While the gaming market is full of paid games, from big studio triple-A titles to smaller indie gems, there are also those games that are free to play. This model is popular for a reason, as some of these games are the most played games in the world, garnering millions of players globally. It’s worth mentioning that the vast majority of free-to-play games have monetization options that can ultimately outprice paid-for games, and some more notorious ones have been accused of pay-to-win shenanigans. The more restrained models usually involve cosmetics or pay-for-convenience, which allow the players a better way of supporting the developers without creating unfair advantages. With that out of the way, let us delve into our picks for the 15 best free-to-play games out there.
Apex Legends is first and foremost a hero shooter type of game. However, it differs from many others by offering both smaller, tactical-based team gameplay, as well as a battle royale component. The game’s unique approach to the standard FPS formula has set it apart from other similar games that can be found on our list. It features an ever-growing roster of characters, each with their unique abilities. The players can select and customize loadouts of weapons and equipment. The game is played in story-based seasons, which allows for further immersion.
Related: Who is Vantage in Apex Legends?
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
The famous CS:GO went the free-to-play route years ago, and is rightfully among the top played games in the world. It is the quintessential team-based FPS game, with a gigantic Esports component around it. Just a cursory glance at the concurrent player base on Steam paints the picture of just how popular the venerable game is. While CS:GO might be showing its age compared to some of the new kids on the block, there is no denying that it is still one of the best shooters out there. The game’s success has expanded onto the real-world market, with some of the skins from the game being worth a small fortune in real-life currency.
Destiny 2 is another game that went the F2P route a few years ago. Bungie has been careful to navigate the market, allowing anyone to play the game, but keeping the freshest content as separate paid expansions. The game itself is in the genre that’s become known as ‘looter-shooter’ which represents a mix of the loot pinata of action RPGs spliced with FPS games. The players can progress their characters through a variety of MMO-like game modes while collecting more and more powerful loot along the way, in turn making their own characters stronger.
If you’ve been into gaming, then this game needs no introduction. After all, it is an originator of a whole new genre — the MOBA. And after years of development and new character additions, mechanics revisions, Esports success, and more, it is clear why it’s still one of Valve’s three foundational pillars along with CS:GO and Steam. The game keeps going from strength to strength, and for proof of that, just check out how much the TI global tournament manages to garner each year. Whatever the outlook, it’s always a good time to get into DOTA.
The game that has taken the world (and Twitch) by storm and doesn’t seem to be letting go. It is a weird mishmash of various gameplay elements, which is part of the reason for its success. It means that it can cater to any type of gamer, by providing so much to do that you can’t help but keep playing. From humble beginnings, it has grown into the juggernaut it is today, with collaborations across the board (both in and out of the game) and involved story progression that the whole community is a part of. Love it or hate it, with such a wealth of content, it’s no wonder that the game is such a massive hit.
Got to save the world? How about a round of Gwent first? The game that started out as a fun mini-game in Witcher 3 was so popular that CDPR saw the opportunity and developed it into a full-fledged card game. It’s had a tumultuous development history, with huge changes until it found its balance in the form it’s played today. It’s a vastly different card gaming experience compared to the competition, rewarding strategy and chess-like planning over RNG for the most part. It’s also one of the most generous starting F2P card game models out there.
Back when it first showed up, Hearthstone was a smash hit. It was fun, colorful, and addictive. Over the years it has changed with the times — sometimes as a trend-setter, sometimes as a follower. But almost ten years later, it’s still here and is still one of the premier card games on the market, with a giant Esports scene around it. It has been criticized for its monetization model, which has led to the reformation of how it handles expansions, but as a big-studio card game, it’s still a lot of fun to get into.
League of Legends
Another game that needs no introduction on our list. LoL has been the mainstay of the MOBA genre along with DOTA for more than a decade. Over the years, Riot has reshaped, refined, and remolded the game, while keeping the essence intact. It’s different yet familiar, and with plenty of champions and roles to choose from, it’s very easy to get into the game. Like most other MOBA games (or even online games in general), it boasts a passionate community that can often come off as harsh and toxic. Best way to combat that? Grab a bunch of friends and play together — that’s when LoL is at its best.
