Put your wallet away
We all love a freebie. That's why the free-to-play model is becoming so popular amongst gamers. It offers us a chance to try games before we sink any cash into them, or--in some instances--entertain ourselves for hours without paying a thing. While many older free-to-play games constantly demanded that we pay up or leave, modern examples take a more polite approach. "Excuse me sir, would you like to buy this fancy hat and help keep an honest developer in business?"
So, we've rounded up the 100 best free games available on PC and consoles right now, in no particular order. Think most of them will be cheap MMOs and five-minute indie games? Think again. We've got shooters, strategy, sims, driving games, text adventures and, yes, a handful of fantasy MMORPGs (but you'd be better off checking out our complete list of best free MMORPGs). We think you're guaranteed to find something you like in this list and, fortunately, you won't have to pay a penny to find out
Heroes of the Storm
All of the greatest heroes and villains from the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo franchises have gathered together to do battle in a arena. But before the word MOBA scares you away, Heroes of the Storm is surprisingly approachable. You don't have to sift through complicated systems like items, runes, or couriers as in Dota 2 or League of Legends, and there's just something about seeing Blizzard's most popular characters like the Queen of Blades, Thrall, and Tyrael all beating the crap out of each other. The fast-paced gameplay will keep you hooked, and there are a ton of amazing alternate character skins to browse (some of which you can earn for free). Yes, it starts off free, but if you're not careful, HotS might grab on to your wallet and never let go.
This is the daddy of free-to-play shooters--its staggering how much game you get for free in Planetside 2. Maps are vast, there are three different factions, and you get hundreds of players stuffed onto the servers during most games. In fact, we really recommend either taking a friend with you or learning about the game before you begin, because there's so much to understand here. You should also know that while progression can be slow if you dont hand over some cash, the starting weaponry is decent enough to give you a fighting chance in any skirmish, so expect to be competitive from the start.
Powerstar Golf is now free-to-play on Xbox One, giving you a chance to test your driving and chip-in skills on some picturesque 18-hole courses. This cartoony game of links has all of the features and gameplay elements you'd expect from a golf title, including Match and Stoke game modes and a variety of fictitious golfers to choose from. Each character has a special power they can use to improve their game like power shots and the ability to split one ball into five. You earn experience as you progress which can be used to purchase new gear, but if you want to play on additional courses or try out new characters, you'll have to drop some money.
Pinball FX 2 / Zen Pinball 2
These virtual pinball hubs (which are identical in all but name, depending on which platform you're playing them on) are much more than just digitized version of the classic arcade tables. All of the normal pinball-on-bumper physics apply, so anyone accustomed to the real thing will feel right at home - but the layouts have complexities and surprises that wouldn't be possible in an actual machine. You can also download a plethora of themed tables from a variety of video game and pop culture franchises, including Star Wars, Plants vs. Zombies, and South Park. Those will cost you a small fee, but you can get started with the excellent Sorcerer's Lair table just for downloading the game, and there are free demos for each additional table.
League of Legends
With over millions upon millions of sign-ups, League of Legends is the most popular game in the world. Its a multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA), which means that players split into teams of five and duke it out across a series of large maps. The game has been going for years, so the polish and choice of characters are staggering, and youll never have any trouble finding a game. Be warned, though: its incredibly competitive, and learning all the rules and strategies can take months.
World of Tanks
If the idea of getting your face lasered to pieces by precocious teenagers in Call of Duty is your idea of hell, then World of Tanks might be for you. This game is all about strategy, out-smarting opponents, and pimping out your tank with the right armaments to suit your style of play. Nine times out of ten, a well-prepared assault will smash a quick trigger finger, so its ideal for older players looking to inflict violence at a more considered pace.
Think mech games are slow and boring? Well, yes, most of them are but not Hawken. Here they move at a frightening pace and come bristling with a decent variety of weapons and gadgets to help you smash your human opponents into scrap. Its essentially a first-person shooter with a focus on customising your mech to suit whatever playstyle you choose. The developers recently added taunts too, so you can belittle enemies at the press of a key instead of awkwardly trying to tea-bag them from inside a 100ft killing machine.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
If you grew up playing collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon, then Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a game you should be looking into. Hearthstone takes the basic Magic formula: accumulating mana, using it to summon creatures or cast spells, and so forth. But Hearthstone makes it even simpler, removing the land mechanic of Magic in favor of granting one additional mana each turn. This makes jumping into Hearthstone that much easier, as you can now focus on the core strategies of your deck without worrying about taking up precious deck space with lands. Weve played many a game of Hearthstone around the office, and we still cant get enough of these cards.
When Crytek announced they were going free-to-play, eyebrows were raised. These are the guys who gave us Crysis, the series that continues to mock the pathetic attempts of gaming rigs to actually run it. Warface is far less beautiful than Crysis, but no less ambitious. It's both a multiplayer and co-op shooter, set in the future, and you can apply for a Beta key now. While it doesn't offer anything truly unique, the shooting is excellent, it looks amazing, and it's got some incredibly smart map design.
Lord of the Rings Online
This game topped our list of the best free MMORPGs for a good reason: you get the full MMO experience without paying a dime. Despite being reasonably old (coming up on six years), Lord of the Rings Online still stands as one of the best MMOs around, thanks to its substantial expansions and all the races, classes, and content theyve brought with them. Sure, some of the best items are only available to paying VIP members, but its tough to begrudge paying for a game that offers this much depth.
Team Fortress 2
One of the biggest free-to-play games, and arguably one of the best. This Valve-made shooter continues to evolve as support drops in from both developers and the community, so it feels as fresh today as it did at launch. Its class-based--so, full of variety--and hugely competitive without becoming intimidating. Microtransactions are all about incidental items (like new hats) so you dont have to pay anything to get the full TF2 experience. In fact, you can even make money by playing Team Fortress 2, if you decide to start creating your own in-game items to sell on to other players.
If Team Fortress 2 is the good cop of free-to-play shooters, Tribes: Ascend is definitely the bad cop. Its tough, despite the fact that the match-making system tries to throw you into games with similarly ranked opponents, largely because jetpacks play such a key role. Keeping track of enemies is difficult when half of them are in the air and the other half are around the next corner; you have been warned. Get good at Tribes, though, and youll be able to show off all your achievements using the games rank system. Its a more dignified way of boasting about how awesome you are.
