Steam is packed with games. There are thousands of them, all vying for your attention with their fancy graphics, beautiful stories, and interesting mechanics. Everything from indie darlings to unknown gems and massive Triple-A titles are trying to get your attention and your money. However, Steam is also filled with exciting and entertaining free games. Sometimes it can be challenging to decide what you should spend your time playing with so many options available.
As such, we have put together this list of what we consider to be the best free games on Steam. Everything that appears on this list is a game that we have spent time playing and enjoying. Some of them have hoovered up an insane amount of my time, with a couple managing to draw us in for thousands of hours in total. If you are interested in trying out a new gaming experience but don’t want to risk any money upfront, then you should be able to find something on this list to keep you entertained.
Considered by many to be the absolute pinnacle of the MOBA genre, Dota 2 is one of the most successful games in the history of Steam. With a constant, and seemingly unwavering, player base, endless updates, new champions, and in-game changes that force new thinking and tactics, this is one of the most rewarding free Steam games.
At the core of this success is the fact that every hero in the game is free, meaning you are never unable to play a particular style or support a specific tactic. With a healthy and vibrant competitive scene, it is always easy to find a high-level play to watch, be inspired by, and learn from. Climbing the ranks of competitive is a strangely addictive thing as well, the desire to get better and improve is endlessly rewarded by pulling off great strategy and in-game moments with your team. Definitely a game for the seasoned gamer, you also want to be very patient. Learning takes time after all.
Related: The 15 best free to play games
Valve’s move into the nascent autochess genre was an interesting time. Their previous offering of Artifact had failed to ignite a fire in the hearts of gamers, but Dota Underlords avoided those issues and quickly caught on. Autochess is all about reacting to circumstances. Heroes arrive at random, are purchased between rounds, and can be melded together to upgrade them if you can get enough of each type. Equipping items adds another element of strategy, as you hedge your bets that you will be able to access certain heroes and items from the game’s randomly generating pool.
While it might seem like it is all down to looks, Dota Underlords rewards game knowledge, tactical play, and occasional flights of pure lunacy as you try to overcome the other teams. It can take just a little while to wrap your head around, but Dota Underlords is a superb title that will reward whatever time you invest in it with a lot of fun gameplay.
Often referred to as “spreadsheets in space,” Eve Online provides one of the truly unique experiences in gaming. Jump in to a universe that exists on a vast scale, with a living and breathing economy that is impacted by the player base. Pilot everything from mining vessels, small frigates, or massive ships designed to annihilate entire fleets. While not an easy game, it is one of the most singular experiences you will have in gaming. With a deeply dedicated community, people are willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. Join other players to create alliances that can reshape the face of the entire universe.
Eve Online is a game that people will either love or hate, but it is worth trying out to see which camp you fall into. Some of gaming’s most amazing moments have happened in this game, from massive fights that burned through thousands of dollars worth of in-game assets, to year-long subterfuges that cost people the empires they had worked for a decade to build. It is almost impossible to explain and is better off experienced. Give this a shot; it might just surprise you.
While it is often, unfairly, referenced as a poor man’s Overwatch, Paladins is a game that is more than capable of standing on its own two feet. Described as a fantasy team-based shooter, the game falls firmly into the category that is best summed up as the hero-shooter. Pick a mighty hero, with their unique abilities and tactical style, then join your teammates as you try to win the round. With objective-based game modes to help keep the action focused, rounds are fast-paced and frantic, demanding skill and coordination to succeed.
What makes it stand out from similar games is the deck-building element. How you build your deck will impact your champion’s abilities, allowing you to lean more heavily into one aspect of their play style. This adds an exciting tactical element to the game, as you can never entirely be sure what an enemy hero can do. The game also has a large and active community, meaning you never have to wait long for games. If you already play a similar game but are looking for a change, then Paladins is definitely worth your time. For people who have been interested in the genre, but were reluctant to buy in, it is an excellent way to start exploring hero-shooters.
Path of Exile
Path of Exile is, arguably, the best Action RPG on the market right now. And it is free. With a massive in-game world, an intensely deep character skill tree, an enormous volume of items, almost countless in-game missions, and constant updates, this game has indeed grown into something unusual since it was released all those years ago. It is also one of the fairest free games out there.
