A few years back, downloading a free first-person shooter (FPS) was a sure way to infect your computer with some sort of malware. These days, however, free FPS games are a dime a dozen, with world-class publishers releasing their own free-to-play shooters to the masses. Here are our picks for the best free FPS games that you can play right now.
Apex Legends (Xbox One, PS4, Windows)
It has been quite a few years since Respawn Entertainment launched the excellent Titanfall 2, a full-priced multiplayer shooter that mixed brilliant on-foot gunplay with hulking, walking tanks that delivered deadly firepower. Rather than create a full sequel, the studio instead developed the free-to-play Apex Legends, a battle royale game cut from the same cloth as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4‘s “Blackout” mode. The only difference is that you can play as one of 13 legends, each with their own unique abilities.
Set on an enormous map littered with squads of two or three, Apex Legends feels like a battle royale game made for people who don’t typically enjoy the genre. There is still a circle that closes in on your position, but if you don’t like where you spawned, you can find a device that flings you back into the air. If you happen to get killed early on, your teammates still have a chance to recover your “banner” and revive you at a special medical station.
These tweaks are placed on top of a gorgeous and varied map, and Respawn’s signature snappy weapon controls are back in full force. It isn’t Titanfall 3, but it’s still great. In fact, Apex Legends attracted more than 50 million players in its first month.
PUBG Mobile and PUBG Lite (Mobile, PC)
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds first amassed a huge following on PC, and later on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. However, the free-to-play PUBG Mobile offers a great alternative version for anyone itching to get their battle royale fix on the go. The game uses a combination of virtual buttons and sticks to create a shooting experience much better than it has any right to be, and with optional motion controls, you can even fine-tune your shot to take out the most distant targets with a sniper rifle. As with its big siblings, PUBG Mobile supports duo and team-based matches, and built-in voice chat allows you to coordinate with your teammates before you approach a new area.
You can actually play PUBG Mobile in either first-person or third-person perspectives, and you don’t even have to have a mobile device to get in on the action. Publisher Tencent developed its own emulation tool so you can play the game from your PC with a mouse and keyboard setup. It won’t have the same fidelity as the full PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but it’s completely free to play and just as addicting.
Tencent also recently extended the reach of its PUBG Lite release to almost anywhere other than North America. Initially restricted to Thailand, this free alternative to the original PC release also relaxes the more taxing system requirements, making it easier on older systems. If you had to settle for the mobile version because of an aging machine, PUBG Lite might be what you’re looking for. Likewise, there’s PUBG Mobile Lite if a 2014 handset is your only option.
Call of Duty: Warzone
After last year’s attempt to use a battle royale mode to sell a $60 Call of Duty game, Activision surprised us by releasing another attempt absolutely free of charge. Call of Duty: Warzone is, by and large, a mode designed for the 2019 release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Leaks made paying players well aware of what was coming, but not that it didn’t require a purchase at all. It was a shocking move that pushed Activision’s battle royale to 30 million users in the first 10 days — a feat that echoed the staggering start of EA’s Apex Legends.
But Warzone is more than just Call of Duty: Battle Royale. It’s two modes in one entirely free package — Battle Royale and Plunder. The first is mostly what you’d expect, with vending machine-like boxes allowing squads to resurrect their fallen friends and secure infamous killstreaks. Plunder, on the other hand, takes place on the same map but allows for unlimited respawns. The aim here is to collect cash from boxes, objective-based missions, other players, and things like random airdrops and downed choppers. Intercept other teams’ attempts to bank their cash and swipe it for yourself. It’s an absolute riot that helped the F2P offering land a spot on our best Call of Duty games list. Bravo, Activision.
Read our Call of Duty: Warzone review
Riot Games is no stranger to the free-to-play genre, focusing most of its history on League of Legends before moving on to a slew of mobile games. Valorant is its latest attempt, and although it keeps the MOBA roots of the studio, it adds first-person action into the mix. The hybrid MOBA-FPS isn’t officially out yet — looks like Amazon’s Crucible beat Valorant to the punch — but if you’re lucky enough to snag a beta key, you can play Valorant ahead of its summer 2020 launch.
