15 Best Xbox One Free-To-Play Games
Calling all cheapskates!
If you want proof of how far games have changed over the past decade, just look at the amount of Xbox One free-to-play games that are available right now. It’s “bloomin’ mental”, it is! Or at least, that’s what I would say if I was a 47 year old dad. Then I’d just stare into the middle distance, rambling incoherently about the “good old days” or whatever.
Sorry, where was I?
The fact is that in today’s gaming landscape, if you’re more frugal than most people, there’s still plenty of ways to get enough gaming bang for your non-existent buck. Better still, the amount of free-to-play games available cross the length and breadth of the gaming spectrum. If you like playing a certain type of genre, chances are the world of free-to-play has you covered.
Though Steam leads the way in the cheapskate marketplace, Xbox Live has plenty of decent games in its lineup that are more than a match for full price games. With that in mind, let’s have a gander at some of the best free-to-play games available on the Xbox One.
1. Fortnite: Battle Royale
Regular readers of Cultured Vultures will know my feelings for Fortnite: Battle Royale are less than favourable, but in all honesty, I am just a curmudgeon that hates the things you like. What can’t be denied, however, is the level of success that Fortnite: Battle Royale has achieved in the 8 months since going live.
Moving from a somewhat average PvE game to the world’s premier choice of multiplayer shooter is no mean task, but Fortnite has achieved it. If you have even a passing interest in online shooters, it’s worth checking Fortnite out. The mechanics aren’t necessarily for everyone, but the constant updates and limited time event modes help keep things fresh. Give it a go, what have you got to lose?
2. Clicker Heroes
No no no. Hear me out on this one, please. Clicker Heroes is one of those idle RPGs where your team is constantly killing minions and earning gold in the background. You remember the craze that was Cookie Clicker a few years back? How about Clicking Bad, the Breaking Bad clicker game about cooking meth that your boy might have spent an hour playing whilst writing this article? Clicker Heroes is like that.
It’s easier to disregard Clicker Heroes as just a weird curio that’ll be deleted off your hard drive as quickly as it’s downloaded, but there’s something undeniably addictive about watching your DPS figures slowly increase the more you click that button. It’s almost hypnotic even.
No, I can quit whenever I want.
If you’re looking for a MOBA fix on consoles, SMITE is the best option, without question. Combining together Gods and mythical creatures from a wide range of pantheons, including the Norse, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Egyptian and more. It’s the ultimate way to settle who’d win a fight between the likes of Thor and Anubis.
Admittedly, the MOBA genre isn’t for everyone, and that applies to SMITE. The game requires and more methodical, tactical style of play. Rushing in and trying to take on the world will leave you getting battered and beaten, just before the other members of your team sarcastically spam “Awesome” and “You Rock!” in the game chat.
A lot of people tend to describe Paladins as bargain bin Overwatch, and in all honest, Paladins doesn’t do a lot to shy away from that comparison. Paladins follows the same key structure as Blizzard’s popular hero shooter, as you team of unique heroes faces another team of heroes to push a payload.
So far, so similar, but Paladins tries to do enough to warrant your attention. The game is developed by Hi-Rez Studios who make SMITE, and Paladins borrows a few concepts from its stablemate. Players buy items and buffs at the start of each round that’ll alter how you play the character, and each character can be equipped with cards before a match that can further change up your stats and strategies. Plus, it’s getting its own Battle Royale game type. Make of that what you will.
5. Dungeon Defenders 2
Most tower defense games suffer by removing you from active participation. Just watching hordes of enemies get obliterated by your well placed defenses is nowhere near as fun as getting stuck in with the slaughter. That’s why Dungeon Defenders 2 is a surprisingly enjoyable little game.
The game plays out like a third person action title with tower defense elements. You select one of four classes from the beginning, though you are able to purchase more if you’re so inclined. Each class has its own skills and defenses, so it pays to experiment with what works for both yourself and your enemies. With 4 player co-op also included, Dungeon Defenders 2 is a great, and cheap, way to play games with your mates.
Depending on who you talk to, Warframe is one of the best shooters on the market today, period. That point is up for debate, but there’s certainly no denying the sheer amount of content that Warframe offers. There’s so many missions, quests, collectibles, locations and diversions on offer that it’s a very real possibility that the game will devour your life if you let it.
In fairness, Warframe does begin to thrive once you throw some real money at it. New classes become easier to unlock, as does upgrading the different mods that add new buffs and abilities to your character. Without that, Warframe can feel like somewhat of an overwhelming grind with no end in sight. If that still sounds like a rollicking good time to you, get involved.
If you like your MMO games about gods who dress up like they’re on a pretty sweet fishing trip, Skyforge is for you. Yes, there are some pretty weird costumes. Taking place on the world of Aelion, you discover your godlike abilities and join an ever growing pantheon of deities trying to stop a range of threats affecting the world.
