Best free games to play today
Update: If you enjoyed the clever humor found in The Stanley Parable, number 10 on this list comes from one of the designers that brought that cult classic to life!
Gaming is an expensive hobby. Consoles cost hundreds, and gaming PCs can easily run to over a grand. However, once you're set up with a rig, the amount of games you can get for free is staggering. Sure, to play the latest AAA console smash, you're going to have to put your hand in your pocket, but there's a different route too.
As well as an army of top free-to-play online games that attract players in their thousands, if not millions, there are scores of freeware titles you'd be mad to miss. Everyone from EA to the tiniest indie developer has something to offer.
It isn't just new games that make the cut either. Some of the greatest titles to ever grace the gaming world are now free to own and play to your heart's content just like you never used to because they all cost too much money back in the day. There's even a glut of early browser-based classics that were once the preserve of school kids countrywide attempting to offset the boredom of maths on a Wednesday afternoon
We've gathered together over 100 of the best free games available for the PC, and some on the Mac, from browser Flash titles and giant sprawling MMORPGs to sporting classics and fiendishly difficult puzzlers. And there are a few games here that you used to have to pay top dollar for, thrown in for good measure. Of course let us know if you find any of those pesky dead links or whether we've missed your favorite one off.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
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1. Planetside 2
Two years before Destiny, back in 2012, we had Planetside 2. It's an epic, all-out first-person battle so impressive, you'll give yourself a quick pinch every time you remember it's completely free. There are in-game purchases of course, but you can still dive into gaming's biggest ever battlefield and be useful with just default gear.
There's simply nothing like taking part in a massed assault on an enemy base and coming out on top, or living in a world where an enemy convoy could appear on the horizon at any second. If you need any proof that 'free' doesn't mean making compromises any more, Planetside 2 will provide it.
2. Dota 2
The Dota universe came from a mod made for World of Warcraft 3, but Dota 2 is very much its own entity, not to mention one of the most popular free-to-play games.
This top-down arena battler is incredibly active, attracting multi-million dollar prize funds for serious tournament players. It's not just for obsessives, though.
A brief tutorial now points out the ropes, with the Steam Community stepping in to provide guides to the original MOBA (or whatever-you-want-to-call-this-genre-if-not-MOBA).
Don't expect a warm welcome or easy learning curve from this surprisingly complex game, but bring a few friends and you have a good chance of being hooked on one of the biggest crazes in PC history.
3. Tribes: Ascend
Jetpacks rule: it's one of the few things you can rely on apart from death and taxes. And Tribes: Ascend is the world's premiere online jetpack shooter. Don your jetpack and launch into battle across huge maps, with weapons that take real skill just to land a hit – never mind a kill.
Tribes: Ascend is fast, furious, and absolutely brilliant, and there's no reason to spend any money in the in-game shop if you simply want to hold your own in battle. Though there's plenty of stuff to buy if you do fancy splashing some cash…
You can pay to unlock more classes, weapons and perks, but if you're going to keep it casual you can still have loads of fun with Tribes: Ascend.
4. Path of Exile
A Diablo III-style third-person role-playing game, Path of Exile is a bit different from most free-to-play games out there. It's not just about whacking real life people until they scream at you in shrill pubescent tones through their Skype headsets.
It's more of a slow-burner than a multiplayer blaster, but give it time and you may well fall in love with this free-to-play loot-gathering hit. There are hidden depths that you only uncover after playing for hours (and hours), and a huge skill tree to slowly pick away at. There are no game-ruining things like real money auction houses here, either.
Instead, even basic loot can be useful because there's always an opportunity to enhance even the simplest weapon with magic. If you got tired of the grind of Diablo III, it's a good one to check out.
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5. League of Legends
Pick your champion and head into battle in this amazing free-to-play game from the creators of Dota. League of Legends' automated matchmaking, range of characters and excellent maps have made it a multiplayer star over the last year, and one well worth a play.
It's a very aggressive game to play, but one that rewards good teamwork and careful tactics. Don't expect to master it overnight, but it won't be long before you're having fun.
Like Dota 2, League of Legends attracts many high-end players, and the top tournaments offer prize pools of over £1,000,000. The weird world of e-sports, eh?
6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Ever played Magic the Gathering, the card game? Hearthstone is Blizzard's attempt at making an online free-to-play alternative to it.
And in typical Blizzard fashion, it's excellent. It's immediately inviting, lacking the terrifying learning curve you might expect from an online fantasy card game. Hearthstone plays quickly, boasts an almost casual-style visual approach, and benefits from a basic rule set, all of which adds up to a very accessible card battler that will give you hours of enjoyment.
7. Might & Magic: Duel of Champions
There's one other alternative to Hearthstone we need to mention, too, and that's Might & Magic: Duel of Champions. It initially seems a bit less accessible, with a less glossy approach that feels a bit closer to card battling's roots, but there's actually a bit less grind involved in the game.
That means a bit less of the casino-effect visual hit when you win, but it won't sap your time in quite the same way either. Unless that's what you're after.
Where's the official Magic: The Gathering take on the fantasy card battler? There is one, called Magic Online, but as there's real money involved it's anything but free.
8. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Taking over from the original Star Wars MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies in 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic was not free at release. But it has since, like so many games of this kind, adopted the free-to-play model. If you want to get Sith kicks, this is the best way to get them for free.
However, subscriptions are still available, giving you more in-game potential. All the story missions are available without a sub – they just might take you that bit longer.
It's worth the download simply to experience the Star Wars universe from different perspectives, like the hyper-professional Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter. If you want to go with the dull option and just have a generic Jedi Knight, though, that's fine too.
