Between the prices of consoles (or a PC) and the games themselves, gaming can quickly become an expensive hobby. Luckily, playing games doesn’t always require dropping tons of cash on the latest releases, as the free-to-play model continues to boom. These titles allow you to download and play a game at absolutely no cost, and they typically include some form of microtransactions for the most dedicated players. Better yet, free-to-play games are available on nearly all gaming systems, so you probably already have the hardware necessary to run many of these titles.
From conquering massive battlefields to exploring galaxies, here are the best free-to-play games you can download right now.
Call of Duty: Warzone
The newest entry on this list is Call of Duty: Warzone. This battle royale-centric spin-off in the gritty first-person shooter franchise takes the gameplay of 2019’s Modern Warfare and transitions it onto a huge open map of Verdansk.
Players fight to be the last person or team standing in 150-player matches with unique features like completing contracted objectives to earn cash, using perks to gain an advantage, and collecting respawns through the Gulag duel system. And when battle royale gets dull, there’s always the Plunder mode for competing to see who can earn the most money in a match.
The Witcher series isn’t just a fantastic world for role-playing or a big-budget Netflix show. It works well for cards, too, in the form of Gwent, the free-to-play title that allows players to craft their own army in one of six distinct factions.
The various cards available in Gwent show off familiar characters and beasts used for amassing the most power to win the best two out of three rounds. Though the PS4 and Xbox One versions won’t receive any future updates or content, it is still a thriving card game on PC and mobile.
Fortnite is a massively popular and highly competitive battle royale game. That isn’t news to many people. But it’s also a player-created experience with an evolving world and new content added nearly every week, like helicopters and challenges. That’s in addition to the ability to create your own island and game modes.
If that wasn’t enough, Epic Games frequently releases live events that push the boundaries of what a game can do. With the current situation in the world, live experiences like the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and Birds of Prey crossovers are welcome.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is one of the most relaxing games to play on mobile. It condenses the peaceful animal-filled village formula into a mobile-friendly format. Players can decorate their campground as they see fit and befriend villagers through a variety of tasks.
Many of the series staples exist, like fishing, catching bugs, and even seasonal events. With the release of New Horizons on Switch, crossover allows players to gain rewards for both games.
Final Fantasy XIV
While not fully free to play, Final Fantasy XIV lets users to enjoy the first 35 levels of the fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) at no cost without playtime restrictions. You can create your own character with a variety of race options to thrive in a Final Fantasy-themed world with Chocobos, Moogles, and magitek all around.
Final Fantasy XIV even allows you to play every class in the game with a single character, so those 35 levels can multiply further. If you want a break from casting spells and summoning pets, you can take up mining for materials or using the excellent crafting system to create wares.
For those who miss the JRPGs of old like Chrono Trigger and Xenogears, Another Eden might be for you. Created by the brilliant collaboration of writer Masato Kato and composer Yasunori Mitsuda, both of whom worked on the Chrono series and Xenogears, Another Eden is a relic of a bygone era modernized for mobile devices.
Players embark on a time-traveling tale that will send them from prehistoric times to the far future to save the world. The gameplay features crisp and quick turn-based action with a riveting story that pushes it forward with interesting characters.
Apex Legends is a genre-leading battle royale game. Many of the features currently used by Fortnite and Warzone, like respawns and the ping system, were first implemented here. It also takes the Overwatch-style hero powers and transitions them into a last-squad-standing format.
Each of the available characters has varying abilities, from Wraith’s portals to Crypto’s drone summon. Respawn Entertainment’s experience with the Titanfall series works well in Apex, allowing for highly polished gunplay and fast-paced movement.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Though the Star Wars films are over, for now, the franchise lives on in The Old Republic. This massively multiplayer online (MMO) game lets players create their own Jedi or Sith character and fight for the fate of the galaxy in a time set long before the Skywalker Saga when both the Republic and Sith Empire are at their peaks, with thousands of Force users battling it out at once.
The production value of The Old Republic is strong, too, standing out among other MMOs with its fully voiced cast and player-driven choices that affect the story. If you’ve ever wanted to wield a lightsaber with your friends online, this is the game for you.
Call of Duty Mobile
First-person shooters don’t always work well on mobile devices, but Call of Duty Mobile proves the series can excel on the go without sacrificing graphics. An online multiplayer-focused entry in the series, it has everything you would expect from a mainline Call of Duty game, including a multiplayer mode, Zombies, and even battle royale.
The speedy, adrenaline-induced gameplay of the series isn’t watered down either, as the touch controls work surprisingly well, no matter what type of gun you are using. But if playing on the touchscreen isn’t your style, it also supports PS4 and Xbox One controllers that help it feel even more like a traditional Call of Duty game for your phone or tablet.
