Laptop games
December 2, 2008 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Free/cheap video games for a laptop?

I'm running an old Toshiba laptop with Windows XP and under a gig of RAM. I've been taking notes in-class lately on it, and I was wondering if anyone knew any lightweight video games I could download to play during downtime (between classes, obviously). Solitaire just isn't cutting it.

Yes, I've played Cave Story.
posted by LSK to Technology (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
world of goo!
posted by gnutron at 12:35 PM on December 2, 2008

How about a Commodore 64 emulator, then downloading games from here?
posted by brandman at 12:52 PM on December 2, 2008


Emulators! MAME NES SNES Genesis ScummVM

finding roms is an exercise left to the reader.

last, but not least, text adventures

it is pitch black. you are likely to be eaten by a grue.
posted by namewithoutwords at 12:56 PM on December 2, 2008

Dwarf Fortress!

You'll probably have to cap your population to avoid slowdown, but it's fun and doesn't require a beefy video card.
posted by ODiV at 12:58 PM on December 2, 2008


Awesome free verticle scrolling shooter games. And if you liked those, check out the Doujin Soft page for even more.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:13 PM on December 2, 2008

For starters, look into how much it'll cost to upgrade the laptop's memory (one of the few parts in a laptop that's typically upgradable). If it uses DDR2 memory then you can probably upgrade it surprisingly cheaply. If it's just DDR it'll be a bit more expensive, but still not *really* bad. (To get this information, check for the computer's model number on Toshiba's website.) More memory makes just about anything you do with a computer less frustrating.

There are LOTS of great free games out there if you know where to look.

For starters, gaming has actually been slowly moving towards lessened resource requirements. It may in fact be possible to play a select few new games on your laptop, depending on the quality of its video card and amount of memory. Spore requires 512 MB of RAM, and World of Warcraft is thought to be laptop-friendly. Further, many department stories that have a computer game section will have a selection of older games that are sold for $10 or less. These will have less system requirements (but be sure to check if you can, on the package or the game's website), but are cheap enough that even if it doesn't work on your laptop you're not out much. I personally recommend Sid Meier's Pirates!

Amazingly enough, Blizzard's Diablo 1 and 2, the first of which ws made for computers over ten years ago, are still available in full boxes on computer game shelves. Diablo 2 requires a (truly) minimum Pentium 233 (four chip generations back!) and 32 megabytes of memory to run. They aren't 3D games so nearly any usable computer can run them. And they're marvelously addictive, for the basic play is roguelike in nature. Us roguelike aficionados consider the Diablo games to be fairly weak-sauce, but for more general players who don't want to memorize a dozen special keys, it's fine, certainly looks better, and even has internet multiplayer. Plus, say what you want about Blizzard, but they truly care about the support life of their games, and have been steadily patching the game over time.

World of Goo, yes. If you want to try before you buy, you could get the demo (which contains the entire first chapter, of five), or download the free prototype Tower of Goo. It is beautiful, wondeful, amazing, great, and doesn't require a muscular processor to run. World of Goo is the last game on this list that costs money to buy.

PySol is great for those times when you just want to relax with a solitaire card game, but want to try something a little more flavorful than the games that come with Windows. It requires a Python runtime, which I'm not sure is included with the version I've linked. But still... it contains over 1,000 games and is open source. It's difficult to beat.

My field of expertise is roguelike games, so I have to suggest Rogue. It takes some getting used to, but it's still the easiest "traditional" roguelike game to learn for beginners, and once you're familar with it you can very easily upgrade to mighty Nethack, slayer of grad students, which has similar keys. Yet, Rogue itself is still a tremendously addictive game. Just remember: start with a print-out of the keys handy, and remember that you're not playing to win. Few people ever win. You're playing to get a high score.

The key interface makes Rogue's look rational, but Dwarf Fortress can run, and well, in a laptop of your caliber. There may be no more enthralling game in existence. I've used it in exactly the way you propose, as a time-filler between classes.

A good, free introduction to the Civilization games is FreeCiv, which is an open-source recreation of Civs I and II. While the commercial series grew towards greater complexity in Civs III and IV (only to return to entertaining simplicity in Civilization Revolution, which sadly is console-only), FreeCiv took mostly features of the first two games and refined them, producing a game that can be marvellously addictive without being burdened by gameplay weight or time requirements. (Civ III, which can be found on the discount racks of stores, and maybe even Civ IV, may just run on your system, but make sure to check the requirements.)

It's getting a bit gray-market here, but there are plenty of emulators that will run a full-speed on your system. You'll have to obtain ROM files to get any use out of them though, and that's illegal. (Well, maybe not if you already own a physical copy of the game. But I'm not sure.) Anything from the SNES back is nearly guaranteed to work full speed on your computer, and you might even be able to run Playstation 1 games off their original disks.

One nice thing about the game industry right now is that, slowly, steadily, at last, independent games are coming into their own, and most of them have much-relaxed system reqs than games you find on store shelves. You can find a near-endless stream of awesomeness on independent game development websites like TIGsource. (I posted to Metafilter's front page about the results of their Demakes competition, which has over 30 interesting games to investigate all by itself.)

There are lots of other awesome, light-resource games to find out there. I might add some more later.
posted by JHarris at 1:34 PM on December 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

(Gah, I seem to say all these games are free way up there, but I forgot to delete that sentence when my focus changed from free-only to free-and-pay. Still, there ARE lots of free games out there....)
posted by JHarris at 1:36 PM on December 2, 2008

(Er, here's the forgotten link to the Demakes winners post.)
posted by JHarris at 1:40 PM on December 2, 2008 has some great free browser-based games like the mighty Desktop Tower Defense and Gemcraft.

Off-Road Velociraptor Safari is a fun game that you won't believe runs in a browser.

Good Old Games deals in just that, with classics like Fallout 2, MDK and Unreal tournament for as low as $5.

Also Audiosurf.
posted by mattholomew at 2:43 PM on December 2, 2008

Possibly Battle for Wesnoth - free strategy game for Windows -

It's hard though, I never got very far. Seemed quite well done.
posted by curious_yellow at 3:04 PM on December 2, 2008

im really a fan of civilization II - i have tried free civ and for whatever reason didnt like it that much

its a DEEP game that cant take hours to play, but once you get into it your HOOKED

id also look into SNES and NES emulators...

but far and away the best game i would suggest would be civ 2...
posted by knockoutking at 5:29 PM on December 2, 2008

Eets is fun too.
posted by jhighmore at 7:14 PM on December 2, 2008 is a great place to find free (open source) games that are lightweight and will work well on your laptop.
posted by Nixie Pixel at 7:39 PM on December 2, 2008

for something colourful, try Plasma Pong
posted by MeowForMangoes at 4:52 PM on December 3, 2008

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