Runlike. Two-player text adventure. Turn-based bullet hell. STREEMERZ. "lot of ennemies, all weird ones". Break someone’s game. CYOA-strategy Wild West vignette.
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Dark Run by Jonathan Wright
The object of Dark Run is to race until you die through a bleak, endlessly generated dungeon. Amorphous darkness is chasing you so fast you don’t have more than a moment or two to plan your route, but get careless and you’ll run into some spikes. The dimness and unpredictability of your surroundings compounds this state of tension.
See, unlike most games involving dungeons, there’s no illusion that you can tame this place for a single second. Creatures latch onto your body, slowing you down, spraying acid, boxing you in with their big meaty forms, well, some are just harmless bats, but because everything else in the game can harm you, they can harm you, because you’ll twitch to react to their sudden movement and lose precious time.
The sensitive controls give me an acute sense of scampering, I’m scampering, I’m dodging these creatures that want to drag me down, I’m a badass, an agile badass, an agile scared badass, and my high score is 450 meters.
Brace by merritt kopas
Brace is a brief two-player hotseat text adventure about a pair of creatures trying to survive. You read some words, make a decision, then tap or murmur to the other person and they do the same. I played through twice with a friend so I was able to take on the role of both creatures.
The game is structured on ritualistic rules: avoid talking, keep your eyes closed, signal discreetly to switch over. Surprisingly intimate, with great use of silence. I hope people riff off this because mechanically there’s so much to mine in terms of player knowledge and cooperation and conflict--things that borrow more from roleplaying than traditional videogames.
Battle Combat Fighters x3 by Nifflas
Turn-based shoot ‘em up Battle Combat Fighters x3 turns the most frantic genre into something strategic and deliberate. At first I thought each shot sent you a fixed distance in the opposite direction, but the physics are more detailed than that. Firing adds to your momentum, so shooting a lot in one direction sends you hurtling with dangerous velocity toward the lethal rim of the arena. Reflex must be tempered with foresight.
Each shot is a different note. Slow moves announce your shots with stately chimes, while fast moves come quick enough to make music, incorporating your play speed into part of the soundtrack. By improving your skills you get the music that fits your reflexes.
STREEMERZ by Arthur Lee and Faux Game
The main mode of transportation in Streemerz is your grappling hook, no jumping allowed. Fortunately the hook is responsive and fun to use so getting through levels is about skill, not fighting the controls. Hey, what’s all this other stuff, there’s a VVVVVV-esque gravity reversal mode (so you can play the whole game by an entirely different mechanic if you like), a timed mode, and more!
I’m getting flashbacks to a bunch of old-school console games all merged together in my mind, from the terrain made of that generic industrial stuff that all those crazy techno-lairs are designed from, mazes of complicated metal with no discernable purpose, to the sketchy translation dialogue reminiscent of the YOU HAVE TO SAVE THE PRESIDENT FROM NINJAS period that’s actually quite funny.
Mamono Digger by Hojamaka Games
First ten seconds: I hate puzzle games, might as well get this over with. Every second after that: this is surprisingly addictive. In Mamono Digger you outline blocks of a certain color. As long as no other colors are inside the selected area, the blocks pop and you clear part of the screen. Behind the blocks are images, and exposing an entire image unlocks a trophy. There’s a cascading sense of search with each capture that I found quite satisfying.
Evidence by Wuthrer
Surreal, hand-drawn platformer with a "lot of enemies, all weird ones" and a plot that feels like the death dream of someone overdosing on the floor surrounded by their favorite toys. You control a ghostly blob that sweats and wobbles with every bounce, wheedled and mocked by the mysterious antagonist, a post-it note equivalent of GLaDOS, like someone recreating an insane AI in their bedroom with random bits of paper.
Evidence is about avoiding enemies, not killing them. Instead of each enemy having a weakness, they have a specific way to be avoided. The camera is especially threatening, flashbulb sound providing a tense audio cue before the attack that turns you into a photograph if you don’t run away fast enough. The final boss scene is too long but everything else is great fun.
The Secret Garden by SamoojaMies
The Secret Garden is a simple exploration game where you wander around and play with various objects. I don’t think I would have posted it if I hadn’t discovered certain unexpected, perhaps unintended properties about the world.
Go past the garden, find the purple statue, stand on the statue, then pick it up. I’ve heard there are other ways to achieve what the purple statue will bring you, but this is mine.
After some time I was utterly alone and there was nothing but the sky and the sun and even my statue had left me because the only action available to me was to let it go. There is something to be said for mystical experiences.
Highnoon by Chris Gaylo, remade by Emmanuel King Turner
After 42 years this game written in BASIC before I was born shows up remade in Twine and I’m in love. I was hooting and hollering and carrying on, I was shaking the person next to me at how good this is.
Highnoon is a Wild West text duel with choose your own adventure and strategy elements and the whole thing is squishy as hell. At first you think it's a logic game about pushing your luck, managing certain factors, and it kinda is until it oozes into all these outcomes that clearly value narrative above mechanical rigor. The CYOA elements are more delightful to encounter because of this mechanical layer, rigor contrasted against the whimsy.
There are multiple ways not to play. Like, after reading the instructions, you can choose not to continue. The assumption is that reading about Black Bart, "one of the meanest desperadoes west of the Allegheny mountains", might scare you off. Hell, I’m scared.
You can turn and run. The game will ask how many paces. You can run up to 400 paces. You can run 0 paces.
You can give up. YOU CAN GIVE UP.
Highnoon values worthless things like failure, or maybe we’ve been taught that failure is worthless and can’t be interesting when it definitely is. Funniest of all is that failure doesn’t come from an error of reflex--you choose to fail by clicking on a hyperlink. That’s a great joke and this is a great game.