Many people believe that a good game requires a large company, hundreds of staff, and an insanely large budget. While most big games have that, a few of the smaller ones skate along with only a few hardcore fans to make them. Often these fan-made projects fall apart due to a lack of funding or the company that owns the IP sending a cease and desist notice. But some make it through. We take a look at some of the best games made by the hardcore fans who loved the originals and felt the world needed more.
Valve’s Half-Life series has a substantial fanbase. Big enough that when the Half-Life remake didn’t satisfy them, fans immediately set about making their own. The game was dubbed Black Mesa which was a reference to the in-game facility that serves as the setting of the original game. Game designers updated the graphics, smoothed out the audio, and even added additional voice acting, music, and effects. The main thing that was left untouched was the gameplay. Despite looking like a new release of today, the game still plays as it did originally.
This homage to the original GoldenEye 007 game took 10 years and a dedicated group to see it through. The entire game was rebuilt from the ground up and dragged into the modern day. The sound was cleared up, graphics updated, and all 25 maps and 10 game modes still work with the full arsenal of 28 weapons. The crew even went so far as to leave out crosshairs. That’s right, the original game from the ’90s had nothing to help you aim, so neither does the remade version. Point and hope is the best advice around.
Mushroom Kingdom Fusion
Crossovers are where two franchises join up and set out to blow fans’ minds. Mushroom Kingdom Fusion may be the biggest fan-game-crossover idea ever. The game plays like a Mario game, but players can use Sonic, Link, Waluigi, and more. Whichever character you choose, you can traipse across Minesweeper boards or through Castlevania levels. The makers behind the game even left the engine open source, so if you know what you’re doing, you can easily set up your own levels and characters.
AM2R: Another Metroid 2 Remake
This gem came out just in time for the 30th Anniversary of Metroid. Fans made sure that one of the best video games ever got a long overdue remaster and touch-up. The original graphics were given an HD makeover, gameplay was improved, and new features were added.
Then, in September 2016, Nintendo stepped in with a cease and desist, and the project and all further updates stopped. The game may not have played exactly the same as the original, but it was a fantastic job and all the better for the extra love it received.
Pokémon Uranium is one fan’s attempt to create the best Pokémon game possible. Set in the Tandor Region, Uranium is on par with any of the newest games and boasts a whole new roster of Pokémon. The game was only up for a short time before being taken down in response to Nintendo’s requests. In that short time, Pokémon Uranium racked up somewhere over a million downloads.
Enderal — The Shards of Order
Technically, Enderal is more of a Skyrim mod than a stand-alone game. While it does use the Skyrim engine, assets, and core architecture, the gameplay is radically different and the story completely original. The full game takes longer to complete than Skyrim did and you can easily get over a hundred hours out of it. The story is a cross between Mass Effect and Skyrim. Enderal is something Skyrim fans shouldn’t miss, especially while they eagerly await The Elder Scrolls VI.
A quick warning, Enderal has some hefty system requirements. It is also prone to bugs, so make sure you have a good set-up (and lots of patience) if you want the full experience.
All the games listed above are playable to some extent. That said, there’s one that isn’t quite ready to be formally included on the list but already looks promising.
You might think that Microsoft — owner of Xbox, Windows, and publishers of Halo — would have brought more Halo games to the PC. For whatever reason, they have chosen not to. Enter Installation 01. The fan-made Halo game for PC is being put together by upward of 30 developers around the world.
The progress so far shows some pre-alpha gameplay including pistols, plasma grenades, assault rifles, carbines, and submachine guns in a few different maps. The current plan is to include a single-player campaign, as well as firefight and multiplayer modes. Their latest estimate has the first public release sometime early 2017.
Check out more fan-made games on our list of some of the best unknown Pokémon games.