Entertainment

The 25 Best Open Source Video Games in 2020

Gavin Phillips Updated 06-05-2020

Are you tired of spending $60 on new games? Do you think spending money on triple-AAA titles is immoral and want to vote with your wallet? Then you should check out the best open source video games, most of which are available to play for free.

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Why Open Source Video 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 may disagree, but we’re going to run with it.

Of the many reasons to opt for open source software, three hold particularly true 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? 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. Open source developers are more in touch with real gamers.
  3. Experience. If you want to create your own games 5 Free Game Development Software Tools to Make Your Own Games Free game development software is a great way to start video game making. We've compiled the best game software on the market. 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 users, but that simply isn’t true. That is one of the most enduring myths regarding open source software 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 Do you still believe these outdated and disproved open source myths?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 . You can play most open source games on several platforms. And besides, the only thing that matters is whether the game is fun, right?

NB: Games are listed in alphabetical order.

1. 0 A.D.

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.

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Does it look and feel a little like Age of Empires II? That’s because 0 A.D. began life as a total conversion mod concept for Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, way back in 2001.

Single-player and multiplayer modes are both supported.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

2. Alien Arena

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.

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Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

3. Armagetron Advanced

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 three game modes spice it up even further.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

4. Battle for Wesnoth

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 can level up and grow stronger. Despite boasting simple game rules, it’s surprisingly deep.

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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.

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

5. Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead

Zombies, dungeons, and Lovecraftian horrors await you in Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead (CDDA), a turn-based open source roguelike survival game.

Unlike most roguelikes, CDDA doesn’t have a specific goal for you to attain. Survival is key. Like most survival games, you’re battling the elements of life alongside the zombies and other terrifying beasts. That alone grants CDDA incredible depth as well as a replay value that will keep you coming back for more.

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Like other roguelikes, CDDA features ASCII graphics, which can overwhelm those new to the genre. There are, however, several replacement tilesets that make the quest through CDDA a little easier on the eye.

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

6. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (DCSS) is arguably the best roguelike currently available. 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 is a learning curve, but it’s well worth the effort.

You can even spectate other DCSS players in real-time! How cool is that?

To learn more about where this genre came from, see our write-up on the evolution of the roguelike 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 .

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

7. Endless Sky

Endless Sky is a free, open source space exploration game. It is a remake of the now ancient game, Escape Velocity, but offers similar sandbox space trading and galaxy exploring simulation as Elite: Dangerous or Star Control. Others liken Endless Sky to a quick, downscaled fix of the enormous space-MMO, EVE Online.

Endless Sky includes an extensive single-player campaign, side-missions, shipbuilding, and, of course, intergalactic space battles.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

8. FreeCiv

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.

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Web.

9. Freedoom

Freedoom is an open source clone of Doom. The source code for Doom is 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.

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

10. FlightGear

FlightGear is an open source flight simulator that was built originally as an alternative to Microsoft Flight Simulator. Many would say that FlightGear is the best free flight sim currently available, receiving favorable reviews across major gaming publications.

FlightGear includes live weather patterns taken from METAR data, meaning you can find yourself in the middle of a storm if you don’t check your maps before departing. There is also a multiplayer option that allows you to fly with friends (or someone can control the air traffic control tower).

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

11. Hedgewars

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).

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and iOS.

12. MegaGlest

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.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

13. Minetest

Do you want to play Minecraft without paying the price tag? Or are you unhappy with Minecraft’s development vision and direction? Then 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 that of Minecraft, but it isn’t small either. There are hundreds of servers on which you can play—or you can stick to the single-player mode if you prefer.

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

14. Nethack

Nethack is one of the most enduring roguelikes and is frequently cited as an inspiration for other games. And not just in the roguelike genre either.

In Nethack, you must work your way through 50 levels of a randomly generated dungeon. Your character will battle all manner of mythical beasts along the way to retrieving the Amulet of Yendor. The entire game world is created using ASCII graphics, meaning everything you do relates to a letter, number, or different glyph from your keyboard.

Nethack has a steep learning curve. It takes some players months, even years, to ascend the tower and retrieve the amulet. Yet, Nethack is extremely replayable as each and every run-through is completely different.

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

15. OpenRA

Alongside titles like Age of Empires and Warcraft, Command and 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, such as production queues, hotkeys, unit stances, and my personal favorite, the attack-move command.

It also supports Tiberian Dawn (another C&C game) and Dune 2000 (another RTS by the same studio).

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

16. OpenRCT2

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 to play OpenRCT2. It only costs $10 though (on Steam or 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, you can play OpenRCT2 in multiplayer mode.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

17. OpenTTD

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.

Notably, OpenTTD introduces multiplayer transport network building, as well as thousands of unique trains, buildings, tracks, ships, and more. Some extremely enterprising minds have even managed to use OpenTTD’s pathfinding as a form of programmable logic, similar to the “Redstone circuits” found in Minecraft.

It is no wonder that OpenTTD also appears on our list of the best old PC games still worth playing 10 Old PC Games Still Worth Playing Today Playing old PC games can fill you with nostalgia. Here's our list of the best old PC games you should still play today. Read More .

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

18. RVGL

Does racing radio control cars through the streets, ramping off curbs, and grabbing powerups to smash your opponents sound like your thing? Then give RVGL a try, the open source reboot of the cult classic, Re-Volt.

RVGL allows you to enjoy RC car racing in much higher resolutions, as well as with anisotropic filtering and MSAA, extensive audio improvements, peer-to-peer multiplayer, and much more.

Available for Windows, Linux, and Android.

19. Sauerbraten

Cube 2: Sauerbraten is one of the first and best open source first-person shooters. Sauerbraten is all about deathmatch, which you can play in single-player and multiplayer modes.

The only downsides to Sauerbraten? A small player base 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 boasting a larger player base).

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

20. SuperTuxKart

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).

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

21. Teeworlds

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 you can use to fling yourself around the map… that is, once you master it.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

22. The Dark Mod

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 offers heart-pounding fun with lots of replayability.

To play The Dark Mod, you must 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.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

23. The Saga of Ryzom

There aren’t many open source MMORPGs, which is The Saga of Ryzom’s claim to fame. This free-to-play MMORPG, which features a classless system with dynamic environments, is a shining example of how free games can attain high quality.

The Saga of Ryzom has a few cool features up its MMO-sleeve, too. Mobs will invade and swarm around player settlements, creating huge battles. There are in-depth harvesting and crafting trees. One thing we really like is that AI-controlled animals will attack other creatures, creating a realistic and engaging local environment.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

24. Warsow

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 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 well worth playing.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

25. Xonotic

Xonotic is a fast-paced arena shooter that borrows a lot from Unreal Tournament. There are 16 weapons that each uses one of four ammo types, and every weapon has two firing modes. Knowing how and when to use each firing mode is the 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, so if you like arena shooters, you won’t be able to put this one down.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

What Are the Best Open Source Games?

With so many amazing open source games to choose from, picking one is impossible. So it all comes down to the genres you love playing instead.

Remember, open source games cost time and money to create just like any other game. 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, and even a $5 donation can help offset costs like web hosting. And if you have programming experience, you should consider contributing your expertise to open source projects 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 .

Related topics: Free Games, Game Recommendations, Mobile Gaming, Open Source, PC Gaming.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. GDS
    June 12, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Great titles indeed, but it's missing Warzone 2100. This completely open source RTS is very mature, has a decent user base and lots of mods for endless playability. Have a look at it here https://wz2100.net

  2. FuzzyFox
    October 14, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    OpenTTD hasn't really needed the original files for a while now.

  3. 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

  4. 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.