It's been said that there's no such thing as a free lunch, but who needs food when there's a bucket load of free PS4 games to play instead? The free-to-play market has had its ups and downs but, as we come to the end of this console generation, the PS4 has accrued a large and impressive library of great titles with no upfront cost.
Not to be confused with the monthly drop of free PS Plus games, these titles are free to download and install onto your machine on a permanent basis, anytime of the year. From cult classics and indie darlings to that little known fan favourite called Fortnite, this list of the best free PS4 games should have you busy playing for months, without having to pay a single penny for the pleasure.
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Fortnite Battle Royale
Fortnite Battle Royale is probably the hottest, free multiplayer game right now, and for good reason. Taking Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds’ basis of a vast, 100 player, last-man-standing shooter as its starting point, and then evolving it with natty, on-the-fly, tactical construction, Battle Royale is an instantly accessible hoot with serious long-term depth.
Parachuting into a huge, open-world island map – initially completely unarmed and entirely devoid of supplies – the opening minutes of any match are a giddy, tense scramble as you attempt to glide to a spot free of competition (but hopefully bountiful of resources), search for a weapon, and quickly smash up the environment in a bid to accrue a few of the building resources you’ll need as things heat up. As the map boundaries close in, player numbers dwindle, and base structures become ever more elaborate, a different kind of tension ramps, as the game’s demands dynamically evolve. It’s an unpredictable joy every time, and with developer Epic updating Battle Royale at a heady pace, one that’s only going to grow over the coming months.
Forget PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Actually, forget that instruction. No-one remembers PlayStation All-Stars. Sony’s mascot-touting, Smash Bros. ‘homage’ made a splash akin to a pea in the Pacific back in 2012, and the light, breezy, platform-brawler fighting game genre has (mostly) remained the sole preserve of Nintendo ever since. But no longer!
A decidedly slick, accomplished, and even slightly more energetic take on the Smash formula, Brawlhalla presents a nonsensically eclectic cast of mythical and historical warrior archetypes – taking in Valkyries, Vikings, medieval knights, and er, ‘30s gangsters – and lets you go wild. With an increased focus on empowered air-control, and bigger scope for epic, high-flying ‘off-stage’ duels, Brawlhalla also does a good job of standing (somewhat) distinct from it inspiration. And its free-to-play model is rather friendly too, offering a limited selection of the character roster on free rotation, with earned in-game currency or real money buying the rest.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit
You might have missed out on Life is Strange and its prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm till now, claiming "insignificant funds" as an excuse to miss out on Dontnod's excellent interactive adventures, but with The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, there's nowhere left to hide. A totally free, bite-size chunk of Life is Strange gameplay, as well as a precursor to the first game's official sequel, this two hour trip inside the mind of endearing seven year old Chris is a delight from beginning to end. It's not the longest game in the world, but then again, you won't have to pay a thing, and not a single minute spent with the imaginative youngster is wasted when he's such an empathetic and loveable presence. It's the perfect gateway drug to the wonderful world of Arcadia Bay.
Part third-person action game, part competitive shooter, part RPG, part co-operative PvP team game, Smite takes the loose spirit of the MOBA and turns the genre in an entirely more immediate direction. You’ll earn gold and experience with which to level and enhance your character’s power and abilities, but – much like in something like Destiny – the RPG numbers mean nothing if your action skills and combat strategy aren’t up to standard.
Not that this is just about instinctive twitch play. With a current line-up of 93 playable hero deities covering ranged and melee archetypes (with separate magical and physical combat types), spread over five distinct classes, there’s a huge amount of tactical team play to get stuck into. The free-to-play model is pretty damn pleasant, too. You get five permanent gods for free when you start, and five more will cycle into the roster on a weekly basis. From then on you can buy or rent your chosen champions as you go, or pay for the full package and get access to every one that’s been released, and every one that ever will be.
While this free chunk of IO Interactive's 2016 sandbox only gives you the first two missions of Hitman's full game, that alone is still more than enough for hours worth of quality content, alongside the 2 Escalation Contracts, 40+ Challenges, and 17 PlayStation Trophies that come with it.
What's more, IO Interactive often makes even more Hitman missions free for a limited time during certain times of the year, so be patient, and you could end up playing the whole game without paying anything at all. Oh, and we should probably add, the iconic assassin's reboot is one of the best stealth/sandbox titles of recent memory, and you can even play Hitman 2's prologue for free right now. Catch up with what you've missed for nothing at all.
Let it Die
A hectic, borderline-sadistic hack-and-slash, you should only play Let it Die if you have a penchant for getting your ass handed to you. Or thrown over the other side of the room as one of its many insane bosses rips you in half in ways you didn’t know existed. No, I’m not going to compare it to that game about darkness and souls. Grinding your way through its many levels, you’ll have to beat boss after boss to make it all the way to the top of a tower that’s mysteriously risen up through the earth. On your way you’ll meet characters that look like someone pitched them based on random word combinations.
