The best free games on PC
Money’s for suckers. This is a fact: you can play many amazing full games without ever pirating anything. You can play dozens of them, in fact, and some are so good you kind of wonder how the hell anyone sells anything anymore.
While we all look away from that modestly-sized elephant, consider this: the array of free-to-play games on offer these days is truly bewildering, and you, being a time-challenged cog in the twenty-first century’s machine, have forgotten to type URLs that don’t begin with “facebook”. What to play? And where to find it?
Here, in no particular order, are the best PC games you can play for free today.
A staple free download on Xbox One, Rare scrapper Killer Instinct is also available for zero dollars on PC. Didn’t know? You do now. You’ll need to be using Windows 10 to run it (if you’re still holding out you should probably re-evaluate you general life priorities) and you won’t be able to get the full roster of fighters unless you spend some money, but the core game costs nothing. The best bit? You can fight Xbox One players on your monitors. Show the console scum who’s boss. Get it.
Tera’s a K-poppy MMO, but stands out from its fantasy brethren with its non-targeting combat, skill-chaining and global politic system. It’s standard Asian stuff, really, even though it’s billed as the first proper action MMO. But it’s full-price for free, so worth looking at (provided you can stand the gratuitous Far East boob art). Get it here.
Aion’s got a good reputation for being a top free PvP MMO, and there’s no denying it looks the part. Combat mechanics have always been something of an issue with critics: things can get repetitive. There’s a bunch of celestial angelic stuff going on here. If you’re looking for the most vaunted Asian F2P MMO around, you’ve found it. There are no subs, no account tiers and no purchase requirements. Get it here.
Fallen Earth is a free post-apocalyptic MMO in which you play a clone striving to regain immortality. It’s completely stupid and a bit rubbish, but this is a massive game with some great action and more than enough MMOness to warrant the download. The Grand Canyon forms the central geographic location for Fallen Earth, which covers some 1,000 square kilometres of deep-fried wasteland. Hardcore. Old skool. Completely free.
Fantasy MMO Rift was a big deal when it launched, but the realities of the modern online game space soon turned it free. Choosing between 40 unique souls allows you to create your own class, with three souls available for use at any one time. Dynamic rift events drop heaps of baddies into the world, forcing you and fellow players to kill comprehensively. If you don’t, the evil things invade local towns and stop you progressing. There’s no questioning Rift’s status as a “good game”. See for yourself.
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot
Ubisoft’s two main F2P plays are Ghost Recon Phantoms and a fantasy hack-n-slash, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot. The latter’s hook is that you create a castle full of traps with the intention of protecting your gold from other players. It’s certainly different, and there’s so much user-created content you could never see it all (even if it does get a tad samey). This is only just out of closed beta, so there’s a bunch of balancing still being done. Get involved regardless.
DC Universe Online
If it’s superheroes you want, DC Universe Online is “the shit”. If you sub you get access to the game’s extensive DLC catalogue, but you have to buy the packs if you’re playing for free. Check out the restrictions here. The major upside, pretty obviously, is the DC character pantheon. Like capes? What are you waiting for?
Few events in gaming’s history have been more spectacularly depressing than APB’s launch, but that was then. Much has changed since the first version appeared in 2010, and the current state is more GTA Online for PC than the original disaster. You take jobs, you kill for money, you fight opposing gangs. The character customisation is amazing and there’s enough back-story to drown in, should you so wish. You should absolutely download this game.
Ghost Recon Phantoms
Ubisoft’s F2P noob mixes trademark Ghost Recon cover mechanics and teamplay with some well considered free-to-play gubbins, making for one of the most exciting free releases on PC so far this year. Get your mates together, form a clan, waste your free smoke grenades and refuse to buy any more. It’s a genuinely good game. And it costs nothing. Get it through Steam.
War Thunder has to be one of the best-looking F2P games on PC right now. Armored vehicles, planes, naval fleets, Japan, America, Germany, the kitchen sink: it’s got it all. Available on PS4 as well as Mac and Linux, War Thunder offers cross-platform war set in WWII and Korea. With over 600 “historically accurate” aircraft and ground vehicles included and a focus on realistic simulation, you should at least take a look.. Fetch.
World of Tanks
In the world of tanks, and such a world evidently exists, World of Tanks is king. No other similar game allows players such scope and depth. If you want to roll around in a metal box blowing people up in blown-up towns, this game is for you. There’s a reason it has 70 million registered users. Or is it 80 million? Who cares? Get to it.
Is LoL better? It matters as much as the colour of your pants. Nearly 13 million people played Valve’s MOBA in the last month, meaning it’s nothing if not popular. DOTA 2 features enough competitiveness, prize money and shouting youngsters to induce full-blown hippy cold sweats. Probably not for 40 year-olds, but different strokes. Give it a try.
Free-to-play MOBAs aren’t in short supply anymore, but Smite holds its head above the crowd. The main difference here compared to the likes of Heroes of the Storm and League of Legends is the player viewpoint, which allows you to play more like an action game. With more than 60 gods to master (in return for some payments, natch), you’ll be here for some time. Take a look.