Look! Its Quake III Arena, running in your browser! And youre still getting your ass kicked on Longest Yard! Ok, so Quake isnt the most technically demanding game, but were amazed at how well the twitchy combat holds up in this free version. The only drawback with this version is that--unless you pay--some of the server options and gameplay types are locked. Not a huge loss in our opinion.
Here's another great MMO that has moved from subscription to free-to-play. TERA stands for The Exiled Realm of Arborea, a name that better encapsulates the games deep fantasy themes. All the usual MMO features are present and accounted for: crafting, questing, seven races to choose from, PvP, etc. Following the latest update, there's no cap on how far you can play as a free user. Sure, paying premium members will get better loot drops, discounts on items, and other advantages, but you can suck the sweetest juice out of TERA for free.
This third-person shooter has the art style of Team Fortress and the crass humor of a high-school teenager. It's violent, bloody, and has one of the most expansive weapon customization systems you can get in a shooter. As you blast your way through Loadout's character progression system - which unlocks bizarre player skins and wacky costumes - you earn weapon parts that include swappable barrels, magazines, triggers, and scopes. Mix and match to create anything you want, including an ally-healing rocket launcher, spiked-ball-shooting machine gun, or an electro-charged grenade launcher.
Gotham City Impostors
Good news for PC owners! Six-vs-six multiplayer shooter Gotham City Imposters is free for you--high-fives all round! Console owners yeah, sorry, you still have to pay. Its an odd use of the Batman license, pitting Dark Knight wannabes against criminals imitating the Joker, but the great use of gadgets elevates the action above 'Call of Duty in fancy dress.' Mid-game challenges keep things fresh too, offering the chance to unlock rewards by doing more than just killing enemies.
Perhaps you dont want to be an anonymous cog in the League of Legends machine. Perhaps Dota 2 scares you with its hardcore rep. And yet you still want to play a decent MOBA game. Fussy, arent you OK, we recommend you try SMITE, a third-person multiplayer battler that focuses on scraps between gods from almost every religion and faith. Before you ask, no, you cant play as Jesus. The community is small enough to be inclusive, but large enough to guarantee full servers, and the game is constantly updated with fresh characters and maps. Yes, its free, but a reasonable $30 payment gets you the Ultimate Gods Pack, which grants access to all the fighters and any subsequent updates for life.
Heroes & Generals
Heroes & Generals has several very neat tricks up its sleeve. First, it lets you choose to play the game as either a first-person shooter or a strategy game. As a Hero youre in the field, shooting dudes; as a General youre lazily lounging with a glass of fine port (optional) while moving troops around a battlefield. Cleverly, Generals can influence the battles fought by Heroes by allocating resources (tanks, bombers etc) at the start of the match, and pushing through reinforcements mid-game. Its full of ideas, which is why we can forgive the fact that its a little ugly at the moment.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
While Star Wars The Old Republic is still very much a subscription-based MMO, you can play a large chunk of it for free. Sure, youll be heavily restricted as this chart shows and you wont get any luxuries like er, the ability to sprint--but you will get a sweet taste of Galactic adventure. Since launch, SWTOR has gone from strength to strength, and now boasts over 200,000 lines of dialogue and a stack of those great character romance options that BioWare do so well. Its expansions are pretty sizable too, so there's loads of game to play.
Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances
The free-to-play Command & Conquer game got scrapped--but to ease the pain, we recommend giving Tiberium Alliances a try. Its more of a social game (as the name suggests), asking you to form alliances with other players to become truly dominant, and action time is limited for free users. On the plus side, its really approachable, and while the gameplay differs from traditional C&C games, its still incredibly tactical and potentially rewarding.
Part text adventure, part mystery RPG, Fallen London tells the bizarre story of an alternative London governed by creatures youd expect to find in an H.P. Lovecraft novel. Youll struggle to find your footing at first as you grapple with the navigation system, but once you get hooked on the story, Fallen London will be something you log into every day and constantly nibble at. There are now more than 1,000,000 lines of text in the game, so expect to be playing/reading for months as you slowly uncover the secrets of the city.
How well do you know your friends? Really know them? Neptune's Pride will help you find out. Its a strategy sim set in space, and your aim is to become the dominant force in your galaxy. You do this by sending ships to colonize worlds, fighting battles, and forming alliances. Sessions take place over the period of several weeks (it can take a ship several hours to travel to a planet) and in that time youll secretly forge alliances with friends, while stabbing others in the back to remove the competition. All chat is done by secure email so you never know who is talking to who. And therein lies the betrayal-rich intrigue.
The cops vs. criminals shooter APB Reloaded has gone slightly mad since launch. You show up for the shooting, which is competent and competitive, but stay for the lunacy of watching characters dressed up in all kinds of crazy outfits charging around the city. The way combat works is fantastic--you choose to be either cop or criminal and gain notoriety based on your actions within the MMO-sized city. Become well-known, and more opposing players will try to attack you because theyll get a larger reward for taking you down.
One Button Bob
Yeah, we went there. One Button Bob is exactly what its name suggests--an adventure game where you control everything with the tap of a single button. Think of it as Uncharted from the mid-90s. Dont let this simplicity fool you though: Bobs adventure is tricky to finish and super-competitive if you start trying to climb the Best Times leaderboards.
A MMO in which you play as a god in a part fantasy, part sci-fi world? We're in. Skyforge puts you in the shoes of a super-powered immortal striving for godhood. That's right, you aren't just given a title, worshipers, and a temple to your name, you have to earn it by defeating hostile gods, gaining new powers, and ascending the ranks. Players can choose from various classes like the DPS-dealing cryomancer, healing Lightbringer, and tanky Paladin from the start then delve into more sci-fi focused abilities with the Gunner, Kinetic, and Slayer. With it's unique setting and beautiful world, Skyforge definitely stands out among other free-to-play MMOs. Give it a shot and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Path of Exile
Straight up, Path of Exile is one of the absolute best hack-'n'-slash dungeon crawlers we've ever played. Its darker tone helps separate it from the more colorful offerings out there, while its lack of gold as a currency means you'll actually trade resources for loot. Plus, PoE has one of the deepest character customization mechanics out there, allowing you to build any kind of character you could possibly dream up. And it's 100-percent free.