Valorant shares more with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch than it does with Apex Legends or PUBG. The main and only game mode is a variation of search and destroy, where one team’s goal is to plant a bomb, with the other team’s goal being to defuse it. Rounds go by in a matter of minutes, and you’ll play through multiple rounds before the match ends. Valorant’s hero-based gameplay makes each round interesting, as you unleash unique abilities to help you claim victory. Valorant doesn’t present too many new ideas, but it’s still an excellent free-to-play FPS outside of the battle royale genre.
Quake Champions (Windows)
Id Software is the king of first-person shooters, playing a pivotal role in their development in the ’90s. Few games were more influential during that time than Quake. The lightning-fast shooter put reflexes and skill above all else, becoming a popular early esport and spawning several sequels. With Quake Champions, which went free-to-play in August 2018, Id delivers classic Quake action at a speed you can only get on PC — unlike most of the studio’s recent work, it isn’t available on consoles. You’ll need a capable system to run it too, with Id Software recommending at least 16GB of RAM and an AMD R9 290 GPU. You can spend the money to upgrade your computer with the cash you didn’t have to spend on the game!
Quake Champions features a variety of different game modes, including traditional deathmatch and both 1v1 and 2v2 duels, and it includes a mix of classic and brand new weapons. If you’re a fan of Id’s other games, you can even play as the Doom series’ Doomslayer and the Wolfenstein series’ B.J. Blazkowicz. The game also recently received a full soundtrack overhaul, courtesy of Brutal Doom composer Andrew Hulshult, because you need some roaring tunes in the background as you blast your opponents apart.
Paladins: Champions of the Realm (Xbox One, PS4, Windows, MacOS, Nintendo Switch)
Blizzard’s Overwatch remains the king of the “hero shooter” multiplayer genre, but Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins: Champions of the Realm is a great alternative for those who don’t want to sink $40 before they’ve even begun playing. Much like in Overwatch, you select from dozens of different characters spread across multiple classes such as damage, flanker, support, and front line, each offering a different style of play that can help your team to victory. The tree-like Grover, for instance, can deal out heavy damage with his ax while also healing nearby allies, and the crafty Pip makes use of explosive potions to catch enemies off-guard.
Unlike the set classes and abilities offered in Overwatch, Paladins allows you to customize your heroes using a deck-building system. There are also pre-built deck loadouts for those looking to jump into a match with a solid chance of contributing, and with three different modes – Siege, Onslaught, and Team Deathmatch — you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try the abilities out.
Team Fortress 2 (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
Boasting beautifully-rendered graphics and a well-balanced class system, the lauded Team Fortress 2 still appeals to casual gamers and pros alike, garnering what is one of the largest player bases on Steam more than seven years after its initial debut. The game is a steadfast hybrid of fast-paced combat and intense strategy in which every one of the game’s nine classes exhibits its own powerful strengths and crippling weaknesses.
Game modes are straightforward, primarily pitting two teams against one another in an effort to move a cart, capture select points, or steal a briefcase. It’s highly competitive in nature, but it still caters to all skill levels. Like most multiplayer titles, it’s about exploiting the Achilles heel of your enemies while protecting your own, but it relishes a stylized brand of humor that has become iconic for the Team Fortress brand. Few games have held up as well over the years, and to be honest, few probably will.
Crossfire West (Windows)
If you were just getting into PC gaming proper in the mid ’00s, you probably came across Crossfire in some form. With all sorts of foreign games making it over from places like Japan and Korea at the time, it stood out among the proverbial tidal wave of the F2P boom. Crossfire was Korea’s answer to Counter-Strike, so much so that it was once one of the biggest games in the world with around 660 million players. It’s not a well-known title in the west these days, but Remedy Entertainment’s involvement in the upcoming CrossFire X is set to change that.
But if you’d rather not wait until later this year to see what CrossFire is all about, you only need to turn to CrossFire West — the official name of the newly merged EU/US versions of the game. CrossFire West has all the hallmarks of a Counter-Strike clone. It’s not the best looking tactical shooter on the market by today’s standards, but its many years of service means over 30 modes are available to play. It’s Black List versus Global Risk for the most part, but things like Horror Hide and Mutant Escape modes mix things up a bit from time to time. There’s even a class-based zombie mode if you’re itching to blast away the undead. Of course, the focus on skins and monetization means this one military-class FPS is now home to its fair share of fashionistas.
