reaching the finish line, all governed by the game’s rather good approximate idea of physics – so you can perform loop-a-loops, ramp launches, 360 degree somersaults, and the like. In addition, you can play with up to 3 other friends, making it the perfect getaway session for your colleagues, mates, etc.
3 Free Platform Indie Games
Spelunky is reminiscent towards the old-school platformers of the days of old, such as Mario and Prince of Persia. It combines a sense of puzzle-ness together with a confusing layout of caves to spelunk in, and throws in some enemies peppered here and there to give a sense of urgency to the atmosphere. Spelunky, as the name would suggest, tells the story of a spelunker who traverses the intricate mazes of caves to reach a fabulous treasure at the end!
The game has received critical acclaim among the indie-game community, and has achieved such high status among the gaming community, that the developer has already ported it for the XBLA community last fall, and has featured it at the games festival PAX 2011. Although PC fans won’t be able to play the slightly enhanced ported version, there’s still the original which started the entire phenomenon.
NeonPlat Adventures tells the charming story of an individual neon boy/girl made of bright colors making their way through a neon bright world to reach the end of NeonPlat. It may look a little dated, but NeonPlat really stands out among the indie game crowd due to its bright, well-placed rainbow colors. Where most indie games are constrained by their budget and end up looking less pretty in the graphics department, NeonPlat’s makes up for its simple design with its colorful style and turns out looking pretty swell.
In the course of your adventure, you’ll come across creatures like ‘pinkies’ and giant floating heads which try to block your way, and the game bears a cutesy theme throughout its entire package, which fits with the colorful neon world. Also, the developer has promised to create one new level every day, so it’s really something to look forward to when you come back from a long day.
Voxatron can be easily defined as Space Invaders, modern-style. It features the classic top-down alien invading shoot-them-before-they-reach-the-bottom type of enemy swarms trying to overwhelm your character, who hugs the bottom of the screen fending them off by shooting projectiles upwards.
However, where Voxatron is different is in its unique application of the Space Invader concept, by including traversable levels. Thus, you can not only shoot from down-to-up, but even side-to-side as you move your character along levels, and in some cases fall into areas requiring you to dispose of surrounding enemies swarming at you from all sides. The levels are created with a lot of detail and color, and this indie developer has paid a lot of attention to its 3D 8-bit artwork, so you can expect to have a load of fun with this game.
6 Free Puzzle Indie Games
JNKPlat is an old-school game that takes its roots in platformers like Prince of Persia and Lode Runner, which results in a game which resembles a combination of the two. It has platforming aspects, in the sense that the little yellow man which you control tries to run from one end of the level to the other, climbing ladders in the process, dropping down chutes etc.
The difference here is that JNKPlat is at its heart not a platformer game. This quickly becomes evident with the lack of in-air mechanics, i.e. your character cannot move while falling, which you may not think much of at first but quickly becomes striking when you start playing the game. Although this may seem less than a little quirky, the levels are actually arranged in a “Grid” format, meaning that you have to think about the limitations of your character instead of mindlessly blowing your way through the entire level. If you’re looking for a puzzle game which plays like a platformer, give JNKPlat a try.
If you’ve played Angry Birds before, then you’ll immediately feel at home with Brainsplode, except for maybe the “brains” aspect of it. Brainsplode is about controlling a stationery rocket launcher, and firing rockets at… you guessed it, brains. The object is to destroy all the brains stationed upon the various walls, floors, and ceilings of the many levels, and you’ll have a wicked fun time trying to achieve that.
Just like Angry Birds, the developer has designed the game to be challenging enough to be fun, without making it frustrating. The cartoonish artwork bears a resemblance to the old PC game ‘Worms’ of 10 years back or the more recent World of Goo, which is pleasant to the eye and conveys the physics aspect of the game quite nicely.
Tag: The Power of Paint, is familiar to two other indie games in this article for good reason. The first one is Nabacular Drop, whose development team was absorbed by Valve together with this one, to work on Portal 2. The second reason is that it also started life as a student project from DigiPen, the same studio which contributed to the epic racing installment, Nitronic Rush. With the backing of these big names, it’s understandable if you might already have high expectations for this game.
So how does it play in practice? I’m delighted to report that Tag: The Power of Paint is oodles of fun. Basically, in this game’s world, each color of paint represents different properties, such as jumping higher, running faster, or transporting you to a different point in space. Of course, the fact that you’re equipped with a “paint gun” really helps even out the fun factor. By implementing different strategies, the goal is to overcome all the obstacles and reach the end of the level – with mind-numbingly challenging, yet endless solutions and possibilities.
4. The Big Sea
The Big Sea is a traditional rolling ball game which takes you through a path of select mazes and obstacles to reach a goal. You play as a pulsing blue orb with red stripes traversing your way over elevations, slopes, cylinders, revolving blocks and the like, until you reach the end of the level.