Maybe you dont own a PS3 or a gaming PC, but still want a piece of the free-to-play pie. Luckily for you, the 360 has Happy Wars, a third-person online battler with a heavy emphasis on teamwork. The objective in each game is to storm your opponents fortress, using different classes of soldier, and combat--although quite pedestrian--is frantic. You get a decent wedge of game for free, but dont expect to feel inadequate next to higher-level players, who have likely coughed up a little cash.
DC Universe Online
Quite simply, DC Universe Online is the most free-to-play fun you can have on console (for now, at least). It's been kicking around on PS3 for a few years, and despite a rocky start, its now a fully fledged MMORPG with a huge roster of super-heroes and villains. It comes with a hefty initial download, which takes especially long if youre squeezing the game through PSN (its also available on PC), but after that you get stacks of game for free, and some of the downloadable paid-for content has an incredible value.
For some, the fast-paced mech action of Hawken is a turn-off. So, if you fancy some hardcore tactical play with your giant killing machines, give MechWarrior Online a try. Its deeper and more complex than Hawken, but that just makes team-play more rewarding. The game has built up a tidy community of players, who are more welcoming than most. A word of caution, though--it takes a while to learn the combat's intricacies, so you wont be world-class from the start.
The Settlers Online
Its pretty amazing to see how great The Settlers Online looks running in your browser. This is the full empire-building experience--and if youre a patient player, you never need to spend any money on in-game items, as monetization revolves around players buying blue gems to speed up production times on buildings. Theres a lively marketplace for trading resources with other players, and Ubisoft regularly runs themed events within the game (like covering the world in snow for Christmas) to add a little variety.
This exclusive PS3 title just recently made its way over to the PS4 for the price of free. In Hustle Kings, you play a straightforward game of pool, without any of video-gamey frills like powershots or special trick moves. Think of it as a pool simulator with realistic ball and shot physics that real pool sharks should enjoy. The free version of the game allows you to take on other players online in a standard game of 8-ball, but if you want to play any couch co-op or dig into additional game types, you'll have to buy in to the Exhibition packs.
Robot Unicorn Attack
Do not underestimate Robot Unicorn Attack. The ingredients are all wrong--colorful, sugar-rush worlds, a looping electro soundtrack, and the limited appeal of an endless running game--and yet this is one of the best browser games youll find online. Just one go youll say, and youll still be enraptured by its catchy presentation and moreish gameplay several hours later. Again, we accept no responsibility for the work that wont get done while youre transfixed by Robot Unicorn Attack. And the best part is that there are loads of different variants, including a Metal version that we think is superior to the original
Ghost Recon: Phantoms
Ubisoft wasnt going to allow itself to be left out of the free-to-play competition. After initially revealing its free-to-play shooter as Ghost Recon Online, soon the name was changed to Ghost Recon: Phantoms, but the core gameplay remains ever the same. Youll choose a class and head straight to battle, unlocking all kinds of guns and upgrades while you play. Its the best of the tried-and-true multiplayer shooter format of previous online titles, but with even more tactics to learn and maps to memorize. Ghost Recon brings its longstanding pedigree to the free-to-play market, and the result is pure gold.
League of Legends isnt the only MOBA game tearing up the worlds bandwidth right now. Dota 2 is Valves first foray into the genre, and the game is simply massive. Over 100 heroes can be controlled, which means thousands of possible team combinations, and in turn limitless strategic possibilities in every match. Throw in a host of specialized items for your hero and a map filled with resources of all conceivable kinds, and you have a game that takes just as long to prepare for as it does to play. Dota 2 is a thinking gamers game, and we totally understand why.
When the PS4 launched, most early adopters were focused on games like Killzone, Call of Duty, and Battlefield. The more adventurous, however, saw Warframe available for free and thought Why not try it? Wed wager that a good chunk of those who took the plunge are still venturing into Warframes futuristic world, powering up their Tenno warriors and battling the alien scourge in teams of four. The game is highly addictive, especially in groups, and the amount of upgrades attainable without spending a dime on platinum (Warframes premium currency) is astounding. This is one free-to-play war we love waging.
World of Warplanes
World of Warplanes is to aerial dogfighting as World of Tanks is to tank warfare: it allows us to jump into one of over 100 plane types from armies all over the world, upgrade it as we see fit, and ride into battle against other players in global dogfighting extravaganzas. The economic system in this game is similar to that found in World of Tanks, so seasoned players will be able to jump right in with little issue. We love World of Tanks, and we love that Wargaming is willing to branch out into other areas of war, so believe us when we say we love World of Warplanes too.
Imagine if a game like Skyrim followed an episodic format like the Telltale Games portfolio. What if, every so often, a new chapter of the Skyrim lore became available and we could play it through for free? Thats the premise of Vindictus, whose episodic story keeps players coming back again and again. Vindictus is an online RPG where you can select one of seven characters, each with their own attributes and skills, and take them through an epic story one episode at a time. Characters can be leveled up as the story progresses, gaining experience to raise their skills like a normal RPG. This episodic model is something weve never seen before in a F2P brawler, and were not sure we want it to end.
Star Conflict was made for those who long to be in the middle of the giant space battles seen in movies like Star Wars and games like Mass Effect 3. Players build a starship, equip it with modules that enhance its abilities, and then send it into battle against other spaceships in massive online battles. These interstellar wars are impressive to behold, with laser beams firing in every direction and massive explosions marking the end of a players starship. Star Conflict does an incredible job of making us feel like were fighting in space, and we cant wait to see what other updates theyll drop on us. Get in now and get ahead!
Killer Instinct made its triumphant return to the gaming world when the Xbox One launched, but it eschewed the normal fighting game format in favor of something entirely new. You can download KI right now and play to your hearts content, though youll only have one character available to you. That may sound like a drag, but it doesnt stop you from getting a taste of what the new KI is all about--and once you see the wicked combos and crazy fighting action the game is capable of, we think thats all youll need. Plus, Jago is pretty awesome, so its not like youre getting stuck with a bad character, either.
