There’s a vast amount of open-source software in the world. Likewise, there are a ton of games. But open source games? When it comes to developing interactive entertainment, people don’t seem so quick to want to share their code.
That’s not to say there aren’t any open source games floating around the web. You’ll find quite a few. But there’s a drawback: many are clearly designed with multiplayer in mind.
That’s understandable. Multiplayer games don’t require as much content in terms of characters, levels, cutscenes, and everything else that goes into making a single-player experience. For teams that are strapped on cash and time, that’s a lot to deliver.
Nonetheless, multiplayer PC gaming isn’t for everyone. I personally prefer single-player games, and as it turns out, there are a few good open source games that can provide hours of entertainment, even if you’re playing alone. Plus, you can download them at no cost.
Each of the games below are particularly easy to install on Linux, but they’re also available on Windows and macOS.
1. Endless Sky
Endless Sky is an open-world space sim inspired by the 1996 title Escape Velocity (and its two sequels). You start off as a pilot with a cheap ship of your choice that you buy using a bank mortgage.
You then pay off your debt by transporting cargo, ferrying people across the galaxy, fighting pirates, or becoming a pirate yourself. Eventually you replace your ship and grow the size of your fleet. There are many planets and moons to discover, each with its own character.
A civil war breaks out soon after you get your career off the ground. You can choose a side, or stay out of the mess entirely. What you do is up to you. If you want to ignore the central story and set out into the deep reaches of space in search of alien worlds and species, you’re free to do so.
The base game contains over 200 human star systems and more than 50 ships for purchase, so there’s a lot to see and do. Players are also welcome to develop ships and missions to share with the broader Endless Sky community.
Download: Endless Sky for Windows, macOS, and Linux
2. The Battle for Wesnoth
The Battle for Wesnoth is a turn-based strategy game akin to the Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics series. Choose a male or female protagonist and you’ll set off on a narrative told across a series of battles.
You hire various unit types that you can then recruit as needed for future engagements, but once they die, they’re gone for good. As units gain experience, they level up into different types of soldiers. This leaves you with plenty of choice and variety in the structure of your fighting force.
The Battle for Wesnoth is an extremely polished title. While you won’t find animated cutscenes, the story stills, character portraits, and overall art design are polished enough for this to pass as a commercial title (albeit an older one).
The game contains numerous single-player campaigns, and you’re welcome to create your own or download others. While Wesnoth has a multiplayer component, I’ve never played it; the single-player content is enough. Either way, whether it’s single-player or multiplayer you’re after, The Battle for Wesnoth is one of the best open source games there is.
Download: The Battle for Wesnoth for Windows, macOS, and Linux
FreedroidRPG is the only game on this list that I haven’t personally played, but there’s a lot here to like. Imagine a Diablo clone where you play as Tux. You fight with melee and ranged weapons, and there are over 50 items for you to use. The developers claim the game offers over ten hours of single-player content.
Multiplayer is big aspect of the Diablo series, but the games are plenty of fun to play alone. Thus, FreedroidRPG is focused exclusively on solitary gameplay. Players are also given the freedom to choose which direction they want to take the story. That only makes sense for a game with “free” in the name, based on the mascot of a free and open source operating system.
Download: FreedroidRPG for Windows, macOS, and Linux
AstroMenace is a good old-fashioned top-down space shooter. You guide a ship through waves and waves of oncoming fighters, dodge bullets, and let loose a relentless barrage of your own. Afterward, you can swap out your guns for ones of a different type or more power. Alternatively, you can replace your entire ship for a bigger or faster model.
While the gameplay is 2D, the visuals are 3D. They’re not bad, though they wouldn’t look out of place on an original PlayStation. On the positive side, that means you don’t need a beefy gaming rig.
Download: AstroMenace for Windows, macOS, and Linux
A kart racer? I know, I know. This is nearly the very definition of a multiplayer title. But SuperTuxKart actually has a decent single-player campaign. The story mode even opens up with a 3D cutscene, complete with voice overs. Sure, such animations have been commonplace in games since the PlayStation era, but they remain a rarity in open source titles.
SuperTuxKart features various mascots representing many prominent open source projects. You can race as Linux’s Tux, GIMP’s Wilbur, Krita’s Kiki, Xfce’s Xue, and many others.
The story mode tasks you with completing a series of challenges of escalating difficulty. You can choose which race to take part in next by driving to the location in the overview stage, as long as you’ve acquired the requisite number of points for entry. Success here unlocks tracks you can use in multiplayer races.
Download: SuperTuxKart for Windows, macOS, Linux
Neverball takes its inspiration from the Super Monkey Ball franchise. The game consists of a over a hundred challenges, each involving you moving a ball to a goal while collecting coins. Sometimes you need a certain number of coins to complete the stage.
Instead of directing the ball, you control the environment. How you move your mouse determines the angle of the floor and the direction the ball heads in. This makes collecting coins and avoiding chasms harder than it seems.
Neverball keeps you coming back, whether to unlock new stages or to go back and beat your previous scores. The game goes to show how much fun a basic concept can be.
Download: Neverball for Windows, macOS, and Linux
What Open Source Single-Player Games Do You Love?
You’ll find plenty more single-player open source games out there. I’ve left off adaptations of popular titles such as FreeCiv (Civilization) and FreeCol (Colonization), since they come off to me as dated recreations of ancient titles. But they each can provide hours upon hours of fun.
Valyria Tear is a promising Japanese-inspired role-playing game, but it’s currently short on content. Don’t forget Frozen Bubble and dozens of other great puzzle games. That’s one genre that could fill this entire list on its own.
And if these games have inspired you, check out how you can live an entirely open-source life.
Image Credit: luckyraccoon/Depositphotos