The stark white scenery reminds one of an Escher’s painting, and the cool colors against the white backgrounds with soft shadows really imbue a relaxing mood upon the player during play. It’s one of those games that you can really escape into when you need a moment to relax or two.
Ballman Planets aims to bring back the joys of Pacman, the little yellow man who ran around mazes gobbling up yellow dots while ghosts chased him. Indie game developer Code Viking recreates this classic adventure in full 3D, giving players a chance to roam around the game worlds collecting the yellow dots, all in the third dimension.
Ballman Planets was the brainchild of a programming competition which the developers eventually won, and their win is proof to the game’s capacity. Besides the obviously entertaining aspect of playing Pacman on a 3D planet environment, there are multiple different environments to choose from, a “fake” 3D anaglyph mode (if you have cyan-blue glasses), and it features in-game music developed by actual music professionals. Whether or not you were a fan of Pacman before, you’d be one by the end of this game.
Waker is an indie game developed by developers from the Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab, and is a puzzle-platformer game at heart. Its narrative concept is quite interesting: you play as a “waker”, a being which reconnects the broken bridges which returns sleeping dreamers to the real world. The team claims that it was created as an educational game to teach players about physics, more specifically how displacement and velocity work in tandem using the manipulation of graphical representations.
So how does it play? Waker employs a distinct hand painted artwork style, which reminds players of the World of Goo games. Alongside its theme, it also bears a very soothing, calm, zen-like music, so playing this in isolation, perhaps in a dark enclosed room, will really give you a sense of immersion into the game. The puzzles are adequately challenging and intuitive, and overall Waker is a really well-developed game.
2 Free Music (Rhythm) Indie Games
Fancy a music themed rhythm-game like Guitar Hero but don’t have a Playstation 3 or a plastic guitar? Well, fret not, as Frets on Fire is here to fulfill that void in your life with a free, open-sourced indie game that not only plays like Guitar Hero, it even looks entirely like an identical copy, with slightly dated graphics. If you’re still not sure how it plays like, just think of hitting the corresponding keys in sync with the music as they slide down along a backdrop of a rock-themed layout.
The great thing about it is that since the game is open-sourced, there’s a huge developer’s community which constantly updates the already burgeoning availability of song selections, meaning you’ll never have to worry about depleting the supply of songs. If you happen to have Guitar Hero song files, you can also upload them and play them right away on this program.
MusicRacer is the definitive rhythm game that you just have to try out. Inspired by the spaceship tube riding concept of the WipeOut series, MusicRacer adds a notch to the franchise by analyzing any music files residing on your hard drive and creating a track which matches the rhythm of that song. Be it pop, rock, jazz, or whatever your music preferences are, MusicRacer adapts to that genre and creates a track with powerups specifically placed in the areas where they correspond with the beat of the song.
The graphics are pretty decent even compared to some of the modern budget games, and the controls are slick and smooth, as they should be for it to be considered a good rhythm game. The point system works well and adapts to whatever song you’re using, so you get an objective representation of your progress no matter what song you play it with.
6 Free Action Indie Games
1. Thunder Gut
Ever wanted to be Neo of the Matrix, flying off walls, coolly swinging through the air and firing rounds of bullets into your enemies? Well now you can have all that, except for perhaps the “cool” factor. Thunder Gut features a nameless hero bearing a really huge moustache, and tries to mix the shooter, platformer and arcade styles of games. The resulting batter turns out to be quite a successful, entertaining mix.
Thunder Gut’s hero jumps off walls, ricochets along ramps, and mercilessly unloads rounds and rounds of ammo into his enemies in a swift, smooth motion. The gameplay mechanics are nothing short of awesome, and the “Matrix” effect certainly is there thanks to the workable physics engine incorporated within the game. In addition, the light cartoon style complements the entire package, and the inclusion of timers within which to clear the levels of enemies only serves to up the ante of the challenge.
Have you ever come across games by big-name studios which are adorned with bright, terrific graphics, a heightened plot involving aliens and guns, backed by a huge production and advertising budget and having gained enormous word of mouth… but somehow falling short of expectations? Well, Super Crate Box is the antithesis (opposite) of that.
Despite its 8-bit, polygon style artwork, simplicity in concept and having a practically irrelevant storyline, Super Crate Box somehow manages to remain not just fun, but exceedingly addictive. It involves picking up all the crates on a level, with a twist – each crate packs a random weapon with which to destroy enemies, including the likes of bazookas, laser guns and projectile ammunition. See where I’m coming from? You can easily while away hours on this game without even realizing it.
