Best Netbook Games: Great Games that will Run on a Netbook
Gaming isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think about netbooks, and it's true that they weren't built for that purpose. The hardware typically consists of a more or less lethargic Atom N270 CPU coupled with an integrated Intel GMA950--a "Graphics Media Accelerator" that wasn't good for gaming even a few years ago. On the other hand, notebooks of this type are small, versatile and closer relatives of handheld devices than of mainstream laptops. It's the perfect device to carry around, and moreover it is easy to find some very cheap mini laptops nowadays thanks to the heavy competition.
But it is possible to play great, high-quality games on a netbook. You just have to backtrack a little to find games that don't require a massive amount of graphics and CPU power to play, and you don't even have to go that far back. Remember five years ago when a mainstream laptop cost at least $1,000 and came with a Pentium M processor, 512MBs of RAM and a 30GB hard drive? Compared to those laptops, your netbook suddenly looks like a high performance gaming rig.
So I've rounded up a number of older, but still excellent games that stands the test of time and beats any browser-based time waster by leaps and bounds. I have tried most of them and they run fine (or are at the very least playable) on my MSI Wind U100. The MSI Wind has all the standard netbook entrails including the usual Atom/GMA combination. In other words, these games should be playable on most netbooks (no guarantees though).
GTA: Vice City
The Grand Theft Auto series has hardly escaped anyone's attention--it is well known for both its upstanding moral standard and original gameplay. Surprisingly, Vice City (the 80s one) runs silky smooth on netbook hardware. Even better than GTA 3.
If you can get past the linguistic slip-up in the name, Deus Ex is an excellent game from the year 2000 that will run fluidly on your netbook. It's a combination of first-person shooter and RPG, set in a near future where nanotechnology can be used to augment human abilities. The game has a really immersive atmosphere, interesting plot, and looks great considering its age.
Both the first and second part of Diablo became instant classics and have been shamelessly imitated countless times. Both will run just fine on low-spec hardware, but Diablo 2 is clearly more modern and better-looking.
All the classic Quake games up to the third installment (including Arena) should run on netbooks. To get Quake 3 to run properly, however, you'll have to dive into the game directory and edit the ini file to allow for the non-standard 1024x600 widescreen resolution.
Freelancer is a "space trading and combat simulation" game, quite similar to Elite--the old space classic for the Amiga. Being a 2003 game, Freelancer is obviously a bit more advanced as far as graphics go, but it runs well enough on a netbook.
Command & Conquer
All of the C&C real-time strategy games up to and including "Tiberian Sun" work fine on the slowest old laptop you can dig up, so naturally it runs on a netbook. These games are starting to show some age, but are still great, trendsetting RTS games.
Baldur's Gate II
All of the RPGs using BioWare's Infinity game engine are playable, including BG 1&2 + expansions, Icewind Dale 1&2, and Planescape: Torment--all of which are fantastic RPGs. If you are planning to play them all, set aside a few hundred hours for "quality game time".
Thief: The Dark Project
Thief is the first 3D sneak-em-up--a truly original game with an adrenaline-packed gothic atmosphere. As you have probably guessed, it involves stealing stuff and preferably without getting caught, so there's a lot of skulking in the shadows (after all, it's about a Dark Project). If you didn't play it back in the day, there's no excuse not to pick it up now and play on your netbook.
Most point-and-click adventure games put little stress on your system, and Grim Fandango is one of the classics. It's made by LucasArts - the masters of the genre - and is set in the land of the dead. Like so many other games of its kind, Grim Fandango will keep you vexed for hours until you figure out all of its illogical puzzles. Some are really into this kind of masochistic stuff though.
Don't bother trying to get Fallout 3 to run on your netbook, but the predecessors are 2D and run just fine. Both of them are excellent games and contain much of the same elements as their sequel; a post-nuclear setting with lots of mutants, deathclaws and radscorpions. Also, Fallout 2 is most likely one of the best games ever, so play it now or play it again on your netbook.
Bonus Tip: Emulators
Most if not all emulators should also run flawlessly on any netbook and provide a treasure trove of old classics for your enjoyment. Play all those old NES and SNES games that you never got around to back in the day