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Tired of spending $60 on every new game release? Think spending money on commercial games is immoral and want to vote with your wallet? Or do you simply want to take a peek at a game’s internal code? Enter the world of open source games.

Why Open Source Games?

First of all, there are varying degrees of open source software. For this post, we’ll use a simplified definition: any game that allows the public to download its source code is an “open source game.” Open source sticklers will disagree, but we’re going to run with it.

Of the many reasons to prefer open source software, three hold true in particular for games:

  1. Price. Open source games are usually free. I know, I know, open source and free aren’t synonymous Open Source vs. Free Software: What's the Difference and Why Does It Matter? Open Source vs. Free Software: What's the Difference and Why Does It Matter? Many assume "open source" and "free software" mean the same thing but that's not true. It's in your best interest to know what the differences are. Read More — but open source game developers tend to do it for fun and experience, not profits. Most are happy enough with recognition and donations.
  2. Trust. Many commercial game development studios (e.g. Blizzard, EA, Ubisoft, Valve) have poor reputations. They’ve lost sight of their audiences, and some even say they’re killing the games industry Big Game Studios Are Killing the Video Game Industry Big Game Studios Are Killing the Video Game Industry The big names in gaming—like EA, Square, Valve, Blizzard, and Ubisoft—have a big problem. They've lost sight of their most important market: gamers. Read More . Open source developers are more in touch.
  3. Experience. If you want to create your own games 5 Free Game Development Software Tools to Make Your Own Games 5 Free Game Development Software Tools to Make Your Own Games Thanks to these awesome free game development software tools, a game that might've required one year can now be made in six months or faster, sometimes without any code! Read More , peeking at open source code can be a great way to learn new concepts and boost your skills. In some cases, you can also contribute fixes and features, thus leaving a tangible mark on your favorite games.

You might think that open source games are only for Linux freaks, but that simply isn’t true 6 Myths About Open Source Software Debunked 6 Myths About Open Source Software Debunked Open source software is awesome, but despite the growing popularity of FOSS alternatives, many people misunderstand the nature of the open source industry. Do you still believe these outdated and disproved open source myths? Read More — most of them can be played on several platforms. And besides, the only thing that really matters is whether the game is fun, right? That’s good news, because the following games are fun.

Games are listed in alphabetical order.

1. 0 A.D.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

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0 A.D. is a real-time strategy (RTS) game set in the 500 years leading up to Year Zero. It has all the trappings of an RTS, including base building, unit training, tech trees, and combat. You can play as one of 12 civilizations, and each game progresses between three phases: Village, Town, and City.

Single-player and multiplayer modes are both supported.

2. Alien Arena

Available for Windows and Linux.

Alien Arena, formerly CodeRED: Alien Arena, is a fast-paced multiplayer first-person shooter in the vein of Quake and Unreal Tournament. Though objective-based game modes exist, it’s mainly about fragging (killing your opponents). And if you’re competitive, you’ll love the global stats leaderboard.

3. Armagetron Advanced

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Armagetron Advanced is a multiplayer 3D clone of Tron. You drive around on a “light cycle” that leaves a wall trail, and your goal is to get your enemies to crash before you do. It’s simple but fun, and there are three game modes that spice it up even further.

4. Battle for Wesnoth

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

Battle for Wesnoth is a turn-based strategy game that combines resource management with tactical combat. It’s played on a hexagonal map, and there is an RPG element as units are able to level up and grow stronger. Despite simple game rules, it’s surprisingly deep.

The game also has a built-in map editor and the ability to create custom content (e.g. campaigns) through an add-on system. You can create add-ons using a mixture of Wesnoth Markup Language and Lua.

5. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and Web.

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (DCSS) is arguably the best roguelike currently playable. It’s the only roguelike consistently mentioned in the same tier as the Big Four: NetHack (1987), Angband (1990), ADOM (1994), and ToME (1998).

The best part of DCSS is that it maintains the insane gameplay depth that roguelike fans love, but delivers a much more newbie-friendly experience due to its emphasis on anti-frustration design principles. There’s a learning curve, but it’s well worth it.

And you can spectate other DCSS players in real-time! How cool is that?