3. Alien Arena
If you try to recall the games from the early 2000s, the typical online multiplayer first-person shooters that will come to mind are Counter Strike (which is still being played now) and Unreal Tournament. While not as popular as Counter Strike, Unreal Tournament, which featured an intergalactic space marine war theme, had nearly the same magnitude in its user base in its glory days.
Alien Arena plays (and looks) almost exactly like Unreal Tournament. You have your standard shoot-it-out arenas, team deathmatches and capture-the-flag game modes, except this time you’re playing as aliens of different races. It’s a fight to the death with laser guns and rocket launchers, and the “frag” system works pretty much how you’d expect. If you’re looking for a decent indie game of the first person shooter genre, Alien Arena fits the bill nicely.
4. Death Worm
Death Worm follows the adventure of… a gigantic worm, which is out to eat, destroy and claim everything that stands in its path. While the premise may not sound all that vein-popping in itself, Death Worm actually stands out among the indie game crowd as a genuinely entertaining way to pass your time and fulfill your destructive tendencies.
The game basically revolves around a giant brown worm which grows in length (a la Snake) and size as he consumes more and more victims in its wake. You control the worm and snake around underground, occasionally popping up to claim people, animals, airplanes and the like to fulfill your all-consuming, everlasting hunger. It may not sound like much, but the fast-paced excitement from mindlessly destroying virtual people and property positions this as an action game to look forward to in your free time.
One of the most iconic games ever created in the 20th century has to be Sonic the Hedgehog. The speedy little blue ball which races along through side scrolling screens is easily recognized by any child of the 90’s, but unfortunately, not many indie attempts have managed to successfully recreate the fast, fluid, motion that the original Sonic delivers. Fortunately, RunMan not only succeeds at that, it surpasses it.
One of the hardest aspects of Sonic to preserve was the fluidity of its controls, given the level of speed and tight responses Sonic has been known to deliver. RunMan: Race Around The World not only manages to be such a game with rapid control delivery, it’s also an engaging colorful world to explore in as well. Given the tons of positive reviews it has garnered, it’s safe to say that this game is worth giving a shot.
6. Walkie Tonky
In Walkie Tonky, you play as a cute giant alien robot bent on the destruction of an unnamed city in an invasion on Earth. It’s a side-scroller game in its essence, in the sense that it requires you to keep up with the scrolling on the left side of the screen, and the challenge comes in the form of obstacles trying to impede your path. It may not be an extremely unique concept, but it’s one that turns out to be really fun.
In the game, the human government tries to stop your onslaught against the city by throwing barriers, helicopters, jets, missiles and even buildings at you, in an attempt to squish you against the advancing left side of the screen and damaging you in the process. You can pick up the obstacles which stand in your way (or else you’ll get stuck in them) and hurl them at enemies, and there is a variety of enemies and bosses for you to defend against in your quest to reach the rightmost part of the level. The difficulty level has been tuned just right to provide a fun and challenging, yet not frustrating gaming experience as you engross yourself in trying to beat the level without getting destroyed.
6 Free RPG (Role-playing) Indie Games
Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure plays exactly how it sounds like – it takes place in a dreamy cartoony world, hand-drawn with color pencils, and tells a story about magic portals, love, happiness, rainbows and ponycorns (a hybrid of ponies and unicorns). However, that’s where its likeness to children’s games ends, as Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure is jam packed with all the elements of a good mature fairy tale – sarcasm, witty banter, utter and complete suspension from reality, and the like.
It’s debatable whether the game author’s intention was to design the game towards children or adults, but what’s indubitable is that Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure is an immersive game which completely sucks you into its universe. It’s definitely a game which takes you away from life for a minute or two, giving you a respite from your daily life throughout the duration of your play.
2. Frogatto & Friends
Frogatto & Friends is a delightful little game that, if you’re a gamer from the 1990s, will take you way back. It’s reminiscent of the games of old such as Tales of Destiny 2, Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger, just to name a few, and it really harkens the melody of the hottest blockbusters of those times. Of course, you won’t get the same level of detail as the JRPGs which were created by massively financially-supported game studios, but the hand painted pixel artwork and MIDI music will send shivers of nostalgia racing down your backs.
Ever heard of Portal? No, really? Well, to bring you up to speed, Portal was created by Valve, which counts among its big-budget titles popular games such as Half-Life and Warcraft: Defense of the Ancients (or D.O.T.A.). In fact, Portal has garnered such widespread critical acclaim for its uniqueness, that it has been given the privilege of being turned from a pet project into one of Valve’s most recognized games.
So what are Portal’s roots, one might ask? Where did such inspired creativity come from? Look no further than the indie game which begot Portal, Narbacular Drop. Its teleportation concept amazed Valve’s CEO so much, that he decided to absorb the small game development team into Valve, leading to the team’s eventual production of one of the hottest and most critically acclaimed games on the face of the earth.
