Gaming isn’t a cheap hobby unless you’re prepared to get dirty while scratching at the bottom of a bargain bin, but fortunately there are plenty of games that’ll appeal to anyone who has to juggle a tight budget. The current landscape of video games is overflowing with free-to-play titles, gaming experiences that offer a sizable portion of content while tempting you to drop some cash on extra content such as season passes or some dazzling armor in the online store. If you’ve got a stable internet connection and enough space on your device, these free PC games are well worth looking trying thanks to the fact that they are, well, free out of the gate.
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Just when you thought that the battle royale genre had been tapped dry, Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment came along to put a new spin on it with Apex Legends. A more refined and polished approach to the genre, Apex Legends dials up the appeal with familiar action that was honed to near-perfection in Respawn’s Titanfall series and mixes it up with an eclectic cast of characters. The brilliance of Apex Legends lies in just how easy it is to jump into, while also offering a ton of strategic opportunities for seasoned players.
Player interaction is beautifully simple thanks to the ping system, the game looks like a stunner, and Respawn’s focus on providing quality over quantity updates has made this title feel like a true evolution of the ideas that its predecessors introduced to the market.
Read our Apex Legends review.
Call of Duty: Warzone
With battle royale games proving to be all the rage, it was only a matter of time before Activision threw its Call of Duty hat into the ring. Technically, this is the second Call of Duty battle royale experience (Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode was the first), but Warzone builds off of that foundation to create a dedicated game that’s become one of the most popular shooters around. Warzone feels like a greatest hits compilation of past Call of Duty games, all elegantly stitched together to create a new last man standing juggernaut that is fueled by the trademark intensity of Activision’s blockbuster franchise. Full of its own clever twists on the genre, such as a brutal gulag to give you one more chance to stay in the fight, Warzone excels at giving players second chances in its harsh frontier, and time has seen a promising game live up to the lofty expectations from fans to establish itself as an all-time giant of online gaming.
Read our Call of Duty Warzone review.
One of the oldest entries on this list, CS: GO has shown no sign of slowing down even in the face of rising competition in the esports scene. A classic showcase of high-speed action and precision, CS: GO still remains relevant on the global stage and regularly draws astonishing viewing numbers whenever a big tournament begins. A major influence on esports in general, CS: GO’s perfectly calibrated competitiveness makes it ideal for both casual and professional gamers, a benchmark that few games have been capable of reaching over the years.
It’s easy to look at Dauntless as a Monster Hunter clone wearing Fortnite armor, but beneath the obvious comparison, there’s a surprisingly fun game with an addictive grinding loop. Like its primary inspiration, Dauntless is focused on throwing you at all manner of nasty beasts, with battles providing a rewarding sense of progression and fashionable gear. Every creature is uniquely fun to battle, the game has plenty of personality, and the enjoyable combat makes it easy to fall in love with this love letter to adventure.
Read our Dauntless review.
Originally a premium product that commanded a high price, Bungie’s decision to move Destiny 2 towards a live service format has been a monumental success for the cosmic sandbox. While each new expansion does have a price tag and the drier months are kept active with season pass content, the free package available to players is a meaty collection of storylines and multiplayer action. Currently, Destiny 2’s New Light version gives players access to every available planet, as well Crucible (PVP multiplayer), Gambit, and Strike activities.
That right there is a stacked collection of content to dive into, which shines under Bungie’s superb attention for detail, action-packed gunplay, and an improved sense of storytelling that each season has introduced to the game.
Read our Destiny 2 review.
The gold standard for longevity in esports, Dota 2’s annual dominance of the scene is an unbeatable standard that every game aspires to. With The International still proving to be an annual highlight on the esports calendar that features a staggering prize pool, Dota 2’s legacy as gaming’s most popular multiplayer arena game isn’t just secure, it’s practically immortal. What’s truly remarkable is that Dota began its life as a Warcraft 3 mod and then morphed into a title that gave rise to a new genre in gaming. An undying slice of excellence, Dota 2 is a highly rewarding multiplayer experience that is bolstered by years of polish, tweaks, and expansive content.
Read our Dota 2 review.
Fortnite may not be the original battle royale, but it’s easily the game that made the genre mainstream, cool, and a pop culture juggernaut. Easily the biggest name in video games today, Fortnite has become a global pop culture phenomenon with its film and music crossovers, game-shaking events, and lucrative gameplay mechanics that many other freemium titles have emulated over the years. Beneath all of that though, there’s still an unbelievably solid game built around the idea of survival, scavenging, and instantly building a two-story condominium whenever someone fires a few rounds in your general direction.
A one-of-a-kind masterpiece that has defined the gaming industry since it became a global success story, Fortnite offers value and plenty of entertainment without demanding a single cent in return. That said, dedicated Fortnite players often do spend money in the store.
Read our Fortnite review.
When it was first revealed, most people looked at Genshin Impact and regarded it as a cheap The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild clone. While it’s undoubtedly influenced by one of the best Nintendo Switch games, developer MiHoYo’s gorgeous open-world RPG has established itself as one of the biggest surprises in the free-to-play gaming market. Lush and epic in scale, Genshin Impact mixes the thrill of discovery with the addictive collect ’em all obsession of Gacha games to create a surprisingly generous package.
Having just recently been upgraded for Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles while adding a new region to explore, Genshin Impact has only become better since it launched last year.
Read our Genshin Impact review.
Guild Wars 2
It’s been almost a decade since Guild Wars 2 arrived, and in the years since it has gained something more important than just a polished gameplay experience or a regular infusion of new content: a sizable and dedicated audience. Communities are the lifeblood of free-to-play games, and Guild Wars 2 (which wasn’t always a free-to-play game) has servers filled with thousands of players at any given moment in time. That makes for a game that lives up to its MMORPG title, and with gameplay that feels gameplay within the core experience, it’s no wonder that fans are still invested in this title.
