If you’re high on free time, low on cash
PC gaming has never been in a better place than it is today. Not only can you effectively play games spanning the entire history of PC gaming on modern machines, you can also get games at incredibly low prices.
With bundle deals, Steam sales and other extreme savings, most PC gamers have more games in their collection than they can ever hope to play. PCs can even play games from other platforms.
On the other hand, what if you are in need of some games, but don’t want to spend a cent? The good news is that there are plenty of free or “free-to-play” (F2P) games on the PC. Of course, free PC games give you the option of grinding or paying real money, but if you are high on free time and low on cash, there’s plenty of time to be had.
Games that are F2P are marked as such in the list below, so this is not a ranked list. So, in no particular order, here are ten games you can go play right after reading this article.
Warframe is a free PC game that might not seem like it’s particularly worth playing at first glance, but if you take the time to give it a chance, you’ll find a game that’s both incredibly interesting and fun to play.
The Warframe of today is almost an entirely different game from the Warframe that originally launched. The visuals have been refined, the game plays more sharply and oodles of narrative have been added to this weird space ninja transhumanist world.
You are a “Tenno”, essentially a massively powerful cyborg ninja. The “warframe” is your suit of armor. Different warframes have different strengths, lending themselves to different roles and play styles.
If you like games such as Destiny, which provides a sort-of MMO experience, but with plenty of single-player RPG loot-em-up flavor, then Warframe is going to be right in your wheelhouse.
The big difference here is on how the game plays. It’s a first-person game that gives plenty of attention to incredible maneuverability and melee fighting. You can traverse levels like a ninja bat out of hell and playing next to a seasoned warframe pilot can be jaw-dropping.
The game also doesn’t really tell you what to do or how to play. You can decide what you want to achieve or which aspects are the most fun, and simply focus on those.
One downside of Warframe is just how many little systems and stats there are. It’s frankly intimidating, but it turns out you don’t have to master or understand every little thing to get the most out of the game.
Star Trek Online (F2P)
There are so many Star Trek games, but there are very few good Star Trek games. Star Trek Online has matured into something that definitely falls into the good side of this franchise’s video game history. At this point this MMO has been around for a decade, but it’s much improved given how often the developers update and add to the content.
Set after the film “Nemesis”, the free PC game sees the Federation and Klingon Empire at war again. Added to this are the Romulans, Dominion and Borg, who all have their own goals and machinations.
In this game every player is the captain of their own ship, which you can control directly. You can also play as your character for missions that happen at that scale. So you get both ship-to-ship combat and on-the-ground action.
While the game had a mixed reaction when it first launched, it is now considered among the best Star Trek games ever made. Indeed, right now it’s probably the best Star Trek game getting active attention, so if you have an itch to boldly go shoot some Klingons, this is the place to do it.
Beneath a Steel Sky
Sadly, it seems the age of the point-and-click adventure is long-gone. At least as a mainstream AAA phenomenon. The good news is that you can go play one of the best examples of the genre right now in the form of Beneath a Steel Sky.
Originally released in 1994, this little gem is set in a dystopian cyberpunk future. The planet has been royally messed up thanks to pollution and nuclear fallout. Beneath a Steel Sky is set in Australia, where six city-states that are divided into the “Union” and “Corporation” factions.
Our hero is a man named Robert Foster, who is the sole survivor of a helicopter crash in the Outback. Raised by locals who find him, he becomes an expert in survival and engineering. Which is how he creates his robot buddy Joey. Joey is actually a chip that can take over various machine bodies, which is a chief mechanic in the game.
While the story is pretty dark, it’s also well written and often humorous. With the planned 2019 release of the sequel Beyond a Skeel Sky, now is the perfect time to experience one of the best classic PC games in history.
Path of Exile
Diablo II remains one of the most beloved action RPGs of all time, but Blizzard decided to go in a decidedly different direction with the third game in the series. Diablo III remains one of our favorite titles, but there is a but of a vacuum left by the art-direction and character creation flexibility of Diablo II.
Into that vacuum, steps Path of Exile. It’s a game that many people wish Diablo III had been and if you’re a lover of the classic second game giving PoE a go is an absolute must. Most of the paid content is merely cosmetic and the overall art style and gameplay nails that Diablo II atmosphere perfectly.
Shadow Warrior Classic Complete
Before we go any further, the first thing you should know is that Shadow Warrior is a crass game full of naughty things. If you’re not a fan of corny one-liners, bad words, violence and the occasional bit of sexiness, then it’s probably better to check out some of the other games on this list.