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9. Super Crate Box
Dullest name in the world? Possibly! Super Crate Box makes up for it, though, with a simple mechanic that's far more fun than it has any right to be. How long can you last against a stream of incoming monsters? It probably depends whether you're fighting them off with a pistol or a rocket launcher.
The catch is that you don't score points for killing, but collecting crates – and every crate gives you a different weapon. And not killing the monsters only makes them crosser. It might not sound like much, but its speed and difficulty will keep you hooked from the off.
10. Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist
If you're into the sort of meta exploration genre made famous by games like The Stanley Parable, you'll adore Dr. Langeskov from developer William Pugh. The game initially introduces itself as an interactive story about a heist (yawn), but before you can get to the main event, you have to first help the narrator with some chores to make sure the game is ready to be played.
And if that's not meta enough, the actual description in the Steam store is interrupted with this:
"i'm supposed to be writing the steam store description and that's it, that's my job, but because of the understaffing i've been told i need to work in the lighting department too and it's only a matter of time before i'm re-assigned to wildlife preparation."
If this comedic walking simulator seems like it suits your sense of humor, it's worth the 20 minutes it takes to play Dr. Langeskov to completion.
11. World of Tanks
World of Tanks is a different kind of MMO – the clue being in the title. Team-based, massively multiplayer action with a huge range of war machines to drive into battle awaits, with new players able to join the action immediately.
An upgrade system adds a sense of personalisation, while being surrounded by a whole army constantly reminds you that loners don't do well on the battlefield. Get sucked in, though, and you may find you end up spending a chunk of your wages on great big chunks of virtual metal.
While some premium tanks cost just a few pounds, others tip above £30. You can see where maker Wargaming is going to earn some cash from World of Tanks enthusiasts.
12. War Thunder
Think World of Tanks is a bit too arcade-like for your tastes? You need to try out War Thunder. Despite being lesser-known, it's a great alternative to that tank battler. And for an extra sweetener, it throws airplanes into the mix too. As you might expect, they're a great deal of fun.
With a fast enough PC, War Thunder offers visual quality you don't see too often in free-to-play games. You will need to pay some cash to get hold of the more interesting planes and tanks early on, but getting Battlefield-like play for free sounds like a good deal to us.
There are arcade and historical battles on offer – the former is great for a more casual blast while historical battles are more for players with a few hours on their flight card.
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13. The Ur-Quan Masters
This game proves you don't need flashy visuals to create an offering with a compelling narrative. The Ur-Quan Masters is a fan-tweaked version of one of the classic PC space operas, Star Control 2. It's an action-strategy game where you build up a fleet of spacecraft from various races, to finally do battle with the Ur-Quan.
Adventure, strategy, action – it's all bunged into this melting pot.
The Ur-Quan Masters sees you navigate through an intergalactic space war where the politics are more tangled than that bag of cables you have stashed in a cupboard somewhere. You have to convince races to join you in battle, or risk taking them on as enemies.
14. Black Mesa
Remember a little game called Half-Life? It was quite popular. Black Mesa Source is the long-awaited rebuild of it in Valve's Half-Life 2 Source engine, and a must-play for any fan of the series.
It's not simply a pixel-for-pixel recreation, but a re-imagining of it – adding detail so seamlessly that you'll forget how primitive the original was, as well as a few extra elements of its own, like female Black Mesa scientists.
It was an epic project, and the (mostly) complete version was finally released in late 2012. It's worth experiencing. You can download the full version as a legal torrent. In 2013 some improvements were made to certain levels in Black Mesa, so be sure to grab those files too.
Runescape is one of the biggest free-to-play MMOs out there, and now would be a good time to take a look. In 2013 it entered its third reboot – this is actually 'Runescape 3', although just jumping in now you might not appreciate it has been around in one form or another for more than 10 years.
It's certainly not the shiniest MMO in the world despite the revamp, but hanging onto this many players shows it's doing something right. The big change introduced in Runescape 3 that made it appear a lot more modern was the ability to see much further – in Runescape 2 the horizon quickly gave way to fog. Not so now.
You can download the game or run it in your browser using Java, making it much more convenient than most other online role-players of this epic scale.
Ever wanted to run your own galaxy? Such real life aspirations might be a sign you have a hint of a megalomania problem, but in the game world it's perfectly acceptable. The dominance of consoles mean that we rarely see games of such scope, but for the more ambitious gamer, there's FreeOrion.
It's a free indie title inspired by the classic space strategy series Master of Orion, the first two instalments of which were adored back in the 90s. But as games that old seem a bit musty these days, we have FreeOrion.
As it's still in the thick of development, it's best for those who have some experience of the genre. Let's just say it's not exactly user-friendly yet.
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If you're into third-person co-operative shooters, Warfarme is one of the best free games out there. After joining one of three factions: Tenno, Grineer or Corpos, your soldier is decked out in a Crysis-styled exosuit and equipped with guns or melee weapons. Better looking than your average free-to-play shooter, much fun can be had in Warframe's player-vs-enemy raids — so much so that some gamers see it as, "The Destiny that never was". High praise indeed.
Gods from around the world get together to battle it out in a Dota/MOBA inspired clash of divine vengeance in this effort. Despite Smite's obvious inspirations, it comes from the same developer that made FPS smash Tribes Ascend – a completely different beast.
The camera is behind the characters this time, making for a more direct connection to the action than simply guiding your lord around with a mouse, but the premise will be either familiar if you've played its inspirations, or a way to get the feel for the style if you haven't. Gods include Zeus, Thor, Kali, Artemis and... Cupid? Well, at least he has his own bow…
19. Lord of the Rings Online
Many MMOs are being launched or relaunched as free-to-play at the moment, but Lord of the Rings Online is one of the titles that most warrants a second look. Not only is it an excellent game in its own right, it's one of the more mature MMOs out there.
