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
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 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 shread of 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.
“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.”
Where To Find 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.