Dead or Alive 5 Last Round: Core Fighters
The Core Fighters version of Dead or Alive 5 Last Round is a free taste of the 3D fighter that's available on the PS4 and Xbox One. In Core Fighters, you only get access to four characters, but just about every game mode is open to let you train up. Downloading the free version is an easy way to test out the game, and if you end up getting hooked, you can expand your options as you like by purchasing additional characters and extra features.
World of Warplanes isnt the only game to feature some serious dogfighting. War Thunder also controls the skies with its massive open-air battles and dozens of selectable planes. Along with the multiplayer options, War Thunder offers a few things for the individual player to enjoy, like solo missions and dynamic campaigns. Best of all, future updates boast that War Thunder will allow us to fight by land and sea in addition to the air we already know. Wargaming took two games (and a third on the way) to give us these options; War Thunder hopes to do it in one stop. The World of Tanks and Warplanes have some real competition here.
This free-to-play MMO has two big factors pulling in its favor: one, its based on the incredible Neverwinter series of PC games, including Neverwinter Nights; and two, Neverwinter as a whole is based on the Dungeons and Dragons name, specifically a modified version of the D&D 4th Edition rules, and we dont need to tell you how influential D&D can be. Even without the strong lore background, Neverwinter is an enjoyable MMO with six strong classes to choose from and a ton of quests to complete. Longtime D&D fans whove been aching for a new video game to whet their appetite need look no further than Neverwinter.
A Marvel superhero MMO was a no-brainer; it was only a matter of time before someone figured out the best way to make it a reality. Gazillion Entertainments Marvel Heroes is exactly what we were looking for, with its Diablo II-esque gameplay approach and multiple ability trees per character. Also, unlike DC Universe Online where we create our own hero, Marvel Heroes allows us to take control of our favorite Marvel superhero instead, which to us makes the game a little bit easier to jump right into. We like customization, but sometimes its better to just smash as the Hulk himself.
Rift seems like an ordinary MMO at first glance, but theres a lot more than meets the eye. The soul system allows players to mold their characters into more than just the standard class, giving healers the ability to tank or giving offensive characters healing spells for an emergency. Also, while Rift does offer dungeons and raids like other games, its unique Rift battles, where a rift opens in the world and players must fight invading monsters to close the rift, are a really fun alternative. If youre suffering from MMO fatigue and are looking for something new, give Rift a shot.
Theres not a single name on this list that can hold a candle to the tenure and history of EverQuest. This MMO franchise has been delighting players since before the turn of the millennium, but despite its age, the creators have shown that theyre willing to adapt to modern times. The decision to make EverQuest 2, a subscription-based game since 2004, free-to-play opened the game up a whole new generation of players who otherwise might not have tried it, and the game is now stronger than ever. As we await EverQuest Next, now is the time to take a crack at EQ2 if you havent already.
When we first heard of Ragnarok Online, it was 2003 and the MMO was still basically unheard of outside of EverQuest, so we didnt pay it much mind. Eleven years later, Ragnarok has become a strong franchise with a global following and even an anime series based off of it. When the game started its free-to-play model a few years ago, we decided to see what all the fuss was about, and weve been hooked ever since. Beautiful sprite-based graphics, an intricate job system, and over 100 background tracks to keep our toes tapping along with our fingers. We almost feel bad for waiting so long to play this.
Super Monday Night Combat
Dont expect to see Howard Cosell on the sidelines of this Monday night shindig; Super Monday Night Combat is more League of Legends than NFL. Players are split into two teams of five, then dropped onto a giant battlefield and tasked with destroying the other teams Moneyball. Standing in the way are lanes lined with turrets, and the turrets can only be destroyed by pushing bots through the lane to drop the turrets shields. The action is hectic and the matches are lengthy, but theres a lot of fun to be had in the Super Monday Night Combat arena.
Take the highly popular Call of Duty multiplayer model, chop it out, and turn it into its own game, and you have Blacklight: Retribution in a nutshell. All of the main game modes are here, including Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination, and more. Thats not to say that this game does nothing original; the HRV mechanic that shows a player everything from weak points in a wall to the location of the enemy is interesting--but you can't shoot while it's in use, making it very dangerous. Also, in-game weapons depots allow for mid-match upgrading, so a bad loadout choice wont always be a death sentence. Best of all, it costs nothing to jump in, so shooter fans on PC or PS4 should give it a whirl.
AirMech Arena blends real-time strategy elements with the competitive MOBA framework. You take control of your Transformers-esque, aircraft-to-mech hero unit with the goal of constructing a base, building an army with a multitude of tanks and foot soldiers, then sending them off to destroy your enemy's fortifications. Whether you're taking on AI opponents or online players, winning a match becomes a balancing act between building up your units and reinforcements or just wading into the battle yourself with your almighty AirMech.
Age of Wushu
BioWares Jade Empire holds a special place in our hearts; the Xbox RPG blended storytelling with Eastern culture in a way few other games have been able to do. While we wait for a proper sequel, Age of Wushu steps in as a place to get our fill of martial arts combat and Chinese lore. While the narrative isnt as interesting as Jade Empire, the player customization and rock-paper-scissors combat system are enough to fulfill that craving for a martial arts RPGat least for a little while.
When we hear the term MMORPG we immediately think of big 3D worlds with incredible graphics and characters filling the screen. Elsword takes that preconception and destroys it, moving its MMO offering to the 2.5D plane with wonderful results. It still boasts the classes and customization of other MMOs, as well as both PvE and PvP offerings, but its distinct graphical style makes it stand out in the MMO world. Best of all, the microtransactions in Elsword are mostly centered around costumes, so we can play the game to the fullest without spending any money at all. We wish more games followed Elswords example.
Hearthstones not the only digital collectible card game that were excited about. Infinity Wars is a bit more complicated than Blizzards CCG, but the addictive gameplay is still there. The Commander system allows players to choose three characters to be Commanders, with certain bonuses given to "faction purity" or Commanders from the same faction. Mixing and matching Commanders is the core of the strategy in Infinity Wars, as a sound set of Commanders could mean quick and powerful attacks early in the game. Plus, theres a full Star Trek set available too, so if learning new lore turns you off, let your inner Trekkie out instead!
