PC players really are just spoilt for choice with dozens of games releasing each day, often to the point where some gems go completely under the radar. Trawling through Steam charts should come with a health warning — it can be completely overwhelming. If you don’t want to splash the cash, there are plenty of the best free PC games to catch your eye instead, but as you might expect, it’s hard to separate the worthwhile from the filler.
Below you will find some of the best PC games that won’t cost you a dime, just so you don’t have to figure out if Minecraft rip-off X is a more worthwhile download than Minecraft rip-off Y and actually play something worthwhile. We’ve gone for an eclectic mix of different genres to make things for more interesting, including shooters, MOBAs, TCGs, and narrative-based adventures.
We’ve also deliberately tried to avoid talking about the free PC games that are just gateways into a grind without much else to offer apart from a wallet tease; we’re mostly prioritising full games over “introductory” deals.
If you have some hard drive space that’s existence is irritating or you just want to make your Steam library look bigger, here are the best free PC games you should download and also how you can. Bear in mind that these are not in any order and that it is a living list, so we may add a new game if it impresses.
Developer: Team Salvato Publisher: Team Salvato Microtransactions? None Download:Steam
Perhaps the most original game on this list, Doki Doki Literature Club may look like your ten a penny visual novel featuring high schoolers but it’s anything but. While it is a little on the slow side to truly get going, it’s worth the wait.
To explain what makes Doki Doki already such a cult classic would be to spoil some of the experience. Instead, go into it expecting to have your expectations subverted and remember that it is “not for those that are easily disturbed”. Consider yourself warned.
2. Marie’s Room
Developer: like Charlie Publisher: like Charlie Microtransactions? None Download:Steam
Marie’s Room isn’t a game that will change the landscape of the industry as we know it, instead serving as a worthwhile journey into someone else’s life that you can get through in your lunch break — it takes only an hour to get through but it’s an hour that you will be glad you spent.
Perhaps most easily (and maybe cynically) labelled as a walking simulator, Marie’s Room is a mystery about two friends and the passage of time presented through a recollection that’s open to interpretation. If you want to play something that will make you sit back and reflect, this is the free PC game for you.
Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Epic Games Microtransactions? Yes Download:Epic Launcher
Fortnite (Fortnite: Battle Royale specifically) is a supremely ridiculous game that’s as much a meme at this point as it is a seriously competitive shooter. It may leave you out in the cold if you’re trying to get into it with so many players building Legoland during every fight.
It will be rough going if you’re only just getting into it, but stick with the learning curve and maybe also get a squad together and there could still be plenty of surprises in store. Fortnite is also a game that refuses to sit still for a minute, so expect constant updates with new items and map changes.
Just like Fortnite, there’s a well-established pool of experienced players still playing CS:GO that may offer some brick walls to overcome. However, with the option to play offline with bots to learn the ropes, you’ll learn to play Dust 2 over and over again and hang with the best of them before too long.
CS now also has a battle royale mode with the cheesily named Danger Zone, which the community seems to have just straight up rejected.. While most still gravitate towards the “classic” experience, there are many different ways to play Counter-Strike but beware of in-game chat if you’re of a sensitive disposition.
The best way to experience it is with some friends who don’t mind carrying the newcomer. It’s the most popular game on Steam by some distance, but its players absolutely do not suffer fools.
Developer: Digital Extremes Publisher: Digital Extremes Microtransactions? Yes Download:Steam
It’s quite bananas how far Warframe has come since its rough and ready launch in 2013. Originally a fairly straightforward action adventurer, Warframe is now an epic undertaking that consumes the lives of almost anyone who touches it thanks to the almost endless content and a grind that is very real.
While the grind can be a little unforgiving at points, it’s offset somewhat by just how much there is to see and do. Featuring a friendly community owing to its PVE community and an alternative for those left jaded by Destiny, Warframe just continues to go from strength to strength with each passing year.
Another older Valve game that’s almost as popular as the new games released on Steam each week, Team Fortress 2 served as the inspiration for the likes of Overwatch and Paladins while doing it many years earlier — and arguably better. It’s free, which gives it a leg up over the former, and isn’t completely extortionate with its microtransactions, which helps it against the latter.
A radical departure from its predecessor, TF2 dropped the serious military shooter aesthetic and went in a completely different direction. A bright and colourful team-based shooter, Team Fortress 2 offers plenty of silly fun despite being over a decade old and not the most faithfully updated game.
If you’ve played a MOBA in the past and haven’t really gelled with it, you almost certainly won’t get on with Dota 2 either as it’s one of the less “smooth” of the options out there. There’s also a steep learning curve to overcome, but offline practice modes can help you get the gist of things, which is lucky as MOBAs are notoriously difficult to approach for newcomers.