You will likely have to pay eventually, if only to unlock adventure packs, but there's no subscription fee and nothing to buy up-front. If you missed it at launch, it's time to give it a try.
20. Quest for Glory II VGA
While many veteran gamers remember the LucasArts classic adventures – the Monkey Island games, Grim Fandango, Sam & Max and so on – AGD Interactive has busily been recreating some of the lesser-known 90s adventures. Quest for Glory II is our favourite of the lot.
It's an adventure/RPG hybrid that can be played as a Warrior, Magic User or Thief, with each path unlocking new challenges and opportunities. It's funny, exciting, and incredibly open, and one of the most beloved adventure games ever made – both in its original form, and in this more recent remake.
On the ADG website you'll also find remakes of King's Quest I-III. All for free.
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21. Battlestar Galactica
The official Battlestar Galactica MMO is interesting for two reasons – it plays in the browser (and looks pretty good), and it's completely free-to-play. That's unusual for any licensed game, although as ever, the words 'free-to-play' have the words 'with-optional-purchases' slapped right onto the end.
The story is that both Galactica and the Cylons have been blasted into a new area of space by a mysterious bit of technology, and now both sides are fighting over outposts and control points. You can choose either, with a bit of wandering around the ships, and lots of mouse-based space combat and mining.
22. Flight of the Amazon queen
One of a handful of classic adventure games now available for free, Flight of the Amazon Queen is the story of the wise-cracking, slightly bone-headed Joe King. Think of Indiana Jones with about 90% more buffoonery and you're there.
The old-school interface may take a little getting used to, but this classic adventure is worth downloading, particularly for fans of the genre. It also offers full speech, giving it more of a vibrant feel than some older point 'n' clicks.
Available from GoG, there's no messing about needed to get it working on modern operating systems, despite being originally released back in 1995.
Jump behind the controls of your own mech and fight it out in a gloriously realised future world with Hawken. They're the agile kind of mech rather than the slow lumbering tanks of MechWarrior Online, so purists should head there instead, but still, this is a change of pace from blitzing around in soldier uniforms with automatic rifles.
Expect to pay to upgrade your starter mech if you enjoy the action, but you can jump in and get the flavour of the thing without paying a single penny.
Hawken is also one of the higher-profile games to support Oculus Rift. No one may own one of those virtual reality headsets yet, but using one as a giant mech sounds fun, right?
24. TrackMania Nations Forever
Prefer cars that fly through the air, performing tricks like a 20 year-old Tony Hawk, rather than ones that come with a £20,000 bill should you nudge them against a bollard? The OTT style of TrackMania Nations Forever will be hard to resist.
The real laws of physics have little to do with the way this racer plays, but it provides more action than your average power sliding arcade racer as a result. It's racing meets extreme sports with an unlimited rev counter – and that's a great combo.
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25. Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall
Played Skyrim or Oblivion? You should at least give the classic Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall a nod. This 1990s RPG is a precursor to those incredibly popular RPGs, and is a bit of a classic in its own right.
Its game world is many times the size of any of its successors, and indeed it's the size of a continent, one absolutely packed with atmosphere. You might not all be able to stomach the old-fashioned visuals, but it's worth investigating if you want to see where Skyrim came from.
It's available direct from Bethesda. The publisher started offering it for free to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the game. As if we didn't feel old enough already.
26. Epic Clicker Journey
Spanning 20 levels, Epic Clicker Journey will have your right mouse button begging for mercy by the time you get to the finishing line. Your cursor is your weapon, and you'll need to use it to take on the game's various grotesque monsters. Featuring attractive, cartoon-influenced graphics and a rocking soundtrack, Epic Clicker Journey sees you collect gold to upgrade your weaponry and pounce on unmissable loot. There are multiple ways to grow your stats, which keeps things fresh - and you can even team up with other gamers online if you get bored of playing on your own. Check it out on Steam.
27. Wolfenstein 3D
Want to know what FPS games started out like? You can now play the classic Wolfenstein 3D from Id Software directly in your browser.
Despite being released all the way back in 1992, Wolfenstein 3D is still fun for a few minutes' blasting. And you can even head straight to the final level where you battle a giant robot Hitler. It's the stuff of nightmares. And despite the kind of antics developers get up to, we're not sure they could get away with pitting you against a giant Hitler today.
28. World of Warcraft
No, you haven't missed the front-page story suggesting Blizzard is in such desperate need it has had to make World of Warcraft totally free-to-play. But you can play the first 20 character levels without paying a penny these days.
Experts may be able to blast though these initial levels in just a few hours, but if you're yet to walk into Azeroth, it'll keep you busy for a long, long time. Watch out, though, World of Warcraft is… a mite addictive.
This freebie is also worth investigating if you haven't played WoW since the early days. While much of the content added in recent years has focused on high-end players, the whole game has evolved.
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29. Team Fortress 2
It may be an old vet in gaming terms, but nothing offers so much crazy fun as Team Fortress 2. Unlike most shooters of its age, players are still there to have a good time rather than hurl abuse at newcomers, and there's no shortage of cool toys to have fun with. Endlessly silly and amazingly fresh, it's still one of the shooter genre's kings, free-to-play or not.
As you might guess, there are some micro-transactions involved. You can buy additional items, often used to customise your character. You can create your own. It's fun, and gets you even more involved in TF2. Those cheeky devils at Valve know what they're doing.
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.
The game's maker said Reprisal was made as an homage to the early God games. There's now also a larger, paid version called Reprisal Universe – but there's more than just a taster on offer in the browser version.
31. Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar
Originally released for the Apple II back in 1985, Quest of the Avatar was the fourth game in the Richard "Lord British" Garriott's Ultima series. For fans of RPGs with a retrospective twist, this is a prerequisite for the genre.
