The 25 best free games to play right now

An image collage of Let It Die, Brawlhalla, and Fortnite.

Finding the best free games out there isn't expensive, but it can be quite time-consuming. Never before has there been such a range of truly substantial games with absolutely no up-front cost out there for the playing - not even in the golden age of shareware. You could set out downloading clients and making accounts all willy-nilly… or you could just come along with us for a quick tour through the best free games you can start playing right now on any platform. This list goes from No. 25 to our top pick at No. 1, but you can't go wrong with any of them. 

25. Darwin Project

Genre: 10-player battle royale
Platform: PC, Xbox One

You didn't read that wrong: Darwin Project is a 10-player battle royale game, setting up matches that are roughly 1/10th the size of its more famous cousins. Darwin Project uses that more intimate scope to zoom in on survival aspects (your warmth bar is just as important as your health and stamina) as well as an inventive "director" role for an 11th player. It's the director's job to make the match as interesting as possible to watch, either for a streaming audience or just the other players who have already died, and they have the power to dish out helpful rewards and punishments. They can't outright kill anybody, though, so skill and discretion are still your greatest assets.

24. Shadowgun Legends

Genre: First-person loot shooter
Platform: iOS, Android

Shoot stuff, get loot that helps you shoot stuff better, shoot more stuff. Shadowgun Legends doesn't pretend to have invented an all-new playstle of its own - it wears its Destiny influence with pride - but it does present it in a uniquely appealing format for pick-up-and-play sessions on your phone. Crucially, Shadowgun Legends doesn't skimp on the social elements, because what good is earning a bunch of cool stuff if you can't show it off? It even gives top players special fanfare whenever they load into the main common area, which is a source of inspiration all its own on top of the good old loot treadmill.

23. Star Wars: The Old Republic

Genre: MMORPG
Platform: PC

Still bummed that you never got Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 3? Play Star Wars: The Old Republic. Yeah, it's an MMO, but if playing with others isn't your scene you can pretty safely ignore those parts of the game and just focus on exploring your character's story. Did I mention that every class has its own sprawling, fleshed out tale complete with classic KOTOR-style Light Side and Dark Side choices? If you have even the slightest bit of Star Wars fandom in your heart, SWTOR will keep you happy for a long time.

22. Super Mario Run

Genre: Platformer
Platform: iOS, Android

Super Mario Run has always been a good one-button platformer, and it's only gotten better since it first came out. That paywall is still real - and it's still the only microtransaction to speak of - but the new remix system gives you access to a ton of stages without needing to pay a cent. You will likely want to spend some cash eventually to unlock the full game but maxing out the scores and perfecting runs will take its time (some of those special coins are so hard to reach). Definitely plenty of free fun here. 

21. Pinball FX3

Genre: Pinball simulator
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

C'mon, it's pinball. Everybody loves pinball. And yes, the game is heavily monetized via microtransactions for additional tables that span everything from Harry Potter to Portal to Star Wars, but it does give you one table to play with for free as long as you like. And it's a pretty good table! Whether you're an old-school pinball wizard or just liked wasting time in the Space Cadet game that used to come with Windows, you're guaranteed to get at least a few hours of joy out of Pinball FX3.

20. SMITE

Genre: MOBA
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Perhaps you don't 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. We recommend you try SMITE, a third-person multiplayer battler that focuses on scraps between gods from almost every religion and faith. 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.

19. Dreadnought

Genre: Sci-fi capital ship combat sim
Platform: PC, PS4

There are plenty of games out there to give you the thrill of fast-paced, futuristic space combat. But if you're more in the mood for Star Destroyers than TIE fighters, you should check out Dreadnought. Picture World of Tanks but with huge capital ships firing screen-filling volleys of missiles and lasers at each other and you'll have a pretty good of the basics behind Dreadnought. Then layer on the extra tactical options of MMO-inspired roles (yes, there are rogue-y giant spaceships and healer-y giant spaceships) and an extra dimension of movement and you have a very unique PvP-focused combat game.

18. Runescape

Genre: MMORPG
Platform: PC

There's a reason this golden oldie is still immensely popular. One of the largest, and one of the best MMORPGs ever, is still constantly being updated, and offers a massive, ever-evolving world to explore. Depending on what you fancy doing, there's a plethora of challenges to choose from, along with fighting, competing, quests and mini-games to boot. Whatever you do, you'll have fun along the way and no doubt meet some like-minded folks too.