For mobile procedurally-generated goodness, check out some roguelikes for Android Roguelikes For Android: A New Adventure Every Time Roguelikes For Android: A New Adventure Every Time How awesome would it be if a game offered a whole new world and experience every time you played it? Read More . To learn more about where this genre came from, see our write-up on the evolution of roguelikes Roguelikes: A Unique & Challenging Spin On The RPG Genre Roguelikes: A Unique & Challenging Spin On The RPG Genre In 1980 a game called Rogue was released that spawned a whole sub-genre of role-playing games, aptly named roguelikes. The dungeon crawling game procedurally generated in-game content, providing infinite replay value by guaranteeing a different... Read More .

6. FreeCiv

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Web.

FreeCiv is an open source clone of Civilization II, and that’s only because it started way back in 1997. You can play in both single-player and multiplayer modes, and we highly recommend using the web client.

The coolest thing is that FreeCiv has a “Longturn” mode, where 250 players take one single turn every day. It also supports a “Play by Email” mode, which is great when you want to play your turns as available.

7. Freedoom

Freedoom is an open source clone of Doom. The source code for Doom is actually open as well, but the assets (like graphics and sounds) are still licensed. Freedoom aims to create the free content portion that would allow the game to become “truly” open source and free.

To play Freedoom, you must also download a compatible Doom engine, such as ZDoom (recommended) or Crispy Doom.

8. Hedgewars

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and iOS.

Hedgewars is an open source clone of Worms — but it’s also so much more than that. It has taken the idea of a turn-based strategic artillery game and expanded it in all kinds of directions, especially when it comes to the weapons available in the game.

In addition to single-player missions and multiplayer mayhem, Hedgewars provides all kinds of customization: to your hedgehog, to game modes, and to game assets (through community-made content packs).

9. MegaGlest

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

MegaGlest is a real-time strategy game that emphasizes big battles and epic adventures. Based on the now-defunct Glest, MegaGlest mixes fantasy and technology to create a unique experience. The engine is moddable enough to allow players to create total conversion mods.

10. Minetest

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

Want to play Minecraft without paying the inflated price tag? Or are you unhappy with Minecraft‘s development vision and direction? Check out Minetest, an open source clone that returns to the game’s roots.

It’s actively developed and supports user-created texture packs, mods, and subgames. The community is nowhere near as large as Minecraft‘s, but it isn’t small either. There are already hundreds of servers on which you can play — or stick to single-player mode if you prefer.

11. OpenRA

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Alongside titles like Age of Empires and Warcraft, Command & Conquer helped propel the real-time strategy genre into the limelight back in the 1990s. Red Alert is arguably the best game in the series to date, and not just for its nostalgia factor.

OpenRA is an open source reimplementation of Red Alert that stays true to the original game while incorporating all kinds of quality-of-life enhancements. It also supports Tiberian Dawn (another C&C game) and Dune 2000 (another RTS by the same studio).

12. OpenRCT2

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

OpenRCT2 is an open source revamp of RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, the 2002 simulation game that lets you create and manage amusement parks and, more importantly, design and build roller coasters.

Because the original game’s assets are still licensed, you must have a legitimate copy of RCT2 installed in order to play OpenRCT2. It only costs $10 though (Steam, GOG), so it’s a minor inconvenience at worst.

Then why play OpenRCT2? First, it lets you play on non-Windows platforms. Second, you get additional features like interface theming, fast forwarding, and improved performance. Third, OpenRCT2 can be played in multiplayer mode.

13. OpenTTD

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

OpenTTD is an open source copy of Transport Tycoon Deluxe, a business simulation game where you manage a transport company in pursuit of maximum profits. OpenTTD offers many extra features and enhancements over the original game.

However, you will need the original game files to play as the game was originally intended. If you don’t have that, you can still play using open source assets from OpenGFX, OpenSFX, and OpenMSX.

14. Sauerbraten

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Sauerbraten is one of the first and best open source first-person shooters. It’s all about deathmatch, and can be played in single-player and multiplayer modes.

The only downsides to Sauerbraten? A small playerbase that peaks around a few dozen concurrent players per day, and inactive development with the latest update released in 2013.