Were suckers for unique character designs, and Smashmuck Champions has that in spades. We cant decide which one is our favorite: Blitz the dinosaur-riding potato, Melody the keytar-wielding robot singer, Platimus, the platypus dressed as a unicornwe could go on and on about every character in the game. Once you select your preferred character, Smashmuck Champions is a solid MOBA with multiple arenas and game modes to choose from. We bet youll be mucking around with these champions for hours.
Super Crate Box
If youve played Ridiculous Fishing (or the more recent Luftrausers), then youre familiar with the works of indie dev Vlambeer. Every dev has to start somewhere, and in this case we turn to Super Crate Box, a freeware shoot-em-up that channels the original Mario Bros. Youre placed in an arena with enemies spawning at the top, but a crate will randomly appear holding one of fourteen possible weapons, and the main goal is to survive as long as possible. If enemies make it to the fire pit at the bottom of the arena, they respawn faster and more deadly. Super Crate Box is a fun little game that fits right into Vlambeers portfolio, and wed love to see an expanded version sometime in the future.
House of Dead Ninjas
Adult Swim Games has a ton of fantastic freeware titles ready for your mouse and keyboard. Weve already talked about Robot Unicorn Attack, but House of Dead Ninjas deserves just as much attention. You play as a female ninja tasked with clearing a tower of deadly monsters, starting at the top of the tower and working your way down to the final boss below. As your progress you can build an arsenal of weapons and spells to use in the battles ahead, including some ridiculous screen-filling magic. The game goes by very quickly, and weve found ourselves immediately restarting over and over again. The paid-for Steam version, Super House of Dead Ninjas, is also a blast.
Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire
The first of two Ultima games that can be relived for free, The Savage Empire sees The Avatar transported to a jungle world filled with various tribes of humans and other creatures. The player will have to battle insectoid monsters, master the culture of the tribes, and even face a Tyrannosaurus Rex to restore order. If youve never played an Ultima game before, look no further than this as a fantastic entry point, unless space adventures are more your style
Ultima Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams
Martian Dreams is the second free Ultima available for free online, and its a direct sequel to The Savage Empire in the last slide. Here the Avatar must travel to Mars in the Victorian Era in order to save some influential people that were accidentally launched to the Red Planet. Its another great Ultima game for those whove never played them before, and theres even a cameo from an influential game developer that you cant miss. If youve ever been interested in Ultima but didnt know where to start, check out Martian Dreams and the aforementioned Savage Empire; youll be playing the rest of the series before you know it.
Since 2001, Runescape has been wowing players with its browser-based MMO gameplay and constant updates. Were now in RuneScape 3, but technically this is the same game thats been available for 13 years. Part Sims, part WoW, and part Animal Crossing with its seasonal events, Runescape 3 can offer something to everyone all without a single download or install. The regular updates and constant expansion has helped to build what the Guinness Book of World Records named as the largest player base in all of video games. We guess over 175 MILLION registered users cant be wrong, right?
Battle Islands is probably the cutest depiction of WWII-era Pacific Theater warfare you'll ever see. The RTS puts you in command of US forces as you attempt to build your military might and conquer as many islands as possible. It plays like most classic RTS titles, requiring you to gather rare resources, build strategic bases, and amass an army of tanks, troops, and aircraft. With a challenging single-player campaign and online multiplayer matches, Battle Islands has everything you'd want in a strategy game - all wrapped up in an adorable, cartoony package.
Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden
Barkley: Shut Up and Jam was a mediocre basketball game for the SNES and Genesis starring the Round Mound of Rebound, Charles Barkley. Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden is a clever, witty turn-based RPG starring Charles Barkley in an insane adventure in post-cyberpocalyptic Neo New York. It seems Barkley unleashed a dunk so powerful that it killed most in attendance, and now basketball players are being hunted and killed. If thats not an intro that piques your interest, we dont know what else we can say about it.
Wonderputt isnt much more than just fancy miniature golfing, but the way the course unfolds before your eyes is incredible. The game is played from a fixed perspective, you see the entire course in front of you, but as you progress through the course transforms to reveal holes where there were no holes before. Hole 2, for example, is revealed after UFOs kidnap cows and carve the course out of the pasture the cows were in. It sounds really strange, but believe us: Wonderputt is a ton of fun.
The people behind Homestar Runner must have spent a lot of time playing old adventure games as children. How else could they build their own with such authenticitiy? Peasants Quest has everything from the old days: the blocky graphics, the 0 of XXX scoring system, and the giant world map without any guide on how to traverse that giant world map. There will be a lot of trial and error, but Peasants Quest is a fantastic window into adventures of the past. Justdont think the game will end with sunshine and rainbows. You are facing Trogdor the Burninator, after all.
Facebook has become quite a platform for free-to-play gaming, and while some big names have chewed up a ton of our time while stalking...er, checking in on our friends, none have logged more hours than Zuma Blitz. Its an easy-enough concept: shoot colored balls onto a ever-increasing row of other colored balls, matching colors to score points and sometimes chaining combos for even more points. However, despite its simplicity, we cant get enough of it. If the game even crosses our minds, someone is loading it up and playing a few rounds. The fact that lives take a few minutes to regenerate has saved us many a time once weve run out. Otherwise, wed never get anything done.
The Marathon Trilogy
Some Halo fans might not know this, but Bungies roots actually starts years before Master Chiefs first battles against the Covenant. The Marathon series serves as Bungies first foray into gaming, and just as Halo wowed us in the early 2000s, Marathon impressed in the mid-'90s. Some of the ideas in Marathon eventually made their way into Halo as well, like Halo 3s secret terminals (terminals were used to gain new mission objectives in all of the Marathon games). If youre a Halo fan and you want to explore the origins of the series, go and download the entire Marathon Trilogy free of charge. Its totally worth it.
Age of Empires Online
Weve mentioned a lot of MMORPGs on this list, but this is the first time were going to talk about an MMORTS. Age of Empires recently brought its excellent take on the real-time strategy genre to the free-to-play realm, and we think whoever made that decision should get a raise, a new office, and a nice sandwich. Like other AoE games, youre tasked with building an entire civilization from scratch, starting with a capital city and soon expanding it to an entire continent. There will be other civilizations to wage war with, both AI in PvE and human in PvP--but battling for more land is part of the fun. Age of Empires Online will scratch the itch of any RTS fan looking for something new without costing a dime.
