It’s a great time to expand your horizons and play more video games. GOG—the platform formerly known as Good Ol’ Games—and indie game store Itch.io are both running “stay at home” promotions, giving away dozens of games for free as part of larger sales on their platforms. GOG’s free games are a special promotion as part of its current “Spring Sale,” while Itch.io’s free and discounted games are a response to the current need to stay inside.
The two collections combine to offer more than 50 free games, creating a huge library of new games to try while you’re hanging out at home and adding to an already-solid list of free games to pick up this week. GOG’s games will be available through March 30. Itch hasn’t set an end date for its sale, but given its purpose, I imagine it may be around for a while, as well.
As with Steam, you’ll need to create an account to “purchase,” download and play these games. If you’re new to either platform, it’s easy to create an account. On GOG, simply go to the “Sign Up” button, press “create an account,” and follow the instructions. On Itch.io, press the button that says “Register,” then do the same. Both platforms allow you to download games directly without downloading a launcher app, though I think GOG’s utility, GOG Galaxy, is pretty handy.
So… 50 games, huh? That’s a pretty daunting number. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some recommendations based on the few that I’ve played or have otherwise heard about.
A collectible card game in the same vein as Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone, Gwent was originally created as a sidegame for The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt, and was so popular that it got spun off into its own game. The complex, deeply strategic game has a steep learning curve, but it’s great to play online against strangers or, better yet, with a cooped-up friend.
It’s also worth pointing out that The Witcher III, which is an excellent RPG, is 70 per cent off through GOG right now. Toss a coin, you know?
Beneath a Steel Sky (GOG)
Beneath a Steel Sky, a 1994 point-and-click adventure game, is exactly the kind of experience I’d expect to find on Good Ol’ Games. It may not be as well known as King’s Quest or Monkey Island, but it is definitely a part of the larger point-and-click adventure game canon. If you’re an aspiring video game historian—or love mind-bending puzzles—it’s worth checking out.
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (GOG)
Another retro classic that’s well-represented on GOG’s free games list is one of the seminal PC role-playing game franchises. Ultima IV. As I understand it, this title is well-known because it isn’t about fighting bad guys—though you do plenty of that—but about being a good guy. The goal is to become an “avatar of virtue,” so you need to be humble, charitable, and in all ways the best version of a medieval hero. It was an incredible twist at the time, and honestly still sounds novel today.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine (Itch.io)
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is an interactive narrative experience about storytelling. Set during the Great Depression, you control a hitchhiker who travels the country collecting memories by talking to people and sharing in their experiences. The well-written and performed dialogue is a huge component, so it isn’t the most exciting time, but it is engrossing all the same.
Find your wand. Solve puzzles. Save bunnies. Sounds like a good time to me. While I can’t say it’s the most innovative or original, I think Witchway looks really nice and offers a light, quick puzzle-solving that can do wonders for a stressed-out mind. Plus…did I mention there are bunnies?
Soko Loko (Itch.io)
I don’t know why, but playing with trains seems like the ultimate pastime for people who are trapped inside, possibly alone, possibly in a basement or attic. While there are plenty of highly detailed train simulators that enthusiasts may prefer, Soko Loko is a simple railroad-building game that looks and feels like playing with trains. Which resonates more with me, personally.
(One note for Mac players: Unfortunately, the macOS version of Soko Loko has not been updated for macOS Catalina, so it won’t work on up-to-date machines.)
If you try any of these games and find something that you like, let everybody know! We have plenty of time, so let’s get in there and find the good stuff together.