Playing without the internet

I’m not really a fan of online game distribution and, by that, I essentially mean Steam. I grew to adulthood before the Internet, before Windows, and heck, even before the PC. As a result, I tend to be a little “old school” and prefer to own physical copies of things I purchase. For example, I still buy CDs for music and DVDs for movies. Of course, I still rip them to mp3/mp4 and use them electronically! However, I always have a physical backup if I ever need to restore my digital copy.

It’s getting harder and harder to find games for which you can buy boxed sets and install without access to the internet. With the recent blockbuster release of Sid Meier’s Civilization 6: More of the Same, I decided to compile a list of 4X games that you can still install on your PC and play after the Zombie Apocalypse brings down the internet and we are forced to play huddled next to our PCs, behind barricaded doors and windows.

Why is being “internet free” important for single-player games? Well, maybe it’s not anymore — I could be wrong! Maybe Steam will never declare bankruptcy, get DDOS’d to death, or hacked and install shitware on your PC when you fire up Sid Meier’s Civilization 8: We’re Still Out of Ideas. However, we all know there’s definitely a non-zero chance of any of those things happening. Also, my purchase and play history isn’t packaged into a new dataset for use by whoever wants to sell me stuff. I am willing to and have generally paid a little extra for this old-school feature.

But to me, it’s mostly about truly owning what you purchase and being able to install it on any PC you own without restriction or sell it to whomever you want without restriction. In other words,


For the same reason, I don’t stream content like movies or music. I know digital crack when I see it. You may have surmised that I am a free software advocate (free as in speech, not free as in beer) which is why ROTP is going to be both free and open-sourced when it’s completed. It’s also why there will be a real boxed set available when it’s done for those few remaining souls, like me, who’d prefer to have a hard copy. But mostly I just wanted to post that baby picture.

Games  that  ARE  internet  free:

  • Civilization series: any up to 4  (still great)
  • Master of Orion series: any up to 3
  • Galactic Civilizations: 1
  • Distant Worlds: Universe
  • Polaris  Sector

Upcoming Games to be published by Iceberg Interactive and therefore MAY BE internet free:

  • Stars in Shadow
  • Lord of Rigel

Games that definitely ARE NOT internet free:

  • Civilization 5,  6
  • Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars
  • Galactic Civilizations 2 & 3
  • Stellaris
  • StarDrive 2

Popular Games I’ve never played and don’t know about:

  • Endless Space
  • Endless Legend

Any help with this list, especially 4x games I’ve left off, would be appreciated  🙂

6 thoughts on “Playing without the internet”

  1. I don’t know about yours, but my copy of civ4 has the dreaded SecuROM so you can’t install it on a new computer without internet access.


  2. Armada 2526 – still available from Matrix (though the price hasn’t changed four or five years, I think).
    SMAC/SMAX – available from GOG.
    Space Empires IV – available from GOG.
    Star Ruler 2 – available from GOG.
    MOO: CTS – available from GOG.
    GalCiv 1/2/3 – available from GOG.
    AI War – available from GOG.
    Star Wars: EaW – available from GOG.
    Sins of a Solar Empire – available from GOG.
    Pocket Space Empire – definintely internet-free. Yes, it’s downloaded via Steam, but you can copy the directory with the game anywhere and it’ll run. I run it on my chromebook via wine.


      1. I disagree. Downloading an initial copy, which has no DRM or phone-home, and can easily be the source for physical media (ie burning it or a usb drive), is not much different than an initial purchase/mail on amazon or a trip to a physical store for a boxed copy. This is why I have moved exclusively to myself – that’s an option.


  3. Hey, great points about Steam and I couldn’t agree more. And to make matters worse, a while back, Steam changed the terms of their user agreement in a way that allowed them to disable your account if you refused to agree to any future changes to the user agreement. This basically gives them a blank check. They could for example change the user agreement so that there is now a monthly subscription fee and if you refuse the new terms, Steam could shut down your account. This means you would lose access to the games you already paid for under the previous version of the user agreement.


    1. There’s a pretty simple bar to clear… if you need access to someone else’s computer (e.g. a Steam server) in order to install and/or play a game that you paid for, then you don’t really own the game.


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