Wing Commander Saga
Anyone who owned a gaming-capable PC in the '90s need only hear the words Wing Commander to set their hearts aflutter. Wing Commander is still one of the top space combat series ever made, and a group of fans loved it so much theyve decided to remake it for the current age. After ten years of development, we can all download and enjoy the fruits of their labor, and it wont take long for you to start feeling the nostalgia once you get going. This is a truly faithful revival of the classic series, and we hope that more comes from this fan labor of love. Any excuse for new Wing Commander games is fine with us.
Youve probably heard of Spelunky, the recent roguelike with a difficulty that borders on psychotic and a dedicated group of speed-runners that defy all logic when playing. If youre curious but dont want to take the financial plunge, the classic version of Spelunky is free to everyone online. The new Spelunky makes a lot of improvements, but the original version holds up pretty well to its modern counterpart. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, try the classic Spelunky for yourself, but dont be surprised if you find yourself purchasing the updated one soon after.
Beneath a Steel Sky
There are a few of you out there who dove into the PC gaming realm late, and as such you may have missed some of the great point-and-click adventures of the early '90s. Beneath a Steel Sky is here to show you exactly what youve missed, as its dystopian future setting and riveting story make it one of the best examples of why we love pointing and clicking. Beneath a Steel Sky serves as a perfect doorway into the point-and-click format, and were sure that after getting a taste of this, youll want to try other games like it.
Digital: A Love Story
Normally that blue screen you see in the screenshot above means a heart attack for anyone currently using a PC. However, in Digital: A Love Story, this is the entirety of what the player will see. Digital tells its story through on-screen prompts, taking on a digital visual novel approach that wed never seen before. That story is simply marvelous, following a silent protagonist as they develop a relationship with a woman on a message board. This is a game we definitely recommend sticking around for until the very end; every part of this tale will have you on the edge of your seats.
Street Fighter X Mega Man
Just uttering the words Mega Man can strike grief into many a players heart. For years, The Blue Bomber has been dormant, waiting for his next chance in the sun. Last year Capcom finally threw him a bone, releasing Street Fighter X Mega Man for free on their website. Instead of Robot Masters, Mega Man must face a whos-who of Street Fighters in classic NES style, bringing back a nostalgia we thought was lost forever. Mega Man can take the fighters powers too; we never thought wed see Mega Man pull off Chun-Lis Lightning Kicks or Dhalsims Yoga Fire, but Street Fighter X Mega Man makes it happen. Longtime Mega Man fans must play this, if only for the brief foray to better times.
Games made by the Army Game Studio have a reputation of not being very good, and wed imagine that games from that studio that are free on the Internet are even more likely to disappoint. Thats what makes Moonbase Alpha so impressive: the Army Game Studio/NASA collaboration is a scientifically accurate depiction of what life might be like out in the reaches of space. Its not a long game, as theres only one mission that requires repairs to a lunar outpost, but that one mission is surprisingly involved and a lot of fun. Are you wondering what it would be like to live in space? Moonbase Alpha may answer your questions, and who better to reference than NASA?
Like Spelunky earlier in the list, Cave Storys roots can be traced to a freeware version available to everyone online. The game became so popular that indie dev Nicalis took notice, offering to port the game to WiiWare/DSiWare and Steam before creating an upgraded 3D version soon after. There has to be a reason that Nicalis would take the plunge on a game like this, right? Its because the original Cave Story hearkens back to the days of the original Metroid with stellar platforming and a robust weapons system. The sheer fun of this game cannot be ignored, so go and see for yourself why Cave Story was cool enough to graduate to the console world.
We never thought wed see the day where fighting games became free-to-play, but Tekken Revolution on the PS3 has broken down the doors on that concept. On the outset its basically a Tekken arcade mode: pick a character, fight either A.I. or online opponents, rinse and repeat. However, the coin system only allows for a certain amount of plays at a time, regenerating after a period of time, and characters can be upgraded by collecting skill points, which can then boost stats like power (strength), endurance (defense), and Vigor (affects critical hit percentages). Its limited Tekken, but its still Tekken, and its free Tekken to boot. This is the perfect way to get a small taste of Tekken if thats all youre looking for.
Dont Take It Personally Babe, It Just Aint Your Story
Another visual novel on our list (and perhaps the best name of any of the other games), Dont Take It Personally is a spiritual successor to the excellent Digital: A Love Story. Unlike the blue-screened text of the previous game, this takes place in a Japanese high school and features a group of students and their new literature teacher. We dont want to give up too much of the story, as the narrative is best experienced during gameplay, but we promise you wont regret giving this game a try. If you do regret it, dont take it personally; it just aint your kind of story.
Champions Online is a perfect example of a subscription-based MMO switching to the free-to-play model and completely reinventing itself. Were glad it worked out, because Champions is rather different from most MMOs, with a focus more towards action and combat than loot and upgrading. Armor pickups are purely cosmetic in this superhero world, making only stats the determining factor for damage dealt. Also, at level 25, the player is allowed to create his or her own super-nemesis to battle in the late-game missions. We wish more games would let us design our nemeses; the hands-on approach makes us feel like were more immersed in the game itself. Champions Online is a super MMO with enough differences from other MMOs to make it worth a shot.
Weve all tried RPG Makers many offshoots, but rarely have we played a creation thats engaged us from start to finish. Space Funeral is a surreal and strange example of what RPG Maker is capable of. Were tasked with guiding a boy named Phillip and his companion Leg Horse (literally a sentient pile of severed limbs) through a world of danger and monsters to the City of Forms, where all things in the world are made. The game will leave you scratching your head more than once, but that wont make you want to stop playing. If anything, youll want to see this through to the end based on sheer curiosity. Give it a try when you have a free weekend with nothing to play; youll see exactly what we mean.
