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Top 10 Linux games for the holidays



Tux Racer

Able to reach speeds in excess of 160 kilometers per hour, Tux the Linux mascot takes center stage in this open source downhill-skiing simulation. From its humble beginnings as a cute college project, Tux Racer has become a commercial-quality title with its use of excellent 3D graphics, weather effects, and fast-paced play. The latest version also features a cup mode -- in which you collect herring and set lap times to advance to the next track -- and a number of sleek menus that'll have you tearing up the slopes in no time.

Tux Racer is available for free here and is suitable for all ages.

Soldier of Fortune

Without a doubt, Soldier of Fortune is the goriest first-person shooter I have played on Linux. Featuring a modified Quake II engine, Soldier of Fortune's main attraction is its devastating location-based damage model, which allows for some extremely graphic visuals -- including flying limbs, gruesome head shots, exposed bones, and painful nether-region wounds. A selection of common FPS weaponry is available to disembowel underworld scum in a number of vaguely linked levels; the game follows a story line that could have come from a Hollywood action movie.

Soldier of Fortune is available for purchase here and here for about $46. Even with its gore-lockout feature, Soldier of Fortune's ESRB 17+ rating is well deserved; the game is not suitable for children. INFOCENTER
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Sim City 3000: Unlimited

I'm sure everyone with a computer has heard of Sim City, the excellent city simulation. As mayor of your own metropolis, you must build roads, balance the yearly budget, plan city additions, and provide power and water services for the virtual residents, known as sims. If the sims are upset or don't think you're doing your job properly, they'll let you know by complaining like hell or moving to another city.

SC3U -- the latest in the Sim City series -- ships with a building editor, terrain and climate options, and a modern, streamlined interface that fits perfectly into the isometric game view. SC3U's low system requirements deliver a visually attractive game that provides hours of entertainment, even on low-end hardware.

SC3U is available for purchase here and here for about $46.

TORCS (The Open Racing Car Simulator)

TORCS is a car simulation that includes open-road NASCAR racing and off-road buggy/car racing. Features include a full 3D environment, lots of cars, and a huge number of dirt and road tracks to master. TORCS is still under heavy development and requires a joystick. (Keyboard support is not currently available.) I look forward to this project's continued development; it has the potential to be an excellent game for Linux.

TORCS is free and is available here.


Pingus is a clone of the popular Lemmings game. The concept of Pingus is simple: save as many Tux-like pingus as possible. You'll have to make the pingus climb, dig, parachute, and block toward the exit in your quest for pingu salvation. Pingus has tons of worlds with jungle, space, and Christmas themes, detailed backdrops, and tons of animated cuteness; it is another quality open source title that has won a permanent spot on my Linux box.

Pingus is available for free here, and is suitable for all ages.

Heavy Gear II

Heavy Gear II is a strategic, team-based simulation in which players pilot a mech-style combat vehicle called a Gear. You command the highly specialized Black Talons, an elite group of Gears formed to investigate enemy forces. HG2 has a long, plot-driven campaign mode that will keep you immersed in the fantasy story line as you fight your way through marshy swamps, snow-capped polar regions, and even outer space. The tactical gameplay rewards those who can work well in a team and plan their attacks. Success comes from brains, not brawn.

HG2 is available for purchase here and here for about $29.


Icebreaker is similar to the Windows game Jezzball. The story begins with a group of penguins stuck on an iceberg in Antarctica. You must catch the penguins so they can be shipped to Finland, supposedly for world domination. Your goal is to trap them in the smallest space possible (to cut back on shipping fees) by making vertical and horizontal "cuts" on the iceberg. Once you have captured all of the penguins and cleared at least 80 percent of the iceberg, you move to the next level, where another penguin is added.

Icebreaker is quite popular in my household; the idea is very simple, but it's extremely addictive and fun. Icebreaker is available for free here.


Pysol is a collection of solitaire card games written in the Python programming language. It includes over 300 games with playing instructions, downloadable card sets, background music, and a help function. New games are added to Pysol regularly, making the huge compilation a must-have for solitaire fans. Competing titles like Eric's Ultimate Solitaire simply don't compare to Pysol's game library, tidy visuals, and soothing background music.

Pysol is free and available here.

Tuxedo T. Penguin: A Quest for Herring

Tux:AQFH is akin to console adventure games like Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and Spiro the Dragon. Tux takes center stage again as the game's hero. The graphics are cute, the levels are fun, and the easy controls and many scenic levels will appeal to kids. The 3D point of view, fantasy theme, and bold visuals sufficiently emulate the gameplay and cartoon-style graphics seen in console adventure games. Future development will focus on creating puzzles and adventures to popularize this open source title.

Tuxedo T. Penguin: A Quest for Herring is available for free here.


Freeciv is a civilization clone that combines features from the popular DOS/Windows titles Civilization and Civilization II. Freeciv uses the top-down interface that is characteristic of Civilization, and incorporates rules and wonders very much like Civilization II's. Freeciv also takes full advantage of a client-server architecture that makes multiplayer games extremely simple to set up.

Freeciv is a well-known project and deserves all of the attention it has received. The top-down graphics seem a bit outdated, but the nostalgic feeling I got (I was an avid fan of the original Civilization) was priceless.

Freeciv is available for free here.

Review: The lowdown on Descent 3 for Linux
September 13, 2000
Sim City 3000: Unlimited now available for Linux
July 19, 2000
Review: Alpha Centauri for Linux
August 24, 2000
Linux: It's not just for geeks anymore
September 18, 2000
Applications top Linux wish list
August 18, 2000

The Macworld 2000 game hall of fame
Online access to European games
Top 15 most anticipated games of 2001
(The Industry Standard)
Motorola to offer Sega games on mobile phones
Lunix Discussion Forums
Linux: Ready for prime time?


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