4. Cave Story
Cave Story can be said to be one of the earliest flagship indie games that started the indie game bandwagon along the road that it has taken up till today. And despite its age, its gameplay is no less compelling. Telling the story of a young boy who is travelling the world, you play by shooting enemies with various types of guns which grants the boy specific abilities.
Cave Story has a huge fledging community fan base, and nearly everyone who has played it has recommended it over and over again. It has been ported to the Mac, PSP and Xbox, and you’ll have to spend a little bit of time to figure out how to install the English version patch and read up on the controls, but once you’re done, you’re guaranteed to have a blast playing this little game.
If you’ve played Duke Nukem before, then Iji will feel very familiar to you. Iji follows the tale of Iji, a strong willed girl who is thrust into an apocalyptic robot world and has to fight her way through to find her lost brother. She has a bunch of guns in her arsenal, but the main weapon which makes Iji so distinct from other RPGs is her high kick, which can destroy robots, sentry turrets, boxes, and just about anything she comes across.
Iji has a compelling story to tell, which is rare in most indie games, so it’s really worth checking out. The plot builds nicely, and the hard, flat color palette really invokes a sense of nostalgia which is hard to place, but will certainly reverberate with older gamers. The action sequences are also nicely laid out for an indie game, and there are a ton of choices, including multiple endings (which has only recently appeared in big budget games), to partake from.
We’ve covered first person shooters, racers, real-time strategy games, platformers, side-scrollers, and even JRPGs, but we still haven’t touched on one of the most popular genres of all time, the third person perspective game. Burning Thirst is an amazing tribute to the genre, given the fact that it’s free – it has a decent storyline, an engaging experience, and awesome gamplay mechanics.
If there’s a game that it has to be referenced against, it would be a combination of two of Capcom’s biggest franchises – Devil May Cry and Resident Evil. In Burning Thirst, you play as a man named Joe, equipped with a giant oversized dual-edged sword and superpowers. You can fling your sword around like a boomerang, cause explosions by stomping on the ground, and in general just hack-and-slash your way through zombies and mutants like there’s no tomorrow. Given its lush 3D environments and modern day graphics, it’s probably the best zombie apocalyptic indie game you’ll ever be able to find.
Free RTS (Real-Time Strategy) Indie Games
We’ve covered action games, platformers, puzzle games, and even racing games, but is there no love for real-time strategy (RTS) games? For those of you reminiscing about the times spent playing Red Alert, worry not, as there is also an indie game for you.
Base Invaders isn’t Red Alert, in the sense that your objective isn’t to conquer and annihilate your enemy’s base; but it does feature the self-preservation aspect of the games and many different types of units for you to choose from. There are assault towers, sentry guns, iron barricades and the like to defend your base against, and you have to defeat a select number of increasingly challenging enemies that are trying to destroy your base to proceed. In addition, it has a pretty nice soundtrack, so that’s a picky bonus.
2 Free Miscellaneous Indie Games
Cloud was voted among the Top Ten Games You’ve Never Heard Of by Game Informer Magazine, and has to be one of the most unique concepts to ever grace the world of gaming in a while. Unlike other games, Cloud doesn’t have a very specific objective; it’s basically a free-roaming game in which you interact with your environment. If you think that’s boring, then you have another thing heading your way.
In Cloud, you control a cloud sprite, who has the power to control white puffy clouds in the sky. While there’s no in-game objective to accomplish, the game draws you in by delving you into a huge degree of interactivity: you can use “puffs” to draw surrounding clouds into your area of control, crash into dark clouds to create rain, fight with “enemy” clouds to start a lightning battle, and such. But the true gem of Cloud lies in the ability to freely roam around the land, and the feeling of power that you wield to affect the environments, cities and people which roam beneath your field of control. That’s the true crystal of Cloud: seeing how the environment reacts to your actions.
QWOP is one of the most hilarious games to be ever created; and the amazing thing is that it is so creative that it manages to combine fun, ingenuity, and sheer hardcore challenge into one package. In the game, you play as QWOP, which incidentally is the name of the runner that you’re controlling. However, instead of controlling the runner as a whole, you control his thighs and calves individually – which makes for a very unique experience.
Basically, since you’re individually controlling the runner’s muscle segments, your player runs like a stumbling block. The trick is balance, you’ve got to maintain the equilibrium between control and speed to reach the farthest distance in the fastest time possible without falling over, amid obstacles such as hurdles (which you have to mind-bogglingly attempt to jump over). There’s also a leaderboard, so you can compare your attempts with millions of other people who have already given the game their best shot.
QWOP has already intrigued millions of players around the world ever since its inception, and has become so popular that it has also inspired an iPhone version of the game.
This post was written by Aaron PekGoogle+