Every week of the year Free Loaders dutifully brings a bunch of free games to you, like a servant with small handful of grapes. But now, the winter moon rises. The journalist slumbering in me growls and shakes his legs. Game time, joy time, thumbs are sundered. List time, award time, hear the keyboard howl.
Here are the best games covered by Free Loaders this year, listed and granted their well-deserved awards.
Scariest parser – The House Abandon
Interactive horror fiction with twists and warbling Stranger Things music. There’s a house and you’ve got to get in it. Type those commands, just like you always used to do. Go north, go south, go west, go upstairs, go into the room. Look at that thing on the bed. What wonderful memories. What wonderful times.
Oh god. Oh god no.
Bloodiest hockey – Super Blood Hockey
Old-bit inspired ice hockey with horrendous amounts of blood. Get stuck in, bash your opponents, pass the puck, shoot the puck, and hit your enemies with the puck. Good, you have broken all his teeth out. I expect no less from a warrior of the ice. Uh oh, here comes the glazing machine, watch out.
Best pack ‘em up – Fitz Packerton
Pack things away with care and precision. You can do this, it is very easy and it will only take a couple of minutes. There’s absolutely nothing suspicious about any of this. Just get packing, and be thorough – you never know when you might need that bonesaw.
Hardest citizen integration examination – NORTH
First-person city of confusion. We are running out of things to say about NORTH, a game of being a refugee in a strange and otherwordly city, never knowing where to go or how to act or what to do. But it did feature in our 50 best free games list, the only game on this list to do so. In short, it is good. It also has some fantastic intro music.
Most desirable lanterns – Samurai Lantern
Brutally tough arcade sword-slashing. Slash the baddies, collect the lanterns, and escape to the next level once you’ve got 15. This was only released last week, but it is such a tight, finely-tuned beast that I have been playing it on and off since. I am convinced of its merit as a minimalised Super Crate Box.
Best game for Windows – Windowframe
Puzzle platformer where the conundrum is your own window size. Smart and confounding in equal measure, it sometimes takes control of the window size and at other times tasks you with dragging and adjusting to figure out the solutions to small puzzles. A meta-mechanical micro-mindscratcher.
Goodest boy – Acrodog
Two-button canine reflexes. Make Acrodog jump by shifting the bouncey platform left and right. Keep him in the spotlight to please the audience, while using the beach ball to gain height and avoiding fruit thrown by unworthy observers. Ignore the haters. They do not know art. They do not know Acrodog.
Least goodest boy – Cooldog Teaches Typeing
Typign is importnant and you al need to learn how to type correctyl. Dont worry, though, Cooldog knows all the best triscks for excellent typeing mastery. Just clatter away on that keybored and try not to make to many mistakes. If i can laern it so can you!
Best dust trails – Shapeshifter Biker
Desert motorbiking as a shapeshifting roadhog. The black cars are after you, we all know why. But you mustn’t let them catch up. Let her rip and change your form with a button press, becoming a dragon that can pass through lava, an angry T-Rex, a flying eagle, and seventeen other creatures both fast and slow.
Most unsettling fish – Tangaroa Deep
Deep dive interactive fiction. Head into the depths as a research scientist to discover the mysteries within. Stay calm under the pressure and take note of the deep sea creatures. Is the King of Herrings out there, lurking? A giant squid perhaps? How long can you stand to dive before coming back up for air? Not long enough, loser!
Most points – The Mother of Bird Men
Artistic and vivid adventure about birds that look good. It’s part of the Adventures of Miss Libellule, a trilogy of such point and clicks, and I described it as “tomb-raiding your way through a giant Aztec kaleidoscope”. I stand by those remarks.
Most clicks – Project Perfect Citizen
Unsettling desktop investigation. You are part of a surveillance project, keeping an eye on ordinary citizens by peeping through the folders on their computer. Both voyeuristic and sometimes disturbing, it’s a game with an obvious but important message. Privacy has been dead for years, but nobody wants to be seen at the funeral.
Cleanliness next to godliness award – Breach & Clean
GO GO GO. Hotel cleaning staff simulator. Open that guest’s door, with dynamite if necessary, and clean the room from top to bottom. Wipe those stains, pick up that can, replace that towel, renew the toilet paper, and get out of there god dammit, we have a whole building to clean. GO GO GO.
Dadliest game – Lily: The Colors of Santa Luz
Stealthy dad and daughter adventure. Get yourself and your daughter out of the gorgeous Santa Luz, which has been invaded by some stout Nazi looking suckers. Avoid patrols, escape dogs, and make important split-second decisions that your daughter will remember for the rest of her life.
Most boy-like robot – You Are Robot Boy!
You could have fooled me, Robot Boy. But it looks like you really are a robot after all. And here’s the thing: Japan needs you! Get yourself ready to defend the country, imbibe great wisdom, and learn what the girls at school really want from a potential boy partner. Hint: it’s well-proportioned and non-patronising flattery!
Most mortal words – Words Must Die
First-person-word-shooter. Proceed through this interactive tale of many deaths by shooting the words you want to follow. It’s just like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book, except instead of looking at the book with your eyes you are blasting the book at point blank with a Smith & Wesson, shouting “yeeeeehaw” and spitting on its blackened pages.
Gnarliest depiction of future Califonria – Surf Shogun
Sword-slicing and surfing on the shores of Neo-Kalifornia. Can be played with up to 4 players locally, each of you fighting both the waves and your enemies in a bid to overcome the evil overload known only as the Surf Shogun.
Best deductions – Disorient on the Murder Express
Murder mystery on a colourful train. As an aging detective you are the most qualified person on this train to both detect and deal with a murder case. It is a good thing a murder has happened then. Gather your thoughts and the suspects around the fire and press ‘A’ to sip your whiskey thoughtfully before getting everything incredibly wrong.
That’s it for the 2016 awards, folks. But there were lots of other great games this year too, which you can see in all their glory here or by checking out our Best of Free Loaders Collection on itch.io. See you next year for more Free Loaders