Best free PC games to play today
Now that the back to school 2018 season is upon us, and you’re saving all your cash for textbooks and the best laptop college students, don’t worry – you can still play some of the best free games.
These days, not only can your Steam and Origin library be graced with the occasional free AAA game, but Xbox and Playstation have also created game giveaway ecosystems with Games with Gold and Playstation Plus, respectively. However, the best PC games are able to take an entirely different approach.
There are still a ton of free games out there on Steam, GOG and even (get ready) Origin, thanks to the occasional freebie and the runaway popularity of free-to-play games.
From Battle Royale extravaganzas like Fortnite to Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing games like Wildstar, the best free games cover a wide range of different genres and styles. Plus, since we’ve invested plenty of time (maybe even too much) into these games, you can be confident they’ll be worth your time.
Linux, Windows or Mac - which one is best for you? Watch our guide video below:
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
Save up to 46% on a magazine subscription
Check out these great money-saving offers on the very best technology magazines, delivered straight to your door!
Best free game on our radar: Defiance 2050
Remember that science-fiction MMO shooter from a few years ago? No, we’re not talking about Destiny. Instead, we’re talking about Defiance, a game that its developers would likely argue went underappreciated as well as being indisputably unpopular. It’s not that Defiance wasn’t a good game. In fact, it was fun, but it couldn’t quite find its footing in the middle of everything that was going on when it originally launched in 2013.
Now the video game-turned-Syfy original series is coming back for seconds, complete with a brand new name, better graphics and an all-new story that wants to suck you in 20 years after the events of the first game. It’s coming to Steam with the nominal price point of free ninety nine and includes upgraded textures in addition to higher resolutions and frame rates. It’s also coming to consoles, but not without paying extra close attention to the PC platform that made it (somewhat) famous.
The Defiance 2050 had a quick closed beta in April 2018, and it will probably run again in the very near future, as we still don’t have a solid release date. If you’re interested, though, we’d advise that you head over to the closed beta sign-up page to be reminded of its release when it eventually happens.
Expected: Summer 2018 (closed beta)
Best free PC games: 1 - 2
1. Fortnite Battle Royale
The Battle Royale trend is huge right now, and Epic Games has all but perfected it with Fortnite Battle Royale. Initially developed as a sort of add-on for Fortnite, Battle Royale took of in a way that nobody was anticipating, quickly becoming one of the most played games in the world in 2018.
The game is entirely based around a simple scenario: you’re dumped in a map with 99 other players in a free-for-all melee, and the only winner is the one who is left standing at the end. And, thanks to its meteoric success, Epic Games is hard at work adding new game modes and features all the time. Take Playground mode, for instance – it dumps you in the map and lets you build up structures for a set amount of time before the floodgates open and the carnage begins.
Sure, there are microtransactions, but they’re all cosmetic and have no bearing on gameplay. But, what’s more important – you’ll never run out of people to play with, as cross-play between Xbox One and, soon, iOS users will match you up against millions of different people.
2. Dota 2
The Dota universe may have derived from a Wacraft 3 mod, but Dota 2 is very much its own entity, not to mention one of the most popular free-to-play games.
This top-down arena battler is incredibly active, attracting multi-million dollar prize funds for serious tournament players. It's not just for obsessives, though.
A brief tutorial now points out the ropes, with the Steam Community stepping in to provide guides to the original MOBA. Don't expect a warm welcome or easy learning curve from its sophisticated gameplay mechanics, but bring a few friends and Dota 2 will have you hooked on one of the biggest crazes in PC history.
Best free PC games: 3 - 4
3. Planetside 2
Two years before Destiny dropped into orbit, we had Planetside 2. It’s an epic, all-out first-person battle so unbelievable, you’ll have to pinch yourself every time you load it up to remind yourself it’s completely free. There are in-game purchases, sure, but you can still dive into the biggest battlefield in gaming and be useful with the default equipment.
There's simply nothing like taking part in a massed assault on an enemy base and coming out on top, or living in a world where an enemy convoy could appear on the horizon at any second. If you need any proof that 'free' doesn't mean uninspired, Planetside 2 will provide it.