Those who have played Thirty Flights of Loving should be sure to download Gravity Bone as soon as possible. This freeware first-person adventure serves as a prequel to the indie hit--a prequel most dont even know exists. The game only lasts about twenty minutes, and the story is rather ambiguous, but the design of each level is genius: the entire first level serves as a tutorial but never outright tells you how to play, instead delivering hints as part of the games scenery. Gravity Bone is a strange game, but its one definitely worth the twenty minutes it takes to finish, especially for those who want to try Thirty Flights of Loving.
Weve been waiting patiently for the rumored Fallout MMO to make an appearance, but Interplay has been dragging its feet for quite some time. In the meantime, Fallen Earth does a great job of filling that post-apocalyptic MMO void in a shooter format thats fun and engaging. Players can craft weapons and armor using gathered resources, applying stat boosts and even some added obstacles: heavier armor will make more noise, which means stealth wont be much of an option with a heavy suit on. It may not be Fallout, but Fallen Earth is definitely a great substitute while we waitassuming the Fallout MMO ever does come out.
Space Station 13
Space Station 13 is a game that will make you think twice about every friend you ever play it with. The game centers around life on a space station, and each of the five game modes involves some sort of traitorous activity. The most popular game mode, Traitor, enlists randomly selected players to be the traitor and tasks them with assassinating other players or stealing valuable items, then escaping the station intact. Its fascinating to watch a game in action, because you never quite know who the traitor(s) will be until they make their move. If you think you and your friends dont hide any secrets from each other, play a game of Space Station 13 and then see just how secretive they can be.
Kingdom of Loathing
Everyone talks about World of Warcraft being the longest-reigning RPG available, but we beg to differ. Back in 2003, a small developer named Asymmetric Publications released a free browser-based adventure called Kingdom of Loathing. Drawn in black and white with stick figures abound, it looks like its the brain child of a small child--yet even now the game persists with new content being added weekly. Turn-based combat, a full currency system, and the ability to team up in clans to explore dungeons make this a legitimate RPG even if the characters are sticks. Who needs crazy visuals when a game like KoL delivers with graphics straight out of Paint?
Jagged Alliance Online
Turn-based strategy games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Persona have been delighting players for years, but not many games turn the format into a full online experience. Leave it to Jagged Alliance, the storied mercenary strategy franchise, to set the bar this high. Jagged Alliance Online turns its classic gameplay into a multiplayer strategy-fest, allowing players to lead their army of mercenaries both in single-player contracts or head-to-head with other human-controlled armies on gigantic battlefields set throughout the world. If youve been thinking about trying a turn-based strategy game, let Jagged Alliance show you how its done.
For ten years, the Lineage MMO franchise has been keeping fans busy with its diverse class system and vibrant medieval world. Lineage 2 expands on those ideas even more, adding regular content via the Saga and Chronicle story system so players will keep on fighting. The idea of sub-classes is interesting as well: when a player reaches level 75, he or she can choose a sub-class (which starts at level 40) to complement the characters abilities. There are some limitations, mostly dealing with species not being able to become other species classes, but otherwise this leads to some really interesting combinations for character development. Lineage II offers a lot to the Korean MMO enthusiast, and someone looking for a new world to explore should jump right in.
We dont understand what makes QWOP so much fun. Its merely just controlling a runner using four keys: Q and W for his legs and O and P for his calves. However, within this simplicity is a truly difficult and addicting task. Making this guy run is IMPOSSIBLE, but we cant stop trying. Seriously, go and try to make this guy run down the track and see how successful you are, and then see how much time has passed since youve started. We cant stop playing this silly little game, and we dont know why, but we love it.
Few games on this list look as impressive as Wakfus colorful World of Twelve. Everything that shows up on-screen during gameplay is worthy of oohs and aahs, buffered by a fun tactical RPG system and a world that depends on the players to be maintained. Once you choose a character and a nation, youre thrust right into the world as if youve been there forever. You can vote in elections for the nation youve chosen, all while ascending the ranks of that nations army by battling monsters. In fact, with enough skill and a little bit of luck, you could end up as a high ranking officer whos also the Governor of your chosen nation. We dont know what wed do with that kind of power.
Battlestar Galactica Online
If you watched the SyFy reboot of Battlestar Galactica when it was on, but youre not playing Battlestar Galactica Online, we dont know what youre waiting for. This space flight combat game borrows heavily from the show, allowing players to pilot many Colonial and Cylon ships into battle, including ships from the original BG series in the late 1970s. Depending on how well you perform in battle, eventually a player will be allowed to take command of a Battlestar or Baseship, guiding multiple ships into spacewars at once. No matter what you do in Battlestar Galactica Online, remember one thing: anyone, at anytime, can be revealed to be a Cylon.
For over a decade, the Trackmania series of games have riveted racing fans with sound driving mechanics and the ability to create their own tracks for racing. There have been many iterations in the series, and all of them have maintained the quality racing experience started by the first game back in 2004. Weve built many tracks in our time with the games, and theyve ranged from normal tracks with turns and slopes to downright craziness, but no matter what we design we always enjoy racing on them. If youre a racing fan who's looking for something new to try, download Trackmania at the official website and take it for a test drive; we dont think youll regret it.
World Golf Tour
If youve ever sat and watched a PGA golf tournament, chances are youve longed to play on whatever course the pros are on yourself. Bethpage Black, Merion, Pebble Beachplaying on all of them seems too good to be true, right? Thanks to World Golf Tour, thats no longer the case. Create an account, pick a course, and before you know it youll be hitting the links on some of the best courses in the world right from your own home. Its no Tiger Woods PGA Tour, but for a free download World Golf Tour is pretty impressive, and we highly recommend it to the golf enthusiasts out there.
Whoever thought that a little Flash game could invoke such strong reactions from its players? Coma follows the story of a man named Pete as he traverses a dream world on a quest to save his sister. The game doesnt take long to finish, but every second pulls you in thanks to the entrancing soundtrack and beautiful visuals, almost as if youre falling into a coma of your own. Then, when the game ends, youre left sitting there wondering what the hell just happened before immediately running through the game again. Thats what makes Coma so wonderful; its a 20-minute game that produces hours worth of questions.
