Although Steam sales make it terribly easy to end up with a backlog of titles we'll need several lifetimes to get through, sometimes all we want is to download a game and play without having to pay an upfront fee. Free stuff is, after all, always good, as someone somewhere used to say. As it turns out, the PC has a hefty selection of free games that let gamers do just that.
It's a pretty varied selection, too. From card games to those focusing on vehicle combat, from MMORPGs to battle royale titles, there's something that's bound please everyone. Below, you'll find a list of The Best Free Games on PC, in alphabetical order and with links to their store pages. If you think we've missed any, drop us a line in the comments.
Unlike most games on this list, Anno 1800 is not permanently free, but it sure is available for a fair amount of time. If you're interested, you can download the game and enjoy it until August 25, thanks to Gamescom 2019. It's not often that players get to enjoy a release this young so early in its lifecycle, but here we are.
For those who aren't in-the-know, Anno 1800 is an excellent real-time strategy/city-builder from Ubisoft that puts players in control of a sprawling industrial centre. Or, rather, of something that's destined to become one, at least. We were quite fond of the game, and with so many content updates coming down the line, we can't help but suggest you give it a shot while you can, too.
A surprise release from Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts, Apex Legends is a free-to-play first-person shooter battle royale game set in the Titanfall universe. While Titans don't make an appearance, the game features playable characters with different active and passive abilities, much like a hero shooter would. A total of 30 squads of three players duke it out across a map featuring a variety of terrain, searching for loot while evading a ring of death that constantly closes in on them.
Beneath a Steel Sky
Aching for a cyberpunk point-and-click adventure game from 1994? Look no further than Beneath a Steel Sky. Its Union City is hell on earth for some and heaven for others. While regular folk are oppressed, working in tall tower blocks above ground where pollution and crime rein, the rich and corrupt live safely underground. The title follows Robert Foster, an outsider who finds himself in Union City and features locations designed by Dave Gibbons. Beneath a Steel Sky is free on Gog.com.
Call of Chernobyl
Oh no! A mod appears to have snuck onto our list! Call of Chernoby is a free-play sandbox mod for S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat. Among its features you’ll find 32 explorable maps, reworked level design, an overhauled AI alongside a brand new level. You can get it on moddb.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Released back in 2012, the latest incarnation of Valve's team-based multiplayer first-person shooter series is still going strong. Not only is it one of the most played titles on Steam, but it also has a healthy competitive scene that boasts frequent E-sports events. Its high-stakes action is complemented by a satisfying if a bit steep, learning curve, which makes mastering each weapon's recoil and learning the maps feel like triumphs. Featuring maps and weapons both old and new, modding potential and, more recently, a battle royale mode, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is available on Steam.
If vehicle-on-vehicle action is your cup of tea, Targem Game’s Crossout has plenty of it. In Crossout, you build combat vehicles from a variety of available parts, deck them out with flamethrowers, power drills, chainsaws, rocket launchers and the likes, and blow up other players. You can download it for free on the Crossout website or Steam.
Set against the background of a London contaminated with toxic gas, Dirty Bomb is a first-person shooter that pits two teams against each other in team-centric, objective-based matches. Players take control of one of several mercenaries, all which specialize in different areas of combat, and take part it intense, tactical battles. Its maps have several stages through which attackers need to progress which come with new objectives and environments. Splash Damage is no longer actively developing Dirty Bomb since late 2018 and has confirmed that servers for the title will shut down by the end of 2019. Find it on Steam.
Dota 2 shouldn’t need any presentation by now. A well-known MOBA and successor to the original Warcraft 3 mod that had its fair share of fame, it’s yet another example of Valve striking gold. Out for more than five years, it’s a common sight on Steam’s Top 10 games with most concurrent users. You can find Dota 2 on Steam.
Dreadnought is a free-to-play game that fills a visible gap, focusing on tactical battles between capital ships. You get full control over one such ship and must engage in team-based modes where knowing when to unleash a flurry of nuclear torpedoes, using line of sight to block enemy attacks or boosting engine power to better position yourself is vital for survival. Dreadnought is now on Steam.