Not only was it one of the first games to ditch the trite cliché of having the player character take on an evil force, but it was even a pioneer in developing a morality system in video games as a whole.
Without Ultima IV, games like Mass Effect and The Walking Dead may have been but a pipe dream.
32. Age of Conquest IV
Remember Risk, the game that tapped into your inner warlord tendencies? Age of Conquest IV offers a similar appeal, featuring turn-based gameplay that sees you attempt to conquer the world one country at a time. The fourth game in the series has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2010, and while it's simple to pick up and play, it's mighty hard to master. From the start you'll be thinking about the best way to grow your army, which of your neighbours pose the least of a threat and how many soldiers you'll need to conquer them.
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33. DC Universe Online
DC Universe Online lets you create a hero and leap into action in the streets of Gotham and Metropolis, either backing up Batman or signing up with your favourite super-villains.
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.)
It's one for superhero fans only, perhaps, but who wouldn't want to try out life as a flying super villain for a few hours?
34. 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. Fallen London is the digital equivalent of a classic 'choose your own adventure' book.
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.
35. Auto Club Revolution
There are plenty of free-to-play driving games out there, but one of the few not tied to a single car-maker is Auto Club Revolution. Instead, there are two – it was made in association with BMW and Renault.
The game lets you 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.
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.
You can now get Spelunky on all sorts of platforms – it's pretty high-profile for an indie title. But it began its life PC-only, and it's this original 'non HD' Classic version you can still get for free today.
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.
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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37. Super House of Dead Ninjas
This is one of the most enjoyable Flash games in recent memory, which is also available as an expanded commercial-but-cheap release on Steam if you fancy more toys and full-screen action.
The free version of Super House of Dead Ninjas feels like a complete game in its own right though, as you guide the Crimson Ninja from the top of a demon-infested tower to the horror waiting at ground floor.
Randomly generated adventures keep things fresh, with the speed of the action more a challenge than any individual enemy. You can handle any situation in front of you – you just don't get to stop to catch your breath. Ever. Until you die, of course.
38. Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun got a bad rap at its original release back in 1999. It was too slow and buggy, people said, but many of the issues were patched out. If you remember turning your nose up, it's time to take another look.
EA made the game freeware to celebrate the release of Command & Conquer 4 back in 2010. It didn't work too well – C&C 4 hardly resurrected the brand.
In standard EA fashion, Tiberian Sun is no longer widely available from Origin, the EA Steam equivalent, but you can still find the freeware installer package for the game and its expansion online.
39. Spiral Knights
Many free-to-play (F2P) gamers (even we) look to RuneScape as one of the most storied, revered online games, and they're absolutely right. However, I doubt many of those folks have played Spiral Knights from developer Three Rings and Sega.
Available both in your browser and through Steam, think of Spiral Knights as a massively multiplayer The Legend of Zelda – and you and your comrades are each unique little Links. It's your job to dig deeper and deeper through a series of isometric dungeons to find a secret – any secret – that will get you and your people off of this planet.
Frankly, it's a crazy fun, low-impact romp of hacking your way through dungeons teeming with monsters and puzzles that will require some friends to enjoy to the fullest. Plus, it's five years old and still going strong with updates, so that's a good sign.
40. Beneath a Steel Sky
Beneath a Steel Sky is a classic adventure from British developer Revolution, the maker of the Broken Sword games.
It's a sci-fi adventure with more than a hint of Blade Runner flavour. Like all the best point 'n' click titles, though, there's also more than just a little humour in the script.
A Remastered version is available for iPad and iPhone, but it's the original you'll find on Mac and PC. While the game runs through the ScummVM system, you can grab it on GoG to avoid any fiddling about.
If you're still thirsty, check out Lure of the Temptress, another Revolution adventure.
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The question of whether games are art or not is a dull debate that has raged on for years. But making you terrified from one minute to the next is an art in itself. An art Slender has down.
Although it's just a simple 3D exploration jaunt where you look for eight pages seemingly scribbled by the Slender Man's victims, this game is terrifying. Our monster in this little slice of horror is a tall faceless man who stalks you, hunts you.
Set in a dark forest with nothing but a flashlight to keep you company, if this doesn't give you chills, nothing else on this list will. Once you've completed the Eight Pages, you can also check out the slightly beefier horror-adventure Slender: The Arrival. It's not free, but is a good way to test your nerve.
If you're looking for a game that looks, feels and probably smells a bit like Minecraft, but isn't Minecraft, then step into Trove.
Heavily inspired by Microsoft's game, Trove is a quintessential casual MMORPG. Traversing its bright and colorful block-filled lands, you're free to raid dungeons on your own or with others, slaying anything from dragons to giant blobs of weirdness in a bid to get your hands on rare loot.
Its classes are wonderfully varied, but you'll need to sink hours into the game to find out what your character can really do. Randomly generated environments and enemies help keep boredom at bay.
43. 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.
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.
44. Neptune's Pride 2
Where some free-to-play games want to consume hours of your life every day, Neptune's Pride 2 only wants a handful of minutes.
It's an intergalactic version of Risk you play with real people, over a period of weeks or months. You can forge alliances and work together, but every player has to know there can only be one winner… the one who 'owns' more than 50% of the galaxy.
Every day you earn more money and make your strategic decisions. It's like chess, but with star systems instead of pawns. If you want to deep-dive into a game with some friends, Neptune's Pride 2 is great. But be warned: this stuff can ruin friendships.
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45. 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.
It procedurally generates a whole work, complete with its own history, in very (very) basic visuals. But to get hung up on the graphics is to miss the point of Dwarf Fortress.
You can build your own fortress, or go out adventuring. It is not easy or at all forgiving, though. When adventuring, it's roguelike in style, meaning that when you're dead, you're dead. Casual this is not. And as the game looks like it has been drawn with a typewriter, you will need to use your imagination a bit.
