Video games are expensive, but luckily, you don’t have to empty your wallet if you’re looking for a new game to try.
With the advent of live-service games and titles that prefer microtransactions over a one-time purchase, there are more free-to-play games on PC than ever before.
Better yet, the F2P space is no longer purely occupied by underwhelming multiplayer games, with a slew of entertaining experiences across a variety of genres.
So, if you’re searching for a riveting PC game to try, but you don’t want to feel the pain of purchasing at full price, these free-to-play games should be more than enough to satiate your cravings.
Before I start to list off the mega-popular games that draw in thousands of players per day, this underrated free-to-play gem deserves a moment of recognition. Dauntless, for simplicity’s sake, is a free-to-play Monster Hunter clone that is better than you might expect.
That said, it’s far more approachable than Capcom’s best-selling action series, making it a better choice for beginners. Featuring fluid but strategic combat and some supremely vivid visuals, Dauntless tasks you and your friends with taking down massive bosses as you complete quests, earn gold and increase your hunter’s rank.
Best of all, it’s a perfect game to play with your non-PC friends, as it offers some of the most seamless cross-platform multiplayer in the industry. The next time you just want to smash through intimidating boss fights with some pals, give Dauntless a go.
2. Lost Ark
If you love completing quests, leveling up your character, and getting lost in the grind for experience points, Lost Ark should be on your shortlist.
This highly addictive title was created by Tripod Studios and Smilegate and ended up feeling like a cross between Diablo III and World of Warcraft.
With a total of 15 unique character classes, hundreds of quests, and no shortage of enemies to slay, you’ll find more than enough content to keep you clicking night after night. While there is a bit of competitive multiplayer, the majority of Lost Ark’s content is PvE, so players who want nothing more than to slay hapless newbies might want to consider another adventure.
That said, when I want to de-stress after a long day and just enjoy some exciting battles, Lost Ark consistently hits the mark.
3. Star Wars: The Old Republic
There are a lot of Star Wars games out there. Some are mediocre, some are great, and others took their time to gain traction.
This MMORPG is an outlier, as it has been running strong for ten years straight without losing steam. In its early years, the game followed a standard subscription model, but now, a large chunk of the content is available for free.
Although you can still purchase a premium subscription to experience every mission and expansion available, players on the F2P plan can enjoy all eight class-based storylines, as well as two different expansions.
Seeing as how it was developed by BioWare, the same creators of the much-beloved Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, this MMO should satisfy your inner Jedi for countless hours.
Hearthstone has been around since 2014, but where other games have fallen off, this virtual card game has remained relevant throughout its long life. Pulling its characters and lore from Blizzard’s Warcraft franchise, Hearthstone is a treat for mega-fans of the series, but it’s deceptively addictive for newcomers as well.
Although traditionally played as a 1v1 competitive game, featuring both friendly and ranked modes, the game includes solo adventures for players who don’t want to endure sweaty online match-ups. As both a staple of eSports competition and Blizzard’s repertoire of high-quality games, Hearthstone shows no sign of slowing down.
As long as you don’t submit to the urge to buy new cards with real cash, Hearthstone will offer you plenty of prime gaming content without costing you a cent.
5. Halo Infinite (Multiplayer)
Halo Infinite marks the sixth major entry in this hugely popular FPS franchise, and in a surprise twist, developer Bungie is offering the multiplayer portion of the game for no charge.
Halo has always been a great way to unwind with your friends, pull off awesome trick shots, and stomp around fantasy battlegrounds with cool weapons. Halo Infinite offers an impressively solid foundation of smooth gunplay and quirky gadgets, including the grapple-shot, which lets you wip around arenas like Spider-Man.
The game would be even better with a few more maps and a better challenge system, I’ve spent over 150 hours gunning down opponents, so you could say it’s a pretty good time.
6. League of Legends
I played League of Legends religiously for around five years, give or take a few, and made some unforgettable memories playing the competitive MOBA with my friends.
In fact, I’ve put more hours into League than probably any other big-budget game in recent memory, and I’ve never spent a dollar on it.
The concept is simple; you and your team of powerful champions defend your base from the opposing team while simultaneously trying to destroy the enemy’s base.
However, with over 140 different playable champions, this basic formula offers endless strategic possibilities. For those who enjoy League of Legends, it will devour your free time and see you putting other games on hold.
It’s really that good.
7. Rocket League
At first glance, Rocket League might seem like a sports/racing crossover that is so entirely ridiculous that it can’t be seriously competitive by default.
[You’ll find Rocket League also in our list of Best Soccer Simulations 2022]
Don’t let first impressions fool you, though, as this free-to-play game is one of the most layered and unique experiences out there. The best part about Rocket League is how easy it is to pick up and understand, and only practice, practice, practice will make you better.
With enough time under your belt, you’ll be performing impressive aerial feats and scoring goal after goal. You do not have to be a soccer or racing games fan to enjoy.
Rocket League is one of those games that defies easy categorization and deserves your attention.
Some years ago, it was impossible to talk about online video games without someone inevitably bringing up Fortnite. By combining battle royale mechanics with almost every major brand and IP in existence, this third-person shooter was a big part of the cultural zeitgeist before its popularity faded.
