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The best free games on Steam in 2021

With consistently lower title costs and regular deep-discount sales, Steam is a bargain-gamer’s paradise of free-to-play games. Sales are great, but aren’t completely free games even better? Before you try and snag a blockbuster game on sale, check out the store’s extensive free-to-play selection for some great gaming experiences that you can jump into without paying a dime.

From cartoon brawlers and Fallout spinoffs to the most popular multiplayer games on PC and tactical first-person shooters, the free-to-play market has hit the point where there’s something for everyone. Most of these titles are built for great multiplayer experiences (and a handful are cross-platform-enabled) — perfect options for groups of friends looking to test out a new game without breaking open their wallets.

We’ve rounded up the best free games on Steam for you so you can jump into a new game without slogging through reviews.

Battlerite and Battlerite Royale

Battlerite​ ​is​ ​a​ top-down MOBA-style​ ​brawler​ where fantastical champions battle it out in front of a roaring crowd. The base Arena mode offers fast-paced action 2v2 and 3v3 battles where teams must strategize and plan their champions’ choices wisely to complement each other. Think your team is holding you back and you’d be better off solo? Try the game’s battle royale counterpart — Battlerite Royale. Take your favorite champion from the team arena and see how you stack up when you’re all alone. Like most battle royale games, this mode features a shrinking safe zone, plenty of looting, and being booted back to the menu after a death.

If you’re bouncing back and forth between both games, there’s a battle pass system that allows you to collect cosmetics and virtual currency to be used in either.


For fans of the Super Smash Bros. series that want to give another platform fighter a shot, Brawlhalla is a similar game with a whimsical art style and a rotating cast of lovable characters. The goal of each match is clear: Knock your opponent off the map, either off the platform or into the atmosphere, to claim victory. Any strategies and habits learned over on Super Smash Bros. will come in handy here — the same combination of tactful dodges, light attacks, and power hits will land you on top.

Each week, a batch of six fighters are playable without spending any money. Or, if you find a favorite fighter to main or want to try them out all at once, you can pay $20 to gain access to all 40-plus characters. Brawlhalla is a completely cross-platform game, too, so you can battle it out with friends who have also snagged the game for free on Switch, PS4, or Xbox One.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

The latest entry in Valve’s popular Counter-Strike series, CS: GO is a free-to-play first-person shooter that pits teams of terrorists and counter-terrorists against each other in a series of objective-based matches. Terrorists are typically tasked with either planting a bomb or defending hostages, while the counter-terrorists have to defend bombsites (and defuse bombs if they fail) or rescue the captives. CS: GO has nine main game modes for both competitive and casual gamers, including Danger Zone, the series’ take on a battle royale mode.

Despite first being released back in 2012, CS: GO has a very active and loyal fanbase. The Counter-Strike series has always been a big player in the competitive gaming scene, so expect some fierce battles with players who have been around for a while — they weren’t exactly happy when the game went free-to-play in 2018.

Crusader Kings II

Crusader Kings II is a grand strategy game with role-playing game (RPG) elements set in Europe at the close of the Dark Ages. Players pick a ruler and make sure his dynasty survives as you play a succession of his descendants through the ages, fighting other lords for territory, investigating treasonous plots, and managing resources. When playing as a specific ruler instead of a God-like controller of a civilization, each turn is a bit more personal than a typical historical strategy game. You can customize your character’s skills and appearance and control their individual actions — you can get married and have kids, become a warlord, go hunting, and more. There’s so much you can do, and every decision affects the game.

You can take this game on solo or build a wild multiplayer game with up to 32 other players, forming alliances or doing a little backstabbing with friends. A third installment in the Crusader Kings series is also available, although you’ll have to drop $50 to check out the action.

Destiny 2

Destiny 2 Trials of Osiris

Destiny 2 is a sci-fi, open-world, first-person shooter developed by Bungie. The game takes place in the distant future, when a conglomerate of alien armies have invaded the solar system and threaten the last vestiges of humanity. Players can keep busy in a variety of ways through the story, adventures, and quests, and in competitive multiplayer modes like the Crucible and Trials of Osiris. Destiny 2  is a game of serious depth that has only expanded since its launch. Whether you’re planning on gearing up solo and finding a team to play with online or jumping in with some friends, it’s a stellar free-to-play shooter. We’ve even found the best weapons in Destiny 2 as well as where to find Xur for legendary gear.

Read the full Destiny 2 review

Dota 2

Dota 2 is one of the biggest titles in all of esports. Combining elements of real-time strategy games and tower defense games, this popular MOBA pits two teams of five players against each other to destroy the core of the other team’s base. With regular updates, including gameplay changes and new characters that change the meta, Dota 2 is one of those games you have to log on to regularly to remain competitive.

With over a hundred heroes to choose from and nearly unlimited combinations and strategies, it can take some serious gaming hours to figure out how you like to play the game.

Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter puts players in control of a state-of-the-art underground vault from Vault-Tec and tasks them with keeping the underground safe haven functioning properly. A standard resource management game with a post-apocalypse spin, gameplay revolves around keeping the vault’s dwellers happy; making sure the shelter has enough food, water, and electricity; and defending the base from murderous raiders. You can also send adventurers out into the wasteland to collect supplies, send radio broadcasts to recruit more settlers, and pair off your settlers to produce new residents in-house.

If you’re a fan of the Fallout series and have ever imagined how well you’d run a vault, this is the simulator for you. Learning how to best utilize vault dwellers with different skills and knowing when to ship out a settler takes some time, but it’s good fun watching your vault grow when you figure it out. Take a look at our Fallout Shelter guide for some assistance.


BioWare’s stellar Neverwinter Nights series brought Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) game mechanics to life in an immersive fantasy RPG. In the free-to-play MMORPG, Neverwinter, players can choose one of eight D&D character classes and team up with friends to defend the city of New Neverwinter from the Lich Queen Valindra. This isn’t a typical MMO — there generally aren’t zones with hordes of players fighting to grind certain spawns, and the story is surprisingly in-depth for the genre.

As with any MMO, there are loyal fans of the game who have been around since its initial 2013 who are terrifyingly decked out with rare armor, weapons, and skills. Don’t be afraid — this is a nice entry-level game for anyone trying to get a feel for D&D combat systems and have some fun hunting down evil creatures.

Paladins: Champions of the Realm

Paladins: Champions of the Realm art

Blizzard’s Overwatch remains the king of the “hero shooter” multiplayer genre, but Paladins is a worthwhile alternative and is completely free. Before battling it out with another team, players choose from a roster of champions divided into four tactical categories: Front Line, Damage, Support, and Flank. Like Overwatch, each character has a set of unique abilities and a charged “Ultimate.” All players have free access to six default champions and a rotating roster of four others — other characters can be unlocked by purchasing them or grinding for in-game currency.

No matter where you stand on the issue of whether or not Paladins is an Overwatch copycat, it’s worth checking out at no cost to your gaming budget.

Path of Exile

Heavily inspired by the Diablo series, Path of Exile is an online action RPG set in a dark fantasy realm. Banished for your misdeeds to the dark, you are an exile struggling to survive on the continent of Wraeclast and seeking revenge on those who have wronged you. Players pick between one of six classes — Witch, Shadow, Ranger, Marauder, Duelist, Templar — each of which has their own movesets, strengths, and weaknesses. Combining skills, armor, and weapons, you can carefully customize your character to suit your preferred playstyle.

While exploring the world through the main storyline is plenty engaging, you can always take part in some competitive online player versus player (PvP) gaming. Developer Grinding Gear Games has a strict mission in terms of its free-to-play world, too — no pay-to-win options here, so don’t fear jumping in.

Ring of Elysium

While Fornite and Apex Legends generally dominate the battle royale shooter category, Ring of Elysium is a hidden gem. In a world wrecked by a sudden volcanic eruption, the air is filling with deadly volcanic ash, and the only means of escape is a single rescue helicopter. Unlike most battle royales that feature a safe zone that slowly shrinks inward, players must stay within a constantly moving Ashen Eye and collect oxygen to assure survival.

Ring of Elysium’s development team remains committed to improving the game as it progresses past the early access period, with patches coming on an almost daily basis to add features and address feedback. If you’re looking to expand your battle royale experience past the most popular titles, give this a shot.


Smite is another game from Hi-Rez Studios, the same developer behind Paladins, but it’s a straight-up MOBA. Smite features five versus five online battles on a large map, where you must push past your opponent’s defenses to defeat the Titan. You play as one of 108 playable deities, immortals, heroes, and mythical creatures from ancient mythology that each belong to one of five classes: Guardian, Mage, Hunter, Warrior, or Assassin.

The only issue with picking up Smite is that it’s a highly competitive game — expect no mercy from elite players and no way to hide from them in casual game modes.

War Thunder

War Thunder is a military MMO that puts players in control of the armies of World War II nations (United States, Germany, Britain, U.S.S.R., and Japan). Players can take part in major battles on land, in the air, and at sea, fighting with millions of players from all over the world in an ever-evolving environment. With over 1,500 vehicles in play and a dedication to historical accuracy, strategizing and picking the correct combination of war machines is the key to victory. War Thunder is a versatile game with challenging multiplayer deathmatches and single-player campaigns. The game will keep you busy with its different modes and provide different experiences.

War Thunder is a game that works under the “freemium” model — essentially, it’s free to play, but if you want premium items, you need to spend real money to get them. Despite that, as long as you’re fine with going without these premium goods, the game is highly enjoyable, even without paying a single cent. History buffs, especially, will get a lot of fun out of the game. 


Warframe has always gone above and beyond. This game has garnered gameplay from more than 26 million people, with newcomers joining the masses every day to try it out at no cost. Offering a game for free is an excellent marketing strategy to familiarize gamers with their brand, expanding their fan base. There’s not a more exhilarating free game to play with a group of friends, combining the Halo series’s sci-fi aesthetic with the gameplay and fighting mechanics of Destiny 2.