UnReal World has been around since 1992, its presentation unchanged despite various content updates--and yet its still as enjoyable as its been since the first day it launched. Set in Finland during the Iron Age and teeming with Finnish folklore and mythology, UnReal World is a roguelike survival game that will test every skill you have, despite looking so outdated. The game will regularly simulate harsh environments with many dangerous beasts and extreme weather patterns, and youll need to focus on survival more than anything else. Have you played Dont Starve? Wed like to think that it took a lot of its cues from UnReal World.
The Republia Times
Before Lucas Pope hit it big with Papers, Please, he created a tiny freeware game called The Republia Times which follows a similar format. Instead of being a customs agent, we must now play as a newspaper editor-in-chief, choosing which articles to publish in order to keep the nation of Republia in a positive light. The parallels are unmistakable, though here we dont have to worry about influencing peoples lives outside of what they read in the paper. Think of it as Papers, Please with less pressure on you. Doesnt that sound awesome?
Invokers Tournament is a free MOBA-style game on the PS4. You control an Invoker, a superpowered wizard who has the ability to cast elemental spells and transform into magic-wielding monsters. Multiplayer matches pit teams of three against each other, but unlike other games in the genre, Invokers leaves out the creeps and focuses solely on the player-vs-player team battles. With more limited abilities and relatively simple gameplay mechanics, Invokers is more of a starter MOBA than a full-featured Dota 2 clone - but for those looking to get into the genre, it's a great way to get your feet wet.
This little Flash game found on Newgrounds and other websites of the type is not difficult. Its not going to make you tear your hair out, and its certainly not going to challenge you too much. Its platforming at its simplest. But it has a fantastic message that should be heard by everyone. Your objective is not to jump on any enemies, nor is killing anywhere in the game; you are a Hug Marine, and you must give big ol bear hugs to the aliens you meet up with. Its a happy game solely made to make other people happy, and we can get behind something like that. HUG.
The team behind Trackmania wasnt content to just sit back and focus on racing games; theyve delved into the first-person shooter genre as well with Shootmania. Teams will engage in battle in a closed arena, using a rocket-launcher style weapon as the default option. Massive firepower right out of the games is OK by us; we love blowing stuff up as soon as we can. There isnt much in the way of different weaponry either, because why would we pick up a pistol if we have a rocket launcher in our hands? If Trackmania is one of your favorites, then be sure to try Shootmania between races.
While the console and arcade enthusiasts were getting their shmup fix with games like 1941, PC fans were blowing up enemies in grand fashion in Tyrian. Think of 1941, but change the story to a spaceship trying to clear areas of a planet for new settlements, and increase the amount of enemies on-screen from OK, this will be interesting to DEAR GOD HELP ME. Tyrian 2000 upped the ante even more, quickly becoming a favorite to many a PC player. Now that the game is available for free, everyone can go back and enjoy this fantastic shooter game from yesteryear.
Realm of the Mad God
Realm of the Mad God is one of the deepest and mechanically sound games weve ever played in our browsers. The pixelated graphics bring us back to the good ol days, but the combat and stat-building are very modern. Realm of the Mad God takes a bullet hell approach to combat, in that you aim with your mouse and click to fire any number of bullets at a time depending on your weaponry. The farther you progress through the game, the more insane your abilities become, and before you know it youre filling the screen with attacks and enemies cant handle your power. Its one of the more addicting games out there, so set aside a good amount of time for this before embarking on the journey.
Remember Microsofts Flight Simulator? Remember how realistic and difficult it was to fly those planes? FlightGear makes Flight Simulator looks like childs play, as its hardcore approach to piloting a plane is hyper-realistic, to the point where we feel like we need to go to piloting school just to play the damn game. One small mistake could send your flight plunging to the ground below, and no one wants to be the reason that a plane crashes, so be sure to be careful whenever youre playing FlightGear. As far as flight sims go, this one could actually teach people how to fly.
We know it's strange to have an entire website as a free-to-play title, but we feel this is one exception we can't pass up. With the blessing of Activision themselves, Sarien.Net is host to some of the best classic adventure games ever made. The first three King's Quest games, the first Police Quest, the first two Space Quests, and The Black Cauldron, all available for free right in your browser with just a single click. Best of all, Sarien has added a pseudo-multiplayer aspect to each game, as you can see other players make their way through the game without being able to interact with them (kinda like Dark Souls). It's cool being able to relive these classics without any money leaving our pockets.
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot
During Ubisofts E3 2013 media briefing, a trailer for The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot premiered, showcasing a medieval fantasy world filled with action and a few laughs. It turns out theres more to this game than comedy, as looting castles while defending our own stronghold is really fun, and the games only in alpha! We cant imagine how much more fun itll be once the game is more fleshed out, but we cant wait to find out either. More characters, more castles, and more creatures should be on the way soon, and were ready to go on another mighty quest as soon as they do.
To call Dwarf Fortress complex simply isnt giving the game enough credit. Building a fortress with only seven dwarves is daunting enough, but having to manage their psyches while building said fortress can be a real pain in the butt. Whats more, the entire game is procedurally generated, so starting over would literally mean generating a brand new world and starting from scratch. Maintaining resources and trading with traveling caravans are essential to keeping the fortress afloat, as well as digging for materials in the groundsbut believe us when we say dont dig too deep into hole; you may literally unleash Hell on your dwarves. If a real challenge is what youre looking for, Dwarf Fortress is the answer you seek.
Do you remember playing Populous, the game that allowed you to be God and build an entire civilization in your image? The folks behind Reprisal do, and they feel so strongly about the game that they've made their own homage called Reprisal, playable right in your browser. The story centers around three warring tribes who have stolen totems with divine power from your tribe and scattered them around the world. It's your job to rebuild the lost tribe and bring them back to prominence one sacred totem at a time. The game is surprisingly involved for a mere browser game; it's one of those "play for five minutes that turns into three hours" type of experiences. Populous fans should find it as soon as you're finished reading this, but even those who've never played the old game before will like Reprisal.
Found your freebie?
We're pretty confident that you've already started playing one or more of the games in this feature. Enjoy them! However, maybe you think we missed something? Or perhaps your favourite isn't on there. Maybe you just love paying for games. Let us know.
If you're still hungry for game recommendations, why not check out our list of the best MMORPGs or - if you want to know about the absolute best gaming has to offer - take a look at our Top 100 Games of All Time.