- Play Planetside 2 for free
4. Path of Exile
Path of Exile is a free dungeon crawler in the style of Diablo III, and it’s a bit different than most free games out there. It’s not just about fragging real-life people until they scream at you in shrill pubescent tones through their Skype headsets.
It moves a bit more slowly than the typical multiplayer blaster, but if you give it time, you may just fall in love with this loot gathering hit – it’s really the best free game for Diablo addicts. There are hidden depths that you can uncover after playing for hours, and a huge skill tree to slowly pick away at. There are no game-ruining issues like real-money auction houses here, either.
Instead, even basic loot can be useful because there's always an opportunity to enhance even the simplest weapon with magic. If you got tired of the grind of Diablo III, it's a good one to check out.
Best free PC games: 5 - 6
5. League of Legends
Pick a champion and head into battle in this seminal free-to-play game from the creators of the Warcraft III mod, Dota. League of Legends’ automated matchmaking, diverse cast of characters and pristine maps have made it a multiplayer behemoth over the last few years, and one that will certainly stand the test of time.
It’s an aggressive gameplay experience, but one that rewards good teamwork and careful tactics. You won’t master it overnight, but you’ll be having fun shortly after you hit that ‘play’ button.
Like Dota 2, League of Legends attracts many high-end players, and the top tournaments offer prize pools of over $1 million. The weird world of e-sports, eh?
6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Ever played Magic the Gathering, the card game? Hearthstone is Blizzard's attempt at making an online free-to-play alternative to it.
And in typical Blizzard fashion, it's excellent. It's immediately inviting, lacking the terrifying learning curve you might expect from an online fantasy card game. Hearthstone plays quickly, boasts a very casual visual approach, and benefits from a basic rule set, all of which adds up to a very accessible card battler that will give you hours of enjoyment.
Despite being accessible, it's still quite challenging as well, especially if you're up against an opponent that plays their cards right.
Best free PC games: 7 - 8
7. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Taking over from the original Star Wars MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies in 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic was not free at release at first. But it has since, like so many games of this kind, adopted the free-to-play model. If you want to get Sith kicks, this is the best way to get them for free.
Keep in mind though, that subscriptions are still available, and will give you more in-game potential and end-game content. All the story missions, however, are still available for free – it just might take a bit longer now.
It’s worth your time just to see the Star Wars universe from different sets of eyes, like the hyper-professional Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter. If you want to go with the dull option and just have a generic Jedi Knight, though – you can totally do that.
8. Forza Motorsport 6 Apex
When Xbox head Phil Spencer said he was going to bring the console's best franchises to the PC, he wasn't joking around. Among these notable series is Forza Motorsport.
Shunned by petrol-heads and embraced by gamers, Forza Motorsport may seem like an arcadey offshoot of its biggest rival on PlayStation, but it consistently looks and feels superb nonetheless.
Apex in particular brings a complete Forza Motorsport game to PC players for the first time. Though it’s free-to-play, there is additional content that can be downloaded for a modest price. While it’s not quite the full-fledged experience you can expect on Xbox One, with support for 4K screens and racing wheels, Forza Motorsport 6 Apex is the free-to-play twist we’ve been craving from Microsoft’s long-standing racing series.
Best free PC games: 9 - 10
9. Killer Instinct
Rare's classic fighting series Killer Instinct may not be the household name it once was, but the ability to play one character for free is enticing nonetheless.
What's more, characters can be purchased a la carte as downloadable content, which means you don't have to shell out a wad of cash unnecessarily for characters you'll never play. And, for the Xbox fans out there, this game is essentially Microsoft's equivalent of Super Smash Bros. and PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale since you can pick up numerous Xbox mascots. These include Arbiter (Halo), Rash (Battletoads) and General RAAM (Gears of War) in addition to a growing catalog of Killer Instinct-specific characters.
While Killer Instinct isn't as popular with the Fighting Game Community, there is a certain novelty of being able to control these classic Xbox-derived characters, and on PC at that.
