An incomplete list of high quality Open Source games

It is often mentioned that many games are not available on Linux. While several big titles are indeed missing such Linux ports, the Open Source community itself produced some impressive titles. Here is a short list together with some promo videos.

Most of the Linux Distributions out there are shipped with the set of games included in GNOME or KDE. These games are nice for short breaks, but not comparable with big, hour consuming games sold by the big publishers. However, the Open Source community stepped up there to deliver its own products, and many of them are not only interesting, but simply impressive. Also, there is a game for almost every taste available.

First of all the games where I also found a promo video:
The first person shooter Nexuiz speaks for itself:

The same is true for the first person shooter Tremulous:

In case you loved the UFO-XCOM series, you will find yourself at home at UFO: Alien Invasion:

Glest, a real time strategy game with wizards, trolls and the like:

In case you love classical Jump’n’Run games, Secret Maryo Chronicles is the way to go:

Next a set of games which might be a bit calmer (and don’t have a promo video), but are nevertheless exciting:

  • Freeciv is the game of choice for everyone who loves to crush and rebuild entire civilizations.
  • Wormux is – as the name suggests – a Worms clone.
  • FlightGear gives you a fuzzy feeling if you love to fly from one airport to another with different types of machines.

All of these entries above have three things in common: they are all actively developed by a healthy community, they are all very appealing and have high quality graphics, and they are all comparable to the proprietary competitors of the corresponding game type. Some of them are better, some of them are as good as, some of them fall a bit behind – but not much. And they definitely meet the requirements of the occasional player and are a way to spend hours and hours.

Of course I’m well aware that there are many more Free Software games – but I’ve kept my focus on the games which at least released one full working (feature complete, playable) version and are in active development. And of course I only listed games I know of. Although I think I covered all the shooting stars of the Free Software games genre I am open to any other suggestion!

But while these games are great, the Open Source community sometimes fails to advertise them. For example, many of these games are included in the distributions – but did you ever see a Linux distribution review featuring the included games? It should be included in the release notes and reviews that a Linux distribution most often is not only a nice set of Office software but also comes along with a rich set of high quality games.

Fedora for example has a dedicated project for games, the Fedora Special Interest Group Games which helped to bring many games to Fedora. Except Secret Maryo Chronicles all games above are available on Fedora and just a click away. It takes more than 1 GB to install all these games – but that is definitely worth the space. And if you like them: promote them!

There is btw. only one genre which I personally miss badly: MMORPG. Of course there are projects dealing with it, but none of them has released a full, stable version yet. But that might be not too bad for my person because I still have to finish and hand in my final thesis these days, and a free MMORPG would give me quite some time problems.


38 thoughts on “An incomplete list of high quality Open Source games”

  1. I miss one game I currently play quite a lot: OpenTTD.
    It is the open source version of Transport Tycoon Deluxe, and despite the fact that it has no fance 3D graphics, it is fun to play.
    Additionally, it also runs on somewhat older machines.

  2. wow, you didn’t list wesnoth? it has the most beautiful 2d graphics i have ever seen in a game. and it’s developed in a huge community of 2d graphic geeks (just checkout their forums, it’s fun to watch them creating new sprites)

  3. Tom, I thought about OpenTTD, but I wanted to concentrate on fancy graphics here.
    And in case of Wesnoth, I wasn’t sure and in the end I left it out. I didn’t say it was an easy decision or a very good one, it was simply a decision.

  4. There are indeed a number of very fun games available on Linux but I think you’re being a bit too enthusiastic when you say: “have high quality graphics”. The most important aspect of a game is the gameplay of course, but the graphics in the games mentioned are of yesteryear. Freeciv for example is graphicly on par with Civilization 2, and although they’re improving it, development is very slow. No problem for me (I’ve started playing Command and Conquer again), but not what the average gamer expects when he or she hears “high quality graphics”.
    Another game to add to the list (Wesnoth and OpenTTD are indeed great, I play the latter quite a lot, can’t wait for the 32 bits graphics), is Warzone2100 (, another RTS under actove development.

  5. For a long time I’ve been addicted to armagetronad. The best is to play arma on Sumo or Fortress servers (maybe after some training in single mode).
    Also in this game it’s impossible to cheat, while in many fps games if you play good sooner or later someone will tell you “sure!” or “hax” etc…

    The problem with arma is principally that is not very good looking. The textures and the menu make it look like something from the 80s-90s.
    However if I don’t remember wrong source forge stats show that the game has like 250 downloads everyday.

  6. sure, tremulous and nexuiz have a nice shiny look. tremulous is also really original. but when it comes to actual playability, I don’t think you can beat Open Arena 😉

    Also glest, planeshift and wesnoth seem real cool. Thanks to those who posted them.


