--The Classics That Most People Will Know What You're Talking About By Name--
Silent Threat Reborn - I've never played the original Silent Threat, still haven't, and probably will never play the original Silent Threat. That said, ST:R was pretty neat when I first played it, being a GTI Black Operations operative committing morally dubious crimes for the greater good was very fun. Then I was done with the first three missions and it's back to being a cape-wearing hero again. I wish we kept more of the GTI ops, but ST:R still had decent moments to make up for that particular loss. I'd recommend it.
Blue Planet - Honestly, the hype for Blue Planet makes me think I join this community too late to fully grasp the hype. You have voice acting, well FREDded missions, an intergalactic space mystery, War in Heaven pushes for a grim, ruthless war for Sol, and I appreciate these things, but particularly less than some. If one saw my comments on Discord, one will note that I don't particularly clear for the lore of things, which is fine, because BP provides the lazy-brained like myself a lot of opportunities to shoot things. I will say that the romantic subplot is still cheesy as hell and stands out hilariously. I'd recommend every new player to play through BP at least once
Between the Ashes - Why wasn't this called 'Beneath the Ashes', like a phoenix? A spaghetti western without the spaghetti, the frontier of the Reconstruction Era without the Cowboys, and a squadron that isn't even called anything like 'Rangers' or 'Lone Stars', BtA is something that really wants the players' attention and works for it. Whilst the missions can be argued as being gimmicky per mission, I still enjoyed what was presented, especially the defense mission and the artillery mission. From the writing side, Ozymandias has to be one of the best named antagonists we got, with his odd charm and increasingly annoying wit that made his defeat even more satisfying. Even his last words are still memorable with how cold his personality is. God I love Ozy. I'd recommend BtA and I wait to see what its sequel does.
Derelict - This honestly aged well, for something from the early 2000's. Carried by its frontier-esque atmosphere and well-voiced characters, and a mission design that is easy to process and get in the rhythm in, Derelict is a campaign I'd say any explorer of Freepsace's mods would need to play at least once, then play it again because it has that classic hook that makes it replayable.
Inferno (Classic + Nostos) - What's described as an 'asset dump first and campaign second', I can see where the sentiment is coming from. Inferno has far too many assets for how little they're represented in the actual campaigns, but I do not think this is enough to blow them off. The missions are loud and full of explosions, which is a-okay for me, personally speaking. Nostos however, being the more modern release, has a better storytelling and the most memorable skybox in FSO, as well as just better assets. Still a recommended playthrough, through both.
Scrolls of Ataka...Atkhan....Just call it Scrolls - A Vasudan based affair, Scrolls is a neat little campaign that pits you in a frontier squadron exploring new systems. Attention to detail was pretty neat and everything was kept Vasudan-centric. I appreciated the mission designs that are more than functional and the stealth mission didn't want to make me die. I'd recommend a playthrough.
--Classics People Will Know That I didn't Really Like--
Homesick - I can see the idea of Homesick, with its Corvette+Escort sort of relationship. What I can't see is its plot. A mercenary group manages to outsmart and outfly the GTI and the GTVA, with the final two or three missions making less sense to me than the other campaigns on this list. The ending as well felt like a slap in the face and waste my time, personally. That all being said, it is still a classic that inspired others with its Corvette+Escort type of storytelling, so I'd recommend at least a single playthrough, then pretend the ending just never happened.
Transcend/Sync - I like horror. I like a feeling of general unease as a plot goes from a grounded setting to a twisted, mixed reality. I played FEAR, and I personally enjoyed FEAR 2. Transcend and Sync are two campaigns of a different time before my own and I think it shows and reflects on their qualities badly. Transcend especially suffers from poor mission designs and escalating events that doesn't really make much sense to me. I still don't get what any of it was. Sync on the other hand focused more on showing off than letting players really experience the weird in the middle of the gameplay, but the plot device just ends up being too complex for me to even want to grasp. I can't say I recommend these campaigns for new players, because they badly reflect on their age.
--Campaigns That Were 'Kino'--
Vassago's Dirge - I like horror. Vassago's Dirge was beyond horrifying. A short campaign that doesn't overstay its welcome, VD mixes psychological trauma and seemingly out of place Russian orchestral music to give the Vassago a truly terrifying aura for just a Ravana. Without spoiling much, I'd say VD was well made and aged spectacularly, and I'd recommend it to any new player.
Sol: A History (Upgraded) - The unofficial prequel to Inferno, S:AH does a lot to keep the player attention. Separated in 4 chapters where the player gets new toys for every chapters, and so do the things they shoot at. Human on human violence isn't a strange thing for Freespace, but human military on human military where the fights are just close enough to be even is another. Mixed in with the amazing feeling of the crafts, the great soundtrack from Inferno and a straight forward narrative, S:AH meets that sort of 'kino' feeling to keep a player hooked. In my opinion, a must-play for any new player to the Inferno series.
The Antagonist - Freespace boss rush campaign in a superfighter. Enough said, go play it.
Burning Heaven - A story driven experience that manages with its limited assets (reusing FS2 fighters for a different setting), every choice you make counts as you build your rebellion. Free your people from the Imperial grips. Choices and webbed mission design provides enough incentive for replayability.