EVE Online’s fame precedes it but just in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s a community-driven spaceship MMO where you can fulfill a variety of roles, whether in industry, business, exploration or the military. It’s no stranger to massive space battles, has a player-driven economy and is home to both honorable and less honorable folk. You can get it on the EVE online website or Steam.
Fez is an excellent example of imaginatively using perspective shifts, introducing its protagonist, used to living in a 2D world, to a third dimension. While the title plays out as a 2D platformer throughout, players have the option of essentially turning the game's 3D world around, being able to explore all four of its 2D perspectives. You can jump into its "serene and beautiful open-ended world full of secrets, puzzles and hidden treasures" while Fez is free on the Epic Games Store between August 22 and August 29.
Fortnite Battle Royale
Quite possibly the biggest game in the world, Fortnite’s Battle Royale component switftly overtook PUBG upon launching. Adding the building system from its Save The World mode to the battle royale recipe, alongside its playful art style, did more than enough to set the now-global phenomenon apart. Its success has prompted Epic to open up its own store, but also brought lawsuits related to its dances. Fortnite Battle Royale is available via the Epic Games Store.
Guild Wars 2
NCSoft’s Guild Wars 2 started out as a buy-to-play MMORPG but made the base game available for free back in 2015. It’s a gorgeous sequel that features both PvE and PvP activities. Perhaps its biggest draw, the World versus World mode pits three servers against each other on a large map, often featuring large battles and sieges. Since its launch, the game has also received two paid expansions. You’ll find Guild Wars 2 on its website.
Gwent came out of beta earlier this year and is a more evolved, complex take on the popular minigame found in CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3. It reduces the number of rows to just two from the previous three while giving cards abilities that allow for more interactions with the board and a fair degree of synergy. You’ll find Gwent on Gog.com.
Blizzard’s Warcraft-based CCG has seen its fair share of expansions since launch, when it was solely a PvP title. Its PvP component is still very much the focus, having both constructed and arena modes, but it now has several PvE campaigns to go through, courtesy of its expansions. There's also lots of RNG. You can get Hearthstone from its website or the Battle.net Launcher.
Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter is an Action-RPG that harkens back to 16bit classics featuring outright gorgeous pixel art while being entirely hand-animated. Players step into the role of a mysterious robed protagonist and must explore a stranger world beset by all manner of beasts. Challenging combat, which involves both learning enemy patterns and timing dodges, makes for a thrilling ride through a beautiful world. Hyper Light Drifter is free on the Epic Games Store from August 15 to August 22.
League of Legends
League of Legends is a veritable MOBA behemoth set to enter its tenth year of existence this October. In its long run, the game has received a variety of updates, including a graphical and UI overhaul. Each new season brings about larger changes in terms of systems and items, while champion balancing and reworks were constant throughout the game's history. A roster of 142 champions welcomes those eager to play, whether casually or competitively, while the title's strong eSports scene is a good source of both learning and entertainment. Its matches reward teamwork and taking calculated risks, having the potential of being intense, lengthy engagements. League of Legends is available on its official website.
The Lord of the Rings Online
Many MMORPGs don fantasy clothes, but The Lord of the Rings Online brings J.R.R. Tolkien's very universe to life on PC. Initially released back in 2007, the free-to-play title lets players set off on their own adventures across Middle-earth. Players have access to six races and ten classes, while subsequent paid expansions let them explore iconic locations such as the mines of Moria, Rohan or Helm's Deep. You can get the base game for free on the Lord of the Rings Online website
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a post-apocalyptic title that mixes XCOM-like turn-based tactical combat with real time stealth. In it, players take control over a cast of charismatic mutants which involves a talking duck and massive bipedal boar. But it's not just Dux and Bormin that steal the show, the other members of the party playing a role both in and out of combat. The real-time stealth aspect allows players to pick off stragglers, thinning the enemy herd before going loud, while also picking the position they want to attack from. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is free on the Epic Games Store from August 15 to August 22.
Path of Exile
Grinding Gear Games’ ARPG has entered its sixth year and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Constantly refreshed with new leagues that reset progress and add new gameplay elements, like entire new dungeons or item types, it gives plenty of reasons to return regularly. Add to that an in-game economy reliant on currency also used for modifying items, a massive passive skill tree and plenty of active skills lending themselves to a large number of builds and it's easy to see why it’s one of the major players in the genre. Get it on the Path of Exile website or Steam.
