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Modder Superior: The many free descendants of Doom

Doom mods: The Next Generation

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Here is a riddle for you. When is Doom not Doom? Why, when its open-source code has gone through countless iterations and become a modern development platform in its own right!

Sometimes a Doom mod outgrows its old home and breaks away as a completely standalone game. This week I’m bringing you an all-you-can-eat buffet of free, full games (and some demos) that are the best to have flown Doom’s nest. The list includes platformers, horror, racing, deathmatch and plenty of old-school FPS fun. Some of them have even settled down to raise their own mod scenes and their own spin-off games. Isn’t that sweet?

Mega Man: 8-Bit Deathmatch


What: Arena FPS with online play and solo story mode
Developer: CutmanMike
Status: Complete but still expanding
From: Official site

This is easily one of the biggest and most full-featured games to branch off from Doom. Mega Man: 8-Bit Deathmatch is exactly what it says on the tin, i.e. an old-school deathmatch arena FPS starring everyone’s favourite little blue robot and pals. It’s fast, twitchy and compelling stuff, and offers drop in/drop out online play with its own server browser, bots, and a massive story mode. While you’ll mostly be playing botmatches in the story, they’re punctuated with set-piece boss fights worthy of Capcom’s best. The game is still growing, with the current v5D version setting the scene for v6 later this year. So influential is 8-Bit Deathmatch that it’s spawned its own mod scene, centred around the game’s forums here. How about a fishing mod?

Sonic Robo Blast 2


What: Third-person platformer, solo, split-screen or online
Developer: Sonic Team Junior
Status: Complete, but due a big update “soon”
From: Official site

A real slow-burning labour of love, this one, which is ironic considering just how fast it moves. Sonic Team Junior have been hammering away at this since 1999, and it’s one of the few games here to use Doom Legacy (now heavily customised) instead of ZDoom, so it has a few odd technical limitations like a 35fps frame-rate cap. Despite that, it manages to be a fun, breezy 3D platformer that alternates well between precision and breakneck speed, arguably better than most of Sonic’s official 3D outings. Like 8-Bit Deathmatch, it has spawned its own talented mod scene on the SRB2 forums. The lovely trailer above is from Logan McCloud’s recent 3D model pack, showcasing some community-made maps. Below is the biggest thing the SRB2 scene has made.

Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart


What: Mascot kart-racer, solo, split-screen or online
Developer: Kart Krew (Discord)
Status: Complete but still growing
From: This SRB2 forum thread

Being a standalone mod of a mod makes this one a very distant cousin to Doom, and its Mario Kart 64-esque antics are as far from shotgunning imps as you can get. Still brillo, though – a great arcade racer with over a hundred tracks, plus characters from all across Sega development and publishing history. It’s only held back by SRB2’s software limit and some sometimes-choppy netcode, making it feel a little rougher than it should. An in-game server browser makes jumping into online games easy, and there are split-screen and solo time-attack modes offline. Kart Krew eventually want to add a full single player mode with bots, but for now the latest update added Kazuma Kiryu from Yakuza, among others. Logan McCloud did a 3D pack for this, too!

Shadow & Rise Of The Wool Ball


What: Retro parody FPS, single player
Developer: MSPaintR0cks
Status: Complete, twice!
From: Shadow and Rise on Mod DB

Two great little cartoon shooters for the price of none! Once mods, now turned standalone freeware games, these are cartoon parodies of Wolfenstein 3D and Rise Of The Triad, respectively, set in a cartoon world invaded by fascist cats. While the first game is perhaps a little limited by its Wolfenstein inspirations (though still a very good Wolf-alike), the sequel is just brilliant. The silly bounce pads are used creatively, level design is playful and even the boss fights are good. It’s also well worth searching for the secret levels, as they contain some of the best design overall.

