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The best free games on Xbox One

With titles such as Warframe and Fortnite paving the way, the free-to-play genre has exploded over the past several years. Gone are the days of downloading a free game on your PC, only to find it littered with a litany of microtransactions and dubious malware. Today, you can download plenty of complete titles without spending a dime. Whether you want to manage an underground vault in Fallout Shelter or take on 150 opponents in Call of Duty: Warzone, here are the best free games on Xbox One.

Further reading

Bless Unleashed

A player stands down a dragon in Bless Unleashed
BANDAI NAMCO

A successor to Bless Online, which survived just a year on PC before getting shut down, Bless Unleashed is a new free-to-play MMORPG option on Xbox One, the first from Bandai Namco on a console. Players start off the game as a ward of a powerful priestess whose island is attacked by an evil force known as the Faceless. The attack on this peaceful island was just a piece of a more destructive plot though, and it’s up to the player to unravel the mystery through a long, fantastical adventure.

Early reviewers have called attention to a clunky combat system and repetitive NPCs and side quests, but others have praised it for its challenging, yet easy to pick-up leveling system and creature design, The game is still new to Xbox and developers are regularly updating it — expect improvements the longer the game is out, with plenty of input from players.

Call of Duty: Warzone

If Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s ultra-competitive multiplayer mode wasn’t enough to satisfy you, you’re in luck. With Warzone, the Call of Duty series has entered the battle royale arena and is one of the hottest multiplayer experiences in gaming right now. The main battle royale mode is typical — parachute onto the map, loot up with your squad, and battle it out with other teams, all with classic Call of Duty mechanics, weapons, and fighting tactics. What separates Warzone from other battle royale games right now is its Plunder mode. The goal of this mode is to gather $1 million with your squad by looting around the map and taking out other players. Get taken out and you respawn, but a percentage of your cash is taken. Remember to drop off some of your collected cash at deposit helicopter pads scattered on the map or with cash deposit balloons. The top three teams are shown on everyone’s map, so carrying too much dough puts a big target on your back.

In terms of gameplay, Warzone doesn’t bring anything drastically new to the table — you’ve still got to focus on the battle royale basics like knowing your guns, closing doors behind you and listening for footsteps around every corner. But fans of the Call of Duty series will be pumped to add an active battle royale mode to the series’ already serious multiplayer pool and Plunder definitely adds an interesting alternative game mode to the mix.

Read our full Call of Duty: Warzone review

Darwin Project

In the middle of a battle royale boom that focused on high-profile shooters like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Darwin Project joined is an under-the-radar but complex addition to the genre. While most battle royale games don’t have much of a story behind them, Darwin Project is set in a Hunger Games-esque dystopian future where overpopulation has led to the practice of reality TV-style battle royale contests to keep the masses manageable. In this fight to the death, nothing is handed to you. Players must chop down trees, gather natural resources and loot building to build weapons and tools. The environment is a serious factor as well — be sure to chop wood to build yourself a fire in cold weather or you might die before you even see another player.

The unique part of this game is the reality TV angle — these fights are being produced. Each game, someone takes on the role of the director, a robot camera master of ceremonies hovering overhead. This player can heal players, change the environment, drop loot, adjust the safe zone, et cetera, to make the show more interesting if players are getting passive.

A third-person entry with cartoon-style art, Darwin Project might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the battle royale genre and want to explore past the headline military shooters.

Read our full Darwin Project review

Dauntless

Dauntless monsters

If you’re a fan of gathering a group of friends online with different weapons and tackling lumbering beasts, Dauntless might be the title for you. Similar to Monster Hunter: Worldbut free-to-play and with a Fortnite character style and battle pass, this action RPG is all about tracking down and slaying massive monsters. There’s no grinding away at small creatures and working your way up to the big leagues though — this game is all boss battles, all the time.

The fighting in this game is very much about strategy. You won’t be rewarded for running into battle spamming the attack button without a plan. Fighting monsters revolves around picking the right weapon for the job and learning your enemy’s attack plan, knowing the right attack combos and evasive maneuvers to slay the beats and come out alive.

