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Top 10 commercial games that are now free

Oldies and goodies sometimes became freebies - here are our top 10 released-as-freeware games


6. OpenTyrian

Despite being released in 1995, Tyrian was a completely old-school shooter with more than a passing resemblance to Xenon II Megablast. It was made freeware in 2004, and the source code was made available in 2007, leading to the OpenTyrian cross-platform version.

The plot is immaterial – what you get here is wave after wave of enemy ships, which drop money for you to spend on upgrades between missions. These upgrades mean you can go from a small brown scout fighter through a succession of cooler-looking and more powerful ships, while you bolt on ever larger guns and ancillary pods for mines and missile launchers.

The end of each stage involves a huge boss fight, and the music is straight out of the General Midi era. Uncomplicated shooty fun.


5. Death Rally

As far as top-down driving games in the vein of Supercars II go, Death Rally is pretty much the apogee. It’s got several different cars, plenty of weapons and two ways to win each race: out-drive the other cars, or kill them all.

It’s the violent Death Race-influenced counterpart to Micro Machines’ squeaky clean household antics. The original developer, Remedy, repackaged the game for Windows machines and released it as freeware in order to publicise the iPhone version of Death Rally – but the Windows game is more fun.

Death Rally

4. Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun

Command & Conquer was the first popular real-time strategy game – an addictive fast-paced mix of resource-building and frantic mouse clicking. The struggle between the Global Defence Initiative (GDI) and the evil Brotherhood of Nod was continued in Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun, which was released in 1999.

Electronic Arts released Tiberian Sun and the Firestorm expansion pack as freeware in 2010. Tiberian Sun used a more advanced engine than the original, complete with 3D terrain, but looked pretty dated in 1999 and very old-fashioned now.

However, if you can put the visuals to one side, the game is still a whole lot of fun. Varied units, interesting missions and ludicrously camp acting in the cut-scenes from James Earl Jones and Lieutenant Hicks out of Aliens make it well worth the download.

Tiberian Sun

3. Grand Theft Auto 2

Where would right-wing newspaper columnists be without Grand Theft Auto? It’s just the perfect lazy example for how computer games turn our children into feral criminals.

GTA is best described as a driving, shooting and robbing simulator, so maybe they have a point. The game only became huge with the release of the 3D GTA III, but before that came the 2D top-down GTA and GTA II, both of which are now available for free from Rockstar Classics.

You know the format: steal a car, drive to pick up a mission, race to the mission and shoot/beat/blow things up. Quick to get into and a great way to see how the Rockstar phenomenon started.

Grand Theft Auto 2

2. Abuse

Abuse is a side-scrolling shooter with a twist. Instead of just firing in front of you as enemies plod slowly towards you, you run with the arrow keys and shoot by aiming with the mouse. This makes combat a much more frantic affair, as enemies jump, fly and spring down at you from the ceiling, and it’s all you can do to hit them with lasers, grenade launchers and bazookas.

The game is set in a lunatic asylum with a mutated population, and you’re an unjustly-imprisoned inmate trying to escape the carnage. It’s dark, broody and the soundtrack is menacing – a shooty romp in the vein of Alien 3. You’ll need DOSBox from to run it.


1. Balanced Annihilation

This is a bit of a cheat, but it’s so good we had to include it. Total Annihilation was a groundbreaking real-time strategy game released in 1997, which married insane numbers of units with resource management and proper 3D models.

Balanced Annihilation is an improved remake of Total Annihilation, based on the free Spring RTS engine. Its website states that ‘BA’s lineage traces back to fan mods of the original Total Annihilation’ and it shows. The game is, essentially, Total Annihilation but with better graphics and some gameplay tweaks. It’s free robotic carnage on an epic scale.

Balanced Annihilation

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