Figuring out the best free Steam games is a tricky task. Valve's industry-powering storefront is easily one of the best places for any PC gamer to find their next favourite game, but with so many new games coming out every day and a whole suite of charts to keep an eye on, it's easy for the truly special titles to get lost in the noise, making it hard to find the best free Steam games.
With all that in mind, we've collated a list of the best free Steam games. That should help you out no matter what you want to play, as we've sought out a cross section of genres and experiences. There are tiny indie gems in here alongside juggernauts that have marked the entirety of PC gaming in an almost indelible way. But whatever you're into, rest assured that you'll not be spending a penny on the games themselves - these are the best free Steam games after all.
It might have slipped from the heady heights of its cultural peak in 2018, but VRChat maintains a sizeable community to this day, and remains a brilliant insight into online interaction. More of a huge virtual chatroom than an actual game, it's filled with player-created avatars covering pretty much every pop-culture base you can imagine, all intermingling in a way that's as chaotic as it is fascinating. Despite the name, you won't need a VR headset to play, as there's also a desktop mode to enjoy.
24. Emily is Away
A narrative game set in the instant messaging services of yesteryear, Emily is Away is a touching story of love, friendship, and betrayal. The eponymous Emily is the character you'll interact with the most, with the choices you make shaping your shared story from high school to college. A sequel released in 2017, and a third installment arrived in April 2021.
23. A Raven Monologue
A Raven Monologue is a silent visual novel about a top-hatted Raven that doesn't know how to croak. With beautifully-stylised characters set against a charming and colourful background, it's the kind of game you'll want to devour in a single sitting, and is very much worth your time.
22. Team Fortress 2
More than a decade old, it's no longer quite the chaotic phenomenon it used to be, but Team Fortress 2 is still kicking. This early take on the hero shooter would eventually pave the way for the likes of Overwatch, but maintains a fantastic sense of community whether you're looking for something super serious or seriously silly.
21. The House Abandon
If you yearn for the text adventures of old, The House Abandon is the closest you'll get without digging out your long-forgotten CRT TV. Perhaps better known as the first chapter of excellent horror anthology Stories Untold, The House Abandon was originally released as a free demo. It's a short but masterfully-crafted horror experience that will stay with you long after you input your last command.
Stranded at a train station without a ticket that'll allow you to leave, Off-Peak lets you kill time by wandering its surreal world and talking to its larger-than-life inhabitants. There are a few narrative threads to pull together, but if you can find them in among the bizarre encounters, you're more attuned to this kind of thing than I am. If it is your jam though, there's a paid-for sequel, The Norwood Suite, available too.
19. Dota Underlords
There are plenty of autobattlers out there, but Dota Underlords is easily the best one on Steam. Developed by Valve, it puts you in control of a team of heroes from the famous MOBA, who'll battle it out for supremacy against seven foes until only one player remains. What sets this offering apart are the Underlords themselves, which each bestow their own unique strengths upon your team. Autobattlers can feel daunting at first, but they're also great forums for experimentation with plenty of depth. And if you fancy checking out the place where it all began, the original Dota Auto Chess is still playable within the Dota 2 client.
18. Crusader Kings 2
The third installment in the medieval series might be the new king on the block, but Crusader Kings 2 remains a serious competitor thanks to its mammoth quantities of DLC. The base game, which puts you in charge of your own corner of Europe at the end of the Dark Ages, is entirely free-to-play, and offers hundreds of hours of map-based diplomacy and warfare. A subscription service offers access to the 13 post-launch expansions for $4.99 a month.
17. Cry of Fear
Having started life as a total conversion mod for the original Half-Life, Cry of Fear was released as a standalone game in 2013. It's built on some aging tech, but it makes the most of Valve's GoldSRC engine, making for a brilliantly-paced and deeply unnerving horror shooter.
Hi-Rez Studios' take on the hero shooter will be very familiar to those of you familiar with the genre, but Paladins does offer a few new ideas. Chief among those is its deck system, which allows you to wade into battle wielding five cards that augment each of its characters' unique abilities. New arrivals are regularly making their way to the game, and there's also a well-maintained esports scene. Real money can be used to unlock cosmetic items to customise your favourite heroes, and to unlock new characters more quickly.
Turn to page 2 to see more of the best free Steam games.
There are a few contenders when it comes to great PC platform fighters, but Brawlhalla fits the bill while costing you nothing. Regular seasonal updates, as well as loads of different fighters, weapons, and gadgets ensure it always feels fresh across both online and local multiplayer. Real-money purchases can be used to buy new characters as well as cosmetic items.
14. Fallout Shelter
Unfortunately, it's unlikely that Bethesda will ever choose to give away one of its massive sci-fi RPGs for free, but if you want to immerse yourself in its post-apocalyptic universe at no extra cost, Fallout Shelter captures much of the series' charm within a charming management game. Placed in charge of one of Fallout's massive vaults, you'll have to keep your residents alive in spite of the radiation, monsters, and raiders raging outside. Microtransactions offer opportunities to gain new items and increase stats.
13. Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
There are plenty of great Collectible Card Games out there, many tied to franchises even bigger than The Witcher, but Gwent is the best one available on Steam. Adapted from the Witcher 3 minigame of the same name, Gwent offers a twist on the formula with its best-of-three format, which requires intricate bluff and deck-management skills, and makes for some truly heart-in-mouth moments. Gwent is fairly generous with its free gifts, especially when you're learning the ropes, but as with many CCGs, entry is free but new cards will cost real money.