Having a set strategy and making sure your party is equipped properly is key to successful monster hunting, so make sure your whole squad is on the same page before rushing into battle.

Destiny 2

Destiny 2 Crimson Days

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. Between the game’s story and its competitive multiplayer modes, Destiny 2 gives player a lot of content for absolutely no cost. Players will need to build their character and customize it to their strengths, while gathering loot and building weapons to support their class of choice to be successful.

Destiny 2 has only expanded since its launch and shows no signs of slowing down, making it a great world to join if you’re looking for an immersive gaming experience and a larger community. Bungie has publicly stated that it’s looking into bringing cross-platform play to the game, but it doesn’t look like the update is in the works to be released anytime soon.

Fallout Shelter

Bethesda’s Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 are great, full-priced experiences for Xbox One, but if you’re looking to save a whole lot of bottle caps, the stylish colony management simulation Fallout Shelter is a great alternative. Tasked with growing a community of vault-dwelling survivors after the nuclear apocalypse, you must manage resources, construct new rooms, venture out into the unknown to complete quests, and defend your home from raiders, all while attempting to increase the population. Most of your actions are on timers, so it’s a great game to play in-between multiplayer sessions or as you’re watching Netflix on your Xbox One. It’s also part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program, so you can pick up where you left off on a Windows 10 PC.

Fortnite

One of the most popular games worldwide, Fortnite doesn’t need much of an introduction. The top battle royale shooter from Epic Games is always evolving through map changes, weapon additions and other in-game content, so it’s a great title to have in your rotation. The current season is on its way out, but has been spy themed from day one and has included a slew of in-game quests and challenges delivered to you by a team of oddball agents. This season also included a coveted, unlockable Deadpool skin through a partnership with Marvel. The third season of the current chapter was recently pushed back until June and fans are speculating on what the next installment will bring to the table.

While Fortnite is constantly changing, the basics of the game remain the same. Anyone who played the game previously and has taken a break will find themselves getting back into the swing of things. Despite the game’s popularity over the past few years, there’s still a solid competitive balance. The introduction of competitive Arena mode has split the player pool up a bit, so regular game modes aren’t as full of hardcore players.

Hawken

Best Free to Play Games

If you thought Titanfall was a cool concept but were discouraged by the fact that half the game takes place on foot (or if you were a big Gundam Wing fan), Hawken just might be for you. This game is unforgiving to new players, but spend some time with it and you’ll find that few things are as enjoyable as piloting a big mech to victory. Players choose from more than 30 different mechs, each with different abilities and niches to fill, and — of course — lots of different weapons.

The graphics are a bit grainy, and framerates drop on occasion, but for a 2012 title ported to Xbox One, it plays pretty well. The absence of aim assist (a staple in modern shooters) means you’ll need to hone your skills, however, and the mechs’ evasion abilities can lead to intense showdowns between low-health units. Hawken also feels pretty unwieldy when navigating menus and such, but that’s a minor complaint.

Neverwinter

If bringing MOBA to consoles was difficult, then doing the same for an MMO is indeed a challenging endeavor. Still, it has happened more and more in recent years, with games like The Elder Scrolls Online and DC Universe Online proving that the genre can survive on a gamepad, even if it doesn’t offer the same freedoms as a keyboard-mouse combo. Neverwinter wasn’t our favorite MMO title for PC, but its short action bar and linear level design translate extremely well to an Xbox One controller, and you can play nearly the whole game for free. It is set within the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms universe, and you’ll select from D&D-inspired character archetypes to create your adventurer.

The game lacks in MMO features — namely, groups are limited to five, and there are few options for communicating in-game — but the combat feels weighty and satisfying, striking a good balance between depth and simplicity.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Since 2012, Sega has released Phantasy Star Online 2 across a variety of platforms, but the game has never made it’s way to the U.S. until this month. The Xbox One version will include the most up-to-date version of the space-age MMORPG. While the game has been around for quite a while and definitely shows its age, everyone is just excited to get a chance to play it.

