Fun Freeware Games
- Dwarf Fortress: This is practically a classic. If you like city builders, fortress mode puts you in charge of keeping a fortress of dwarves alive. If you're more into adventuring, there's a mode for that too. This is a deeply complex game with detailed information on just about everything, and it's more in-depth than most other games I've seen. Be warned: the game's motto is "losing is fun." You will lose, and you'll get a great story in the process. Just don't let the cats breed.
Runs great on low-end devices but a decent CPU goes a long way. It's ASCII by default and tilesets freely available if you prefer graphical gameplay.
- Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead: Who likes a good zombie apocalypse where everything wants to kill you? This is a hard game. You will die, and you will die again. The controls take time to figure out. That said, it's pretty fun and lends itself to some great storytelling. It also runs on almost anything. To quote burgerpro's experience, which can be found on the game's website: "I played catadda 0.B on Lego EV3 brick through ssh about a year ago. [...] The specs were - 300 MhZ CPU, 64 Mb Ram (+ another 64 Mb swap on microsd flash) running ev3dev (stripped ubuntu basically), ssh over USB CDC connection."
Has both an ASCII version and tilesets, and runs beautifully on low-end hardware.
- Elona: a roguelike RPG that stands out for its sense of humor and weirdness. All gameplay is turn-based and there's no need to do anything quickly. Want to go loot dungeons? Farm and fish? Mutate into an abomination because of bad weather? Be parasitized by aliens and drink sulfuric acid to get rid of them? Play as a giant snail tourist and get killed by salt water? Have a party of companions that do all the work for you while you watch? Be a vampire or fairy? Use people as mounts? Use a weapon that regularly causes the apocalypse? Get stoned to death because you suck at the piano? You've got options. As a bonus, it runs ridiculously well on low-end hardware. Unfortunately, it's Windows-only, but it runs well in Wine and there are one or two variants working on Linux and Mac support.
The base game is in Japanese, but there are English translations and variants if you don't speak Japanese. The Omake Overhaul and Elona+ Custom variants are the most popular. There's even a variant that reduces grind and makes the game easier.
- Endless Sky: Do you like space? Spaceships? Want to fly around in one in third person and blow things up, or try not to be attacked by pirates? There you go. Half the fun is kitting out your fleet and finding what suits your playstyle, but you're going to get into a fight sooner or later.
- Oolite: Do you know Elite Dangerous? Did you ever think it would be nice to have a free, open-source game along that line? Here you go. Pilot a ship in space and enjoy exploring, trading, fighting, or even piracy. The game is highly extensible and many expansions are freely available.
Should run well on low-end hardware but does need at least a gig of RAM.
- Osu!: If you like rhythm games, you've probably heard of Osu! by now. Click circles to a rhythm. There are a ton of charts freely available from the community, and you can create your own charts if you'd like. The game can be played with a mouse but is easier with a drawing tablet. I'm not sure how well it performs on low-end hardware, but my laptop is far from beefy and handles it without problems.
- Stepmania: Another rhythm game classic. If you've ever played Just Dance, In The Groove, or similar games, you know how this goes. Hit arrow keys to the rhythm. There are a lot of charts available, but pay attention to the difficulty ratings on them. Easy charts are harder to find than charts that'll grab you by the collar and bash you into a wall repeatedly. I'm not sure how well it performs on low-end hardware, but my laptop is far from beefy and handles it without problems. I suspect it runs a little better than Osu! does.
- Mindustry: Tower defense meets factory building and supply chains; it's a strange match, but it's amazing in action. The levels present a very good challenge and gameplay is fast-paced, even frantic at times. It's one of my favorites in the factory genre.
Should run decently well on low-end hardware; I don't know whether a total potato could handle it, but my sad little laptop handled it no problem.
- OpenTTD: A transport tycoon game where you build train tracks, roads, airports, and docks to get things from one place to another. It's deeply satisfying to create an efficient layout of train tracks in particular. Simutrans is another good game in this genre.
OpenTTD runs beautifully on most hardware and shouldn't prove a problem on low-end devices.
- Minetest: A block building game engine in the same vein as Minecraft, but completely free and open source. It has a large collection of mods and textures created by the community, and you can create and play different games within it. If you want to replicate Minecraft as well as possible, there's a game for that, but you can do a lot more than just mimic Minecraft. You could even try to survive an IKEA SCP or play a city builder.
- The Powder Toy: If you like playing with particle physics, setting things on fire, or setting up an elaborate reaction, this game is great. It's not so great if you have low-end hardware- it will strain your CPU and heat up your computer. Make sure you have good cooling.
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More games will be added as I find and try them.