Path of Exile will deliver all the fun and excitement the ARPG veterans seek, while also being the best possible introduction to the genre for new players. There are hundreds of potential hours of fun in this game, all for free. We have put so much time into it that we are almost embarrassed to say, and we still play the game regularly and dive back in feet first with each new update.
Offering war on a massive scale, thousands of soldiers from three different factions battle it out across four huge continents. The game is also very striking graphically, for something of this scale. With six different classes that all offer their unique arsenals and play styles, dozens of different vehicles to fly or drive, and a massive reliance on coordinated attacks, this game provides a truly unique experience.
There is nothing quite like having your entire clan arrange to meet up on a Friday night, get suited and booted, and head out to take over a planet. The persistent world means that little victories add up to total domination, and good commanders can lead hundreds of their fellow gamers on a fantastic night of fun and destruction. Rewarding for people with good shooting mechanics and excellent tactical thinking, Planetside 2 does offer a unique experience for anyone who wants to play. While potentially a little intimidating when you first start, the game is filled with a great community, and loads of Clans that will be happy to show a recruit the ropes.
Taking the three-lane fun of MOBA games and turning it into a third-person game was an excellent idea for a frantic and fun game, as Smite offers a unique gameplay experience for people who may not be interested in isometric-style games. Offering a blend of fast-paced action, deep strategy, and demanding team play, Smite is a fantastic experience.
With over 90 gods to choose from, drawn from various mythologies from all around the world, and a range of game modes that should appeal to a vast group of people, there should be something for everyone when it comes to finding a play style that you enjoy. With pretty strong Esports support, a ranked system, and a competitive scene, the game is also rewarding for those who manage to hone their skills to the highest level.
Team Fortress 2
The original hero-shooter, Team Fortress 2 offers arcade shooting fun, with a unique sense of humor. With nine different classes, all with their abilities and personalities, the game has fostered a hugely dedicated player base with a strange obsession with hats. With a seemingly constant flow of free updates that introduce new equipment, modes, maps, and those all-important hats, Team Fortress 2 is continuously evolving to keep people invested.
For people who might be intimidated by jumping into a game like this for the first time, there is substantial training for new players in the ins and outs of the game. The characters all have real personalities, the humor can vary between funny and straight-up silly, and you are sure to find a hat that suits each one. One of the few games that we consider to be a quintessential experience, if you haven’t played this already you really should get acquainted with it.
The game industry was pretty sure Warframe would never succeed, which forced developers Digital Extremes to knuckle down and prove them wrong. Becoming one of the most-played free games on Steam, Warframe is now one of the most successful free-to-play games that the platform has ever seen. With a fantastic movement system, weighty combat, a vast array of Warframes to play as, hundreds and hundreds of weapons, and a constant flood of updates, Warframe is a deep and engaging game for those who can make it through the early game confusion.
Even then, a dedicated community has your back, with countless videos, guides, wikis, and Clans all existing to help new players get to grips with the game. It offers a fun and addictive take on the looter shooter concept, wrapping it all up in a third-person action package. Most importantly, unlike other similar games, the developers want you to feel like a powerful space ninja, harnessing exotic weapons and mysterious powers to bring devastation to your enemies. Once you get powerful, you FEEL powerful, and that is precisely what we all want from our time spent gaming.
World of Warships
There has always been something truly terrifying about naval warfare. Enormous machines of war and their brave crews engaging in shootouts with enormously powerful weapons, surrounded only by the guaranteed death of the briny deep. While Steam is filled with this kind of simulated-combat game, World of Warships is the one that has provided us with the most fun experience. When two good teams are working to destroy each other, it gives one of the most tactically demanding, and tense, team experiences in gaming.
With every move needing to be carefully considered, then absolutely committed to, and with every missed shot being a difference-maker, the game can be thrilling. With plenty of playstyle options, across a range of ship types, a variety of locations to fight in, and fun weather changes that can impact a battle, the game can draw you in. Pulling off a perfect maneuver and battering an enemy ship into submission before they even know you are there is a fantastic feeling.