However, Dwarf Fortress is quite unlike anything else on this list.
Remember the Sierra adventures of old? Sarien.net revives them, and makes them multiplayer – at least, partly. Technically, you still play on your own, but you can see other players wandering around the world as you do. That said, there were only a few players online when we last tried the site.
Sarien has access to King's Quest I-III, Space Quest I-II, Police Quest, and a lesser-known game, The Black Cauldron. These are titles from the early days of games, so be aware that the visuals are not going to wow you. For a better-looking adventure, check out the remakes of King's Quest, available online.
We've hesitated to mention this one before due to legal questions over it, but now it's been officially approved by Activision, there's nothing stopping you from jumping right in.
The sequel to a Korean MMO virtually no one we know has even heard of, Vindictus doesn't have the clout of something like Dota 2, but it offers something quite different too. The visual style is distinctly Asian, giving it an unusual feel in a world of fairly West-friendly free-to-play role-players.
It is an online RPG, but one 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.
48. Desktop Dungeons
Ah, the quest you can complete without ruining 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 in style – meaning when you die it's really game over – but without the usual complexity, and it's still very moreish. This is the perfect way of killing a boring lunchtime.
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49. Cave Story
This is 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.
With the new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator not arriving until 2015, if you want to indulge the aviation nerd within you, FlightGear is currently one of your best bets.
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.
It's not the prettiest game, mind, and if you're after action you're much better off with something like War Thunder. This is a flight simulator, not a war game.
51. Elders of Madness
However detailed games get there will always be a place for the top-down 2D shooter that requires little know-how and maximum concentration. Elders of Madness delivers on this promise in all the pixellated glory you want from an indie shooter and as you might expect from the name, there's a detailed story mode to get your teeth stuck into.
It's not as easy as you might expect and the presence of various quotations along the way could even teach you a thing or two about literature.
52. Wilber Park
Upon entering Wilbler Park you may think about why you are wasting time inside a game that is nothing more than a wander about through a wide vista with all there is to break it up a pair of binoculars that only seem to give you a blurry close-up of boring objects. Give it some time though.
Eventually you'll be climbing to the top of the game's world and then able to use your trusty binoculars to zoom in on…well, we'll leave that to you.
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53. Murder Simulator v.666
Room for another PC local multiplayer in your life? Then Murder Simulator v.666 will be your cup of tea. Playable for between two and four players, the game features a gun that makes things inexplicably pink (yes pink, not red) and as players cannot jump they have to use a series of lifts to be able to get around the levels.
There is even the ability to create your own levels and then import them into the game to play against your friends. The pixellated madness might not look like much but it's something to be admired.
54. Open TTD
Building a transport system around a virtual world might not be the most appealing thing to a large swathe of the online gaming population but don't write off OpenTTD before you've given it a try. Transport Tycoon, which was created by Chris Sawyer of Rollercoaster Tycoon fame (TT came first incidentally), forms the basis for this version that is exactly the same as the original except that it is online.
The open sourced version has been kept alive by a motley band of enthusiasts and it has never felt so good to build stuff. Nothing gets closer to OpenTTD in allowing you to build an extensive transport system in a fictional nation. No, not even Sim City.
Old Nintendo games have found quite a home online thanks to the wealth of top-notch emulators out there, but one of the best to pick up and play straight from a browser is Alleyway. The premise of the game is exactly the same as it was on the Game Boy: control Mario inside a long metal tube and help him to destroy a series of blocks at the top of the screen.
Mario's flying craft eventually gets smaller and smaller with the ball moving at a faster pace, and your eyes will take quite a pounding.
56. Pandemic 2
There isn't anything more morbid than wishing disease on someone else and that is literally the aim of Pandemic 2. You get to choose a disease from the outset and it is then your aim to make it spread across the globe as stealthily as possible by using a number of parameters and to prevent governments taking measures to stop it escalating further.
With an in game world population of some six billion you'll have your work cut out and you win by…causing everyone to die.
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57. Track and Field 2
Become Usain Bolt or Tom Daley in a virtual world where button bashing is the real winner. Track & Field 2 harps back to a time when sports games were anything but realistic and the faster you were at hammering on your controller the better.
It lets you complete an entire Olympic Games campaign across a variety of sports and you collect points with the hope of eventually obtaining a gold medal. Oh, and you might need to replace your keyboard.
58. Roby Baggio's Magical Kicks
Ever played FIFA 15? Good, because the Roby Baggio's Magical Kicks game that Roberto Baggio endorses is about as far away as you can get in the football genre. A favourite of school kids everywhere in the late 1990s as one of the original games that could be played in browser, Magical Kicks was and still is fiendishly difficult to master and not even Baggio's wisdom can help you get the ball in the net.
Every time you kick the ball the wind changes and there's always a wall plus a goalie to contend with. If you find any of the modern football games too easy then just give this a blast.
If you haven't heard of this ridiculously addictive numbers based game then where have you been? The aim of the game is to achieve the number 2048 by only moving left and right with squares being removed when they contain the same number and bump into each other.
It starts off easy with just 2 and 4 but once you get to the higher numbers it's neigh-on impossible to reach the magic 2048. Needless to say, I'm yet to complete it…
The Valve version of Portal, where you use a teleporting gun to get a boiler-suit clad man through a series of levels, has been reimagined as a completely free 2D version right in your browser.
Anyone that played the original copy will be thrilled by the free online rehash and find themselves wiling away the hours using the trusty portal gun to try and complete what is a simple concept but at the same time fiendishly difficult.
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Old Game Boy games port extremely well to browsers and the building blocks game of yesteryear is no exception. Tetris works on the same premise as its much older sibling albeit with a splash of colour and you'll surprise yourself by how easy it still is.