10. World of Tanks
World of Tanks is a different kind of MMO – which you should have guessed from the title. Team-based, massively multiplayer action with a huge range of war machines to drive into battle awaits, with new players able to jump into the fray right away.
The upgrade system adds a sense of personalization, while being surrounded by an entire army at all times reminds you that loners won’t survive on the battlefield. Get sucked in, though, and you may find yourself spending a chunk of your wages on great big chunks of virtual metal.
While some premium tanks cost just a few dollars, others are more expensive. You can see where maker Wargaming is earning some cash from World of Tanks enthusiasts.
Best free PC games: 11 - 12
11. War Thunder
Think World of Tanks is a bit too arcade-like for your tastes? You need to try out the free game War Thunder. Despite being lesser-known, it's a great alternative to that tank battler. And for an extra sweetener, it throws airplanes into the mix too. As you might expect, they're a great deal of fun.
With a fast enough PC, War Thunder offers visual quality you don't see too often in free-to-play games. You will need to pay some cash to get hold of the more interesting planes and tanks early on, but getting Battlefield-like play for free sounds like a good deal to us.
There are arcade and historical battles on offer – the former is great for a more casual blast while historical battles are more for players with a few hours on their flight card.
Though its future was briefly uncertain after the sale of Sony's online entertainment division in February 2015, Everquest has returned better than ever with new expansion packs and continued support by Daybreak Game Company.
The first of its kind to commercially succeed with a 3D game engine, Everquest was released in 1999 as an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and has since been documented as one of the most important games in the medium's history.
Featuring consistently released expansion packs (quite massive in scale, at least early on) with vast new areas, races and classes, Everquest brings to the table just about everything you would expect from an MMO – plus it's notably better at handling co-op than its alternatives.
Best free PC games: 13 - 14
Originally hailed as the game that would finally dethrone World of Warcraft, Rift had its moment – and is still going strong depending who’s talking. It brought innovation to a genre that was changing very slowly, letting you change your class whenever you felt like it.
The whole game is focused on separating giant boss battles and events that occupy entire zones. It’s ambitious, exciting and huge with dozens of interdimensional rifts that keep things fresh and unique from other MMOs. And, after Rift went free to play, Trion has stayed on top of things, releasing regular expansions for everyone to enjoy.
Plus, you can ride on a landshark.
is one of the biggest free-to-play MMOs out there, and now would be a good time to take a look. In 2013 it entered its third reboot – this is actually 'Runescape 3', although just jumping in now you might not appreciate it has been around in one form or another for more than 10 years.
It's certainly not the shiniest MMO in the world despite the revamp, but hanging onto this many players shows it's doing something right. The big change introduced in Runescape 3 that made it appear a lot more modern was the ability to see much further – in Runescape 2 the horizon quickly gave way to fog. Not so now.
You can download the game for free or run it in your browser using Java, making it much more convenient than most other online role-players of this epic scale.
Best free PC games: 15 - 16
If the bleak appearance adopted by the typical MMORPG is a turn-off for you, you’ll be delighted to see that Maplestory takes the traditional art style of the genre and turns it on its head. Described by Nexon as the original 2D side-scrolling MMO, Maplestory takes the classic Dungeons & Dragons-inspired genre and makes it kawaii.
The lighter tone and customization of Maplestory makes it feel more like Harvest Moon than World of Warcraft or Rift. It’s also more focused on improving cosmetics than many other MMOs, allowing players much more control over how their characters look.
There’s even in-game weddings and dinosaurs that play guitar. Really, the only thing Maplestory is missing is an Oasis-composed soundtrack.
If you're into third-person co-operative shooters, Warfarme is one of the best free games out there. Players take control of members of the Tenno, an ancient race at war with enemies such as the Grineer, the Corpus, the Infested and the Sentients. Your Tenno soldier uses the Crysis-style Warframe armor equipped with guns or melee weapons to fight back.
Better looking than your average free-to-play shooter, much fun can be had in Warframe's player-vs-enemy raids — so much so that some gamers see it as, "The Destiny that never was". High praise indeed.
