Games

10 Fun Free and Open Source ASCII Games

Modern Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) offer exceptional gaming capabilities, and have contributed to the trend of astonishing leaps in graphics fidelity. There is not a year that has gone by without a game being released that makes significant advances in technical graphics wizardry. Computer graphics have been advancing at a staggering pace. At the current rate of progress, in the next 10 years it may not be possible to distinguish computer graphics from reality.

Personally, these developments do not overly interest me. I find little fascination playing games that focus so much on the visuals they neglect the essential elements. Too often the storyline and game play has been compromised for visual quality. Most of my favourite games are somewhat deficient in the graphics department. Gameplay is always king in my eyes.

Linux has an excellent library of free games many of which are released under an open source license. The vast majority of these games are aesthetically pleasing. Popular games often have full motion video, vector graphics, 3D graphics, realistic 3D rendering, animation, texturing, a physics engine, and much more. Early computer games did not have these graphic techniques. The earliest video games were text games or text-based games that used text characters rather than vector or bitmapped graphics.

Text-based games often receive little coverage in the Linux press. However, there are some real ASCII gems out there waiting to be explored which are immensely addictive and great fun to play.

The idiom ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ can be extended to ‘don’t judge a computer game by its graphics’. Whilst the games featured in this article have extremely basic graphics, they have many redeeming qualities beyond evoking fond memories of the early days of computer gaming.

There are no fancy graphics here, just great gameplay coupled with the urge of always having just one more play.

Text-Based Games
ASCIIpOrtalLike portal, but in ASCII. And 2D.
BrogueDirect descendant of Rogue, a dungeon crawling video game
Cataclysm: DDAPost-apocalyptic roguelike, set in the countryside of fictional New England
Curse of War Fast-paced action strategy game
Goblin HackInspired by the likes of NetHack, but faster with fewer keys
IntricacyGame of competitive puzzle-design
Piu-piuRetro horizontal scroller ‘Shoot Them All’ game
UnNetHackAdds a number of enhancements to NetHack
VMS EmpireSimulation of a full-scale war between two emperors, the computer and you
XorCursesBased on Xor, this is a puzzle game set inside a series of mazes

Note: The games are listed in alphabetical order.

Eligibility criteria

TickFree to download. The project must be available to download without charge but the authors may accept donations.

TickPublished under an open source license. Popular open source licenses for games include MIT License, GNU General Public License, and BSD License.

TickNot in an early stage of development. The game must be in a stage of development where it’s playable but not necessarily complete.

TickDoes not rely exclusively on data from proprietary software. The game must not require purchasing or owning proprietary data from a different project.

TickGame media (such as graphics/sound) is released under an open source license or a Creative Commons license.


Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk. There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
Open Source Games
2D Shooter Games2D Shooter: Part 1, Part 2 - They are a subgenre of shooter game, which in turn is a type of action game. It’s difficult to exactly define which specific design elements make up a shooter game.
Adventure GamesAction-Adventure - They combine core elements from both the action game and adventure game genres. Expect both your reflexes and problem-solving skills to be tested.
Arcade GamesArcade is a video game genre with a focus on gameplay rather than story or content. They reached their peak in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Board GamesBoard - This genre of game is a device of social interaction, they challenge the mind and, most importantly, they are great fun to play.
Card GamesCard - They offer many positive attributes. They can improve mental skills, memory and logic. They can test your patience, help you focus, and are popular for all ages.
Chess

Chess: Apps, Chess Engines, Online Chess Clients - Chess is a recreational and competitive board game played between two players. It is a very popular game, played by millions across the world, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.
Educational GamesEducational - These games designed to teach people, typically children, about a certain subject or help them learn a skill as they play. They are sometimes known as games edutainment because they combine education and entertainment.
First-Person Shooter GamesFirst-Person Shooter: Part 1, Part 2 - This is a computer game genre focused on guns and other weapon-based fighting using a first-person perspective. Fast and furious gameplay guaranteed.
Platform GamesPlatform: Part 1, Part 2 - Subgenre of action games in which the core objective is to move the player character between points in a rendered environment. They are also known as jump 'n' run games.
Puzzle GamesPuzzle - They make up a broad genre of games that emphasize puzzle solving. The types of puzzles can test problem-solving skills, including logic, pattern recognition, sequence solving, spatial recognition, and word completion.
Racing GamesRacing - This is a video game genre in which the player participates in a racing competition. The most common types of sub-genres are arcade-style, simulation, futuristic and kart.
Real-Time Strategy GamesReal-Time Strategy - A time-based game which typically focuses on finding resources, managing resources, and building an empire. You can engage other players and make alliances, and find different ways to conquer foes.
Rhythm GamesRhythm - Music-themed action video game that challenges a player's sense of rhythm. Games in the genre typically focus on dance or the simulated performance of musical instruments.
RoguelikeRoguelike - A subgenre of role-playing games characterized by a dungeon crawl through procedurally generated levels, turn-based gameplay, grid-based movement, and permanent death of the player character.
Role-Play GamesRole-Play: Part 1, Part 2- Players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. There are several forms of role-playing games.
Sandbox GamesSandbox - This genre provides the player a great degree of creativity to interact with, usually without any predetermined goal, or alternatively with a goal that the player sets for themselves.
Simulation GamesSimulation - A simulation video game describes a diverse category of video games, generally designed to closely simulate real world activities. These games do not necessarily offer entertainment, at least not primarily.
Sports GamesSports is a video game genre that simulates the practice of sports such as football, golf, pool. and more.
ASCII GamesText Based: Part 1, Part 2 - These games often receive little coverage in the Linux press. However, there are some real ASCII gems out there waiting to be explored which are immensely addictive and great fun to play.
Turn-Based Strategy GamesTurn-Based Strategy - We examine games that require intelligence, and the ability to come up with an innovative plan that will leave the competition mesmerized. Players take turns when playing, strategically seeking to outsmart the enemy.
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