That's until the blocks start stacking up and before you know it, it's game over. There's no elaborate back story to Tetris except that it's about making sure you eliminate the bricks before they stack up. Surely there's metaphor in there somewhere?
62. Sven Co-op
It may take a lot of finagling to get this game running on your PC, but the classic Half-Life mod is now available to play as a standalone game on Steam. Yes, what I'm saying is that you can play the original Half-Life with your buddies online both in campaign and competitive modes.
The game even provides the tools for you to run your own Sven Co-op servers on. That way, you can enjoy games of this seminal shooter with only the people you want – not a room full of griefing dweebs.
63. Ricochet Heroes
Final Fantasy is and remains one of the greatest RPGs of all time so why not combine it with a pinball game and see what happens? That's clearly what the creators of Ricochet Heroes thought of during a night at the bar whilst playing a pinball machine and the result is this beauty.
The layout is clean and features a roster of characters (the pinballs), dialogue and monsters that have to be killed by bouncing off them numerous times before their health is done.
Like a murder mystery and beat-em-up all rolled into one, just without much of the mystery, Silhouette is another local multiplayer that presents a number of maps where one player plays the victim and tries to evade the other, who is the murderer or Silhouette (complete with Psycho-esque attack weapon).
Each take one side of the keyboard and battle it out to see who can stay alive for the longest, and as the two of you get closer together the turns get shorter before *BAM* you're dead.
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65. Escape Goat
If you didn't know already, goats that practice witchcraft go to jail and our bearded friend that is the subject of Escape Goat has been incarcerated for that very deed. Help him escape from the confines of the brick and mortar in this top-down platform where our noble steed butts and jumps his way out with the help of the player and a mouse.
The free version can be played in browser and should you want to guide our goat on even more adventures there's even a version that can be downloaded from Steam.
66. Fishy Waters
We all know the drill. You head out for a day fishing on the seas with father until disaster strikes and he gets eaten by the kraken! What to do?! That's right. Get back out on the seas to catch all kinds of different fish, sell them and upgrade your boat so that you can eventually rescue your dad and release him from the bowels of the kraken.
Catching fish in Fishy Waters is as easy as pressing spacebar to put the bait down but that's where the simplicity ends and you are forced to use the arrow keys in a number of combinations to land your catch.
67. Life in the West
Contrary to what the name may suggest this game is not a simulation about what it's like to live in Western Europe or a comic book series that allow you to wander around the Wild West. Life in the West is a mock-up of Kanye West's Twitter account where you spout unadulterated nonsense and get rewarded for it.
The faster you type the more Kanye Points come your way and with those points you can buy new followers such as Xzibit, Barack Obama and our personal favourite Fake Kanye. Some of the Tweets are genuinely quite funny and if nothing else the authenticity of the interface makes you feel like you've become king Kanye for the day.
68. Back to Dinosaur Island 2 demo
From the makers of the Crysis series comes a free-to-play demo that has more than a hint of Jurassic Park about it. Crytek's Back to Dinosaur Island 2 virtual reality demo may not be a fully-fledged game, but it's well worth checking out if you already have access to an Oculus Rift DK2 headset.
More than a visual showcase, it sees you traverse a dangerous mountain wall surrounded by Pterodactyls and other flying dinosaurs, all of which look stunning in Crytek's CryEngine. By tilting your head you're free to look around while being winched up the mountain by a zip line. Once at the summit, you come face-to-face with a tree munching Brontosaurus, and it's breathtaking stuff.
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69. New Star Soccer
One of the best football games on any smartphone platform is New Star Soccer and it can also be played for free in browser.
Take your player from the Conference North or South all the way up to the Premier League and live the life of the footballer along the way in this addictive top-down football simulator.
70. Racehorse Tycoon
Owning a racehorse is beyond almost all people unless you've tried your hand at Racehorse Tycoon. It doesn't have the extensive feel of Rollercoaster Tycoon or Transport Tycoon but what it loses in simulation it more than makes up for in good old fashioned fun and straight out addictiveness.
Pick a horse, trainer, mode of transportation and even the food for your horse to guide him to victory. There's even the chance to place bets on any horse competing and satisfy your gambling urges.
71. Ambulance Madness
On Grand Theft Auto there was always that one friend who would insist on stealing the first ambulance they came across and then running down as many people in their path whilst another person wondered what it would be like to run missions as an ambulance driver.
The latter will find their place in Ambulance Madness where you use a GTA-esque top-down view to drive to patients and treat them on the way to hospital. You're against the clock and the patient's health goes down rapidly so don't crash into any cars on the way to the hospital as they will slow you down rapidly.
Where Nintendo GameBoy games do well online, the same can be said for the ones that used to be magically built into tables like Asteroids. Nothing has changed from the old version of Asteroids to this one with the aim still to break up the pieces of rock using your spacecraft and to avoid being destroyed by UFOs.
The arrow keys make it even easier to play than with a sticky joystick and buttons that have been scarred by years of spilled beers.
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73. AdVenture Capitalist
Anyone that's owned a lot of diverse businesses will be put off by AdVenture Capitalist but for the rest of us there's plenty of fun to be had. You start off your entrepreneurial life selling lemons from a stall and attempt to eventually make your way up to ownership of an oil company with some pizza, donuts and ice hockey along the way.
Eventually investors will circle and try to grab a piece of the action, and for a game that starts off as a glorified click-a-thon it's surprisingly addictive.
74. Stick Cricket
Cricket remains one of the few sports that England can lay claim to being in the top 10 of after having a hand in inventing it. Stick Cricket is the internet's best representation of leather on willow and it's all about the timing.
The names of the players are a few years old yet any cricket fan worth their weight will have a smile on their face at this fact and if that doesn't please you then the gameplay definitely will.