The pinnacle of digital card games, Hearthstone offers a genre-defining title that others continue to emulate years later. The complex, rule-heavy nature of card-battling is boiled down to the simple format of playing cards for mana that you accumulate each turn.
Blizzard-made Hearthstone is welcoming to newcomers and pros alike. If you’re there to just collect cards and have fun, you can do that without ever having to play another real person. If you would rather spend hours customizing your deck for ranked play, that’s available as well.
League of Legends
League of Legends continues to be one of the biggest games in the world and a leading MOBA title. After years of new characters, game modes, and balancing, it is a free-to-play game like no other. Players compete in arenas of multiple lanes where strategy and roster mastery is key.
The classes fulfill different roles, from holding the lane to traversing the jungle for power-ups and quick kills. League of Legends isn’t the most welcoming to new players, but it is an experience that rewards gamers greatly for taking the time to learn its systems.
Who would have thought the battle royale genre would work for Tetris? Somehow, it adeptly implements the last-person-standing model as 99 players enter free-falling puzzle matches. Players maneuver the different shapes to eliminate lines and prevent their rows from building to the top.
Clearing lines has additional benefits: Sending those removed pieces to clog opponents’ fields and removing the ones you’re getting sent as well. Though Tetris 99 is free to play, you need an active Nintendo Switch Online membership to join in the fun.
Pokémon Go is a wildly different game than when it first became a worldwide phenomenon in 2016. With long-requested features like trading and player-versus-player battles now available, it finally offers a true Pokémon experience on the go.
Better yet, the roster continues to expand with recently released Generation 5 Pokémon like Trubbish and Joltik. Developer Niantic even made the game easier to play from home, so those in isolation due to COVID-19 can still catch them all.
Phantasy Star Online 2
Phantasy Star Online returns with its long-awaited sequel nearly 20 years later. After fans have been requesting for it to come to the West for almost eight years now, Sega finally released it in open beta on Xbox One. The return of the sci-fi MMO lets players use a variety of weapons and different classes to explore planets across the galaxy.
The newly released English version of Phantasy Star Online 2 has no level caps or blocked story content. So players are free to play through everything this action-based online game has to offer without worrying about spending any cash.
If you find the isometric MOBA games like League of Legends daunting, Smite might be a better alternative. More welcoming to newcomers than other games in the genre, it has a distinct third-person perspective that completely shifts how the game looks and feels.
Players control the more than 100 gods in the game from behind the shoulders, moving in a way more akin to action games. It’s also one of the only MOBA titles to make the strategic lane-based gameplay work well with a controller. With five classes to choose from, Smite caters to a wide range of play styles, from tanking to assassinating and even spell-casting.
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty
Blizzard’s fantastic RTS game StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is free to play, despite once being a full retail title on PC. The original game is also available for everyone, letting you play through the first campaign without paying a penny.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for the other campaigns, but there are still dozens of hours of strategic resource and minion management available for free in the base package. When the single-player campaign is done, you can even go online with the free copy of StarCraft 2 and use what you’ve learned against other players.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a space ninja traveling across planets in search of materials and bad guys, Warframe is worth checking out. Available on PC and console, including Switch, hundreds of hours of gameplay await without ever requiring any money.
This high-octane third-person action RPG lets players choose from a wide range of weapons, from slicing them up with swords to using Force-like powers to blasting them away with futuristic guns. The speed at which Warframe is played is intense and unlike any other online service game out there.
Want to solve online murder mysteries, live like royalty in your own castle, or break out of prison and steal money in a Grand Theft Auto-like open world? You can play all these games and so much more in Roblox. While largely billed as a kids’ title, this is a free-to-play entry that is fun for all ages.
Users can create and share their own games with ease or play one of the thousands of already existing ones. We’ve seen everything in Roblox, from re-creating reality TV shows like Survivor to blocky versions of other games like NieR: Automata. If there’s something you want to do, chances are it already exists in Roblox, or you can make it yourself.
Monster Hunter: World isn’t free to play, but Dauntless is. If you’re a fan of gathering a group of friends online with different weapons and tackling lumbering beasts, you should check this out. It takes the monster-hunting genre and attaches a bit of Fortnite style to it in its graphics and battle pass option.
Players can choose between a variety of weapons, from dual swords to guns, to take on some challenging foes that require quick thinking and careful planning to topple. Doing so rewards players with materials to craft better armor for future battles.