Similar games include Assault Cube (also open source) and Urban Terror (not open source, but free and bigger playerbase).

15. SuperTuxKart

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

SuperTuxKart is what you’d get if you took Mario Kart and replaced all the characters with open source mascots. The gameplay is straightforward racing. You can play in single-player and multiplayer, plus various alternate modes (e.g. Battle, Time Trial).

16. Teeworlds

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Teeworlds is a side-scrolling physics-based 2D shooter, akin to what you’d get if you crossed Quake and Mario with a dash of Kirby. It emphasizes fast-paced action (but not Quake fast), and can be played in Deathmatch and Capture the Flag modes.

One unique feature is that everyone has a grappling hook, which can be used to fling yourself around the map — once you master it.

17. The Dark Mod

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

The Dark Mod is a first-person stealth game that’s reminiscent of the cult classic Thief. Set in a dark fantasy world, you play a thief who must steal goods — among other acts of thievery — while evading capture by guards. It’s heart-pounding fun with lots of replayability.

To play The Dark Mod, you have to first install the base game, and then install missions. You can download some from the Missions page, or create your own missions using the built-in editor.

18. The Saga of Ryzom

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

There aren’t many open source MMORPGs, which is The Saga of Ryzom‘s claim to fame. This free-to-play MMORPG 8 Free MMORPGs That Run Natively on Linux 8 Free MMORPGs That Run Natively on Linux "You can't play games on Linux" is one of the most outdated lies that people keep spreading, but while MMORPGs are lagging behind, there are several free MMORPGs that run natively on Linux. Read More , which features a classless system with dynamic environments, is a shining example of how free games can attain high quality.

Note that some non-essential features require a paid account, which you can grab for as little as $9 per month.

19. Warsow

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Warsow is a fast-paced arena shooter heavily inspired by Quake with a focus on speed and movement. The development roadmap includes eSports-centric features The Newbie's Guide to Getting Into eSports in 2016 The Newbie's Guide to Getting Into eSports in 2016 Competitive gaming is getting serious! Need some resources to learn more? Here's all you need to know about the swelling phenomenon of esports. Read More like Warsow TV and global stats. Also notable are the stylish graphics, especially the cell-shaded characters.

Because the engine is open source and scriptable using AngelScript, you can create your own game modes and change the interface. But even without this, the base game is fun and worth playing.

20. Xonotic

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Xonotic is a fast-paced arena shooter that borrows a lot from Unreal Tournament. There are 16 weapons that each use one of four ammo types, and every weapon has two firing modes. Knowing how and when to use each firing mode is key, and lends to the game’s depth.

You can play between several different game modes (such as Capture the Flag, Keepaway, and Freeze Tag) on dozens of different maps, both official and community-made. It’s highly replayable — if you like arena shooters, you won’t be able to put this one down.

Support Open Source Game Development

Remember, open source games cost time and money to create just like any other games. The only difference is that the developers value community more than profits.

If you want to help out, consider donating some of your own time or money. Open source developers don’t earn much Understanding How Open Source Software Developers Make Money Understanding How Open Source Software Developers Make Money The truth is: many OSS developers and projects do generate revenue. Read More , and even a $5 donation can help offset costs like web hosting. If you have programming experience, consider contributing your expertise How Contributing to Open Source Projects Can Teach You Life Skills How Contributing to Open Source Projects Can Teach You Life Skills We've looked at the benefits of using open source software, but what about the other way around: contributing to them? Can getting involved in an open source project aid your personal development? Read More .

But most of all, remember to thank the developers — a small gesture with a huge impact. It means a lot more than you’d think.

Which of these games appeal most to you? Are there any other open source games that you’d add to the list? Let us know by leaving a comment down below, and don’t forget to share on social media!

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  1. Oddbrother
    August 16, 2017 at 2:31 am

    Some are starting off small and are unreleased. Others are still in early phases.

    RVGL - Re-Volt
    DreeRally - Death Rally Classic
    OpenOMF - One Must Fall: 2097

  2. Gergely Polonkai
    August 15, 2017 at 5:00 am

    I miss FreeDroidRPG from this list, which I rediscovered just yesterday. In gameplay it's very similar to Diablo, but (of course) the storyline and graphics are very different.