Black Squad (Windows)
Sometimes, you just want to get down to the nitty-gritty fundamentals of first-person shooters: The shooting. With Black Squad, NS Studio has created a relentlessly twitchy and precise multiplayer experience that should feel right at home for fans of earlier Call of Duty titles and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The game offers enough variety for players of all styles and abilities to feel like they’re making progress and contributing to their team. Getting a kill results in a gloriously over-the-top sound effect and a hefty splatter of blood on nearby walls, so there will never be any doubt whether your target is down.
Black Squad promises absolutely zero “pay to win” mechanics, with no gameplay-focused microtransactions available. Instead, you can earn everything through in-game currency or spend extra cash to buy certain cosmetic items, such as weapon skins, before other players. With only 4GB of recommended RAM and a minimum spec that calls for the aging GTX 560 GPU, you’ll be able to run the game on all but the very oldest machines.
Warface (Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
Crytek has been developing first-person shooters for nearly two decades, and the company’s experience has shown with polished and flashy games that feel just as good on console as they do on PC. The free-to-play Warface is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and, more recently, even the versatile Nintendo Switch. Its class-based approach forces teams to work together. Engineers, for instance, are capable of repairing their teammates’ armor, while Medics can heal and dish out heavy damage with a shotgun from close-range.
Most free-to-play first-person shooters focus exclusively on competitive multiplayer, but Warface also features a cooperative mode that rewards you for completing missions and playing well as a team. This mode has a tutorial for newer players to learn the classes. If you do decide to face off against other players online, you’ll be able to do so in traditional kill-based and objective-based modes, and a battle royale mode was added in an update in late 2017. Powered by Crytek’s CryEngine, it’s one of the most attractive free-to-play games around, yet its recommended PC specifications are modest.
The Cycle (Windows)
If you’re looking for something fundamentally different from most other free FPS games out there, The Cycle might be worth checking out. It’s an Epic Games Store exclusive developed and published by YAGER of Spec Ops: The Line and Dreadnought fame.
The Cycle is a unique quest-based PvPvE multiplayer shooter. You drop into a match and aim to complete more quests than the other players before the planet, its alien inhabitants, or said other players kill you first. You can sabotage the efforts of other players by doing things like hijacking their automated tools while they’re away or work together by signaling a team-up or rescuing them from danger just to stab them in the back later on.
The Cycle is still very much in development. It only entered the F2P space proper in September. It’s a brave move to shrug off the battle royale formula in favor of something totally different these days, but if you’re tired of fighting over chicken dinners and victory royales and a simple K/DA, The Cycle is worth a look. It’s going to need all the help it can get.
Planetside 2 (Windows, PS4)
With planet-spanning battles and three diverse factions, Planetside 2 ups the ante on everyday first-person shooters. Everything the player does affects their faction’s success in battle, from killing enemies to buying vehicles and taking enemy control points, all of which take place on a massive scale featuring lean animation and exceptional skill trees.
The diverse combat ensures no two matches are ever the same, placing players against one another in custom tank battles one minute, and urban firefights and aerial onslaughts the next. It all gives players the opportunity to unlock weapons, attachments, skills, and other components through the game’s intuitive leveling system.
The core of Planetside 2 revolves around holding crucial territories and claiming key resources, with hundreds of players fighting it out over the course of multi-day and weeklong battles. Turning the tide takes teamwork — and sometimes being a cog in the machine isn’t so bad.
MechWarrior Online (Windows)
The overwhelming trend in modern shooters is speed. Series such as Call of Duty have been doing everything they can to speed up gameplay, giving players the ability to run on walls and snipe opponents while backflipping through the air. This makes MechWarrior Online’s almost chess-like pace all the more refreshing. The latest in the long-running MechWarrior series, Online is a free-to-play vehicular combat game in which players plod about in massive robot suits.
There are dozens of mechs spread out across four different weight classes, and those weight classes factor heavily into the playstyle. Light mechs are nimble and stealthy, but can’t carry much in the way of weaponry, while the massive assault classes can shoulder entire arsenals. Players can also customize their mechs with weapons, but the sheer variety of mechs comes at a price. Although MechWarrior Online is technically free to play, mechs must be purchased for use, either with in-game currency or with microtransactions. Mechs get more expensive with size, with some of the heavier mechs exceeding $20. It’s an annoying hurdle in an otherwise very fun game.
