Want a premiere RPG gaming experience on your PC, but don’t feel like shelling out any cash for Skyrim? Worry not, adventurer, because these days it’s easier than ever to dive into a collection of expansive game worlds without dropping a dime , each flush with all the rich character development you’d usually expect from a $60 Bethesda epic.
It’s time to strap on that wizard staff and equip your heartiest healing potions, because here are our favorite free RPGs for your PC.
After nearly 12 years of waiting, Diablo 3 debuted to widespread disdain from hardcore fans and casual gamers alike, chastised for its lackluster loot system, screwed up skill sets, and a farming engine designed around encouraging players to spend extra money in the Auction House.
Luckily for us, just one year later the aptly-named indie developer Grinding Gear Games released their best impersonation of everything we loved about Diablo II, called Path of Exile. Published and distributed 100% free to the public, the game has received universal praise for its deep itemization, intricately complex skill trees, and seemingly infinite build combinations that keep players invested and constantly coming back for more.
The only items up for actual purchase via microtransaction are purely cosmetic, meaning that no matter who you run into on your travels, they’ll be on an equal playing field regardless of how deep their pockets might be.
The originator, the first, the classic. Pick a few 20-somethings out of a crowd these days, and chances are at least a few of them will remember a time when Windows XP and the latest Java update were all you needed to have the RPG experience of a lifetime.
Simple on the surface and unendingly complex for the devoted, Runescape is a quick, clean, and easy MMORPG that runs right in your web browser. Preferred for its “kitchen-sink” implementation, the game is still running with a healthy, active community even over a decade past its initial launch. Not many titles can claim that same kind of longevity these days, and the developers have the dedication of its community to thank for that.
Although the original version has been fiddled with and improved upon in the years since, sequels/upgrades in the franchise have come to include both Runescape 2 and Runescape 3, released in 2004 and 2013, respectively. Both have a following just as rabid as the original, though many of the purists still opt to sign into an offshoot of the current releases, known as “Old School Runescape.”
Old School Runescape preserves the game in what many believe was its most perfect state, a build of version one that was patched and launched in mid-2007. The independent project is just one of four different options new users can choose from when first diving into the Runescape universe, and is run by a devoted group of players and programmers unaffiliated with the original developers.
All three versions are fully compatible with browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE 11, and you can get started on your journey by visiting the main Runescape website.
What started out at possibly the greatest partnership in gaming quickly deferred into split strategies, uncertain pay models, and desperate grabs for cash that to this day have yet to recoup Bioware’s legendary production budget.
Not even a year after its initial release, Bioware announced it would be testing an F2P model based on a wholly unique style of a’la carte gaming. While the core story and all its missions would be available from the get go, things like mounts, additional bank space, character slots, and specialized missions can be purchased as you need them using a special form of in-game currency.
Still, you get quite a bit of content without having to pay anything upfront, and the cartel coin system is actually a pretty inventive method of “pay-as-you-go” gaming unlike any other in-game marketplace we’ve encountered before.
While Star Wars: The Old Republic may not be worth a monthly subscription price, the amount of content available is still staggering, and should be plenty enough enticement for you to pick up a lightsaber and start your Jedi training on Tatooine. Its storyline quests are up to Bioware’s typical level of quality, as well, and worth a play-through on their own merits.
(Or your Sith apprenticeship, if you swing the way of the the Dark Side. You won’t find any judgements here.)
Neverwinter is a quintessential addition to anyone’s gaming library, a series which has grown from humble pixelated roots into one of the most content-packed F2P MMORPGs on the market today.
First called a Gauntlet imitator, nowadays the title has a universe, playstyle, and storyline all its own. The world is rich with Dungeons and Dragons mechanics mixed with fast-paced, action oriented gameplay that keeps players involved throughout every step of the fight. This isn’t your grandma’s click-and-win macro style MMORPG, and even the slightest step in the wrong direction could mean certain death.
The game also shares the unique distinction of being one of the few MMORPGs which is compatible both on your PC and on consoles (Xbox One exclusive), though you’ll still have to shell out the $60 upfront for the latter option.
Probably the best part of Neverwinter’s current iteration on PC is that its business model relies on expansion packs and in-game cosmetics to stay afloat, and nothing else. Just the way we like it.
What if you want to take on a full RPG, but don’t have quite enough computing power to spare?
Enter Realm of the Mad God, a 2D half-RPG, half-bullet hell shooter that’s more Diablo than it is Ikaruga, but still feels like the greatest possible marriage of both. You can play as any of the 15 included classes, each with their own unique moveset, equippable items, and playstyle.
While the gameplay does sometimes border on repetitive, the top-tier quests and daily challenges offer end-game raiders plenty of content to sink their teeth into long after they’ve already maxed their character to the limit.
Of all the options, Realm of the Mad God is the only game which actually features straight-up pay to win mechanics. From level one you have the option buy some of the most powerful gear, weapons, and spells in the game, as well as cosmetic items which can’t be earned through playing through the dungeons on their own.
Enter the game hub to start blasting away 8-bit goblins today.
Whether you want to relive the glory days of games like Diablo II at their prime, farm endlessly for skill points in Runescape, or just need a new MMORPG to play but don’t want to shell out a monthly subscription fee, these days the PC is the perfect platform to role-play to your heart’s content without being forced to pay upfront for the privilege.