Walls Closing - SJ Sathanas 1 nearly blasted the GTD Phoenicia to death. Just nearly. The Shivans have sent a task force to finish the job. Walls Closing is a nice little what-if, with simple mission designs and a simple premise that still makes it all work. Missions are not complicated but still fun to play through, which is always just enough. A recommended playthrough for those that want a what-if from the Freespace 2 campaign.
Exile - Sol has fallen into a civil war, something I'm noticing with campaigns that features Sol. But this is different. Like the Terran-Vasudan war, the Shivans are here to break up the fight by breaking the fighters completely. Exile has an oppressive atmosphere of dread and weary as the survivors of Sol flee from the Shivan armada. Fighters are fun (to a point), capital ships are pretty cool with railguns instead of beams, and the Shivans are beyond terrifying. Recommended playthrough ASAP as the dialogue and writing is going to be updated to a better standard, which, in my opinion, loses some of its charm.
Warmachine - A remix of Blue Planet's Age of Aquarius, Warmachine is a glorious light show of destruction. It introduces new fighters to AoA's campaign, new weapons, new Shivan variants (introns and buffed capital ships), all while keeping to AoA's core mission design, for better or for worse. Recommended playthrough after playing the BP campaigns.
Trimurti - Welcome to the Chain. Your directives; abort the Human and Vasudan race. Maintain balance. An easily recommended playthrough, the missions can get hard, but can be just as well overcome.
Mantle - A Vasudan based affair that's slogged by uncontrollable technical issues, Mantle oozes atmosphere in a cult setting. Mission designs are just 'okay', though. If you can get it working, I'd recommend playing it.
Ancient-Shivan War - The name says it all. Great atmosphere, great setting, definitely knows how to keep its players hooked, definitely a recommended playthrough.
Solaris - One day I'll stop shilling Solaris, but not today. Made by one of the big heads behind the Blue Planet series, Solaris is gritty, Solaris is speedy, and Solaris is all in your face. Featuring factions that are minor and major alike, lack of shielding, lack of reliance on secondaries and speeds of 150 m/s to 200 m/s with no afterburnner Solaris elevates FRED's mission design to a complexity that makes victories all the more satisfying. A wholehearted recommendation from myself, but I will note that due to the nature of Solaris, it can and more than likely will come off as unapproachable for any new players.
Wings of Dawn - Early anime showss and Freespace makes for a special type of experience. An artstyle that's smooth to the eyes, a gameplay loop that's easy to grasp, weapons that are as punchy as they are as flashy and a plot featuring space elves, WoD embraces its nature and marries it with Freespace's gameplay almost perfectly. Featuring the best bomber mission I'd probably play on FSO and the best feeling of fighters in any game at all, Wings of Dawn is another wholehearted recommendation that's filled to the brim with soul and a sort of jovial sense of fun.
Dimensional Eclipse - An anime-inspired campaign like WoD, it's hard to talk about because I never finished it. The general feeling felt clunkier, not as smooth or thrilling as Wings of Dawn was. At some point I grew frustrated with the mission designs when the shrimps started showing up. I can't recommend, nor not recommend, but know that it exists.
--God, Did I Really Play This?--
Just Another Day - It took me a while to understand the madness behind JAD. What it meant. Why it meant it. Over time, I've come to appreciate JAD...or really everything about JAD 2.21. It's anime inspired, but not an anime TC. The mission design is beyond superb, the jokes are only relevant if you're a veteran of the community. It still feels like a fever dream, but it's a well designed fever dream. I'd recommend a single playthrough, and it features replayability if you can mentally keep up.
Ridiculous - It's hard to come up with anything for this. Just...Just go play it.
--Honourable Mentions (These campaigns are hard to talk about on length, due to bad memory or generally forgettable)--
-Crossing the Styx - Short, but does its job.
-Incursion+Return to Sol - Full of a lot of ridiculous plot points and bad narrative, but I found these to be charming and the gameplay good enough.
-Desperation - Short and unfinished, nebula focus is an odd but not unwelcomed choice.
-Operation Cloak and Dagger - Short and unfinished, it's another anime total conversion that's comparably weaker to the previous two but focuses on its own strengths.
-Windmill - An 'RTS' of Freespace, it has a small message and a few missions to tell it.
-Dawn of Sol - Clunky and messy, it could have been worse.
-Aftermath Reboot - Battle of Endor for every mission there is, to the point the wings were called squadrons and the campaign joked at the lack of squadron names, this one's hard to recommend due to its length and silliness. I enjoyed my time with it, though.
-Twisted Infinities - 17 gimmick missions. You get to be James Bond in one.
-Warzone - This one was pretty straight forward if I remember correctly.
-The Procyon Insurgency - Known for being difficult and **** if it ain't. Good luck with one.
-The Last Stand - Command a capital ship in two missions and blow stuff up. No, that's it, really.
-Into tHe Depths of Hell - I heard this one's getting remade by the FSCRP team so maybe it can make the 'Kino' list, but as of now, ITDoH's a pretty okay campaign that has more than a handful of bugs and issues. It's still rather playable, but its mission design is beyond tedious.
-Eyebleach - Short, simple, a palette cleanser, nothing more and nothing less.