Read our Guild Wars 2 review.
Gwent was a fun diversion in The Witcher 3, but as a fully-fledged spin-off that has evolved over the years, the current product is one of the best games built around collecting cards, building strategies, and seeing how far they’ll go in actual competition. Easy to learn and hard to master, Gwent’s popularity boils down to a number of factors. Every card looks like it was produced during a forgotten magical era of the Renaissance, it’s generous with all the free cards that it hands out, and the various arenas to play in will keep you hooked for hours.
Read our Gwent review.
Hearthstone: Heroes Of Warcraft
Online card games had been around in some form or another for years before Hearthstone came along, but Blizzard’s Warcraft spin-off quickly became one of those rare titles that redefined just what a game in a specific genre could be. Not satisfied with just being a well-engineered card game with addictive tabletop tactics, Hearthstone was a constantly-evolving showcase of ingenuity. It also helped that it looked like a million bucks, each card unleashing dazzling special effects on a living board that could only have been designed in a Blizzard lab.
Years later, Hearthstone and its massive library of cards still remains the pinnacle of the genre and a major influence on the world around it.
Read our Hearthstone review.
Heroes of the Storm
If Hearthstone is a pitch-perfect entry into the world of tabletop gaming from Blizzard, then Heroes of the Storm is a quirky twist on the formula created by various MOBA games over the years. The difference here is that Heroes of the Storm is a celebration of all things Blizzard, resulting in absolutely wild combinations of classic characters as they battle for control of the map. It’s a solidly built title with a strong cast, plenty of variety, and excellent game modes to experiment with.
Read our Heroes of the Storm review.
League of Legends
Every king has a rival, and for years now Dota 2’s position as one of the biggest giants in the MOBA landscape has been threatened by League of Legends. While the Riot Games developed title hasn’t committed any regicide just yet, it has come close to usurping Dota 2’s throne and in recent years, its pop culture footprint has begun to eclipse its main competition. Outside of that slugging match though, League of Legends is still a titan that provides excellent entertainment to the beat of its own drum, as well as some of the finest esports competition on the planet.
Read our League of Legends review.
Path of Exile
Even with a sequel on the horizon, Grinding Gear Games’ original stab at old-school RPG adventuring still stands as a brilliant and compelling game of isometric dungeon-crawling. While it had no shortage of bugs when it first arrived, Path of Exile in its current state is a mature and more focused venture into dark fantasy. Though it still has some lingering issues, its content has been a thrill and expansions such as Echoes of the Atlas have grown its free-to-play world substantially.
Read our Path of Exile review.
Planetside 2 has always felt different to other games on the market, due to its colder nature, more obscured systems for getting the best out of the game, and brutal opinion on how fragile each player should be when they spawn into an arena. But look past those factors, and you’ll find a game that has been beloved by its audience since 2012 for providing unique gameplay moments within its world. Fresh content such as the Chimera and Javelin updates have kept players engaged, and when you first hop in it won’t be uncommon to see hundreds of people going to war against each other.
Read our Planetside 2 review.
Pokemon TCG Online
If you’re tired of adults ruining the hunt for new Pokemon cards, its digital equivalent is a much more relaxing alternative without any scalpers lurking in the shadows. Everything that you could possibly want from the world of Pokemon’s trading card game is here, as there are plenty of cards to collect, decks to build, and real people to battle. It’s a versatile platform of card trading that provides plenty of content for free, but it won’t be around for much longer with TCG Live on the horizon. And if you collect the physical cards, too, you get a code with each pack to unlock a digital pack. Pretty cool!
How do you create a distinct identity in a genre that has no shortage of competitors vying for control of audience eyeballs? By creating a MOBA game that’s all about seeing which fictional deities can rise to the top of the scrapheap. Smite doesn’t stray too far away from the formula pioneered by games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends, but it still stands tall with its constant updates, attention-grabbing character collaborations, and popular modes that are perfect for newcomers.
Read our Smite review.
What if Halo met Portal, and the end result was a well-armed child that was poised to take over the esports FPS scene with its slick ideas? That child does exist and its name is Splitgate, a game that has proven to be more than a flash in the pan experience where death can come from any angle via teleporting bullets. Splitgate is a marvel to see in action as cunning players use their portal technology to perforate spines, and the free-to-play beta on PC and consoles boasts an excellent amount of content. It took a couple of years to catch on, but Splitgate is now a certified powerhouse in the free-to-play shooter genre.
Team Fortress 2
14 years after it was first released, Team Fortress 2 functions like an old pair of sweatpants in the gaming landscape. Faded when compared to its glory days, but undeniably comfortable to slip into when you’re in the mood for an uncomplicated session of team deathmatch. Thousands of people still play the game regularly, and even though it may have a persistent problem with spam-toting bots on its servers, Valve’s wacky FPS is still a certified classic that’s freely available whenever you’re in the mood for old-fashioned fun.
It may look like Destiny if David Cronenberg designed it, but Warframe is still one of the best free games on the market today. A unique blend of action, exploration, and meat grinder enemy encounters, developer Digital Extremes has constantly evolved the world of Warframe while adding content that fans have asked for, creating a lean and meaningful experience in the process. It has starships and glorious gear to equip, chunky weapons, and lethal blades to collect while interacting with a dedicated community of fans. It should be stated that Warframe is a bit overwhelming at the start, but if you stick with it, you’ll find a highly satisfying loop.
Read our Warframe review.
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