Five Free Online Games You Should Be Playing

Video games are pricey. Millions of dollars are thrown into the money vacuum that is the latest Call of Duty or Halo.  

As a plucky college student with no money and a near-endless amount of free time, I've been on the lookout for the internet's best time-wasters. 

Let my wavering grades be your video game entertainment, and take a look a couple of games that are both free and pretty dang good.

5. Digital: A Love Story

Digital is a token of affection from its creator, Christine Love, to the bulletin boards (BBS) of the 80s. Bulletin boards were small forums where a localized computer-having Illuminati congregated about cool stuff like neon, jorts, New Order, and Neuromancer.

The game's narrative is told through one-sided conversations your in-game persona has through email and private BBS messaging. The player is left to assume what his or her character said through the response email. You'll form contacts and pirate the software you need to start an e-romance, hack the Gibson, and maybe stop a rampant AI from killing the internet.

Pick this game up, if only to hear the warbly klaxons of the 56k dial tone just one more time.

Download it here

4. Spelunky

Indie game developer Derek Yu's procedurally-generated opus will kill you.  Your death will be sweetened, however, by the game's devious traps, catchy soundtrack, and the fact that the game reorganizes itself every time you start it up.

The Sisyphean task of death and rebirth in Spelunky is made much simpler by easy-to-learn-but-hard-to-master gameplay, and the eventual realization that winning is tertiary to getting eaten alive by snakes.

Or spiders!
All the while, your Indiana Jones lookalike will be making a mad dash for the dig site's gems, gold, maidens, and sacred symbols that may or may not evoke the wrath of an angry god. Numerous power-ups are available from shops owned by bearded fellows that react to theft with deadly force.

So make peace with your God, strap on your jetpack, and get ready to die. Download it for Windows or OSX

3. Dwarf Fortress

Bay12Games' ASCII behemoth is widely regarded as one of the most difficult games to play.  Players that take the time to learn its complex interface will discover a vast world of dwarves and the various ways they can end up dying. 

 This is another one featuring procedural generation, and Dwarf Fortress takes the whole process a step further.

What is this I don't even-

During world creation, everything from geography to your text world's history is generated from the aether. You'll pick a place for your initial seven dwarves to embark their industrial quest, and then much like a vertically stunted Scarface: The world is yours.

Watch dwarves build a fortress on Windows and OSX

2. Cave Story

Caves abound
Pixel's PC homage to classic sidescrollers like Castlevania and Metroid is an addictive formula. 

Players will explore a massive 2D caves and uncover a doctor's plot to rule the world. They'll do this by blasting away enemies with weapons that become more powerful as the player racks up kills. Weapons weaken, however, with each hit the player takes.

Due to the original game's popularity, a premium version of Cave Story was released in 2010, receiving the WiiWare "Game of the Year" award. If you miss your NES, or want to relive an era where games were simpler be sure to check out Cave Story.

Nab it for Windows or OSX.  Mac users will also need to install an English patch.

1. Team Fortress 2

With Team Fortress 2, Valve took 10 years of first-person shooter design and optimized it into one hunk of cartoony goodness. In June of 2011, Valve decided to remove the price tag from their game, offering it for free.

TF2 features 9 different character classes each with unique personalities and playstyles. From the smug, back-biting spy to the Napoleon Complex addled scout. 

The game also emphasizes a unique 60s aesthetic that complements its irreverent humor. After being blown up, players receive a freeze-frame of their killer, sometimes including arrows to their strewn-about bodyparts.

Team Fortress 2 is available on Valve's Steam service, available here.

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Alex Weiss
Contact: Alex Weiss