Lost Ark is a Korean-style action RPG with an MMO twist, that has vastly grown in popularity since its Western release. Since then, it has constantly sat among the Top 5 most concurrently played games on Steam. The game had some hiccups at the beginning, but the devs have addressed them in short order, making the game much more streamlined for western audiences. There are various methods of progression to choose from, and a plethora of character customization options, while the players can engage in a wealth of MMO content, ranging from casual to hardcore.
Path of Exile
Path of Exile is a genre-defining action RPG. Following in the footsteps of Diablo 2, the game has been built and expanded upon over the years to become an enormously complex beast — and it already started as a complicated game to begin with. But don’t let the steep learning curve fool you. PoE is the best experience a hardcore aRPG player can have, providing the player with all the tools to craft and customize their characters’ playstyle with unprecedented detail. The game functions in seasonal content known as Leagues, which are then divided into several different modes of play, letting you fully choose the way you want to tackle new content. And the Campaign is just the tip of the iceberg, followed by the massive end-game portion of the game to keep you engaged.
Released in 2020, Runescape is the spiritual successor to one of the oldest and best-known MMO games in gaming history, proudly bearing its name. It has built upon what was already working in the original game, while updating it to the modern MMO sensibilities, and trimming the parts that have been trampled by time and decades of development found in other MMO titles. As expected from an MMO, there is also an optional subscription model, that lets the players support the game while getting VIP benefits and perks, some of which may be deemed as slightly pay-to-win, as it includes world progression and some locked skills.
Riot’s hero-based FPS can be best described as a mix of CS:GO and Overwatch that is more than the sum of its parts. Sitting somewhere in the middle between the two, it has garnered a player base that was looking for a similar, yet different experience. The game lets players choose to play as Agents that have different abilities and fulfill different roles, while the gunplay is the same for everyone involved. There are a variety of maps to play on, and the standard matches are played in 5v5 format. Although still fairly young by online gaming standards, Valorant has already developed a strong Esports scene, which further incentivizes players to try harder to climb in the game’s ranked mode.
Developed by Gaijin Entertainment, War Thunder is an odd mix of MMO, war simulator, and vehicle game. It lets players take part in simulated battles as part of one of the three branches of the military — air, ground, or naval. The game’s scope is not focused on just a single conflict or historical event and instead spans nearly all of the 20th century. And while the premise may seem narrow at first glance, there is much more under the hood. So much in fact, that there are over 2,000 different combat vehicles to choose from, and over 100 maps to play on. There’s a VR mode thrown in there too. Furthermore, the game has both PVE and PVP modes, which also have various modes of their own. All things considered, War Thunder is one of the most complete modern warfare simulators out there.
Ever wanted to decimate enemies as a space-robo-ninja? Do you love to grind? Then Warframe is the perfect game for you. This game has elements of a ‘looter-shooter’ spliced with RPG and MMO features. Players take control of one of the varieties of different Warframe suits, that give them unique abilities to take on missions by themselves or with friends. These suits can be further upgraded and customized in hundreds of different ways as you play the game. The game’s F2P model is very fair compared to many similar games, and it represents the trade-off of either grinding for everything available or getting it quicker by paying. Otherwise, nothing is hidden behind a paywall.
World of Warships/World of Tanks/World of Warplanes
Developed by the same studio, Wargaming Group Ltd, these three games are very similar under the hood and differ only in premise, and to some extent in popularity. Unlike War Thunder which mixes and matches between the three branches, Wargaming’s games are much more focused on each of them separately. They also tend to focus even further, limiting the historical scope to the period in and around WW2, which lets the players become even more immersed in the setting. No matter the game, the gameplay revolves around players taking control of famous combat vehicles that fulfill different roles, and then taking them to battle against enemy teams in tactical goal-oriented matches.