Best free PC games: 17 - 18
Gods from every pantheon come together in Smite to battle it out in a free Dota/MOBA inspired clash. Even though Smite wears its influences on its sleeve, it comes from the same developer that made the FPS smash Tribes Ascend – a completely different beast.
The camera is behind the characters this time, making for a more direct connection to the action than simply guiding your lord around with a mouse, but the premise will be either familiar if you've played its inspirations, or a way to get the feel for the style if you haven't. Gods include Zeus, Thor, Kali, Artemis and... Cupid? Well, at least he has his own bow…
18. Lord of the Rings Online
There are so many MMOs that have been launched or relaunched as free-to-play games, but Lord of the Rings Online is one of the titles that most warrants a second look. Not only is it an excellent game in its own right, it’s one of the more mature MMOs on the market.
You’ll probably have to pay eventually, if only to unlock adventure packs, but there’s no subscription fee and nothing to buy up front. If you missed it at launch, or even if you quit playing since then, it’s time to give it a try.
Best free PC games: 19 - 20
Without seeing more than a few screenshots, you might think Wildstar is a new IP from Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac Games. It's colorful and cartoony enough to sit alongside the same catalog as Spyro, but this is no casual free-to-play MMO, which may be the reason it didn't do as well as expected sales-wise.
If you like Blizzard games, such as World of Warcraft, Wildstar will undoubtedly quench your thirst since many of its developers at Carbine Studios came from the beloved Activision Blizzard studio.
While it wasn’t exactly the “next evolution of the modern MMORPG” that Carbine wanted it to be, Wildstar holds its own as a traditional MMO with challenging and unique PvE content that, before launching as a free-to-play title, had a unique subscription model based on actual player progress – along with beautiful stylized graphics.
20. Eve Online
In 2003, Icelandic developer CCP Games unleashed Eve Online, an immersive and in-depth “sci-fi experience” that would eventually garner the attention of well over 500,000 players. Eve Online is unlike any game in its category, thanks to the vast range of activities to take part in as well as its (appropriately) out of this world in-game economy.
Unfortunately, the Eve Online player base has been dwindling since 2013. It shouldn’t be surprising that as time goes on, fewer and fewer gamers are interested in paying a subscription fee for a glorified space sim with a steep learning curve. However, since the Ascension Update, released back in November 2016, Eve Online has gone free to play – at least to an extent.
The new ‘alpha clones’ system featured in Eve Online is similar to the “unlimited free trial” featured in World of Warcraft. You can still engage with other player in piracy, manufacturing, trading, mining, exploration and combat, but certain skills will be off limits. If you don’t want to limit your access to some of the game’s most lumbering ships you can always opt for the Omega subscription – otherwise, the game won’t cost a cent.
Best free PC games: 21 - 22
21. Blacklight: Retribution
While it may not be as ‘free’ as it was before it showed up on PS4, Blacklight: Retribution is still a damn fine and affordable way to play an FPS. Almost like a free-to-play Titanfall, Blacklight: Retribution has no single-player mode to offer and takes place in a futuristic Cyberpunk setting complete with fan-favorite game types like Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, King of the Hill and Domination.
Featuring customizable weapons and mechs, of course, Blacklight: Retribution is a fun, free and safe way to let off steam after that 9 to 5. Plus, with over 1 million registered players and counting, there's bound to me no shortage of teammates (and rivals) to join up with.
As it's been in beta since 2012 with little to no marketing push, you may have forgotten about or were unfamiliar with it in the first place. Most notably, Hawken is a game about mechs. But, not just any mechs – fast mechs. These are your average slow, lumbering tanks of MechWarrior Online. These are more comparable to the Exoskeletons of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
Of course, being a free-to-play game, you can expect to pay for upgrades to your starter mech. However, you can still get a taste for Hawken without spending a dime. Plus, attach an Oculus Rift and you can see for yourself what have in store for you. Admit it, you've wanted to know what it's feels like to power a mech for yourself since Pacific Rim came out.