12. Conqueror's Blade
If you've been looking for a way to capture the feeling of defending Helm's Deep since 2002, Conqueror's Blade is likely to be the closest you can get. The tactical medieval MMO puts your unique warlord in control of entire armies. Using varied abilities, devastating siege weapons, and your own sense of cunning, engage in huge battles with up to 29 other players. Premium membership limits the XP and gold grind, and paid DLC offers new armour and more siege weapons.
11. War Thunder
War Thunder is a hugely detailed military MMO that's easy to grasp but features an enormous degree of depth for those players who want to master its system. Whether you're into ground, air, or naval combat, there's something on offer, with dozens of vehicles from some of the world's most advanced armies making for epic dogfights, tense tank skirmishes, and pitched warship battles. Paid DLC offers a means to unlock new vehicles faster, but if you're prepared to truly master the basics, you might never need anything else.
Both modern-day RuneScape and its enduringly popular Old School equivalent exist on Steam, providing two ways to scratch your classic MMO itch. Both games offer huge worlds to explore, complete with their own fully-functioning economy, deceptively deep combat, and a wide variety of skills to master, from smithing to cookery. Dozens of quests, from collecting ingredients for the local chef to hunting down and slaying legendary dragons, will keep you busy for a very long time, as will vibrant communities and regular developer updates. Paid membership subscriptions offer access to more skills, quests, and map areas, but it's possible to pay your fees with in-game gold if you're invested enough.
9. Doki Doki Literature Club!
The less you know about Doki Doki Literature Club going in the better, but suffice to say that its cutesy dating-sim aesthetic is only the beginning, and contributes to one of the most notable visual novels of recent years. And if you're prepared to dip in for a second playthrough, it'll push the limits even further, creating a game that tries to mess with you while you play. A premium version now exists, but you can still play the original for free.
If you're into Destiny's high-tech space opera but are looking for something a little faster-paced, Warframe is a lightning-quick third-person PvE sci-fi shooter. The focus here is on a swift cycle of upgrades, letting you jump into quickfire missions using your choice of more than 40 character archetypes and enough customisation options to make any loadout feel unique. You can spend real money on items, but half the fun of Warframe comes from the satisfaction of the grind.
7. Apex Legends
There's a whole bunch of free-to-play battle royale games out there - you can find several of them on Steam, in fact - but Apex Legends might just be the best of the lot. Building out of the fast-paced world of the Titanfall series, movement and gunplay are as slick and exciting as you'd expect, but its the titular Legends themselves that set this game apart. From speed demon adrenaline junkies to anti-gravity Scottish scientists, there's something here for you no matter your playstyle, with a regularly-evolving world to help keep things fresh.
6. Final Fantasy XIV trial
It's not technically a free game, but there's enough on offer within just the trial version of Final Fantasy 14 that it'll keep you busy far longer than many of the other games on this list. As well as offering access to the base game (also known as A Realm Reborn), the expanded trial includes the Heavensward expansion, and raised the level cap from 35 all the way to 60. There are other restrictions, like limits to character creation and a currency cap, but they're a small price to pay for a lengthy no-obligation look at one of the most interesting modern MMOs out there.
5. Eve Online
Eve Online might be drawing in on its third decade, but the monstrously huge space MMO shows no signs of slowing down. The free version limits the ships you can fly and some of the skills you can pick (a subscription will set you back £10 a month), but if you can find your way through the grunt work that often faces many new recruits, you could find yourself a cog in one of the most fascinating gaming communities out there. At its best, Eve Online is part political thriller, part intricate military campaign, and part economic rollercoaster
4. Dota 2
Valve's take on the MOBA phenomenon remains one of the best examples of the genre, crafted by the people who helped start the entire craze. With hundreds of heroes to master, all with their own unique skills, Dota 2 can be daunting, especially for genre newcomers, but stick with it and you'll find one of the deepest and most expansive experiences available on PC, as well as one of the most high-stakes esports scenes out there, all for absolutely no cost.
3. Lost Ark
A few years after its launch in Korea, Lost Ark came to the West in 2022. Mixing Diablo-style ARPG gameplay with detailed MMO architecture, it swiftly hit one of the highest concurrent player counts in Steam's history, topping out above even the juggernauts of Dota 2 and CS:GO. With 15 classes to master and plenty of other options to let you chill out in your downtime, if you're looking for a new MMO, or simply still waiting for Diablo, Lost Ark could be the perfect fit.
2. Destiny 2
Destiny 2's more recent additions will set you back a little, but the base game, alongside two older expansions, are available on Steam completely free. Bungie's phenomenal FPS/MMO hybrid offers best-in-class gunplay, across both a sprawling space opera narrative, and a host of PvE and PvP game modes. All-in-all, there's hundreds of hours of gameplay on offer, no matter what you're looking for.
1. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Valve's tactical shooter tops our list of the best Steam games, offering a little bit of everything for any FPS fan. The finely-crafted and heart-pounding competitive mode might draw in the most attention, but if you're looking for something a little less stressful, there's also a surprisingly fun small-scale battle royale and the chaos of gun game to contend with. Even eight years on, CS:GO remains one of the most precise and clinical contemporary shooters at any price point, let alone those available for free.