Because it’s an MMO, it’s got quests and content coming out of its ears. Though the main quest will take you about 8-10 hours at most, the first chapter of Season 1’s addition story mode takes just as long. You’re going to be here for a while, so it’s fortunate that Skyforge’s gameplay focuses more on real time action than clicking an enemy until they fall over.
8. Killer Instinct
For my money, 2013’s Killer Instinct is one of the best fighting games of the current generation, or any for that matter. Rebooting the classic Rare fighter was no easy task, but Double Helix, and subsequently Iron Galaxy, managed to nail the attitude and aesthetic of the original games whilst improving the gameplay so it could compete with current generation titles.
Though you can purchase the definitive edition for a decent price, and you absolutely should do that, you can download the game for free, which will come with a rotating free character and access to a lot of the key modes, including online multiplayer, survival mode and some much needed in-depth tutorials. Maybe head there first before getting bodied online.
9. Powerstar Golf
You might be thinking that I’m using my status as gaming editor of Cultured Vultures to constantly pepper references to Powerstar Golf into my work, and that’s not entirely far from the truth. Truth is, though it’s largely derivative of PlayStation’s Everybody’s Golf, the gameplay on offer is just as satisfying.
Similar to Killer Instinct, you can download a free version of Powerstar Golf, which will give you access to one character and course. If you like what you see, you can pay for more, which you honestly should. It’s cheap, and it’s a really enjoyable golf game. It’s better than that Rory McIlroy offering from a few years back at least.
10. DC Universe Online
Have you ever wanted to be an all conquering superhero that rubs shoulders with the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and DC’s greatest good guy, The Question? Did you also want that to come in the form of MMO fetch quests? That sounds like we’re putting DC Universe Online down, but there’s definitely a lot to offer players.
Like all free-to-play MMOs, there’s more to be found if you put a bit of cash into the game, including new classes and quests, but the base game is still filled with content. Though it’s mainly built for comic book fans who love everything about DC, the gameplay on offer is deep and rewarding enough to suck you in.
11. Happy Wars
If there ever was an oxymoronic video game name, it’s Happy Wars. On face value, Happy Wars looks like a cutesy and silly affair, and there’s a lot of truth to that. Underneath the cartoony aesthetic though are a number of intricate systems that’ll keep you coming back for more.
The core game plays out as a 15v15 objective game type, as players fight for control of different towers. Once a team has pushed forward enough, they can seige their opponent’s castle and attempt to destroy their main tower for the victory. With multiple classes and hundreds of unique armours and weapons for each, all of which can be upgraded, Happy Wars has got plenty to offer.
The baldy assassin made a grand return to form in 2016 with the reboot of Hitman. It took some convincing, but the episodic nature of the game allowed Hitman to be a talking point throughout the year, whilst new levels added different weapons, costumes and opportunities to commit the “perfect crime”. By that, we of course mean “snapping the target’s neck in public before gunning down any witnesses”.
Much like other games on this list, downloading the game for free doesn’t grant you access to the full experience. You’ll get access to the tutorial area, which includes two story missions, two bonus contracts, lots of challenges and a few achievements too. Basically, there’s enough content available for free to give you the full Hitman experience without costing you a penny.
Crossout, or Mad Max: Free-To-Play Road if you want to call it what it is, is a multiplayer car combat game where you can create your own vehicles and use them in battle, or you just use a template and add a bunch of machine guns to the roof. Creativity can be really hard in the post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Unfortunately, as is the way with multiplayer free-to-play games, there’s a lot of microtransactions involved that can really upset the balance of play. Still, if you’re just looking for some fun car combat without getting serious with the Clans and Ranked play, that shouldn’t be a problem.
14. Gems of War
Basically Candy Crush but without that saccharine sweet presentation, Gems of War is another one of those match 3 colours puzzle games that your mum is awfully addicted to. Or, at least, my mum is. If you’re not careful either, it’s quite easy to become addicted to Gems of War as well.
Gems of War takes the match 3 concept and turns it into a competitive game that sees you building a team of cards, each with different abilities and stats, and facing off against another team. Matching certain colours builds mana that allows you to use a special ability, whilst matching skulls directly attacks your opponent. With massive quests, different game modes and the ability to form and join guilds, Gems of War offers fun for everyone.
15. World of Tanks
The stalwart veteran of the free-to-play genre, World of Tanks is just as strong now as it was when it launched on PC back in 2010. The 15v15 multiplayer action is still as effective at sucking players as it ever was, though admittedly it’s not for everyone. World of Tanks demands a more methodical pace, lest you be peppered with artillery fire from all directions.
The new introduction of War Stories has added a series of PvE situations that can be played both solo and in co-op, making them the perfect primer to World of Tanks proper. If you felt like World of Tanks was just a little too impenetrable before then, perhaps it’s time to revisit the game.