Recently though, the game has enjoyed renewed success with the addition of “Zero Build Battle Royale,” which removes the game’s distinct albeit hard-to-learn base-building mechanics.
Even the most vocal naysayers who deem it as “just a game for kids” have been silenced by the overwhelmingly enjoyable update. Simply put, if you haven’t played.
Fortnite by now, and if you’re looking for a cost-free way to enjoy some quality gaming, give it a try.
9. World of Warships
While there are plenty of games that boast large-scale ground battles, there is a woeful selection of titles based on maritime war.
World of Warships is a free-to-play game that’s best suited for fans of slow-paced strategy, where your preparations and planning are often far more beneficial than on-the-fly decisions during battle. The emphasis is on realism, with dozens of replicas of real warships, diverse naval organizations, and tactical combat.
There’s nothing more satisfying than outsmarting an opponent and sinking their battleship, proving your military prowess with explosive results.
If you’ve any interest in real military combat or braving death while floating over the great abyss, World of Warships is a free way to become immersed in military action.
10. Genshin Impact
It seems like everyone loves The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so it makes sense that this F2P clone that features anime-inspired characters is a massive hit.
In a market dominated by online multiplayer and battle royales, Genshin Impact stands out as a purely PvE adventure experience that’s as fun to play as it is addictive.
There are countless quests to undertake, bosses to defeat, and loot to grab.
That said, the game does feature a gachapon*-style reward system, so there’s an element of randomization and time-gating to consider.
[*”Gachapon” (also called “gashapon”) is a term used to describe a game mechanic that as a specific kind of randomized reward system. It’s named so after gachapon capsule machines most often seen in Japan, where you are rewarded with a random item (in the case of Genshin Impact, that’s random characters and upgrades) instead of level-specific gear. It’s more commonly seen in mobile games, but it’s a niche term that specifically describes the form of randomization. You could also call it lootbox-esque, but gachapon game mechanics are slightly different. You see it a lot in anime-inspired games.]
Even with these detriments, Genshin Impact has become one of the most widely appreciated free-to-play games of the 2020s, earning it a spot among the other heavy-hitters.
If you like sci-fi and blowing stuff up, Warframe is probably a good bet for your next free-to-play venture.
Developed and distributed by Canadian game creator Digital Extremes, this third-person shooter is all about running and gunning on alien planets in super cool mech suits.
There’s a dense story that’s rich with lore if you’re interested in that kind of thing, but I boot up Warframe for the excitement and intergalactic vibes. There’s a mixture of PvE and PvP, with all of your efforts going toward upgrading your eponymous Warframe, outfitted with all manner of futuristic weapons and gear.
There’s a lot of information to learn at the start, but if you stick with it, Warframe is rewarding and well worth the $0 price of admission.
12. Call of Duty: Warzone
For years, Call of Duty has dominated the realm of military first-person shooters, so it only made sense for the brand to offer a free-to-play, battle royale game to flex its power even more.
Truthfully, Call of Duty: Warzone could’ve sucked, and it still would have turned a profit, but thankfully it’s a lot of fun.
There are a few things that make it one of the best in the business, including its 150-player large lobbies, loadout focused match progression and some wildly entertaining in-game events.
There are few games where you can run and gun through city streets while Godzilla and King Kong battle it out above, but luckily, Call of Duty:
Warzone is one of them.
13. Apex Legends
Speaking of really good battle royale games, Apex Legends popped up in the scene when players weren’t really looking for a new title, but it enthralled us anyway.
With the possibility of a Titanfall 3 seeming more and more impossible, Apex Legends is the next best thing to come from developer Respawn Entertainment.
Refusing to be just a simple genre clone, the game is infused with elements of hero-shooters like Overwatch, offering consistent updates with new characters to try.
The success of Apex Legends can’t be understated, drawing in over 100 million players and becoming more popular with each passing season.
As long as Respawn Entertainment continues to support it, Apex Legends will likely continue to be the modern king of first-person battle royales.
14. Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
While I was enamored with the storytelling and invigorating swordplay of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, my favorite part about the entire open-world experience was the in-world card game Gwent.
CD Projekt was smart enough to recognize the popularity of this excellent 1v1 card game and release it as a standalone free-to-play spin-off.
The gameplay is a bit different here – as the F2P Gwent removes the top row of the playfield – but there are still some devilishly fun strategies to be had.
When compared to Hearthstone, Gwent is just as creative and enjoyable but also offers the signature dark fantasy of The Witcher.
15. Destiny 2
Destiny 2 is, without a doubt, one of the best first-person shooters in modern gaming. Full stop.
It just so happens that this sequel to Bungie’s epic space action game went free-to-play in 2019 after enjoying two years of hefty praise.
In addition to its stellar gunplay and intriguing world, Destiny 2 has a variety of gameplay offerings that will satisfy any FPS itch you might have. There are fantastic campaign missions that can be enjoyed either solo or with friends, a smattering of competitive PvP modes, and even six-man raids for those who want to endure a serious challenge.
While many F2P games are often plagued with time restrictions or lackluster narratives, Destiny 2 stands proud as a thrilling shooter that doesn’t gate-off its best content for premium players. Destiny 2 is an excellent FPS – even in its most basic form – with over 70 hours of story-based content that you and your friends can enjoy for free. It doesn’t get much better than that.
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