Best free PC games: 23 - 24
23. Evolve Stage 2
Hey, remember Evolve? Yeah, we didn’t think so – it quickly fell off the face of the Earth after release, until it was eventually removed from Steam. Turtle Rock then re-released Evolve back into beta a year and a half after its initial release. It was then that Evolve was released as a free-to-play experience, and even given a new name: Evolve Stage 2.
Despite going free-to-play, the game's core structure remains intact. It's a game of humans vs. zombies, err, monsters, a new twist on a beloved pastime. A team of four players, called hunters, is pitted up against a single monster, with each hunter assigned their own class. Of course, with four players taking on one, there is a unique catch: hence the game's title, monsters start out at a basic level but evolve over time by killing and consuming wildlife in nearby areas.
Evolve cost $40 before, so rest assured you'll get access to a game that looks triple-A, even if much of the content is locked behind a paywall. Nevertheless you can give it a shot for yourself for the nominal cost of $0 on Steam.
24. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
While we sit, anxiously awaiting whatever The Elder Scrolls VI ends up being, you should take the time to give the classic The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall a try. This 1990s RPG is a precursor to those incredibly popular RPGs, and is a bit of a classic in its own right.
Its game world is many times the size of any of its sequels, and indeed it’s the size of a continent – and it’s absolutely packed with atmosphere. It might look a little rough by today’s standards, but it’s worth looking at if you’re an Elder Scrolls fan.
It's available direct from Bethesda. The publisher started offering it for free to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the game. As if we didn't feel old enough already.
Best free PC games: 25 - 26
25. Starcraft II
One of the biggest games to ever hit the PC/Mac landscape is Starcraft II, a competitive real-time strategy game whose Wings of Liberty installment is just one of three parts of the campaign. At one time, it was a phenomenon in South Korea, but the scene fizzled out a bit when MOBAs like League of Legends and Dota 2 took the world by storm. Maybe that’s why Blizzard decided to convert Starcraft II to the free-to-play business model.
As a result of its compelling strategy game mechanics, combined with brilliantly designed environments and a fascinating narrative that can only be expressed in a video game, Starcraft II is one of the most widely enjoyed eSports in the entire world. Of course, being a Blizzard game, you’ll need a Battle.net account to enjoy it, but otherwise, both the campaign and the multiplayer are free to enjoy. Only certain characters require your prized coin.
26. Wolfenstein 3D
Interested in knowing what Wolfenstein was before The New Order? Wolfenstein 3D is now free, and will take you back to the year 1992 when celebrity game developers John Carmack and John Romero teamed up to make a shareware game like nothing before it.
Wolfenstein 3D took concepts from Muse Software's Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein to create a three-dimensional first-person shooter that would later inspire the development of Doom.
Keep in mind while playing, though, that while Wolfenstein 3D was impressive for its time, it's probably not what you would expect from a first-person shooter of today's standards. Nonetheless, it's an easy and free way to experience game history in an old-school World War II game rich with narrative about, well, shooting Nazis in the face. Don't expect to be blown away by the story in the same way as the Wolfenstein franchise's more recent entries.
Best free PC games: 27 - 28
27. Team Fortress 2
It may be an old vet in gaming terms, but nothing offers so much crazy fun as . Unlike most shooters of its age, players are still there to have a good time rather than hurl abuse at newcomers, and there's no shortage of cool toys to have fun with. Endlessly silly and amazingly fresh, it's still one of the shooter genre's kings, free-to-play or not.
As you might guess, there are some micro-transactions involved. You can buy additional items, often used to customise your character. You can create your own. It's fun, and gets you even more involved in TF2. Those cheeky devils at Valve know what they're doing.
Though it may have gotten lost in the fog of Overwatch, Lawbreakers and the like, Gigantic is yet another hero shooter in a jumbled sea of hero shooter fanaticism. The difference is that Gigantic, much like the unfortunately fated Battleborn, is a lot more MOBA-esque than Blizzard and Boss Key Studios’ similarly styled games.
The gameplay largely revolves around two teams of five players who are both trying to defeat both each other and a mystical leviathan known as a guardian. Likewise, Gigantic gives players the choice between a wide variety of characters each with their own abilities and upgrades. Plus, it’s on Xbox One, too, in case you want to continue the fun in the living room.