Heroes of the Storm
Blizzard’s F2P MOBA is easier to access than League of Legends (see the next entry), but the lack of complexity means there’s a lower highest tier of play. No matter. This is a great game using a wide array of characters from the Blizzard pantheon that’s guaranteed to result in at least a smattering of “fun”. That’s why you’re here, right? Download and click forever.
League of Legends
Yes, is impenetrable, its community is a bunch of dicks and you need to play for thousands of hours to be any good at it in relative terms, but there’s no question that League of Legends has completely nailed MOBA. If you want to see what’s turning “the kids” on these days, look no further.
Star Trek Online
Getting on with Star Trek in general is an obvious prerequisite to being able to play this, but STO is more than game enough for nothing. The cartoon styling may not be for everyone, and there’s a huge amount of keys to get accustomed to (the combat involves stance-switching), so this may not be the free game you’re looking to grab for a quiet evening after work. It’s got space and land missions and was developed by Cryptic, so if you’ve been around a while you’ll know what to expect. Put it this way: there’s nowhere else to fight the Borg. Get it from Steam.
Age of Conan: Unchained
Conan’s been around since 2008, when it released in a broken mess and was roundly savaged as a result. A lot of the problems have been fixed since then, and this enormous, visually sumptuous game is now available for free. Get it from Steam. The F2P component is very generous, but it’d be worth subbing if you were heavily involved. Check out tiers here.
Hawken is a mech shooter that started off with promises of being The Next Big Thing and then sort of wasn’t. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth looking at, however, especially as now it’s available through Steam. It’s a bit “please buy a mech I’ll love you forever,” but someone’s got to get paid, I guess. If you’re finding yourself playing Titanfall just for the robot bit, then you should absolutely download it. It’s fun.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
One of the most expensive games ever made at its release in 2011 is now (sort of) free. It isn’t to everyone’s liking, and has been savaged easily as much as it’s been praised, but that the basic client costs nothing is kind of ridiculous. There are many catches to SWTOR’s F2P, however, such as not being able to sprint up to level 10 if you don’t pay (thanks, EA). You can pore over the perks granted to subs here, but, regardless, you should check this out.
Neverwinter crops up consistently on these lists, usually as a close second F2P MMO to LOTRO. The D&D RPG is completely free (although it does have something of a reputation for pay-to-win) and features the ability to create your own dungeons. Neverwinter is very much alive, with content updates and patches constantly adding to an already epic game. Download from Steam.
If you’re more far future than flowery fantasy, Planetside 2 is unavoidable. It’s large scale sci-fi combat on gigantic battlefields teeming with players, ships, lasers and death. There’s no charge. Base-building’s just been added, so, if you haven’t tried it yet, you should see what you’re missing.
Team Fortress 2
This has to be the greatest F2P shooter ever made. It’s funny, stupid, brilliant and could keep you happy forever. It’s a great, great game. The cartoon style will never get old and the mix of classes and some incredible map design would make it essential even if there was a cover charge. An absolute must. Get it from Steam.
If you haven’t started playing this yet there’s something wrong with you. The Blizzard card battler is available on both PC and mobile, and is far too addictive. The pay element comes in buying cards for your decks, but you can get on just fine without ever having to spend. Get it on PC. Then get it on tablet. Then play it forever. Get it from Blizzard.
The Lord of the Rings Online
LOTRO is the best F2P MMO on PC. There’s no question. It’s beautiful, has a range of content that puts it up there with any of its competitors and sports some of the most robust MMO mechanics in existence. It’s free. If you’ve never played an MMO before, or you’re just looking to pretend to be a hobbit for a few hours, there is no excuse whatsoever: get it.
Path of Exile
That Path of Exile is free is borderline criminal. You should have to pay for this ARPG. The notoriously gigantic skill tree alone is enough to download it, let alone the depth of the item combination mechanics and the fact it managed to out-Diablo Diablo III with withering ease. Free or not, Path of Exile is a horror masterpiece, and one of the best games currently on PC. You must play it.
Players use slottable skill gems in Path of Exile as in most ARPGs, the difference here being that they level with play and have their own requirements for upgrading. The passive skill tree is immense. Combining gems and skills offers the sort of customization options that could keep you bogged down for years. Path of Exile sometimes feels more like EVE Online than Diablo.
Path of Exile’s story is played out in Acts, and the game is often referred to as the spiritual successor to Diablo II. Players get PvP as well as PvE, and some PvP events can last for months. A current event is an Ambush and Invasion league with prizes and opportunities to contribute to the Child’s Play charity. If you complete all eight challenges in leagues you can win a t-shirt. And who doesn’t want that?
Gameplay itself takes place on a wide variety of environments, from beaches to dungeons to forests. You have six classes to choose from, including the Witch, the Marauder and the Duelist. It’s got dual-gear set-ups, auto-equip and every item – including life and mana flasks – can be enchanted or elevated in rarity using a variety of orbs. It’s ridiculous, honestly. You’ll want to spend money on microtransactions out of guilt.
Path of Exile offers so much for so little. It’s hardcore, but then so are you. Download.