If you want proof of how far games have changed over the past decade, just look at the amount of Xbox One free 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
Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Epic Games
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 since going live back in September of 2017.
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
Developer: Playsaurus Publisher: Playsaurus
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.
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, Smite is 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 a 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.
Developer: Evil Mojo Games Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
A lot of people tend to describe Paladins as bargain bin Overwatch, and in all honesty, 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 Evil Mojo Games, an internal team at Hi-Rez Studios, and Paladins borrows a few concepts from its stablemate, SMITE. 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.
5. Dungeon Defenders 2
Developer: Chromatic Games Publisher: Chromatic Games
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.
Developer: Digital Extremes Publisher: Digital Extremes
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, but 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 very 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 from destroying/taking over 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 additional story mode takes just as long, if not longer, and there’s so much more content after that. 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
Developer: Double Helix, Iron Galaxy Publisher: Microsoft Studios
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
Developer: Zoë Mode Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
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 EA’s Rory McIlroy offering from a few years back at least, that’s for sure.
Developer: Daybreak Game Company Publisher: Daybreak Game Company, Warner Bros.
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 here 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 if you let it.
11. Happy Wars
Developer: ToyLogic Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
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 besiege 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.
12. Apex Legends
Developer: Respawn Entertainment Publisher: EA
Remember at the start of this article where we described Fortnite as the biggest multiplayer game on the market right now? Apex Legends has been out for around a month and a half at the time of writing and has already established itself as somewhat of a grand usurper to the throne, determined to knock Fortnite off its pedestal. Given that Apex has managed to accrue 50 million players within a month of launching, it just might.
While Respawn’s latest offering is another battle royale game, Apex Legends does so much to help differentiate itself from the pack, with character abilities, a focus on squad play, the ability to respawn dead teammates and the ability to slide down hills like a cool guy. With a battle pass on the immediate horizon, and a roadmap of new weapons, characters and more for the coming year, 2019 might just belong to Apex.
“Even the most jaded of battle royale fans will find their interest rejuvenated by Apex Legends thanks to Respawn’s attention to detail, superior gunplay, and fantastic innovations, though the loot boxes and progression system certainly need addressing.”
Developer: Targem Games Publisher: Gaijin Entertainment
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 vehicular combat without getting serious with the Clans and Ranked play, that shouldn’t be a problem.
14. Gems of War
Developer: Infinite Interactive Publisher: 505 Games
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
Developer: Wargaming Publisher: Wargaming
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 in 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.
Developer: Blue Mammoth Games Publisher: Blue Mammoth Games, Ubisoft
If you’ve developed a little bit of buyer’s remorse by purchasing an Xbox One over a Nintendo Switch, at the very least you can download Brawlhalla and pretend that you don’t miss Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. We’ll still see right through you, but you can pretend all the same. Still, we shouldn’t take anything away from Brawlhalla, as it’s an enjoyable take on the platform fighter genre, with colourful characters and interesting movesets.
Though you can use real world money to purchase new characters, they are balanced enough so that there’s no issue of pay-to-win. As movesets are also tied to the weapons that characters as opposed to the characters themselves, buying characters is more about which one looks the coolest, or which is Rayman. Yeah, Rayman is in the game, so Brawlhalla is worth being on this list for that alone.
17. Path of Exile
Developer: Grinding Gear Games Publisher: Grinding Gear Games, Tencent, Garena
It’s fair to say that Diablo 4 is a long way from happening, if it even does at all, so you may as well settle in with what many ARPG fans are referring to as the unofficial sequel to Blizzard’s franchise: Path of Exile. With a brilliant character customisation system that allows you to build a class that’s right for you, Path of Exile could very well swallow up all of your time with costing you a penny.
The developers Grinding Gear Games are also still diligently working on the game, ensuring that new features, updates and content are added to Path of Exile on a regular basis. With online co-op available to boot, all you need to do is convince your mates to download it and you’ll be set for hours.
We told you at the beginning of this article that the free Xbox One games run the gamut of genres, and it turns out that happens to include street basketball. If you find the likes of NBA 2K or NBA Live too much of a simulation and just want to have a bit of fun, you should consider downloading 3on3 FreeStyle and enjoying a few pick-up games.
As you might have guessed, 3on3 FreeStyle has teams of 3 do battle to determine who the best baller is, but you can also play the game in 1v1 too if you’re a lone wolf type. With different characters possessing different abilities, you’ll have to work together with your team in order to achieve victory, so no selfish 3 point shots every time you get the ball, understand?
Developer: Heroic Leap Games Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
I was planning on starting this off by saying that Hi-Rez are now 3 for 3 on their games line-up being featured on this list, but I forgot that Hand of the Gods was also a free-to-play game. Damn card games. Either way, Realm Royale is their take on the battle royale genre. Originally, it was intended to be a part of Paladins, but it quickly got spun-off into its own project that recently launched on Xbox One.
At first glance, Realm Royale looks similar to Fortnite, but it does contain a few key differences. The inclusion of classes and movement abilities make for an added layer of strategy before coming into a game, and if you get downed, you turn into a chicken and can avoid getting properly eliminated. There’s enough here for Realm to stand out on its own, in a genre getting more and more crowded by the day.
20. Fallout Shelter
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios, Behaviour Interactive Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
So Fallout 76 was a bit of a flaccid disappointment, right? We can all pretty much unite on that one, but don’t worry. At least we’ll always have Fallout Shelter to keep our spirits high. A management game that has an addictive tendency comparable to hardcore narcotics or, if you ask my mum, Candy Crush, Fallout Shelter should wash the taste of Fallout 76 away in no time at all.
Shelter gives players the opportunity to live out a certain, specific dream: take control of your own Vault and look after your people. Sounds simple enough, but when things start going wrong, Fallout Shelter can become incredibly hectic indeed. With so many factors to take into account, Fallout Shelter will require your undivided attention for a long time.
Developer: Cryptic Games Publisher: Perfect World
Another MMO for you here, but this is one based on the iconic Dungeons and Dragons series so you know it’s got some pedigree. From the get go, you’re able to pick from one of multiple classes before joining groups of up to five players to tackle story quests, dungeons and endgame raids. Well, eventually. You need to level up first.
Neverwinter has been available on the Xbox One for nearly four years, but the game has still received multiple updates that added new content to the game. For new players, you’ll be greeted with an incredible amount of things to do, and all it’ll cost you is the time it takes to download the game. What are you waiting for?
Developer: Phoenix Labs Publisher: Epic Games
A simple, free-to-play alternative to the likes of Monster Hunter: World, Dauntless is a 4-player co-op game where players work together to take down gargantuan Behemoths, gathering their parts to craft bigger and better weapons and armour. It’s a core gameplay loop that’s hard to break, hours quickly turning into days.
As with other free-to-play games on this list, Dauntless features a Seasonal Hunt Pass that offers basic rewards for players who haven’t paid, along with an Elite tier for players that do. With daily and weekly challenges that offer generous rewards, Dauntless’ Hunt Pass is perhaps one of the fairest around, and it’s one of many reasons why you should play it.