[From now until late January, sister site IndieGames.com: The Weblog will be counting down the best independent and freeware games of 2010, with descriptions, screenshots, and links of the best games in each major category. Previously: Top 10 Experimental Games, Top 10 Shoot 'em Ups, Top 10 Role-Playing Games, Top 10 Freeware Puzzlers]

The fifth of our in-depth 2010 Best Of Features here on the IndieGames.com blog (after the overall Top 10 we did for Gamasutra and the 10 Indie Games for '11 article), we're proud to present ten of the best freeware adventure games released in 2010.

Help solve a murder case, find mythical artifacts in a desolate world, escape from a haunted mansion, and rescue a friend who is in need of your help. These are some of the things that you'll be doing in our countdown of the best interactive fiction works, visual novels, and point-and-click adventure games released during the last twelve months.

Here are the top freeware adventure games of the year:

10. Choice of Broadsides (Choice Of Games) [HTML, freeware]

Choice of Broadsides, is "a swashbuckling naval adventure" in which players guide a British officer fighting in the Napoleonic wars and commanding a Royal Navy frigate. It was recently selected as an Honorable Mention for the Independent Games Festival's Nuovo award, which recognizes "abstract, short-form, and unconventional game development".

9. Snakes of Avalon (Alex van der Wijst and Igor Hardy) [Windows, freeware]

Snakes of Avalon is a dark point-and-click adventure game about a drunk man in a bar. It's all a bit surreal and features special potions and talking posters. There is lots of talk of murder and the like, and you'll be trying to stop it in between the drinking.

8. A House in California (Jake Elliott) [Flash, freeware]

A House in California is a short story-driven adventure, with mainly monochrome visuals. In each scene, you must use the available actions to push the story onwards.

Each character in the game is based on one of Jake's family members, and each little story revolve around family memories. Moving between scenes usually involved making the character remember thing from their pasts.

7. By the Numbers (Aki Ahonen) [Windows, freeware]

By the Numbers is a short adventure game created using the AGS engine, featuring full voice acting and characters rendered using a combination of motion-capture script and simple vector graphics. You play as lieutenant Timothy Orman, a cop who has to question an eyewitness to a kidnapping for clues that'll lead you to the criminal. Nearly the entire game is set inside the questioning room (a One Room One Week competition rule), excluding the short intermission sequence that splits the story into two acts.

6. Looming (Gregory Weir) [Flash, freeware]

Looming is another unique offering from Gregory Weir, playing out as a monochrome exploration adventure. Players stalk the plains on Looming, seeking out collectibles and uncovering secrets and stories.

There are a variety of objects to find scattered amongst the paths and rubble, each part of a collection. Find a full set and you'll be granted access to further story and dialogue. There are nine different endings to find, depending on how you go about your business, and all items collected are saved for your next play. The best way to experience the game is to simply roam and see what you find.

5. Which (Mike Inel) [Windows, freeware]

Which is a short horror adventure game about escaping from a house that you are trapped in. A 3D mode is included if you have the right glasses to view the images with.

Note that Which has a bit of violence that might be seen as disturbing, and if you're worried about jump scares then you should probably avoid playing the game as well.

4. Eternally Us (Ben Chandler and Steven Poulton) [Windows, freeware]

Eternally Us is a short 2D adventure game that tells the story of Fio and Amber, two friends who have known each other since childhood. An incident occurs that separates the both of them while they were feeding birds in a park, so it is up to the player to help reunite the best buddies together again.

3. Air Pressure (Bento Smile) [Flash, freeware]

Bento Smile's Air Pressure is a visual novel with original graphics and music, featuring quite a number of branching story paths but only three endings to discover. The entire game takes about ten minutes to play through.

2. Digital: A Love Story (Christine Love) [Windows/Mac/Linux, freeware]

Digital: A Love Story is an interactive fiction game created by Christine Love, presented through Bulletin Board Systems that you can visit and read using an operating system interface which mimics those found in computers from the late 1980s. At the start of your adventure a message in your inbox offers a phone number for you to dial up and log into your first BBS, and once you're familiar with the set of applications on your virtual desktop the tasks of replying to messages and initiating conversations with strangers can all be done with just the click of a button.

Though there's quite a bit of text to read in Digital: A Love Story, the game won't take longer than an afternoon to play through. The control scheme is admittedly clunky (e.g. you can't use the Enter key to submit a phone number, although it works when you're transferring codes), but persevere and you will be rewarded with an absorbing experience that no other game from this day and age can offer.

1. The Journey Down - Over the Edge (Theodor Waern) [Windows, freeware]

The Journey Down, Chapter 1: Over the Edge is a point-and-click adventure game that tells the story of Bwana and his friend Kito, two individuals who run a gas station but were forced to find other means of making money when the power company threatens to cut their electrical supply off. Fortunately at about the same time a young woman arrives at your doorstep looking for a book, and she willing to reward you handsomely should you be able to help her out with an errand.

The first of the four chapters ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, with the story to continue in the second part (Into the Mist) due out sometime in the summer of 2011.

[Got feedback? Reasons to disagree? Post a response and we'll do a special 'best of reader comments' round-up at the end of our chart countdowns.]