17. World of Tanks

Genre: Tank battle sim
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360

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 it's ideal for older players looking to inflict violence at a more considered pace.

16. Fallout Shelter

Genre: Vault management sim
Platform: PC, Xbox One, iOS, Android

Fallout Shelter could have easily been a disposable tie-in game, but Bethesda's done a fine job of keeping it relevant in the years since its surprise mid-E3 arrival. iOS and android users can control their very own vault and toy with the lives of their poor unsuspecting vault dwellers. Send them out into the wastes. Make them lay down their lives to defend the vault from raiders. And delight in the warm feeling of productivity... or is that radiation?

15. Paladins

Genre: Multiplayer shooter
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Colourful, cheerful, and crammed full of satisfying shooty noises and cartoony maps, Paladins is as if Overwatch was set in a medieval fantasy world. Except, you know, with some guns thrown in for good measure.  All the maps are distinctly old-timey, from desert temples to glacier fortresses, plus gameplay is hectic but full of charm. Instead of sprinting around you get your very own warhorse to hop onto and race across maps so you feel like a proper paladin. From the start eight characters are unlocked for free so there's plenty of choice no matter what role you like to play in frantic matches. So what are you waiting for? Give Paladins a go!

14. Neverwinter

Genre: MMORPG
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One

This free-to-play MMO has two big factors pulling in its favor. One: it's based on the incredible Neverwinter series of PC games, including Neverwinter Nights. Two: Neverwinter as a whole is based on the Dungeons and Dragons name, specifically a modified version of the D&D 4th Edition rules (we don't need to tell you how influential D&D can be. Vin Diesel plays it, for god's sake). Even without the strong lore background, Neverwinter is an enjoyable MMO with six classes to choose from and a ton of quests to complete. Longtime D&D fans who've been aching for a new video game to whet their appetite need look no further than Neverwinter.

13. Dota 2

Genre: MOBA
Platform: PC

One of the most popular free-to-play PC games, like ever, Dota 2 is a top-down arena battler - aka a MOBA - that pays out serious cash to the best players. But it's not only for obsessives or professionals. Instead, dive into the Steam Community forms, read some guides, talk to some players, and then rope in a few friends to help you get hooked on the original MOBA, and one of the biggest PC games in history.

12. Fire Emblem Heroes

Genre: Turn-based tactics
Platform: iOS, Android

Fire Emblem Heroes is about as good as it gets for your average Nintendo fan. So a free version on your phone punches so many buttons. This features a variety of modes to play and isn't short of things to do. The Story Maps let you engage in the classic turn-based grid battles against a range of unlockable heroes from the series as you battle to save the Kingdom of Askr. Then there's a training tower you can grind to earn EXP, arena duels to fight other players and limited time events to catch.

11. Planetside 2

Genre: Online first-person shooter
Platform: PC, PS4

It's staggering how much game you get for free in Planetside 2. Maps are vast, there are three different factions, plus you get hundreds of players stuffed onto the servers during most games. In fact, we recommend either taking a friend with you or learning about the game before you begin, because there's so much to understand here. Progression can be slow if you don't hand over some cash, but the starting weaponry is decent enough to give you a fighting chance in any skirmish, so you can be competitive from the start.

10. EVE: Online

Genre: Space business and battle sim
Platform: PC

CCP Games' immersive, and utterly humungous, space MMO has been free-to-play for a while now, thanks to its new 'alpha clones' system. It's akin to an unlimited free trial featured in the likes of World of Warcraft, which basically gives you access to all the mining, piracy, manufacturing, trading, exploring and combat, but keep certain skills off-limits unless you pay a monthly fee. But with a ton of content very much still accessible in front of the pay wall, it's an absolute joy and a bargain to boot.