Total Chaos


What: FPS survival horror, single player
Developer: Wadaholic
Status: Complete, Director’s Cut expansion due in April
From: Mod DB

Total Chaos was originally released last Halloween as a mod, but it’s now polished up, standalone, and with new weapons and modes. If Silent Hill and Stalker had a horrible nightmare child, this would be it. It’s an intense, challenging survival horror adventure with a focus on careful resource and inventory management. Total Chaos is one of the most visually impressive games to use the GZDoom engine, leveraging every one of its new high-end features, and it runs surprisingly well. Still, there is an optional ‘Retro Edition‘ for those with less beefy PCs. While already an impressive piece of work, developer Wadholic isn’t quite done yet, and plans to release a Director’s Cut edition in the next month or so, adding more enemy variety, levels and weapons.

Solace Dreams


What: FPS survival horror, single player
Developer: Ermin
Status: Complete
From: Mod DB

Another survival horror game inspired by Silent Hill, although this one is a little more straightforward and surprisingly action-oriented. Solace Dreams uses GZDoom’s voxel art features to great effect, giving it a very distinct look and feel. Enemies and weapons alike have a chunky, grainy quality, despite being 3D. Solace Dreams doesn’t have much in the way of story, but that works to its advantage, each of its levels being a self-contained adventure through a distinct environment with its own enemies and boss. Early levels are slow tunnel crawls, but it speeds up later.

Hedon


What: Single player FPS
Developer: Zan The Bonebreaker
Status: Episode 1 of a planned series
From: Itch.io

Just recently released, Hedon is a mostly-straightforward shooter with a bit of immersive sim style to it. Set in an industrial world of high fantasy, it feels a little bit like the Thief series, but with a lot more shooting. You play as a heavily-armed blue orc lady with a collection of pointy, heavy looking weaponry, and fight through an assortment of cultists, demons and other fantasy ne’er-do-wells. The current release is a self-contained game and offers ten complex, multi-objective levels to explore and fight through, but the developer does hope to expand it into something larger.

Update: While the Itch version of Hedon is still available as pay-what-you-want at the time of writing, it recently launched on Steam as well, and costs £5.03/€5.73/$6.99 after the launch discount.

Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny


What: FPS Platformer, single player
Developer: Andrea “Batandy” Gori
Status: Complete
From: Mod DB

From the mad lad that mashed up Mario and Doom, Simon’s Destiny is a game that really shouldn’t work, but somehow does. It’s a first-person adaptation of the original NES Castlevania, with all the bosses and levels represented, as well as the sub-weapon system, whip upgrades and more. There’s even an excellent higher difficulty mode (best saved for after beating normal mode) that bathes the world in the light of a Blood Moon and adds more enemies from later Castlevania games to the mix. It’s short but sweet, and easily worth that second trip through Dracula’s castle.

Brutal Doom 64


What: It’s Doom, Jim, but not as we know it. Solo/Multiplayer.
Developer: Marcos “Sergeant Mark IV” Abenante
Status: Complete
From: Mod DB

More restrained than the title might imply, this is a complete remake of the wildly underrated N64 game in the Doom series, produced by the creator of splatterfest mod Brutal Doom. If you’ve never played it, Doom 64 was technically a sequel to Doom 2, and a more horror-themed game than the DOS originals, arguably the missing link between Doom and Quake. This remake takes some liberties, adding a few new enemies to fill out the roster plus a bunch of new secret areas, but it’s good fun. If you’d rather play something closer to the original, Doom64 EX is a direct port of the N64 version to PC (by the guy who went on to port Turok 1 & 2 for Night Dive), but you will need to rustle up the original N64 ROM file.

Harmony


What: Weird claymation single player FPS
Developer: Rabotik
Status: Complete
From: Official site

Harmony is an oldie but a goodie, and one of the first big standalone games to use the ZDoom engine. Set in a bizarre claymation post-apocalypse where all the men have turned into horrible blobby mutants, you play as one of the last surviving women on a rescue mission. Good level design for a 2009 Doom-derivative, and, like the original Doom, the enemy sprites are clay models downscaled into chunky sprites. The weapons are a bit of a mixed bag, though, with some of them sounding a little weedy compared to their actual power in use, but, credit where it’s due, the shotguns feel totally right. Always vital.