 “Warframes” are essentially exoskeletal armors that give players unique abilities when worn. Warframes get a lot of acclaim from players because you can customize them, and they are entertaining to use. Find strategies that best utilize your armor’s unique abilities to help you to fight the entire armies that appear in the game’s open-world terrains.

Warframe is especially well suited for gamers who want to customize every aspect of their gaming experience. The plotline isn’t anything to write home about because you’ll see the same tasks over and over. What brings players back for more gameplay is improving their armor and gaining different advantage options.


Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 Medic healing Heavy.

It may have launched way back in 2017, but there’s no denying the staying power of Team Fortress 2. A class-based shooter with nine radically different characters to choose from, Team Fortress 2 has stayed relevant with constant updates, new hats to unlock, and a variety of in-game events.

Updates have slowed a bit over the past few years, but it still manages to pull in some of the best player counts across all of Steam. If you’re looking for a change of pace from your battle royale of choice, consider giving Team Fortress 2 a free download.

Apex Legends

Apex Legends characters posing.
Apex Legends

Speaking of battle royales, Respawn’s popular Apex Legends has officially landed on Steam. Featuring the tightest shooting mechanics of the genre — and a flexible and fluid movement system — Apex Legends had no problem establishing itself as one of the best free games on Steam.

Even if you’re not a battle royale fan, Respawn recently brought a more traditional PvP experience to Apex Legends with the introduction of Arenas. This pits two teams of three against each other, with the only goal being the elimination of your opponents. Not only is it a great way to practice your combat skills, but Arenas has enough depth to stand alone as something completely separate from the core Apex gameplay loop.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars The Old Republic squad facing off against boss.

Avid Star Wars fans will find plenty to love with The Old Republic, but so too will anyone seeking a deep, engaging RPG. Since launching in 2011, the decade-old MMO has seen radical improvements, turning it into one of the most popular MMORPGs on Steam.

A sprawling storyline driven by player choice is only the start of things, with a deep combat system, eight playable classes, and numerous planets to explore — including the iconic Hoth and Tatooine — giving you hundreds of hours of content to work through.

Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis

Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis player in combat.

Although it wasn’t as dramatic as the turnaround seen by Final Fantasy XIV, Phantasy Star Online 2 has come a long way since its launch. New Genesis is halfway between an expansion and a revamp, offering a radically different game than was around in 2020.

Enhanced character models, a new graphics engine, new locations, new enemies — the list of improvements could go on forever. In short, PSO2: New Genesis has cemented itself as one of the standout MMOs of its time.


RuneScape players gathered in a crowd.

Whether you’re interested in taking a trip down memory lane with Old School RuneScape or checking out all the improvements made in RuneScape 3, both MMORPGs are available for free on Steam. Monthly subscribers will gain access to a larger world and more skills, but free users can still get up to plenty of mischief in the massive world of Gielinor.

Whether you want to become a billionaire on the Grand Exchange or team up for some high-stakes PvP, the options at your disposal are almost limitless. Old School RuneScape is a perennial favorite, while the upgrades made to RuneScape 3 are quickly winning over legions of new fans.

PlanetSide 2

PlanetSide 2 player caught in a shootout.

As far as large-scale shooters go, it’s hard to beat PlanetSide 2. Rogue Planet Games has done an excellent job of making it feel that your individual contributions matter without turning PlanetSide 2 into a game filled with hundreds of lone wolves doing their own thing.

From piloting deadly vehicles to sneaking behind enemy lines with your squad, gameplay in PlanetSide 2 varies wildly from one moment to the next. The keys to victory? Working with your team, being flexible, and understanding when it’s time to retreat and regroup for a second assault.



Gwent card explanations

Hearthstone might gather all the fanfare, but don’t sleep on CD Projekt Red’s stand-alone CCG GWENT. Constantly updated and reworked, GWENT has become one of the best card games available on Steam. Not only does it draw from the deep Witcher lore, but it features some impressive special effects and playing fields that will keep you engaged beyond the strategic gameplay.

Despite CD Projekt Red’s busy update schedule for Cyberpunk 2077, GWENT has managed to receive multiple patches throughout the year. New cards, new rules, and new unlockables keep the CCG exciting month after month, and we don’t expect the fun to end any time soon.


Spellbreak archer attacking player.

As far as battle royale games go, Spellbreak is the outlier. Ditching guns and vehicles for gauntlets and spells, think of Spellbreak as “Harry Potter: The Battle Royale.” Combat quickly evolves into an explosion of colors, with tornados, firewalls, and flying boulders becoming staples of a typical encounter.

The longer you manage to last in each round, the more your skills will grow — meaning the final ring is filled with high-end players with the strongest spells in the game. If you thought the last few minutes of Fortnite were difficult, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve stepped into Spellbreak. It takes a while to get used to, but Spellbreak offers one of the most thrilling takes on the battle royale genre in recent memory.

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Sam Hill
Sam Hill is a journalist and the gaming guides editor at Digital Trends. He's also written tech guides for Input and has…
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