In PSO2, you are a member of ARKS, a task force dedicated to the exploration and protection of the universe against a malignant force called the Falspawn. You can travel with a party of up to four other players and there are exclusive multiparty areas where up to 12 players can play simultaneously.

Bad news for PS4 and Switch owners — it sounds like the game will remain an Xbox exclusive. But a PC release of the game is expected sometime in early May.

Realm Royale

Realm Royale may look like Fortnite, but the two games don’t have much in common. It is a spin-off of the hero shooter Paladins: Champions of the Realm, where it originated as a game mode known as Paladins: Battlegrounds. Get ready for a mix of modern and fantasy elements here. Players battle it out and have access to weapons like sniper rifles and shotguns, but players also sport long swords, crossbows and staffs. A crafting system allows found items to be broken down for materials to make better items or abilities at fixed locations found on the map, called Forges, which often become contested by many players.

Unlike most battle royales right now, players must choose between one of five classes when jumping into a game: Hunter, warrior, assassin, engineer, or mage. Each class has its own skills on the battlefield. For example, Assassins have the ability to teleport between short distances and Engineers have the ability to deploy a pretty powerful shield to absorb incoming damage.

Roblox

While largely billed as a kids’ title, Roblox is a free-to-play entry that is fun for all ages. Roblox is a global platform where millions of people gather together to imagine and create with each other in immersive, user-generated 3D worlds. Players can sign-up to join Roblox, create an avatar for themselves and develop or play millions of 3D online games. The platform is similar to Minecraft and fashioned after Lego, though not directly connected to either.

Since game creation here is so simple, there are almost too many games to choose from. Games range from scuba diving simulators, amusement park builders, pizza joint cooking games, and even prison escapes. The possibilities are essentially endless. The game includes plenty of solo experiences but it’s always more fun when you team up with a friend to collaborate on developing a new game or enjoying one together.

Smite

Translating the MOBA genre for consoles was always a difficult ask, but Smite developer Hi-Rez Studios managed to pull it off, resulting in possibly the best free game you’ll find on Xbox One or PlayStation 4. In Smite, you’ll take control of a god. There are more than 100 to choose from, hailing from eight different “Pantheons” (Greek, Chinese, Norse, et cetera) and belonging to one of five classes: Guardian, mage, hunter, warrior, or assassin. Like League of Legends or DOTA 2, you’ll control your chosen god from a third-person perspective, though here the camera is a bit closer behind.

A smattering of different game types offer players an opportunity to play in teams of three, four, or five, and more traditional lane-based game types contrast nicely with modes like Arena, where teams work to deliver minions through the enemy portal. SMITE is great fun, but be warned: The skill threshold is high, so it’s extremely challenging to pick up and play without help from friends.

Warframe

Best Free to Play Games

Warframe is a crafter’s dream. Players take control of Tenno (read: space ninjas) from a third-person perspective, embarking upon missions across the galaxy to combat several sinister factions. Light on plot and heavy on customization, the game is fast-paced and designed for cooperative play, as players will blast through levels with typical objectives, including assassination and sabotage. T

The eponymous “Warframes” — aka armor suits that act as character classes — are the main draw here. There are more than 30 frames to choose from, each with four unique skills, and you can switch between them at will once they’re unlocked. Each frame operates differently, allowing for myriad play styles, and you can customize everything — weapons, frames, etc. — with mods that tailor skills even more specifically. The game feels a bit arcade-y and repetitive at times, but c’mon, it’s free!

World of Tanks

Anyone remember Tanks? You know, that 2D flash game that’s all about angles? Well, World of Tanks is a little bit more robust, though the same basic principles apply. In heated, 15-on-15 engagements that take place across sprawling maps, you’ll select a tank and blast your way through enemies, using the environment to your advantage and unlocking upgrades in the process. Diverse map design helps keep battles fresh, and players will need to maneuver carefully to survive, given how slowly the tanks turn and accelerate.

As with many of the games on our list, progress is slow, and you might find yourself itching to spend some real-life cash on a new tank after being blown up several hundred times. Still, World of Tanks is a unique title and one that offers a ton of fun for zero monetary investment.

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