    There are indeed a number of very fun games available on Linux but I think you’re being a bit too enthusiastic when you say: “have high quality graphics”. The most important aspect of a game is the gameplay of course, but the graphics in the games mentioned are of yesteryear.

    No, you don’t get it. Around here, when we say “high quality graphics” we mean “whoa, now _this_ will switch me over from KAsteroids”.

  7. Henk, I do know Warzone2100, but didn’t include it due to the graphics engine used. hey are working at it, but atm it looks too old for my taste. And yes, FreeCiv was difficult due to the graphics, but I don’t think that Nexuiz or Tremulous have “yesterday” graphics.

    About PlaneShift: that one isn’t ready yet – and it is not Open Source, only the engine is. I’m looking forward to the final version, but nevertheless this list focused on Open Source Software.

    Rahul, thanks for the comment. Sad to see that SMC won’t make it in the close future, but I have to live with that I’m afraid 😉

    Thomas, I know of Spring, but never tried it myself since in former times a specific game was needed. Today this is not needed anymore, but the project page says it is still in Beta.

  8. What about Scorched earth 3D? It has great graphic, and great playability.

    Very nice are also, SuperTux, frozenBubble, Metal blob solid, Torcs, racer, maniadrive.

  9. MaBu, I didn’t include Scorched Earth 3D because I never played it – but looking at their web page I might give it a try soon 🙂
    The others are also nice, but games like Frozen Bubble are “small” games like the ones shipped with KDE and GNOME. The focus was more on the “big ones”. I did however thought about including SuperTux, but while the game is very, very nice and while I did spent quite some time there the number of levels is still quite low and you can play through it rather quickly.

    Xian, thx for the link to Globulation, didn’t knew that one.

    Dread Knight, I must admit that I didn’t include warsow and open arena on purpose: I wanted to limit it to two games of that genre. But I never ever heard of Teewars! I should check that as well 🙂

    xdmx: Savage wasn’t included because the focus here is on Open Source games, and afaik Savage isn’t Open Source. It looks very appealing, though 🙂

  10. WHAT?? No nethack? 😦

    Apart from that, what is the current status of Glest actually. It seemed dead for a long time, then I heard they were working on a new version, only to get silent again. Then again, the inferior real life has stood between me and gaming of late.

  11. I’m not sure about the data (models, textures) legal state. And the source code is under a *noncommercial* license. But, Freespace 2!!!!!!!!!
    The source code was released in 2002. The engine has been improved and there are new/improved textures and models and a lot of MODs!!! You can play the original Freespace with the Freespace2 engine, Freespace2 and…
    – Pilot a Starfury to fight against the shadows in the Babylon5 MOD
    – Destroy those evil cylons in the Battlestar Galactica 2003 MOD
    – etc.

  12. Lorenzo, Yes, nethack is missing. Fully on purpose! Because it was about high quality in the sense of “look at this cool graphics”.

    @me, thanks for the hint to Beyond The Red Line. It is out of question for this list however since it is only available as a demo right now. My focus was on games which have a large amount of levels (or a multiplayer anyway).

    Clif, thx 🙂

  13. This looks interesting, We want East Frort II, Diablo II, Dungeon Siege? My biggest complaint is that a 486 with Quake, Duke Nukem 3D or even Doom, was much more earth shattering as NEW, compared to NEW right now, it’s incrementally better, but not when you consider the leaps in hardware performance? Am I alone in thinking this, something new and as shocking as Doom on a 386?

  14. Scorched 3D is a whole lot of fun – my favourite weapon is the Volcano.

    Nexuiz 2.4 has just been released, and if you’ve got a powerful enough machine you can have a ball. I’ve been giving the Australian multiplayer server a right workout on the Rune gametype 🙂 With the rocket launcher, you can detonate your rockets in mid-air with the second trigger. It’s going to be difficult to adjust to other FPSes that don’t do this.

    I’m also a fan of proper single-player FPS games, and for this Aleph One has scratched my itch. It’s the open-source Marathon game engine, compatible with the free-as-in-beer Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity levels. It’s about 10 years old, but still enjoyable to work through.

  15. Atomic Tanks: a multi-platform Scorched Earth clone similar to the Worms series of games

    It wouldn’t have made your list based on your criteria, but I want to advertise it anyway because it’s a funny-as-hell 5 minute play which is just too addictive

  16. I certainly rate Wesnoth as one of the best open source games ever, but it is not as new as some of the titles mentioned. I am also impressed with what I’ve seen now from Open Arena, never heard of it but I’m glad I came upon this blog post.

    I might even add a similar post (more of a review perhaps) of certain games to my own soon.

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