The most memorable by far is the skateboarding Uncle Death. Who wears spiral sunglasses and biker boots. He’s… interesting. There is a slim monetisation aspect to Let it Die, but you get a ton of ‘death metals’, its currency of choice (*metal horns gesture*), thrown at you after completing special events so you don’t have to drain your wallet to play. Plus each time you die your player will appear in someone else’s game as an additional enemy. So we promise all those deaths mean something. Promise.
DC Universe Online
Imagine having the whole pantheon of DC comics at your fingertips, where superheroes saunter through city streets without fear of prejudice and adventure lies around every corner. That's DC Universe Online in a nutshell; a battle-tested MMO in which players create their own superhero and battle it out in a sprawling multiplayer landscape inspired by the comic books that brought us Bats, Supes, and all the rest.
The game's over seven years old, so its visual oomph isn't as impressive at it once was, but developer Daybreak Game Company has been so committed to enriching the game with new updates and content since launch that it's hard not to be impressed by the sheer breadth of gameplay available for free. A must play for DC fans, and definitely something to try out for those on a budget, DC Universe Online is a super sized corker of a free product.
H1Z1: Battle Royale
Even after several years in active development, H1Z1 still doesn't run quite as smoothly as we'd like it to, but we can hardly complain now that Daybreak Games has brought its Battle Royale mode to PlayStation 4, completely free of charge. Less harebrained than Fortnite but more arcade-like than PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, H1Z1 hits comfortably straddles the middle ground of the genre with a battle royale experience that's both competitive but accessible.
The weapons and vehicles are varied and easy to use, and the PC's Auto Royale mode is said to be on way to PS4, which is basically battle royale, but cars. Better yet, you don't even need a PS Plus subscription to enjoy the exclusively online firefights, and Daybreak appears to be as equally generous as Epic in terms of updating the game with new updates and content week on week.
For those who want a good hero shooter to tuck into, but can't afford the ever pricey Overwatch, Paladins is the perfect substitute. Sure, it's almost criminal just how similar it is to Blizzard's multiplayer masterpiece, right down to each character's design and their respective special abilities, but Hi-Rez Studios has managed to cobble something seriously fun out of this unashamed imitation.
As a free-to-play shooter, Paladin's microtransaction store, which the progression system awkwardly pushes you towards, is hard to ignore or enjoy, but there's no pay-to-win rubbish to worry about here. It's all cosmetic, and Paladins actually has a distinguishable aesthetic to it once you're done comparing it to other shooters on the market, with a wild, energetic visual palette that's easy on the eyes and pairs well with the rambunctious PvP skirmishes. An easy choice for the shooter fan.
Cyberninjas. Does that word alone not sell you on Warframe instantly? With your main aims being assassination, looting, and trying out as many frames as possible, at first the amount to do is intimidating. You see, ‘frames’ are loadouts (in the form of different sets of armour) that determine your abilities, and therefore your playstyle. To amass different frames to try you’ll first need blueprints, which will be splurged out of bosses you defeat. Use these to buy the frame you’ve got your eye on. One will be able to teleport, another will be able to summon a frost nova or a sonic boom.
Encouraging you to play the game however you want and try out new approaches, it helps that each frame has an eye-catching design for you to yearn after. It’s outperformed usual free-to-play expectations by making it entirely possible to get to a high level of expertise without paying a single penny, though expect to grind quite a bit in the process. With over 26 million users, there’s a very active community to play too.
After years of thriving on mobile devices, Bethesda took to its E3 2018 stage to announce that Fallout Shelter would be hitting the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch consoles for free, no strings attached whatsoever. The vault management spin-off to the studio's acclaimed RPG franchise is definitely more of a mobile game than anything else, but its crafted with such dedication and whimsy by Bethesda that the translation to PlayStation 4 feels completely natural.
If you're willing to be patient, you can also completely ignore Fallout Shelter's microtransactions, which are mainly there to speed up wait times of questing beyond the vault. Before you know it, you'll be addicted to overseeing your subterranean commune, building new structures, cranking out resources, and micro-managing the populace like all the great post-apocalyptic dictators of past, present, and future.
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
Though technically still in Beta (several years after being announced), CD Projekt Red has stated that Gwent: The Witcher Card Game will be free to all throughout its lifetime, and it's worth downloading now regardless of that early access status. The unexpected spin-off to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a perspicuous and stimulating card game that CDPR originally devised as a side hobby in its adored RPG series, but the clash of wits and stats has found new life as a much loved pastime that can really steal the hours from any competitor, if they're willing to let it.
A good card game on console, let alone a free one, is a rare find these days, and anyone who's played The Witcher 3 will know that the calibre of the studio behind Gwent is enough of a reason to beam this one into your PS4 memory banks. At the very least, Gwent is just another excuse to enjoy the sights and sounds of The Witcher before its makers ever return to that world in...oh I don't know, a century's time.
Want more? Check out all the best deals on PS4 controllers... because you may need a new one pretty soon, with all these free games.