75. Promotion Wars
Wrestling used to be up there alongside UFC in the contact sports ranks in the 1990s and 2000s when the feuding parties of WCW and WWF were separate and it created quite a stir. Promotion Wars beams you back to that time with a management sim that is basically the same as the earlier versions of Football Manager except that you are managing a wrestling promotion as opposed to a football club.
It covers everything from signing players, creating stables and establishing feuds to booking shows and deciding the results before hand. A hearty band of developers have opened up a Promotion Wars 2014 website and forum where the game is offered along with a number of different scenarios that make it remain relevant and thus it remains one of the better free management sims out there.
76. A Grain of Truth
Adventure based games that require you to simply click and explore never get old, and A Grain of Truth follow this lead as you make your way across the endless plains of grass capturing stones and cloud along the way.
Your task is to guide Myosotis, the heroine of the tale, across the grass and take in everything that comes with it. There are small puzzles to solve, areas to examine and cloud catchers to climb, with enough here for even the most seasoned of gamers to get stuck in to.
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77. The Crooked Man
Bleak, intriguing and scary in equal measure, The Crooked Man is an indie RPG with a horror slant. You play as a David, who has moved into a creaky new apartment. It soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems, and before long you're facing decisions based on real-life fears: dimentia, death, loneliness and expectations, to avoid being killed by The Crooked Man. Featuring an eerie soundtrack and hard-hitting dialogue, it's one freaky adventure that you're not likely to forget in a hurry.
78. Big Mama's Salon
From the outset Big Mama's Salon doesn't strike you as something that's worth a second look, but after you've given our first haircut we can see why this one has quite a following. Your task is to help Big Mama to serve customers in her new salon that grows as she becomes more successful.
Click to clean, cut and dry plus attempt to keep your customers from getting frustrated by offering them magazines. You even have to click to get the money at the end of it and the frenetic clicking of the higher levels will make you feel like you've actually been cutting hair all day.
79. Earn To Die
Zombie apocalypse makes a great subject for games and movies alike, which is exactly what you'll find by playing Earn to Die. The aim of the game is simple: use a car to plough through zombies and earn money depending on how far you get or the way that you manage to knock them out.
At the end of each day there's the chance to upgrade your vehicle with cool extras such as turbines, guns, huge tyres and fuel. The further you get the better the decrepit heaps aka cars become and the better your ability to smash up zombies. All in all it's basically an afternoon out on the Hills Have Eyes set.
80. 18 Hole Crazy Golf
Crazy golf doesn't just have to be something reserved for seaside outings thanks to the quirky 18 Hole Crazy Golf.
The levels start off very easy but get progressively harder so that you're attempting to get past all manner of obstacles including bunkers with nothing more than a trusty putter and golf ball. There's really nothing more to it than that.
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81. Shop Empire 3
Reports of the demise of the high street are greatly exaggerated in Shop Empire 3 where you build up medieval looking multi-storey shopping centres to service the citizens complete with elevators and all the staff that you would expect to see.
Shoppers often chat away to each other all about your shopping centre and the ultimate aim is to make as much money as possible whilst at the same time keeping your shoppers happy.
82. Zombie Trailer Park
When the time finally comes and we have to start fighting zombies then there are enough games to prepare us for this eventuality to mean that we can fight them off, right? Zombie Trailer Park is another of that category and involves you operating a trailer park in the most efficient way possible by building trailers where zombie fighters are created.
The further you get the more persistent and larger the zombies get and it'll be your job to stop them getting inside the trailer park to pilfer your goods.
83. Ultimate Football Management 13/14
The football management sim genre has been dominated by Championship Manager then Football Manager since the early 90s, yet there is one free game that goes by the name of Ultimate Football Management 13/14 that gets closer than any other.
You take control of a team in one of Europe's top leagues and players are rated according to a star system, which all has to be taken into consideration when choosing your lineup. There's an incredibly easy transfer system that makes buying anyone pretty simple and the game ends if you get sacked.
84. Pixel Box Worlds
Ever seen people playing Minecraft and wondered what all the fuss it about? Well now you can create 2D worlds in pixellated glory on Pixel Box Worlds without any of the intricacies that puts many off Minecraft.
Pick from pages of different small boxes to place on your landscape and before starting off it really pays off to look through some of the custom worlds to get the gist of what Pixel Box Worlds is all about. It's not the most exciting of games but you can create some very cool looking landscapes.
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85. Road of the Dead
Yes this is another zombie entry but they make for good fun games so we figured, why not?! Road of the Dead sees you take the role of a worried citizen trying to escape the city limits, which have been overrun by, yes you've guessed it, zombies.
One word of warning: whatever you do don't crash into any cars that are on fire as you will immediately blow up.
86. Pool Live Pro
Yahoo has recently done away with its online games, which included the addictive Yahoo Pool, and in its place is Pool Live Pro. If hustling is your game then there's no shortage of opponents to play against considering anyone that signs on to play pool on Yahoo is open for a game.
As you get better you level up and gain locations to play pool instead of just the motorcycle hall. If playing pool is your thing then this game will be your new thing.
87. Decision 3
It often feels like zombie shooters could have a top 100 list of their own, although Decision 3 is another more than worthy member of the overall top list of games. The top down shooter is simple to play and sees you roam around a barren landscape with an army of civilians and soldiers to stave off the scores of zombies that only grow in number and ferocity as the game progresses.
The in-game animation sequences are exceptionally well drawn for a game that is definitely worth a look.
88. Mortal Kombat
Makes no bones about it. The original Mortal Kombat set a standard along with Street Fighter for the fighting genre and it's the fully old school version of Mortal Kombat that you will find here.