Wolfendoom: Blade Of Agony


What: FPS Nazi-exploder, single player
Developer: Realm667
Status: Two of three episodes finished, third in development
From: Official site

A very polished Wolfenstein fan game that manages to capture the feeling of later big-budget games in the series. Playing like a blend of the classic original, Return To Castle Wolfenstein and the new MachineGames series, Wolfendoom has some talking, shopping and upgrading to be done between missions. The story is classic Wolfenstein, initially, with the Nazis hunting for ancient, probably-cursed relics in the desert, but gradually segues into weird super-science adventures. The coming third episode will include an overhaul to the first two, plus new features like drivable tanks.

The Adventures Of Square


What: FPS pun delivery system, single player
Developer: BigBrik Games
Status: Two episodes finished, third in development
From: Official site

If Id Software had ever made a Commander Keen FPS, it would have looked, sounded and played like The Adventures Of Square. Fast-paced, colourful, bouncy and full of excellent level design and creative enemies, all the more impressive as most of them are basic geometric shapes. Also contains an enormous, soul-endangering concentration of puns, plus an entire episode set on the moon, which is obviously made of cheese. The lead developer was recently roped in to produce some music for John Romero’s upcoming Doom level-pack Sigil, too. Good on that lad.

Chex Quest


What: ’90s marketing nostalgia/solo FPS
Developer: Digital Café/Chuck Jacobi
Status: Complete
From: Official site

The best thing to ever be found in a box bearing the Chex name, and that’s counting the cereal. A beautiful ’90s anomaly, a kid-friendly Doom spinoff about zapping your enemies home to their own dimension while snarfing down a healthy balanced diet to keep your cereal-killing rampage going. What’s not to love? Only two episodes were officially released, but original artist Chuck Jacobi earned the blessing of the Chex cereal company to release a standalone version, now with a third episode and final boss. He’s also working on a modern 3D remake of the original episode, which looks great.

Update: In a bizarre twist of fate, General Mills cereal have officially adopted Jacobi’s third Chex Quest episode, and re-launched it on a very ’90s page here.

QC: Doom Edition


What: Arena FPS and more, Single and multiplayer
Developer: DBThanatos & Michaelis
Status: Complete but still growing
From: Mod DB

Quake Champions: Doom Edition (to give its full title) is exactly what it says on the tin. Formerly a mod but now standalone, it offers a blend of twitchy old-school Doom shooting with all the character perks, special abilities and new weapons of Quake Champions. There’s a whole lot more playable characters, too, including the recently added Serious Sam, and some good bots to play against if you can’t find anyone online. There’s even a single-player mode featuring multiple enemy sets ‘borrowed’ from other games, but they recommend adding a copy of Doom or Doom 2 if you want to play those campaigns.

Rekkr


What: FPS, single player
Developer: Mockingbird Software
Status: Complete
From: Official site, standalone version on Doomworld

Rekkr feels like it fell through a portal from a similar but ever-so-slightly different dimension. This viking-themed shooter was built to 1996 specs, and could have easily stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Hexen and Strife, were it not actually from 2016. Well-designed levels, strange monsters, some creative weapons (a staff that fires rune-stones that hit with a solid THUNK before exploding) and lots of MIDI bagpipes await. The only issue is that the standalone version requires some assembly. You’ll need to grab GZDoom here, unzip it to the same directory as your REKKRSA.WAD file and follow the instructions on the Doomworld thread.

Memoirs Of Magic


What: PSX-styled FPS, single and multiplayer
Developer: Strawberry Octopus Productions
Status: Large demo (Around 1/5th of the final game)
From: ZDoom forum thread

This is still deep in development, but notable for just how fresh it is in look and feel. Memoirs Of Magic feels a bit like a long lost early PSX game attempting to blend JRPG adventuring with western FPS combat, only with better controls than you’d ever get from a digital gamepad. There’s towns to wander, NPCs to chatter with, shops to visit, quests to complete and lots of baddies to zap as a variety of character classes. There’s a big focus on juggling inventory items and class abilities to keep the pressure up. The forum thread with the game download has some class skill showcase videos. Oh, and turn on Rendering Interpolation in Display Options if you don’t like the PSX-style frame-rate.

