Gaming from the people, for the people
September 3, 2014 8:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for fun (or at least interesting), freeware (not just free) Windows games, created by amateurs or semi-amateurs. The folk art of video games, if you will. (I suppose the term "freeware" has fallen out of favor—but you know what I mean, yes?)

To be clear: I am not looking for anything ad-supported or "free-to-play". I'm not even looking for stuff created by Aspiring Indie Game Developers who have opinions on Phil Fish and read chin-strokey blogs about ludology. (Not even if it was hacked together for a game jam.)

I want non-commercial (or beerware-type) games, written by random hobbyist programmers who thought "hey, I should make a video game", and then did it. Games where the rough edges and general weirdness are all part of the charm. If The Binding of Isaac is Fugazi, then these games are your teenage cousin's punk band with half-broken pawn-shop equipment that they don't know how to play. Games from people who didn't let their naïvete or inexperience with the medium stop them from creating something and putting it out into the world.

I'm thinking of things like Elona, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, Dwarf Fortress, or the original Snood.

Assume that I've already seen every roguelike under the sun, because I have. I guess browser games count, as long as they fit the criteria well—and please, no more of those damn incrementer (Cookie-Clicker-alike) games. Other than that, all genres are welcome.

posted by escape from the potato planet to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Patrick Klepek's "Worth Playing" series on His taste is what you're looking for.
posted by Pacrand at 9:01 PM on September 3, 2014

The venerable Rock Paper Shotgun has been doing a freeware highlights feature lately.

Transcendence is a personal freeware favorite, if you aren't yet familiar with it. 2D real-time space trading/combat/exploration game with a bunch of roguelike elements.

Cactus (aka Jonathan Soderstrom aka one of the two guys responsible for the totally awesome recent commercial game Hotline Miami) has released a bunch of punk-as-fuck freebies over the years.
posted by neckro23 at 9:10 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

your teenage cousin's punk band with half-broken pawn-shop equipment that they don't know how to play

You might be interested in this: Gaming Garbage
posted by Infernarl at 9:46 PM on September 3, 2014

Dwarf Fortress

Platform Masters by Ulillillia.
posted by dilaudid at 9:50 PM on September 3, 2014

Kongregate is a site for that kind of thing, and they have thousands of games online, nearly all flash.

I also recommend Hyperpipe.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:59 PM on September 3, 2014

Around when Geometry Wars got big, I came across and really enjoyed the various free Japanese shooter games from ABA Games. It was surprisingly easy to find this guy's website again, and I think they're definitely worth taking a look at!
posted by thepdm at 1:33 AM on September 4, 2014

I'm a bit of an enthusiast for this kind of thing - and the best resource I found was, which posted new gems on a near-daily basis. The site is now sadly defunct, but there's still a great archive stretching back years full of fun, exciting and original freeware games to play.

RPS and certain other blogs and websites cover this stuff well, but FIG was really more of a community site - and had an exclusive focus on exciting freeware. You'll spend pleasurable hours digging around there.
posted by Ted Maul at 2:29 AM on September 4, 2014

Torus Trooper in particular from the ABA Games website is great.

I also recommend Oolite, a freeware Elite clone (fly around in a spaceship, trade and upgrade it).
posted by vogon_poet at 7:38 AM on September 4, 2014

Warp Door is carrying on the tradition

Forest Ambassador is also very worth checking out.

Games We Care About is very solid.
posted by hellojed at 1:33 PM on September 4, 2014

I think of as the strange curiosity shop of games, and it's full of the kind of stuff you're looking for.

I love trawling through Ludum Dare entries as well. I found this interplanetary dating sim today that I particularly enjoyed.
posted by beijingbrown at 7:09 PM on September 4, 2014

Cave Story is an incredible game, made by a Japanese guy in his free time. It's extremely fun and playable, but it's still a weird mix of styles and mechanics that you wouldn't see in a commercial game, and an odd story that's a bit like a grim children's puppet show. It's since gotten an number of commercial spit-shines (since it's incredible) but the original version is still freeware.
posted by Rinku at 9:22 PM on September 4, 2014

And, since you mentioned DCSS and DF, you would probably enjoy Brogue, which is a little simpler than either of those, but more enjoyable, in my opinion. Made by just one guy.
posted by Rinku at 2:15 PM on September 7, 2014

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