Still here? OK, Shadow Warrior didn’t get quite as much attention as Duke Nukem 3D, which is built on the same engine, but it’s every bit as good as that other crass 90s shooter franchise.
You play Lo Wang, a walking Asian stereotype who dishes out over-the-top punishment to gangsters and monsters alike. The weapons on offer to accomplish this are pretty great too. They include ninja stars, swords and plenty of firearms.
This is the original game with its two expansions, the only modifications for this free PC game that have been made are those necessary to get the game running on modern systems. There is another version known as Shadow Warrior Classic Redux. That will cost you a few bucks, but features remastered visuals and a general overhaul.
Honestly, the game is best experienced in its original form. It’s still as naught and fun as ever. You can even get some friends over and get some old-school multiplayer action going.
Hearthstone is a card battling free PC game very much in the vein of Magic: The Gathering. Each player builds a deck of cards with health and attack stats, as well as special effects. The aim is to bring the other player’s health to zero before you yourself are destroyed. You lay your cards on the deck to either protect yourself, or attack the other player and their creatures.
It’s a simple concept on paper, but Hearthstone offers incredible complexity and depth. It’s no wonder the game has so quickly become an eSports staple.
While Hearthstone is very much inspired by MTG, it benefits from being a digital-only card game. Using the deep Warcraft lore, the game is streamlined to an incredible degree. While truly serious players may find that spending real money gets them the decks they want, casual players and those who have the time never need to spend a dime.
Hearthstone is addictive, beautiful and lots of fun. You can also play it on your phone or tablet when away from your PC, with seamless online integration.
First off, this is not the remastered version of the original StarCraft. You will have to fork out a few bucks to get your hands on that game. No, this is the original game that took the world by storm and includes its amazing expansion, Brood War.
The original StarCraft is still being played today and has a strong following in countries like South Korea. The graphics have aged well, the real-time strategy gameplay is still some of the best ever crafted, and the world and story stand up to modern scrutiny.
StarCraft is set in the far future of space exploration, pitting three factions against each other in a battle for supremacy. StarCraft wrote the book on asymmetrical RTS games and each faction plays in a wildly different fashion.
The free PC game is easy to learn, but brutal to master. Every PC gamer should have this one under the belt.
Overwatch is another Blizzard Entertainment hit, but the price of entry for this multiplayer-only team shooter is quite hefty! So why not give the free-to-play Paladins a go?
The similarities between Overwatch and Paladins is largely coincidental. The base game, art style and design decisions were all made before anyone outside of Blizzard knew about Overwatch. Yet, despite having more MOBA elements, Paladins very much scratches the same itch as Overwatch.
That’s not to say that Paladins feels quite the same to play. It is definitely its own thing, but offers the same level of polish and fun as Overwatch without the upfront ticket price.
The game does provide some serious benefits to shelling out some real money, but by the time you get to that point you’ll be sure whether Paladins has grabbed you enough to warrant it. Alternatively, just embrace the grind, you’ll need the practice!
League of Legends/DOTA 2
This entry is sort-of cheating, because there are in fact two games listed here. However, League of Legends and DOTA 2 are pretty much like the Coke and Pepsi of the MOBA world. What’s a “MOBA” you say? Well, Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas is a relatively new game genre that got its start with the original Defense of the Ancients (DOTA). Which was in turn a mod for the RTS game Warcraft III.
MOBAs are team-based games where players must use their various characters to defend their own base while trying to destroy the enemy base. It’s an incredibly tense type of game and is a mainstay of the eSports world.
Between LoL and DOTA 2 it’s League that’s most popular. However, not everyone is a fan of its community, art style and specific game mechanics. DOTA 2 wasn’t free-to-play from the start, which may also have reduced its popularity.
Now that neither requires any money upfront, you can dip your toes in both to see if either suits you.
MOBAs may have been the darling of the gaming world for years, but these days it’s all about the “battle royale” style of game.
The two biggest names are Fortnite and Player Unknown Battlegrounds, but there are other developers throwing their hats into the ring. These games feature one massive level with large numbers of players dropped in to fight each other. The last player standing takes the prize.
Apex Legends is special in this arena thanks to its pedigree. Developed by Respawn Entertainment, it has plenty of people who were worked on critical aspects of Call of Duty among its staff roster. Respawn impressed the world with their Titanfall games and Apex Legends is set in that same universe, sans the titular giant robots.
Apex Legends brings the amazing graphics and on-foot vertical traversal gameplay from Titanfall into the battle royal world. Which means you get the same AAA graphics and pulse-pounding shooting for no money down. Just make sure your PC is up to it.