Update: The full version has since been released free. You can read more about it here, or download it free from Itch here.

Nocturne In Yellow


Video : iSpookulon on YouTube
What: Lovecraft-inspired solo wizard FPS
Developer: TerminusEst13 & crew
Status: Complete
From: Nocturne In Yellow on Gamefort

Clocking in at a couple hours long, it’s a short but sweet little romp. Against a WW1 backdrop, you play as a Russian librarian investigating a supposedly cursed island out in the black sea. Turns out it’s extra double turbo cursed, and full of zombies and laser-spitting spiders, and all you’ve got is a bow, a spear and a pocket full of rock salt. Instead of a large arsenal, you gain enchantments for your bow, and there’s a big focus on projectile-spamming boss fights with a lot of pre/post fight chatter. Pro tip: Shift is sprint by default, and early levels want you to cover a LOT of ground.

Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl


Video : Edge Adamworth on YouTube
What: First-person Streets Of Rage-like, single player
Developer: Stephen “Scuba Steve” Browning & crew
Status: Complete
From: Official site

The original Action Doom was a Metal Slug inspired mod, so it stands to reason that the sequel is a standalone tribute to Sin City and Final Fight. While its melee combat is a bit clunky (Doom needs a little more work before punching really feels good), it’s a surprisingly replayable and creative game with a branching level structure and multiple ends. Unfortunately its Frank Miller tribute possibly runs a little too deep, with some unfortunate writing and an ill-advised fight against a Village People-themed gang in a gay bar, possibly inspired by Ash in Streets Of Rage. Oof.

Operation E.C.H.O.


What: 2D run-and-gun platformer, single player
Developer: GreenLegacy
Status: Single level demo
From: Operation Echo on Itch

Just a single demo level, but a stunning showcase of what can be done with the ZDoom engine. Operation ECHO is a platform shooter in the vein of Metal Slug or Contra, although it gives the player a generous health bar. You control a robot soldier, exploding your way through a future anime city overrun by giant mutant bugs. Controls are responsive (with Xbox controllers supported natively), the sprites are detailed, the music is catchy and it just feels fun to play. Well worth a try for a peek at what the future may hold for the Doom mod scene.

Honorable Mentions

If eighteen games plus demos isn’t enough for you, here’s a few more to take a peek at:

SURVIVE by Ermin, via Mod DB.


Another project currently in development from the creator of Solace Dreams. A horror-tinged survival shooter with a focus on building defences and machines to help cover your back. Has the same voxel art-style as Solace Dreams, too.

Membrane Demo by Shred18, via Mod DB.

Pulp space-adventures with ray guns, goofy green aliens and UFOs. The game’s official site seems to have disappeared, as has its IndieGoGo page for further funding, so it may never be more than just a demo, but it’s a pretty good time already.

The Forestale by Yorzh Aleksey, via Steam.

Shaping up to be one of the first commercial games to be made with ZDoom, it’s a very early-2000s style side-scrolling platformer with 3D graphics, and a cartoon rabbit protagonist hoovering up carrots as he bounds across platforms.

Update: The Forestale has since been released, and is available here on Steam for £4/€4/$5.

Blood: The Curse Hunter by bifurcator_x, via Mod DB.

Not released yet, but a promising-looking Blood fan-game from the creator of the visually stunning Doom Slayer Chronicles horde mode mod. Looks like it’s using every trick in the GZDoom book, but using classic chunky Blood sprites where possible.

Return Of The Triad by elzee, via Mod DB.

A fun Rise Of The Triad tribute, replicating the look and sound of the game impressively well in GZDoom, but doesn’t have many levels. Its developers have gone on to much bigger (but still retro) things, and are currently putting the finishing touches on the Heretic-like new FPS Amid Evil.

That should be enough to keep you lot going for another two weeks. As always, if you’ve got a favourite that I’ve missed, share in the comments below.

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