Here’s a word of warning, though: the addiction will come at you fast. Dota 2 is notorious for consuming your life, so you better enlist some friends to share the slide into obsession with as you chip away at the surface of this game before realising that there’s an a hulking and intimidating beast within.
Developer: Blue Mammoth Games Publisher: Ubisoft Microtransactions? Yes Download:Steam
Affectionately dubbed “Smash for poor people”, Brawlhalla is a chaotic multiplayer brawler that has a lot in common with Nintendo’s flagship that it will always struggle to separate itself from.
While it may never reach the level of success of its most obvious inspiration, there’s plenty in Brawlhalla to gravitate to, which includes a decent pool of characters and approachable gameplay that it makes it great fun with friends.
Competitively, Brawlhalla is susceptible to having a bit of an imbalanced meta and a somewhat toxic community, so you have been warned if you’re thinking of getting serious. Regardless of that, it has more than enough to it to entertain you and your family for a few hours if you’re Switch-less and just want some dumb fun.
9. Quake Champions
Developer: id Software Publisher: Bethesda Microtransactions? Yes Download:Steam
It’s a little odd that Quake Champions isn’t more popular than it is. It’s a fine slice of retro arena shooting spliced with some modern sensibilities with a free introduction and plenty of content. Perhaps a modernised and tweaked Quake isn’t what the fans wanted, but if it’s just a fun FPS you want, Quake Champions will more than get the job done.
The game’s champions offer a different take on the arena shooter and fall under the Overwatch umbrella of having different abilities suitable for different situations — it’s no longer simply a case of who has the quickest reactions.
Quake Champions isn’t the most popular entry on this list of the best free PC games, but it’s supported well enough for you to really sink your teeth into it if you so wish, though the waiting around for a match is a little much at times.
10. League of Legends
Developer: Riot Games Publisher: Riot Games Microtransactions? Yes Download:Direct
An incomprehensibly popular free-to-play PC title, LoL is also similarly incomprehensible for those uninitiated in the ins and outs of the MOBA, possible even more so than the aforementioned Dota 2. There’s a staggering amount of people playing this free to play game for a reason, however, and that is because it’s arguably the best MOBA on the market.
While you may struggle to get anywhere near the competitive scene at this point in the game’s life, you will still gain something from running the lanes in League of Legends, so much that your social life will disappear without you realising it happened.
While the microtransactions may be on the invasive side for some and the community so toxic that it needs quarantining, it’s a good time with friends as long as you can wrap your head around it.
The progenitor for the wild surge in demand for CCGs, Hearthstone still arguably remains as the best example out there.
While it is certainly not a walk in the park to get to grips with, it’s also not so obtuse, dense, and overly cynically motivated by money that you can’t eventually understand its ins and outs. Those who pay more will get more from the game almost no matter what, so bear that in mind before you take the big leap into competitive play.
The Blizzard stamp of quality and extra attention to detail is obvious as well as a lowered skill ceiling, making it fairly approachable. The outcome of matches does depend a lot on RNG, though this may not be that big an issue if you’re just looking for a timesink.
Think of Hearthstone as a modern Solitaire to kill some time with rather than something that should consume your being and you will get something back from collecting cards until your eyes hurt.
While the developers themselves may label it as such, calling The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit “just” a demo doesn’t really do it justice. A standalone story set in the Life Is Strange universe, Captain Spirit focuses on a young boy as he seeks to get away from the stresses in his life by letting his imagination run wild.
Those who love LiS will find a lot to love in this short single player parable, but anyone who enjoys emotional rides that may be labelled almost critically as a “walking simulator” will also find much to appreciate here.
It may not convert the unconverted, but for providing a full-bodied toybox to explore and bridging the gap between LiS installments, Captain Spirit deserves some space on your hard drive.
“There are few examples of ‘show not tell’ storytelling more elegant than The Awesome Adventures of Captain which can be enjoyed by fans of the Life is Strange series, as well as anyone who enjoys narrative-driven experiences.”
13. Dwarf Fortress Classic
Developer: Tarn Adams Publisher: Bay 12 Games Microtransactions? None Download: Direct
Listen, unless you have the patience to learn what many call the most densest and most confusing game ever made, you may want to survive Dwarf Fortress: a maddening hybrid of different genres that is far more complex than its basic visuals may suggest.
The keyword here is creativity, though with the caveat that no matter what you do, you will eventually fail — it’s just the way the game works.
There is no grand story or obligations apart from keeping your fortress intact as you direct dwarves towards its upkeep and also expansion. That’s it, but don’t be deceived into thinking that you can simply pick up and master Dwarf Fortress.
Serving as heavy inspiration for Minecraft, view it as the ugly but somehow also stunning cousin (in the sense that it will stun you into submission with its difficulty) to Mohjang’s monolith and remember that dying is fun before you boot it up.