Fire Emblem Heroes
Fire Emblem Heroes works so well on mobile because it’s just Fire Emblem on a smaller screen. Battles play out as they do on the console counterparts but in a quicker and more limited fashion.
Players pick four heroes to fight with, and each battle takes place on a small eight-by-six grid. It still employs the standard weapon triangle used in every game, except Three Houses, with the addition of other character types like archers and mages. This is all free, along with a solid story that gets new chapter updates frequently.
Destiny 2 is one of the few games on this list that wasn’t initially a free-to-play title. Players can now work through almost everything Bungie’s released since launch through the Shadowkeep expansion. This includes the year one DLC, multiplayer modes, Strike dungeons, seasonal events, and a good portion of the story content.
You can create a Guardian from one of three classes and play through cinematic open-world planets, filled with classic Bungie first-person shooter gameplay. With cross-save now available as well, players can start on one platform and switch to another without ever having to purchase the annual pass or Shadowkeep expansion.
Black Desert Mobile
It’s a bit heavy on the grind, but Black Desert Mobile is an excellent MMORPG that offers a ridiculous amount of content for a mobile game. Players chose between one of five classes, customize their character, and embark on a journey full of player versus player (PvP), player versus environment (PvE), and hundreds of traditional MMO-style quests.
A few bucks might be required to compete at the highest levels, but by that point, you’ll already have 50 or more hours invested in the game. As far as mobile titles are concerned, this is one that gets microtransactions right.
Path of Exile
Anyone disappointed by Diablo 3 will instantly fall in love with Path of Exile. Built by many of the same people who worked on Diablo 2, this game is dark, complex, and constantly evolving.
Players customize their skills by inserting gems into their weapons, allowing for a great degree of freedom. Don’t like one of your current skills? Just swap in a new gem! Attributes are incrementally improved by leveling up a passive skill tree that has hundreds of nodes — meaning thousands of different builds are possible. Better yet, it’s all available at no cost to you and still receives regular updates.
One part Overwatch, one part Counter-Strike, Valorant takes the best of both worlds and merges them into a cohesive whole. Players will engage in high-stakes matches where one life is all you get. You’ll have the chance to select a unique hero before picking out your weapons and heading toward the objective — and your deadly opponents. It’s an absolute blast to play, even if its not the most original concept.
After going through a brief beta phase, the game is now free-to-play for all users. There’s no word on whether it will make its way to consoles, but PC gamers definitely owe it to themselves to give Riot Games’ latest title a shot. As a free game, there really are no excuses.
Guild Wars 2
While it didn’t turn out to be the World of Warcraft killer it was billed as, Guild Wars 2 continues to have a thriving community. It’s unique approach to questing allows for a much more dynamic experience and gives adventurers the ability to spontaneously group together and fight massive open-world bosses.
Guild Wars 2 has several updates planned through the rest of the year, although most of the expanded content is locked behind a paywall. Still, the entire base game is available for free, giving you a massive living world to explore and hundreds of hours of content.
Kingdom of Heroes: Tactics War
Gacha games have a bad reputation, and it’s one that is mostly well-deserved. These free-to-play games offer hundreds of characters for players to collect, but most of them are locked behind impossible drop rates that force you to spend real money. Thankfully, Kingdom of Heroes offers a staggering amount of content for a mobile game. The need to spend money only applies to those who have already poured hours into its story.
The game is a strategy-RPG hybrid, where players select their party of four before moving out onto the hexagonal battlefield. Combat is a bit like Fire Emblem, and there’s a lot of depth to the action. Proper positioning on the map is critical to your success, as is understanding your enemy’s weakness. If you’re looking for a mobile strategy game to whittle away the hours on your commute, look no further than Kingdom of Heroes. Just know that you might run up against costly barriers if you get in too deep.
One of the oldest MMORPGs on the market, RuneScape is now available in two different formats. First, RuneScape 3 — or simply RuneScape — is the version of the game that has evolved over the years to encapsulate new skills, locations, and improved graphics. If you’re after a burst of nostalgia, you can instead opt for Old School RuneScape. It is a recreation of the 2007 game, although a few recent updates aim to keep newer iterations fresh.
Both options are available for free in a limited capacity, and you’ll still have a huge map to explore and dozens of skills to level up. Subscribing to the monthly service will unlock all the skills, quests, and locations the games have to offer, though. Playing on your smartphone is another option, so you can keep your progress going away from the desktop.
Finding truly free games is challenging, and with many “free” titles, you’ll eventually run into a paywall. Still, with these picks, you can start and keep playing for hours without microtransactions. By the time you run into pay-to-play screens, you know whether the game is worth a few bucks or not.
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