Computer games can be a great distraction from your daily routine, or a way to sharpen your hand-eye coordination. But if you're on a budget, you won't be able to afford a wide range of games for your different moods, and you may not always have Internet access to play Flash-based games that run in your browser window. There are several sites that do offer free downloads of nearly every game genre, from classic board games to adventure, arcade, and even the text and low-graphics games of your youth. These sites offer abandonware, shareware, freeware and game demos.
If you ever get a nostalgic urge for the games of yesterday, abandonware sites are a great way to reunite with your favorite games. Abandonware is a term meaning the companies that own these games are either long gone or they have released the games into the public domain. Games available for download may also require an emulator program to run, since many of these titles originally ran on Atari, Commodore 64 or MS-DOS. The graphics aren't great, but the memories will make up for it. Abandonia is one of the largest sites for abandonware, and XTCAbandonware is one of the oldest.
If you're interested in the latest PC or Mac games, then look for free demo downloads. Often, a company will release a demonstration version of a new game to drum up business and get the public excited about the latest title. These games are usually limited to just a few levels of play, or are a free trial for a limited time but they can give you a free taste of the full title and let you determine if you want to pay for the full version. Review sites like Gamespot offer several game demos for download, and there are demo-specific sites like GameDemo offering free trials.
Shareware and Freeware
Another great source for free games are the companies and developers themselves; small game companies will release a title for free to gain publicity, and this is known as freeware. Sometimes a writer/developer like Al Lowe will post free downloads of their own older titles as a thank-you to a devoted fan base. These downloads are usually on the company website, although sometimes they can be found on larger general download sites like Tucows or CNet. General software sites also carry shareware games, where you download the game, play it, and contribute something to the game creator. The donation may be pre-set or be an open amount based on how much you enjoyed the game, but the download is always free. The shareware game model isn't as popular as it once was, because the majority of people would download the game and never contribute. Still, freeware and shareware is an excellent way to build a low-cost game library.
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