Arguably the definitive roguelike (and perhaps even indie) experience, Spelunky Classic paved the way for many of its peers to follow suit when it launched into cult status in 2008. A HD update came out in 2012, but if you can deal with some more basic visuals and the less complete package, Spelunky Classic is yours for absolutely nothing.
Players are tasked with navigating underground taverns for treasure while fending off the beasties and ghoulies that lurk within. Sounds simple, but with an ever-changing layout and an oppressive difficulty that undoes all your hard work after a simple mistake, you have an addictive dungeon crawler with an iconic status that feels wholly earned. Just don’t cheese the shopkeepers if you can help it.
A little bit of a cheat for our list of the best free PC games because the rest of the content past level 20 is gated off, but the Starter Edition for World of Warcraft is more than good enough if you simply want to socialise and take part in the best video game activity of them all: fishing. If you just want to farm and kick back with friends, the entry point for WoW will tide you over until/if you decide to commit.
While WoW isn’t quite the massively multiplayer juggernaut it once was (nothing can stay at the very top forever), there is still some catharsis to be had from grinding away and a hobby that will turn into an obsession unless you’re being careful. The limitations with the free account are fairly numerous, though they may actually be a godsend to still allow you to see sunlight more than once every four months.
16. Apex Legends
Developer: Respawn Publisher: EA Microtransactions? Yes Download:Origin
It’s truly remarkable the success Apex Legends enjoyed when it first launched, the almost unparalleled popularity of a new game with barely a shred of pre-marketing making it a serious battle royale contender from day one being something of an oddity. And that’s without even considering that it is published by EA, who are nobody’s favourite company.
But it truly deserves the limelight as Respawn, a studio who know how to craft an FPS with their eyes closed, delivered a game that charmed even the most jaded of battle royale veterans with innovations big and small. The pinging is inspired and the respawning mechanic far deeper for match flow than you may first realise, making Apex a game with a lot of depth beneath its simple veneer.
One quick Apex tip for new players: stick to your team, for the love of Christ. Also available on Steam, for anyone who’s allergic to Origin. Pretty much everyone? Fair enough.
“Respawn’s premier gunplay paired with some exceptional twists on the battle royale formula create an irresistible concoction that’s only just getting started. With a clear roadmap already laid out for the year ahead, surely Apex can only get even better from here.”
Destiny 2 has walked quite the rocky path to get to where it is. Following a strong launch, the playerbase quickly turned on the game thanks to thin content, weak updates, and microtransactions where there were none in the previous game. After splitting from previous publisher Activision, it looks like Bungie have done well to turn the (space)ship around.
Whether you want to dip into the story, take part in raids, or just dab on your friends in the hub, there’s a lot of content that you get with the free version of Destiny 2 on Steam, all backed by the masterful gunplay that Bungie built their name on. It’s still not a perfect game and could do with onboarding new players far better, but it’s getting there.
You can upgrade to bigger versions at any time, all for a relatively decent price.
18. Deltarune: Chapter 1
Developer: Toby Fox Publisher: Toby Fox Microtransactions? No Download:Direct
We’re allowed to talk about this one by now, right? Released under a veil of secrecy, Deltarune: Chapter 1 was quintessential Toby Fox, almost a shadow drop with no need for marketing — the community itself took care of that. The best thing about it? It was completely free.
Acting as basically a teaser for Fox’s Undertale follow-up, Deltarune’s first chapter keeps a similar aesthetic and irreverent tone, but changes things up to bring it more in line with a traditional RPG. We’re some way off the full game being released, though Chapter 1 has enough depth and character to keep you coming back over and over again.
19. Crusader Kings II
Developer: Paradox Development Studio Publisher: Paradox Interactive Microtransactions? DLC packs Download:Steam
One of the densest, most patricidal strategy games ever made, Crusader Kings II is one of the best free PC games around, and also just generally one of the best you can play, period. Its free version was released on Steam to coincide with the news of Crusader Kings III, which released in 2020 to wide acclaim.
You are given a position of power in a country and then the rest is up to you — or your scheming underlings. Whether you want to aggressively expand your kingdom across the world or get embroiled in a seemingly neverending civil war in Ireland, Crusader Kings II is an absolute role-player’s dream.
You may need to hunt down a pretty chunky guide to ease you into the daunting experience, though. You can lose everything pretty quickly, I blame those vassals.
20. No More Room In Hell
Developer: No More Room in Hell Team Publisher: Lever Games Microtransactions? No Download:Steam
“What if Left 4 Dead, but free” is the basic hook of No More Room In Hell, a mod that was converted into a full, free multiplayer game without any microtransactions. That’s basically unheard of in the gaming industry these days, and the fact that No More Room In Hell is a total gem doesn’t hurt, either.
Taking a more grounded approach to Left 4 Dead, ammo is scarce and the game doesn’t hold your hand. Rather than you being able to simple bandage your bites, the infection will spread throughout you and slowly turn you into a zombie — it’s up to you whether you want to disclose that information to your teammates or not.