9. Let It Die

Genre: Souls-like action RPG
Platform: PS4

Probably one of the weirder games on this list but then what would you expect from No More Heroes studio Grasshopper Manufacture? Let It Die is set in 2026 AD after massive earthquakes have messed up much of the world and South Western Tokyo has split off into the ocean. The player must climb a massive tower, starting with nothing but the pants they're wearing - kill everything, collect better armor or weapons along the way and just try to stay alive. There's a big asynchronous multiplayer twist though where yours and other players' 'death data' is collected when you die, and used to create much more dangerous enemies for others to fight.

8. Dwarf Fortress

Genre: Interesting failure simulator
Platform: PC

Dwarf Fortress is one-hundred percent free, it doesn't have microtransactions of any kind (unless you count donations to the two-person dev team). But it does have surprise invasions by werebeasts and hidden aquifers that are just waiting to flood your entire fortress with a single misplaced pickaxe. It will take you a while to get used to Dwarf Fortress because there really isn't anything else like it, though some of the newbie-firendly starter packs can help ease the transition. But once you get comfortable with telling your dwarves how to build out their (probably temporary) shelter from the cold, hard world above, you won't want to stop. Even when the werebeasts show up.

7. Pokemon Go

Genre: GPS-enabled collect-and-battler
Platform:  iOS, Android

It's one of the biggest mobile games in history and is still building on its basic catch 'em all promise. Pokemon Go's core idea is simple - walk around the real world chasing down pokemon and catching them with a well aimed flick of the finger. Different creatures live in different areas, while you can hatch and evolve others to fill the gaps. It has some deep flaws to contend with, but you can't argue with the basic premise of turning every walk into a monster-catching adventure.

6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Genre: Collectible card video game
Platform: PC, iOS, Android

If you grew up playing collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon, then Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is all the fun without the bookshelves full of card binders. Hearthstone takes a familiar mana mechanic, used for everything from summoning creatures to casting spells, then simplifies it by granting each player an additional unit 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 land. It's one of those "one more game turns into an all-nighter" deals, for sure.

5. Path of Exile

Genre: Action RPG
Platform: PC, Xbox One

Few action RPGs ever transcend the status of "well, this is good to play if you're tired of Diablo," but Path of Exile is one of them. Even if it wasn't free-to-play it would still be a remarkable game, refining several of the genre's sticking points while allowing for a dizzying degree of customization through a huge talent tree/cloud and skill-altering gems. Naturally, it's great to play with friends too - and much easier to convince them to join you with no upfront cost!

4. Brawlhalla

Genre: Platform fighting game
Platform: PC, PS4

Like playing Super Smash Bros.? You'll like playing Brawlhalla, too. It may not have the recognizable roster of Nintendo's beloved fighting game, but it has a similar streamlined approach to competitive action - friendly for both casual players as well as more hardcore competitive types. It has a pretty generous business model, too: all players receive access to a rotating selection of six characters for free, and you can buy more with microtransactions or just unlock everybody (including future characters) for a flat, reasonable fee.

3. Warframe

Genre: Online action
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One

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?". We'd wager that a good chunk of those who took the plunge are still venturing into Warframe's futuristic world, powering up their Tenno warriors and battling the alien scourge in teams of four. The game is endless fun, especially in groups, and the amount of upgrades attainable without spending a dime on platinum (Warframe's premium currency) is astounding. This is one free-to-play war we love waging.

2. Doki Doki Literature Club

Genre: Horror visual novel
Platform: PC

Doki Doki Literature Club is a wolf in lighthearted dating sim clothing. It's a romantic visual novel that subverts expectations by slowly transforming into a twisted tale of terror, full of psychological horrors. This slow burn is a terrifying mystery, and an absolute must play if you're one of those people who enjoys feeling stressed, and doesn't mind a game totally taking control of you and your emotions, rather than the other way around. It's sheer brilliance.

1. Fortnite Battle Royale

Genre: 100-player build-and-battle royale
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, iOS

If you haven't heard of Fortnite Battle Royale, you may have been hiding under a rather large rock - or is that in a bush? Epic Games' PlayerUnknown BattleGrounds-esque 100-player PvP game mode is free to play on Xbox One, PS4, PC and Mac. The 'normal' multiplayer mode is still a paid-for experience, but Battle Royale is free to play and utterly amazing. Nearly everyone in the GR+ office plays it every day. Get involved. And if you need some help getting started in the Battle Royale, we've got an epic Fortnite tips guide with your name on it.