Anyone that played Mortal Kombat way back when will recognise the soundtrack and the character names of Scorpion, Sub Zero et al. No fancy graphics have been added at all and the game feels slightly slow these days but nostalgia-wise this title still holds significant value.
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Game download site Desura has some of the best deals around right now and one such game that has just become available is the heavily praised eCity. The game has a soundtrack similar to that of the iconic Sim City and without looking closely at the inner workings of eCity, you'd be mistaken for thinking it's an imitation.
It's anything but a Sim City knock-off, however, and offers gamers the choice of a number of scenarios that involve solving various issues that befall the community you choose to take control of. You're tasked with everything from building power stations, through handling pollution and constructing utility networks to transporting citizens around the city and saving the population from natural disasters. And best of all it's completely free.
Flash games are still one of the best ways to while away the hours when you're supposed to be completing that assignment or piece of work. Huebrix is one that has been around for years yet is alongside the likes of 2048 in providing an offering that is extremely addictive while at the same time having plenty in terms of playability.
The aim is simple: Fill up the box with one or more colours using only the number of blocks of each colour that you're given. You'll soon find out that even though it starts off easy this game gets progressively harder until you're at the full hair-pulling-out stage.
If Huebrix floated your boat then another in the same class is the similarly laid out flash game Cubilus. Simplicity is at the heart of Cubilus and even though it doesn't come with an instruction manual it soon becomes clear what the aim of the game is.
Presented with a number of different cubes that feature different logos or colours, you have to match them up with the corresponding colours or symbols on the other side of the box. After starting off incredibly easy and making you wonder why you've wasted any time playing, this game soon progresses to a number of incredibly hard levels that are borderline unplayable. You have been warned!
92. Ritmo EP
It must be said that students make some of the very best games around and Ritmo EP more than holds its own in this respect. Billed as "Super Mario meets Rock Band" the game involves collecting the notes to songs and working together with friends or simply by yourself to collect as many coins as possible.
The current incarnation is just the EP and the debut of the full-length game is still to come, with promises that it might well be on the Xbox by the end of this summer. Otherwise you can get stuck right into this one completely free of charge to decide whether it's more like Super Mario or a better match for Rock Band.
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93. Vinland: Arctic Assault
Who doesn't want to take control of their very own Nordic ship and blast their way through the waters of Norway to victory? That's the aim of Vinland: Arctic Assault, and you assume the role of Leif Erikson on a mission to take him and his crew to the fabled lands of Vinland and eventual victory.
This free game is a top-down affair and is incredibly smooth to look at, and even though the only real obstacles early on are the icebergs, it still makes for a game that is challenging enough to keep the attention of even the most avid gamers.
94. Sage Fusion
Role playing games never get old and futuristic settings don't come much better than the one offered by Sage Fusion. The futuristic universe provides the backdrop to the first episode of this series that involves two political forces fighting it out against each other for greatness.
Considering this is a completely free game it has enough content to keep the player engaged for a decent amount of time, and looks nice enough that you'd think it costs more than the price of fresh air.
95. Championship Manager 01/02
Football management sims are so close to the real thing these days that Sky Sports News have started to use the data collected by the scouts that provide the lifeblood of Football Manager. There was once a time, however, when it was nothing more than a game played by like minded football geeks the world over. The good news is you can relive those days once more.
These days CM 01/02 is available as freeware and there is a budding community building updates covering everything from rosters and stats to face packs and backgrounds. You can even play with the same rosters from back in the day. Football management sims haven't felt this fun in a long time!
96. Cyclomaniacs 2
Cyclomaniacs2, if you haven't already played the first incarnation, involves biking around various different circuits inside a theme park with the eventual goal to find Super Villains and of course save the girl.
Finishing higher up in races gives you various rewards to use in subsequent races and the narrator behind the whole show is one of the more witty that we've come across. All in all it's an amusing little game that's worth a coffee break's worth of time.
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97. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
Now this is a big one. EA's Origin service rarely disappoints when it comes to a free giveaway and it may well have surpassed itself by making not only Red Alert 2 available for free but also adding the Yuri's Revenge expansion into the bargain.
This was the strategy game at the start of the current millennium and is a follow up to the wildly popular C&C: Red Alert. We probably didn't need to tell you that though. In the update to the series you land in the early 70s and have to fight for either the Soviets or Allies. Even if you don't fancy playing it now there's nothing to stop you downloading it for a nostalgic rainy day. There's no way you'll regret it!
98. Cool Spot
Cool Spot was such a convincing videogame character back in the 90s that it's easy to forget he was an anthropomorphized 7 Up logo. Created by Virgin Interactive's American studio, platformers featuring the running, jumping, yo-yoing fizzy drink mascot were colourful, sometimes challenging and always filled with cheesy low-fi dance music.
Virgin has made the original Cool Spot from 1993 playable on the Internet Archive, so if you're looking to kill some time, you know where to go.
Our UK-based readers will no doubt remember Robot Wars, which pitted home-made robots against each other in industrial-styled arenas. (If you're based outside the UK, look it up on YouTube immediately.) Currently in Early Access stage, Robocraft is similarly based on the concept of building your dream flying or land-based robot and taking it to massive arenas in a bid to destroy your enemies creations. Featuring massive levels of customization and the ability to create some seriously odd-looking war machines, the amount of fun you can have in Robocraft is only limited by your imagination.
100. Total War Battles Kingdom
Real-time Strategy (RTS) games don't come much grander than those in the Total War series, and the latest entrant, Battles Kingdom, is free-to-play. Currently in open beta on the PC, it's also available to play on iOS and Android, so you can pick up where you left off when you're away from your battlestation. Set at the turn of the 10th Century, Battles Kingdom combines army management with kingdom building to deliver a bite-sized RTS game you can pick up and play anywhere, anytime.