A sequel is set for release sometime in the future and will even include the house from Night of the Living Dead as a map.
With it being one of the most popular franchises of all time, Warzone achieving major success as the first “proper” free game shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It has enjoyed a meteoric rise that it’s earned not just from the name it carries.
A lot of battle royale devs are trying desperately to make an impression on what is a saturated market with some pretty bad ideas. Warzone, however, takes the well-worn formula and puts some clever spins on it offer something that feels unique.
Featuring 1v1 fights for respawns, unique bounties, and even cross-play, Warzone is likely going to be around for years to come.
The game that ruined many educations finally landed on Steam during the course of 2020, leading to millions of player jumping into the rabbit hole of Runescape all over again. Almost every single review of the game is warning other players about its addictive nature and how deeply it will consume your life.
If you’re not worried about that, though, what is Runescape? Well, it’s essentially an MMORPG in which you can do basically whatever you like, whether that’s solo or with friends. Chat to other players and trade your way to vast riches, become a fighting god, and take on many quests across Gielinor.
While free, players can purchase membership for monthly perks, which includes special outfits and even a bigger world to explore.
Ever veered around in a tank in Battlefield and wished you never had to get out? Enter World of Tanks, a vehicular combat game that’s so successful that it feels like Wargaming have created roughly ninety spin-offs for it by now.
The really dedicated will want to play its full fat version, which features a whopping 600+ authentically historical vehicles to hurtle around in over 40 battlefields all across the world. Take on a multitude of other players in various different battles, whether that’s stronghold battles or special battles solo or alongside other players.
While you don’t have to drop any money into World of Tanks, there sure are a lot of players who do, so you may want to beware of that when taking the fight online. Tanks aren’t cheap, after all.
Developer: VRChat Inc. Publisher: VRChat Inc. Microtransactions? None Download:Steam
VRChat is basically if Ready Player One had any self-restraint whatsoever, it being a pop culture hangout where people from all across the world hang out, awkwardly chit-chat, and also take part in strange games they created themselves. VRChat is filled with user-generated avatars, so don’t be surprised to see Lickitung chatting to Ganondorf within five seconds of loading in.
Despite the name, VRChat can be played without a headset, but it really comes into its own when in virtual reality. Players are even fully embracing the second life aspects of VRChat with full body VR, tracking and all. Hey, if someone wants to be Scrappy Doo and antagonise people in a virtual world, that’s their prerogative.
Remarkably, despite just how much maintenance it must take to keep it online, there are no microtransactions or hidden catches of any kind within VRChat at this time of writing. You can sign up for VRChat Plus, but it’s not mandatory.
25. Path of Exile
Developer: Grinding Gear Games Publisher: Grinding Gear Games Microtransactions? Yes Download:Steam
The game custom-made for those who want Diablo but without all of Blizzard’s nonsense, Path of Exile is a beloved dungeon crawler that will do its best to crawl into your life and utterly ruin all your obligations.
Developed by Grinding Gear Games, Path of Exile sees you trying to exact revenge in the continent of Wraeclast, though you will probably forget all about that once you start digging into the deep customisation, whether that’s for your character and their skills or your fancy own hideout.
A game that never dawdles by constantly changing and refreshing itself, Path of Exile does feature microtransactions, though they are primarily cosmetic and don’t affect gameplay. You could play for 100 hours and not even look at the shop for the game.
Where To Find More Free PC Games
There’s no shortage of websites and marketplaces to find free PC games, though you may find that it’s a bit of a lucky dip in terms of quality and quantity. Places like Steam and Humble Bundle will often put full price games out for free usually as part of some kind of promotion, such as when a new game in a series is released and the publisher wants more eyes on their older titles — you can build up quite the impressive library from these promotions alone.
Likewise, the “relaunch” (as it were) of the Epic Games Store into a third-party as well as first-party platform to buy games has made Epic throw some serious cash at bringing in free PC games. Two new games are added each month for a limited for a total cost of zero to players. Even if you’re not a fan of the store, free stuff is hard to overlook.
On a similar note, Twitch also gives out free games each month to Twitch Prime subscribers, itself part of the package if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber. There’s usually quite a lot of variety and quality, so be sure to check it out.
If you’re feeling like supporting much smaller fare, itch.io is one of your strongest bets as it features a tonne of free (sans microtransactions) indie games and mods that could act as a proof of concept for many devs to see if their project is worth moving forward with, or just to put something out there for free. GameJolt is very similar but also allows players to choose a price to pay if they so wish for some titles.
You can never go wrong with the classics, so you could also always party like it’s 2005 by heading on over to Miniclip and trying their Flash games. Basically, you’re spoilt for choice if you want the best free PC games.
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