5 Open Source First-Person Shooter Video Games

Man wearing glasses playing a video game on his PC in a dark room

Yuri_Arcurs/DigitalVision

If you're looking to blow off some steam or kill a few hours, these free and open source first-person shooter (FPS) video games for Linux, Microsoft Windows, and OS X may be just what you need.

FPS video games

The FPS genre is not for everybody. First made commercially popular by the classic video games "Wolfenstein 3D" in 1992 and "Doom" in 1993, the basic FPS plot puts the player in a 3D world filled with enemies (aliens, monsters, soldiers, etc.) and lots and lots of weapons to fight those enemies. In FPS games, the viewpoint is usually focused on the barrel of the player's gun, though it can also focus on a weapon's targeting crosshairs, or it's blade, as is the case with non-projectile weapons.

Although the basic gameplay has remained the same, FPS games have come a long way since the early 90s. As home networks became more popular and connections to the internet got faster, FPS game developers incorporated the new connectedness into their software. Instead of simply playing against pre-programmed enemies, these days players connect to local and remote servers to battle against or with other people throughout the world.

And, as hardware has gotten cheaper and faster over the years, the FPS worlds have evolved from blocky and rough representations to highly detailed and even photorealistic worlds.

If you've never played an FPS, but you think it sounds like something you could get into, these free and open source games are a great way to start. None of the games costs any money, but they give you the full FPS experience. And, if you're already a fan of the genre, you'll enjoy exploring and battling in these new worlds.

Screenshot of Alien Arena gameplay

Dave Rankin

With its retro sci-fi look and campy one-liners, "Alien Arena" seems to take the FPS genre seriously without taking itself too seriously. Connect with players on your local network or with players around the globe in this alien showdown. Or, if going it solo is more your thing, the single-player mode lets you play offline against a world full of alien bots.

A screenshot from the video game Red Eclipse.

Dave Rankin

On the surface "Red Eclipse" is a fairly textbook FPS, but its parkour-style physics allow players to perform unusual acrobatics, and its mode/mutator system offers an unusually wide range of gameplay. Battles take place with other people on your local network or across the internet, while single play happens in the offline practice mode.

A screenshot from the game Sauerbraten.

Dave Rankin

Private Stan Sauer has a problem. Somehow, he's ended up in an industrial complex where he's being attacked by orcs and ogres with big guns. By playing "Sauerbraten" in single-player campaign mode, Stan Sauer's problems become yours. If it all sounds like too much for one person, this game also lets you connect with local and remote players for traditional multiplayer FPS fun.

A screenshot from the Unvanquished video game.

Dave Rankin

In this humans-versus-alien-insects FPS game, players are asked to choose sides and then fight against the opposing team. One particularly fun aspect of "Unvanquished" is that as an insect, players can crawl on the walls and ceilings, adding a new, though perhaps somewhat disorienting, take on game physics. "Unvanquished" doesn't have a single player campaign mode, but you can always create a local server or connect to one of the many internet-based ones to play with people all over the world.

A screenshot of the game Xonotic.

Dave Rankin

"Xonotic" is all about the multiplayer experience, but you can practice offline against bots before moving the battle online. Gameplay is fast-paced and takes place in space-themed arenas where players use futuristic weapons to hunt each other down. The community, both developer and player, around this game is large, and entering it makes you really feel like you've become a part of something bigger than just a video game.