Best free PC games: 29 - 30
29. Magic Duels
Magic: The Gathering is fun, right? But what if you could play it from the comfort of your PC? Fortunately, that's possible thanks to Magic Duels. Whether you're a first-time player or a 20-year vet, Duels lets you do everything the card game does and more. While over 300 new cards are advertised as being attainable throughout the game, there's also a unique story mode where you can experience Magic like never before.
If narrative in your card games isn't your cup of tea, there's also a Battle Mode in which you can challenge your friends, a four-player Two-Headed Giant battle and even an offline solo mode you can use for practice against AI.
30. DC Universe Online
Though it's yet another free-to-play MMO on this list, DC Universe Online takes characters like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and more into a massive (and shared) public world.
Choose whether you want to be a member of the Hero or Villain faction then customize your character and you'll be sent out into the world of DC Universe Online at the hands of Daybreak Game Company.
After some training, the game assigns you a position as either a member of the Justice League or The Society depending on your choice of hero or villain. Unlike other MMOs on this list and outside it, DC Universe Online is designed to be much more interactive while still retaining traditional MMORPG elements such as leveling, raiding, inventories and post-game progression. Favorably, it's not difficult to play without using real-world currency too.
Best free PC games: 31 - 32
It’s not hard to see why Paladins catches a lot of flack for its resemblance to Overwatch. At the same time, the team-based shooter bears many distinctions from that of Blizzard’s. Abilities are upgraded based on a collectible card system, which can completely change the way each character plays.
What’s more, unlike Overwatch, Paladins is completely free-to-play. While cosmetic items are available to buy using real-world currency, everything else can be unlocked simply by playing the game. For instance, you’ll start Paladins with a single deck of basic cards, and from there, more dramatically impactful decks can be unlocked.
Regardless of how you choose to play Paladins, you’ll get XP as you play. As long as you’re completing the daily quests and achievements featured in the game, you’ll be rewarded with Radiant Chests and Gold. These can be used to purchase more cards, costumes and weapon skins to make your characters more unique and skillful on the battlefield.
32. Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 Lite
You may be familiar with Fifa already, but Pro Evolution Soccer – or PES – is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all-time. It doesn’t have all the flair (or the licensing) of its EA Sports rival, but some would argue that it’s the better soccer game series, not to mention one of the better sports series overall.
PES 2018 in particular isn’t too much of an improvement over its predecessor, but it does introduce better dribbling and makes an effort to perfect the fan-favorite Master League mode. The ‘Lite’ version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 gives you access to the Online myClub and PES League Mode in addition to the Offline Exhibition Match and Training Mode, entirely for free. There are in-app purchases along the way, but you can always upgrade to the full version later should this one not satisfy.
33 - 34
You can now get Spelunky on all sorts of platforms – it's pretty high-profile for an indie title. But it began its life PC-exclusive, and its original 'non HD' Classic version you can still get for free today.
The catch is that every time you play, the entire game is randomized. In one game you'll stumble through screen after screen of spiked horrors and swarming monsters; in the next, the software will bend over backwards to give you gold and help you on your way.
You learn how each randomized world ticks and which equipment will give you a fighting chance. And then you'll die some more. And scream. And restart. Again.
As a free MMO, Neverwinter sets a high standard for itself as it's based on perhaps the most iconic role-playing game of all-time, Dungeons & Dragons. Like everything else in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, the game takes place in Forgotten Realms, specifically, as the name suggests, in Neverwinter.
Featuring eight character classes with groups of up to five players supported, Neverwinter is based on the fourth-generation rules of Dungeons & Dragons. However, the rules are slightly modified, letting players heal their allies in addition to allowing for the use of special abilities in combat after racking up enough action points.
Best free PC games: 35 - 36
35. Doki Doki Literature Club
An ostensibly charming visual novel on the surface, Doki Doki Literature Club is a game that’s best experienced blindly. It comes from Dan Salvato, a game developer known best for his work in the Super Smash Bros. Melee modding community, who says he developed Doki Doki Literature Club because of his indifference towards anime.
