The 25 best free games to play right now

An illustration of Fortnite: Battle Royale characters diving into battle.

The best free games have come a long way since those weird little Flash projects you'd load up in the school computer lab. Video game companies have taken up free-to-play in force, and while some use the business model better than others, there are plenty of great games for you to start playing without spending a thing. Make sure your next download is a source of fun, not frustration, by choosing from one of the 25 fine contenders on our list of the best free games. Let's get to ranking.

25. Super Mario Run

Okay, more an extended demo than a free game but you still get plenty to try out with Super Mario Run. It's a clever take on the free runner idea that manages to mix in a fair bit of skill as you navigate levels and attack monsters with one finger. 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. 

24. Blacklight: Retribution

Take the highly popular Call of Duty multiplayer model, chop it out, 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. That's 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 weapon depots allow for mid-match upgrading, so a bad loadout choice won't 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.

23. War Thunder

World of Warplanes isn't 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.

22. Killer Instinct

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 Killer Instinct right now and play to your heart's content, though you'll only have one character available to you. That may sound like a drag, but it doesn't stop you from getting a taste of what the new Killer Instinct is all about. Once you see the wicked combos and crazy fighting action the game is capable of, we it's all you'll need to be hooked. Plus Jago is pretty awesome, so it's not like you're getting stuck with a bad character either.

21. Happy Wars

Maybe you don't own a PS3 or a gaming PC, but still want a piece of the free-to-play pie. Luckily for you, the Xbox 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 expect to feel somewhat inadequate next to higher-level players, who have likely coughed up a little cash.


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. 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 mobile 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. We've played many a game of Hearthstone around the office, and we still can't get enough of these cards.

18. Hawken

Think mech games are slow and boring? Well, yes, most of them are. But Hawken isn't one of them. 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. It's 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.

17. Runescape

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. 

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

15. Paladins

Colourful, cheerful, and crammed full of satisfying shooty noises and cartoony maps, Paladins is as if Overwatch was set in the medieval era. 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 8 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. Paragon

Breaking news: Overwatch doesn't have a monopoly on character-based multiplayer extravanganzas. Ever wanted to play an Ogre who bashes three drums strapped to his belly as a form of attack? Or perhaps a split-personality knight is more your thing. Either way, Paragon on PS4 and PC has a ton of unique characters with their own quirks and playstyle. A multiplayer online battle arena at heart, the hectic fights have animations spewing about everywhere so you always feel like you're in the thick of combat. If you're eager to try something that looks like Mass Effect took a step into the fantasy realm, your best bet is Paragon. 

13. Neverwinter

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.

12. DC Universe Online

Quite simply, DC Universe Online is the one of the most entertaining free-to-play experiences you can have on console. It's been kicking around on PS3 for a few years, and despite a rocky start, it's 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 you're 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.

11. DOTA 2

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.

10. Fire Emblem Heroes

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.

9. Planetside 2

This is the daddy of free-to-play shooters - 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.

8. EVE: Online

As of November 2016, CCP Games' immersive, and utterly humungous, space MMO has been free-to-play 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 tonne of content very much still accessible in front of the pay wall, it's an absolute joy and a bargain to boot.

7. Let It Die

Probably one of the weirder games on this list but then what would you expect from the 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. This tasks the player with climbing a massive tower, starting with nothing but the pants they're wearing - kill everything, collect better armour 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.

6. Fallout Shelter

Quite possibly one of the best mobile games to come out in the past two years, Fallout Shelter took everyone by storm, and it's hard to believe it's still free. 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. Or, if you're feeling maniacal, sabotage their fleeting moments of existence as you got just a tad mad with power (hey, it happens). 

5. Pokemon Go

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 turns every walk into an adventure, and recently the game dropped a huge update that adds another 80 Gold and Silver Pokemon (bringing the total up to 219) as well as expanding evolutions, behaviours and more. Just be careful it doesn't take over everything. 

4. Warframe

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 highly addictive, 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.

3. Doki Doki Literature Club

Don't dismiss Doki Doki Literature Club as some school girl dating sim. It's very much not. It's technically a romantic visual novel that very much 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.

2. Dead Space

This one is a limited time only kind of offer, so if you want to play EA's terrifying space horror for free on PC, head over to Origins now. This classic game might be a few years old now (it was released back in 2008), but it doesn't stop it being one of the most terrifying games out there. You play as Isaac Clarke, who's trying to rescue a team of Planet Crackers - yes, really - from an evil alien force that you can regularly neither see nor hear. Thankfully, in space no-one can hear you scream, but in your living room there may be a few unruly squeaks of terror.

1. Fortnite: Battle Royale

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, we've got an epic Fortnite Battle Royal tips guide with your name on it.