Planetside 2 is an MMOFPS that sees three factions taking part in a tug-of-war of territorial control across four massive continental maps. Whether we're talking open fields, forests, deserds or besieged outposts, battles can include hundreds of players. Infantrymen have access to a number of different classes which fulfill different roles, while armor and gunships round off this futuristic combined arms experience. You can find Planetside 2 on Steam.
Quake Champions brings the arena shooter genre, established by the original Quake, to modern audiences while adding a dash of hero shooter to the mix. Speed and explosive action remain very much its focus, courtesy of an arsenal of weaponry familiar to Quake fans and some good old strafe jumping. On top of that, the playable roster of characters get different stats and unique abilities which they can use in battle. Quake Champions is free on Steam or the Bethesda launcher.
Ring of Elysium
Ring of Elysium is Tencent Games’ entry into the battle royale space. The title drops 60 players on a mountain beset by an ever-advancing snowstorm and lets them battle it out. A rescue helicopter waits to be boarded, while snowboarding and hang gliding join regular vehicles as means of transportation. Ring of Elysium is now available on Steam.
Smite is a MOBA with a twist. Instead of the traditional isometric view, Hi-Rez Studios’ title takes on a third-person perspective. Its roster further makes it stand out, being pulled from various mythologies. As with its peers, Smite is also free-to-play, available via its website or Steam.
Star Trek Online
If you’ve ever wanted to play as a ship captain in the well-known univers, Star Trek Online lets you do just that. The title features over 160, spanning multiple story arcs, with both ground and space content. You can find it on the Arc launcher or Steam.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Although Star Wars: The Old Republic hasn't been at the forefront of EA's marketing lately, Bioware's 2011 MMORPG has been steadily receiving content over the years. Initially launching with a focus on more traditional MMORPG experiences such as PvP and raiding, which are still there to be experienced, the past few years have seen it shift focus towards a single-player, story-driven set of campaigns. Whether it's discovering what happened to Revan, dealing with the Eternal Empire or simply going through the classes' distinct, fully voiced campaigns, Star Wars: The Old Republic has a wealth of stories to tell. Players can choose between two factions, the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic, which allow them to play as Jedi, Sith, soldiers or smugglers. The game is available its official website.
A stand-alone expansion to rogue-lite top-down shooter SYNTHETIK: Legion Rising, SYNTHETIK: Arena brings "five unforgiving challenges" for players to tackle. SYNTHETIK's magazine eject, movement-based recoil and active reload mechanics return, while players can make use of the 2-player co-op feature to bring a friend, with perks, item buffs and loot being shared between them.
Team Fortress 2
Nine distinct classes full of charisma, a good handful of modes and maps, alongside the level of quality expected from Valve titles make this over-a-decade-old game an absolute must-play for fans of team-based first-person shooters. It’s seen plenty of updates over the years, adding lots of new, wacky weapons plus cosmetic items, and still boasts a healthy playerbase. You can find it on Steam.
Who doesn’t want to be a space ninja? Well, there’s bound to be someone out there but they don’t know what’s fun. For everyone else, there’s Warframe. Digital Extremes’ unusual co-op third-person action lets you mow down aliens as one of many cool-looking space ninjas wielding a vast arsenal of weapons that includes assault rifles, bows, throwing knives, nunchucks and more. It’s very much a game that lets you set your own goals and, with a healthy active playerbase, lucrative trading and the introduction of more open areas in later expansions, there’s plenty of content to fill your spare time with. Find it on Steam.
We've provided extensive coverage of Warframe at Game Watcher, with one of the most helpful of our guides being the one that teaches you how to hunt down Silver Grove Specters for rare mods and Nightwave Challenges. Happy hunting!
World Of Tanks
If the title isn’t enough of a giveaway, this one’s about tank battles where tanks battle other tanks and they’re all controlled by players. Wargaming’s action title features over 500 customizable vehicles from all over the world, including places like the US, USSR, Japan, Sweden and Italy. Get it on its website or Steam.