5 Open Source First-Person Shooter Video Games

Teenager playing video games at home
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Free and open source software is many things. Sometimes it helps you find your place in the universe, and sometimes it helps you hide where you are. Sometimes it gives you a new hobby, and sometimes it helps an old one. And sometimes ... it's just for fun. 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.

The FPS genre is not for everybody. First made commercially popular by the 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 with. And when I say lots and lots, I mean it! In FPS games, the viewpoint is focused on the barrel of the player's gun ... or sometimes its crosshairs ... or sometimes its blade, as is the case with non-projectile weapons. The second the player enters the FPS world, the weapons fly and the carnage ensues.

Although the basic premise has stayed 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 to highly detailed and, in some cases, photorealistic.

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 cost 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.

Now, onto the games!

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Alien Arena

Alien Arena Screenshot
All your souls belong to me!. Image © 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.

Download Alien Arena from the official website.

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Red Eclipse

A screenshot from the video game Red Eclipse.
You've been punched by a Grunt!. Image © Dave Rankin

On the surface, Red Eclipse is a fairly textbook FPS -- weapons, enemies, fight! -- 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.

Download Red Eclipse from the official website.

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A screenshot from the game Sauerbraten.
You wasted another life!. Image © 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. And by playing Sauerbraten's 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.

Download Sauerbraten from the official website.

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A screenshot from the Unvanquished video game.
You've been chomped by a Dragoon!. Image © 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 -- if not 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.

Download Unvanquished from the official website.

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A screenshot of the game Xonotic.
You were fragged!. Image © Dave Rankin

Xonotic is all about the multiplayer experience, but you can practice offline against bots before moving the battle online. Xonotic's gameplay is fast-paced and takes place in space-themed arenas where players use futuristic weapons to hunt each other down. The community -- both development 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.

Download Xonotic from the official website.