When you’re on a budget and looking for a new game to play, where do you turn? Although there are a lot of free games available through various sources, there are also video games available in the public domain. 

The internet is a vast treasure trove of free and open-source games that will keep you entertained four hours without spending a dime. You just have to know where to look.

What Is Public Domain?

The term “public domain” refers to a property that is not protected by copyright or trademark laws. It’s actually quite rare for a video game to fall into this category. In order for a game to become public domain, its copyright has to expire, be declared public domain by the owners, or fall into public domain through some other circumstances. 

What public domain really means is that a work of art, whether movie, book, or game, are not protected by intellectual property laws. In actual use, many games are referred to as public domain if they fall under the freeware or open-source umbrella, which means the code used to design them is available without charge. 

The 6 Best Public Domain Video Games to Play Free Now

These are some of the best games you can play for free right now. If you’re tired of spending $60 (or $70 for next-gen titles), try some of these titles out.

1. 0 A.D.

0 A.D. is a real-time strategy/simulation game reminiscent of Civilization or Age of Empires. It has everything you would expect from a game of this style, including tech trees, base building, and more. You can choose to play as one of twelve different tribes, working your way through 500 years up to the year 0 A.D.

The resemblance of Age of Empires isn’t coincidental, either. The game originally began as a full overhaul mod for Age of Empires II back in 2001, before it made the shift into a full-fledged game. 

2. Endless Sky

Endless Sky is a space management simulator that places you in the role of a pilot with your own starship. You start with a small, underpowered vessel and build your way to bigger and better things by transporting cargo, ferrying passengers, and even fighting pirates. 

You can even search for alien cultures different from your own. Endless Sky is a game reminiscent of modern titles like Elite Dangerous and the classic Escape Velocity series. If you’re looking for something slower-paced with a lot of strategy and thought involved, it’s worth a look. 

3. Minetest

You’ve heard of Minecraft, so now get ready for Minetest–an open-source voxel game engine. If Minecraft is too expensive for you at the moment, Minetest offers a great alternative that allows you to play versions of the game you’ve come to expect: survival, creative, battle, and more. 

All you have to do is connect to a Minetest server or download the version of the game you want. The maps are massive, with maximum sizes of 62,000 x 62,000 x 62,000. There’s a huge collection of mods and an active community to play along with. 

It looks just like Minecraft, too. There’s next to no difference in appearance, and anyone that craves Minecraft but wants something just a little bit different will thoroughly enjoy their experience with Minetest. 

4. Xonotic

While many open-source games are slower in nature, Xonotic is exactly the opposite. This is a frenetic, fast-paced arena-style shooter that offers a huge range of weapons and fast movement mechanics. 

You can play the game modes you know and love, including Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination, and many more. The game includes 25 official maps, as well as dozens of community made maps and even maps converted from classic shooters like Quake 3. 

Xonotic sets itself apart from other shooters with its customizable HUD. Display all the information you want on screen or take away anything you find distracting. It’s up to you–and you can track how well your performance improves through the integrated player statistics.

Xonotic strikes a balance between casual and competitive, providing gamers with a game that’s simple to pick up and play, but presents quite the challenge for someone who wants to master it. 

5. Super TuxKart

Few games capture the imagination and while the hours away quite like arcade racers. Super TuxKart is a bit like a Mario Kart clone, but with its own colorful cast of characters and a vast array of weapons. That said, the game sets itself apart from Mario Kart in many ways.

You can take on a story mode that faces you off against the evil Nolok, but you can also race by yourself against computer players, compete in Grand Prix cups, and test yourself in Time Trials. The 21 different levels include interactive elements that throw obstacles in your path, shortcuts to give you an edge on the competition, and more.

There are also mods you can download if you want to change the gameplay, but not all mods will be supported in online play against other people. If you need a fun, lighthearted game that will keep you entertained for a while, give Super TuxKart a try.

6. OpenTTD

City builders are one of the most popular genres on the market. OpenTTD is a throwback to a classic simulation/city builder called Transport Tycoon Deluxe, released way back in 1994. While the game definitely has a retro look and feel to it, the gameplay itself is anything but retro.

OpenTTD improves upon the engine of the first game and provides players with maps up to 64 times larger than the original game, as well as multiplayer for up to 255 players. There are dedicated servers, keyboard shortcuts, and much more. 

If simulation and management games are your preferred way to kill a few hours, give OpenTTD a try. It’s like playing a classic of the genre, except modernized for 2021. 

These six games offer hours of fun and entertainment for free, and you can run them on nearly any machine. If you’re looking for something new without spending any money, give these titles a try.