Ring of Elysium (Windows)
Battle royale games are a dime a dozen these days, but Tencent mixes up the formula in Ring of Elysium by providing another option for those not interested in mowing down other players: Escape. Set on a snowy mountain in the middle of a massive storm, you and up to three other players can survive certain death — either by the weather or other players — by boarding a rescue helicopter. To brave the storm, you can even snowboard or hang-glide to your destination, but you have to watch out for the dropping temperature that can send you to an early grave.
Tencent is no stranger to battle royale games, as the company is responsible for publishing PUBG Mobile, and it shows in Ring of Elysium. Snappy, satisfying gunplay and a simple inventory system help keep you in the action and away from menus, and the game’s gorgeous buildings and environments are far different from the urban and forest-heavy places we’ve seen in similar battle royale games. As of now, it’s only available on PC.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (PC, Mac, Linux)
No list of the best FPS games would be complete without Counter-Strike. A pioneer in the competitive gaming scene, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has taken the genre staple to new heights over the years, bringing skill and strategy to the shooter scene and introducing it to PC newcomers used to dolphin dives and tactical nukes. And the move to a F2P formula late 2018 is only broadening its reach.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a tough sell, though. Those who’re good at it are obscenely good, creating a skill ceiling objectively far higher than most other competitive games. Be prepared for a long and arduous struggle to the top to replicate your esports heroes with this one. But with a competitive scene that’s bursting at the seams, the rewards are out there for anyone with the patience to learn its intricacies. Best of all, its dated visuals help it run on virtually any PC out there.
Destiny 2: New Light (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Destiny 2 is Bungie’s premier title right now, and its divorce from Activision has allowed it to go down the F2P route. You won’t have complete access to the game’s full suite of expansion packs and stories by refusing to open up your wallet, but Destiny 2: New Light offers an extensive taste of its core experience, and even allows for full access to its varied PvP battlegrounds.
If you miss the days of Halo 3, know that much of Bungie’s winning formula transferred to the Destiny series, creating a snappy, superpower-fueled FPS classic. So if you’re looking to stretch the Halo itch before The Master Chief Collection fully arrives on Windows, Destiny 2 is well worth a look. Dive into its PvE storylines and shell up for the rest, or just hunker down and become a PvP god. Either way, don’t let the idea of years of catch-up stop you from jumping into one of this generation’s biggest talking points.
Call of Duty: Mobile
Stop. Don’t skip this one. Slapping “Mobile” on the end of a popular FPS game doesn’t automatically make it bad. In fact, Call of Duty: Mobile is our top pick for a mobile shooter. And it isn’t even limited to mobile phones. Just like with PUBG Mobile, Tencent built Call of Duty: Mobile with support for its own purpose-build emulator, making it incredibly easy to play this game with a mouse and keyboard.
But better still is the fact that Call of Duty: Mobile sticks to what made the shooter series take off in the first place: Fast, fluid action on a bunch of instantly recognizable and iconic maps. Plenty of CoD 4 maps return, with other titles represented, too, making it easy to jump right in no matter when you hopped on or fell off the yearly hype train. Certain playlists (like Zombies and Gun Game) are time-limited events, but you’ll always have access to staples like Team Deathmatch and Search & Destroy. Better yet, there’s even a Battle Royale mode, making it a fine choice for those who just can’t handle PUBG Mobile.
You’ll have a hard time differentiating this from Call of Duty through screenshots alone. Even the reviews on Steam paint it as a free clone of sorts, likening it to a refreshed version of Black Squad – not that any of this is at all negative.
Ironsight released right before Christmas 2019. It was a holiday release through and through. From the relatively unknown Wiple Games and published by the ever-present Aeria Games, Ironsight really does appear to take the best of Activision’s massive shooter franchise and wrap it around a F2P (not P2W) formula. Even think the maps look familiar.
Reeling from the effects of a cataclysmic natural disaster, you play as one of two factions fighting over the planet’s last remaining natural resource. On top of your usual equipment, there’s a large reliance on your choice of drone to tactically assist you in combat. With low recommended specs and no real reason to open up your wallet, this is a shooter designed to be played by the masses.
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