26. Wing Commander Saga

Download Wing Commander Saga

A stunning fan-sequel to one of the PC's most beloved space simulators. Wing Commander Saga offers a huge new campaign you don't need to have played the original games to enjoy, with 55 missions, cut-scenes, full voiceovers, and more, all based on the Freespace 2 engine. Saga is standalone though, so don't worry if you don't own it.

Best free games - Wing Commander Saga

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27. Reprisal

Download 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.

Best free games - Reprisal

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28. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Download Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is best described as a cultural phenomena. It takes traditional trading-card game mechanics and alters them ever-so-slightly to fit within a free-to-play model. Magic: The Gathering veterans will find themselves right at home in Blizzard's 2014 run-away success, while new-comers will be treated to a 45-minute tutorial to kick off their strategy studies.

Best free games - Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

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29. Realm of the Mad God

Download 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.

Best free games - Realm of the Mad God

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.

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30. Super Monday Night Combat

Download Super Monday Night Combat

DOTA style strategy meets first-person shooters in this free-to-play sequel. Like Team Fortress 2, Super Monday Night Combat is a fiercely complicated game, but presented in such a light, silly way that you can quickly slip into the groove and learn at your own pace.

Best free games - Super Monday

Easily the best part, though, is that each game is narrated. Listen for clues as to what you're doing wrong, or simply enjoy SMNC's hilariously dystopian future in all its deeply cynical glory.

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31. DC Universe Online

Download DC Universe Online

Create a hero and leap into action in the streets of Gotham and Metropolis, either backing up the Batman or signing up with your favourite super-villains.

Best free games - DC Universe

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.)

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32. Fallen London

Download 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. 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.

Best free games - Fallen London

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33. Auto Club Revolution

Download Auto Club Revolution

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.

Best free games - Fallen London

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.

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34. Spelunky

Download Spelunky

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.

Best free games - Spelunky

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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35. NetHack

Download NetHack

Much like Spelunky, NetHack is an open-source classic makes heavy use of randomisation to give you a new adventure every time you fire it up. However, instead of being a platform game, it's an epic RPG with the unofficial motto, 'The dev team thinks of everything'.

Do you want to blind a basilisk with a custard pie? Abuse shape-changing spells to lay deadly eggs that can be used as weapons? Get blasted by your patron deity if you try praying to them when they're in a bad mood? It's all in here, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Best free games - NetHack

First released in 1987, NetHack isn't the prettiest game around. There are graphical mods out there, but it's still best played using ASCII characters, and until you can tell your Ps from your #s, it's somewhat confusing.

Unlike Spelunky, chances are that you'll have been adventuring for a while before you die. With only one savegame on your side, which is deleted if you snuff it, it only takes a single careless mistake to lose days of progress to a tough monster or a swig of a health potion that turns out to be poisoned.

With that risk comes great reward, though: retrieve the legendary Amulet of Yendor, sacrifice it to your deity and become king of the nerds.

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36. Quake Live

Download Quake Live

This is how far the web has come: one of the best deathmatch games ever created is now available to play from within the confines of your browser.

Well, technically, no, it's not actually in it - Quake Live uses a plug-in and then goes full-screen when you play - but the spirit is still there.

Best free games - Quake Live

Any modern computer is now able to handle Quake's modest demands, and the game's blisteringly fast action makes it quite unlike any modern shooter. Forget realism. Forget objectives. Sometimes, all you need is a rocket launcher, a perfectly timed shot and the lamentation of the noobs as time permits.

Beware, though: if you haven't played id Software's classic shooter for a while, the frenetic pace of the online action might be terrifying.

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37. Beneath a Steel Sky

Download Beneath a Steel Sky

A classic adventure from British developer Revolution, and one that serves two purposes. First, it's fun - a comic-style sci-fi adventure with a wry sense of humour.

Best free games - Beneath a steel sky

Second, it's a great way to experiment with ScummVM - a tool that enables you to play classic LucasArts games on modern systems. BASS isn't the only free game that runs in it, either.

If you're still thirsty, check out Lure of the Temptress, Drascula (sic) and Flight of the Amazon Queen.

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38. Desktop Tower Defence

Download Desktop Tower Defence

It's not just a game, it's a whole genre. The idea is simple. In most RTS games, you build units such as soldiers or tanks and pit them against your enemy's army.

In Desktop Tower Defence games, you put down fixed turrets, each with different abilities, with the aim of stopping the enemy making it from one side of the screen to the other. It sounds easy and, like most casual games, for the first few levels it is.

Best free games - Desktop tower defense

The tactics come in finding ways to force your enemy down specific paths, and using your limited resources to build and upgrade a death-course that can take them all down. It's addictive and simple to play.