That’s ironic considering the main character in Doki Doki Literature Club is obsessed with anime and manga and has minimal experience with the writings of more prestigious authors. As engrossing as the trio of female supporting characters appear to be in Doki Doki Literature Club, we would advise getting too attached to them.
Without spoiling the story, the first thing you see when you boot up Doki Doki Literature Club is a content warning, suggesting that those with severe anxiety refrain from playing at all. It’s not entirely unwarranted either, as you’re bound to learn the hard way that Doki Doki Literature Club is more horror than generic fan service.
36. Puzzle Pirates: Dark Seas
For nearly 15 years now, Puzzle Pirates has been a household name for kids with unrestricted access to the computer labs at school. It’s a completely free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game originally developed by the Sega-owned Three Rings Design. The goal is to join a crew and ideally become a captain, by completing puzzles alongside other players.
Puzzle Pirates: Dark Seas, on the other hand, is the Steam-exclusive version of Puzzle Pirates that introduces an entirely new ocean known as Obsidian. Dark Seas introduces factions and player-versus-player (PvP) combat in a way that didn’t exist prior to the Steam release of Puzzle Pirates. It also comes from a different developer, a nonprofit called Grey Havens founded by several former members of Three Rings Design.
Before the advent of Dark Seas, you could only get the multiplayer portion of Puzzle Pirates on Steam. Now it appears as though the single-player mode can be downloaded and installed from Valve’s client as well. Although it’s only in early access for the time being, early reviews suggest that it’s worth a shot for Puzzle Pirates veterans and newcomers alike.
Best free PC games: 37 - 38
37. Phantom Dust
Its development cycle was a disaster, but in the end, the Phantom Dust remaster turned out just fine. A new IP in the form of a Japanese budget card game for the original Xbox, it seemed to good to be true when Microsoft revealed back at E3 2014 that a complete remake was in the works… and, as it turns out, it was.
The remake was canned in 2016, but Microsoft still wanted to revive the cult classic one-off. As it turns out, the company did so with a remaster, not a remake. Luckily, the new version of Phantom Dust for Windows 10 (and Xbox One, for console-goers) doesn’t cost a thing to play unless you opt to purchase some of the in-game “multiplayer cards”.
38. Dwarf Fortress
Inspiring the creation of Minecraft was no small feat for 2D sandbox game Dwarf Fortress. Dubbed a construction and management simulator, Dwarf Fortress takes simple text-based graphics into a more modern, 2006 piece of software. The game is often classified as a cult classic because of its open-ended nature and serving as one of the most iconic examples of a procedurally generated roguelike.
This means Dwarf Fortress both randomizes its environments and makes the game's permadeath system a much more difficult problem to avoid. This led to the unofficial slogan for the game "Losing is fun," which was either ironic or an accurate description of what happens in the game. Tough to say either way.
One thing's for sure, though. If you want to experience an important part of games history, Dwarf Fortress is a solid start, as it was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City back in 2013. Can't say that for a lot of free-to-play games.
Best free PC games: 39 - 40
39. Fable Fortune
After a troubled development cycle, Fable Fortune is the collectible card game that you probably thought would never release. Either that, or you’ve never even heard of it. We wouldn’t blame you. The team behind the Fable franchise – the illustrious group of individuals at Lionhead Studios – has since departed its doors, which were coincidentally permanently shut two years ago.
In the time following Lionhead’s closure, its parent company, Microsoft, licensed off Fable Fortune to a group of former Lionhead developers at a new company called Flaming Fowl Studios. It was there that Fable Fortune found private funding despite a failed Kickstarter campaign. The end result is a fairly competitive card game that’s completely free to play.
Skeptics will be quick to compare Fable Fortune to Hearthstone. However, the two games differ drastically due to its more complex set of hero powers, less randomness and a morality system that rewards an understanding of its ‘good’ and ‘evil’ points.
40. Fallout Shelter
If you're more interested in the property management systems of Fallout 4 rather than the overwhelming majority of the role-playing game's content, Fallout Shelter is a great place to start. Up until recently, the simulation game was limited to mobile platforms Android and iOS. However, with the introduction of Quests in version 1.6 of Fallout Shelter, Bethesda Softworks also felt the need to port the game to PC by way of the Bethesda.net client.
