As part of the Metanet community, I am, as I've said before, a die-hard freeware gamer. The great community there frequently recommend freeware games to play, made easier by the IRC channel crawling with 20+ N fanatics. Currently, a huge number of us are playing Gunbound, and 4v4 games are not uncommon. And because of the vast number of freeware games I've played, I thought I should list the best. There are one or two dubious choices, but I have deliberated the list, and I'm sticking to it. Kingdom of Loathing almost made the list, but I decided that its text-basedness disqualified it. All the others can be downloaded.
10: Space Cowboy
For a freeware game, Space Cowboy is graphically stunning. It follows the typical 'Runescape' MMORPG gameplay of getting upgrades and completing simple quests, but with a difference: You're a 3D spaceship. And away you fly, to shoot at hundreds of laggy, generically-named (Ubermoth is the best) beasts. It's bug-ridden, too. But this didn't deter me at first. I think the novelty of the amusing gameplay and 3D spaceship flying simply wore off.
9: Within a Deep Forest
Atmospherically perfect, WaDF makes for a lovely platform game to play and relax. Explore several intricate and amusing little 2D worlds in your bouncing ball of awesomeness - which is changeable as you complete more of the game. That's really all there is to it. Once you've explored everywhere, tried the challenges and remained fruitless, you either have to quit or seek cheats, unless you're a real fanatic. Still, this is a beautiful audiovisual game. Not very lastable, but for what it is, WADF is exquisite.
Runescape was always the most controversial one on the list. People are polarised by this, I think I'm the only person who has ended up in between. While I love how the game has so much stuff to do, even in the free section has about 20 skills and hundreds of items, I dislike the simple, click-limited gameplay. This is the main argument against. But these people fail to realise that the game's fun comes in the realisticness of the problems faced. It's simple stuff for simple minds - hit rock, get coal. Kill monster, get loot. Put ore in furnace, get steel. And of course this is boring. But for a while, Runescape's world enthralled me and drew me in to its challenges and its economy (which incidentally has become quite a talking point amongst the few educated members of the community). I don't play any more, because I'd done all I could in the free game. At the end, I was simply levelling up, calculating how much work I'd need to do to get into the mining guild, or save 100K to buy 1K Chaos runes. But the work involved became too tedious, lengthy and repetitive, and so I stopped. But until level 50 odd, I had lots of fun.
7: War Rock
The main thing that is great about War Rock is its freeware status. No way would I pay for this game! It has, however, established itself as the dominant freeware First Person Shooter. It quite obviously rips of CounterStrike, particularly on the close quarters game. But vehicles and flag bases are added in the bigger map games, adding playability, but despite the flags the objective is still body count. I suck at this game, but I still admire it's thoughtless fun.
6: Return to Blockland
Blockland was a very lazy attempt to recreate Lego Creator as freeware, with many awesome bonuses, and a multiplayer twist. I see the irony in how I go back to the Blockland website and find a release date for it as shareware, with some awesome-looking screenshots. But that's shareware. Return to Blockland is a fan's mod of Blockland, but what a mod it is. Tricky to set up right, but well worth the technical fiddling. It renders the original Blockland, which it is based on, useless. RtB has a wide selection of blocks, and hundreds of hidden features - passworded doors, vehicles, weapons... I feel I have only tapped the surface. I can barely use any of them. Moving bricks is indeed very cool, and it opens a wide range of possibilities. My excitement builds as I reminisce about the projects I did create, and even the projects I could have created, but each building takes so long. And sadly, the game is absolutely hopping with bugs. This is one of the most ambitious games I've ever seen. Once a group of Metanetters created our own island, with property for us all. It was amazing while it lasted, but it grew laggy, and we eventually moved on to pastures new - new maps, and increasingly obscure projects. And in this fashion, the craze died.
5: GunBound Classic
Gunbound is the best example of how freeware and commercialism don't mix. GB Revolutions is a bad game - a shame, because it's essentially the same as all versions. A MMOG that focuses, thankfully, on the cleverly-crafted gameplay rather than upgrades. You control a small vehicle, with its own exclusive shots, which you fire at the opposing team. It's turn-based, like Worms, and has that slight tactical edge that recently endeared Classic to dozens of Metanetters.
4: Trackmania Nations
VROOM! A simply amazing freeware racing game. Both single and multiplayer modes are very playable, and there's a map and car editor too. The cars handle superbly, as you'd expect them to in any modern racing game, and the tracks are F1 on drugs. Loop-the-loops and colossal jumps are two-a-penny, making this surely the most thrilling pure racing game ever created. The only problem is that the novelty of the amazing tracks you can tackle does begin to wear off, if you're impatient like me.
Trench Wars, the game's primary server, is like and IRC server full of different games, and really, that is why I love it. The first piece of freeware that got me hooked, there really is no end to the possibilities that its simplicity presents. The premise is simple: You're a 2D spaceship. Continuum grabs this idea by the throat and creates Capture the Flag, Dodgeball, Base Wars, Hockey, Zombies, and multitudes more - all found in Trench Wars, at certain times. This would be perfect, but of course you can't just walk into any channel and start a game. Moderators host the obscure ones, and they can activate the game, attracting dozens of people. Definitely worth a look.
You can see my previous entry for a full review, but to sum up, Soldat is an immensely fun multiplayer shooter, with lots of gameplay options.
N looks like a fairly decent flash game, but plays like... well, like you're a ninja. The creators have said that the game is based on how fun the character is to control, and it succeeds like no other game I've played. The physics are perfect too, and the only bugs are ones which can be easily avoided by changing the level, and the others don't detract from the gameplay. Not only is this my favourite freeware game, but it's my favourite game ever. There are 500 levels in columns to start you off, but the lastability in this game tends to come from NUMA and the community's frequent map packs. The level creator too is fun, but I myself am not an avid mapmaker. This game is definitely worth the small download, and should keep you busy for weeks, if not months!
Truly amazing stuff.