No wonder there are a million clones out there, from free Flash games to commercial offerings such as Plants Vs Zombies and Defense Grid: The Awakening.

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39. Digital: A Love Story

Download 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.

Best free games - Digital: a love story

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.

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40. Neopets

Download Neopets

Neopets doesn't feature just one game to complete; instead, it's stuffed with hundreds of minigames. Each of these is located in a different area of Neopia, a virtual world that you must explore with your trusty Neopet (which you design and name yourself) by your side.

Best free games - NeoPets

From the nerve-shredding heights of Terror Mountain to the sweet delights of Faerieland and the pirate-themed festivities of Krawk Island, there's enough content here to keep you entertained for months.

Our favourite games include Dubloon Disaster (recover gold Dubloons from the sea without getting blown up by sea mines), Faerie Bubbles (pop the bubbles by matching colours - but beware of the tricksy combos) and Hannah and the Ice Caves (guide Hannah safely through each cave to collect the treasure).

If you tire of the games, there are plenty of other distractions scattered throughout Neopia. Attempt to steal treasure from ice worm The Snowager; have a snack at Tyrannia's Giant Omelette; adopt a Pet Pet so your Neopet doesn't get lonely; or get lost in one of many secret side-quests.

Just don't feed your Neopet that iced fishcake you found - it won't like it. Trust us.

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41. Neptune's Pride

Download Neptune's Pride

Do you have good friends? Want to lose them all over the course of a month? Then Neptune's Pride is the strategy game for you.

The idea is that you only need to log in every now and again to direct your intergalactic fleet around the universe. Your friends, hereafter referred to as 'former friends', do the same.

Best free games - Neptunes price

It's very low maintenance - in theory. Really, though, get hooked on it and you'll spend every waking minute deciding who to stab in the back, worrying who's preparing to return the favour and thinking about all the other tactical options you only get when all your opponents are fleshy humans with access to out-of-game instant messaging clients and private email boxes.

Read the diaries to see a typical game played out from start to finish.

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42. FlightGear

Download FlightGear

With Microsoft Flight Simulator now simply "Microsoft Flight", indulge your flying needs with this much more hardcore offering. FlightGear is free, with extensive terrain mapping, lots of aircraft, support for multiple desktops, and more. You can even download the source code if you want to get deep into its guts.

Best free games - FlightGear

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43. Dwarf Fortress

Download 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.

Best free games - Dwarf fortress

It's a mixture of NetHack and SimCity, played out (by default) using ASCII characters, with the focus on building a functional dwarf mine. If that sounds simple, it's only because you haven't played it.

From the dark horrors if you dig too deep to the need to manage the psychological condition of your dwarves and create an economy out of nothing but a hole in the ground, the only thing more impressive than the number of ways you can fail is seeing how much people have done with the simulation engine.

Here for instance is one forum's game, served up in episodic Lets Play format. Excellent, yet bewildering.

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44. Vindictus

Download Vindictus

An online RPG, but 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.

Check out the game at http://vindictus.nexon.net (US) http://vindictus.nexoneu.com (Europe)

Best free games - Vindictus

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45. Bloodline Champions

Download Bloodline Champions

DOTA style games rule the roost at the moment, but Bloodline Champions gives you a similar experience with the focus firmly on PvP action and killing stuff in sight. Don't expect it to be easy, but give it a try if you're up for the challenge of a very different kind of deathmatch.

Best free games - Bloodline champions

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46. The Wikipedia Game

Download The Wikipedia Game

How many steps does it take to get from Sarah Palin to Winnie The Pooh? This excellent web game challenges you to find out. The winner of each round is the one who Wikis their way from A to B in the fewest steps. The Wikipedia Game is terrifyingly addictive, and possibly even a little educational…

Best free games - Wikipedia game

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47. Desktop Dungeons

Download Desktop Dungeons

Ah, the quest you can complete without running 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 without the complexity, but very moreish. The perfect way of killing a boring lunchtime.

Best free games - Desktop dungeons

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48. Super Mario Crossover

Download Super Mario Crossover

Of course, art's not everything. This fanboy dream seems to have avoided the Nintendo legal Nazgûl for the moment, letting us find out which classic character really is the best suited to take on Super Mario Bros. (Hint: It's Bill from Contra).

Best free games - Super mario crossover

Super Mario Crossover means you can switch between Mario, Link, Simon Belmont and more, using their special weapons and skills to take out Goombas and Koopas without resorting to a butt-stomp.

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49. Moonbase Alpha

Download Moonbase Alpha

Not just a free game - a free game from NASA. After an accident strikes the titular moonbase, it's your job in Moonbase Alpha to pick up the pieces and save the day. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to play it, but don't expect it to give you an easy time.

Best free games - Moonbase alpha

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50. Cave Story

Download Cave Story

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.

Best free games - Cave Story