All in all, Fallout Shelter doesn't feel much different on PC, and that's undoubtedly a good thing. Mouse controls work well in place of a touchscreen, graphics are optimized even for low-end hardware and with windowed mode enabled by default, it's easy to find yourself caring after your vault residents during your downtime at work. With an indisputably manageable price point (free), Fallout Shelter could very well become the next Solitaire in your office or at school.
Best free PC games: 41 - 42
As a result of being overshadowed when it originally released six years ago, Brink is now completely free to play on Steam – no microtransactions added. Bittersweet considering its lukewarm commercial reception, but we should celebrate the fact that this unique spin on the traditional multiplayer first-person shooter is now available for all to enjoy.
Set on a floating city called the Ark that’s running low on resources, Brink pits a team of refugees, the “Resistance”, against the security officials deemed responsible for those living in poverty. The result is a fun, if flawed, experience that blends single-player objectives harmoniously with heated multiplayer gunplay.
From developer Splash Damage and publisher Bethesda Softworks, you might have turned your nose up at Brink during its initial release in 2011, but now that it’s free, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth.
CEO and president of Gearbox Software Randy Pitchford will tell you differently, but Battleborn is free-to-play. Officially classified as a “free trial” on Steam, there isn’t much to differentiate the hero shooter from other free-to-play games on the market. You can play for as long as you want using six of the game’s 30 characters, rotated weekly to shake things up.
Battleborn was originally released in May 2016, the same month as Overwatch. The main difference is that Battleborn draws influence from MOBA games while Overwatch is a more traditional PvP shooter with an eccentric cast of characters. Battleborn also has a single-player campaign, which can be unlocked using real-world currency.
Best free PC games: 43 - 44
43. The Elder Scrolls: Legends
There’s an ostensibly neverending arms race developers are in right now to put out the next Hearthstone. That is, a wildly popular collectible card game (CCG) that’s “easy to learn but challenging to master.” Those are the words, verbatim, publisher Bethesda Softworks is using to describe The Elder Scrolls: Legends.
A CCG that draws from the lore of the company’s beloved RPG franchise, The Elder Scrolls: Legends differentiates itself from the likes of competing virtual card games such as Hearthstone and The Witcher 3’s Gwent by enacting a two-lane system that keeps players on their toes when it comes to devising strategies.
And, if you’re simply craving more Skyrim, you’ll be elated to know that the Heroes of Skyrim expansion for The Elder Scrolls: Legends packs in 150 additional cards, some of which are familiar faces like Aela the Huntress, J’Zargo and Delphine.
Whether you loved or hated World of Tanks, you’ll be pleased to know that Robocraft is what you get when you take conventional vehicle combat and completely turn it on its head. From independent developer and publisher Freejam, Robocraft lets you commandeer jet cars (not jets and cars, but jet cars), tanks, flying warships, helicopters and drones.
In doing so, you’ll spend most of your time engaging in combat with other players online. Like a vehicle-based Fortnite, you’ll also experiment with different combinations of 250 preset blocks using a simple crafting interface, allowing you to equip the vehicle of your choosing with the weapons of your choosing as well.
Likewise, Robocraft lets you create or join clans with up to 50 members. Within those clans, you can invite friends to ‘parties’ and play cooperatively in an effort to take down other teams. Once everything is said and done and you’re satisfied with your creations, you can show them off at the virtualized Community Robot Factory in exchange for likes and shares.
Best free PC games: 45
45. Total War Battles: Kingdom
Real-time Strategy (RTS) games don't come much grander than those in the Total War series, and the latest entrant, Battles KINGDOM, is free-to-play. Currently in open beta on the PC, it's also available to play on iOS and Android, so you can pick up where you left off when you're away from your battlestation. Set at the turn of the 10th Century, Total War Battles: Kingdom combines army management with kingdom building to deliver a bite-sized RTS game you can pick up and play anywhere, anytime.