Gaming isn’t a cheap hobby unless you’re prepared to get dirty while scratching at the bottom of a bargain bin, but fortunately there are plenty of games that’ll appeal to anyone who has to juggle a tight budget. The current landscape of video games is overflowing with free-to-play titles, gaming experiences that offer a sizable portion of content while tempting you to drop some cash on extra content such as season passes or some dazzling armor in the online store. If you’ve got a stable internet connection and enough space on your device, these free PC games are well worth looking trying thanks to the fact that they are, well, free out of the gate.
Just when you thought that the battle royale genre had been tapped dry, Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment came along to put a new spin on it with Apex Legends. A more refined and polished approach to the genre, Apex Legends dials up the appeal with familiar action that was honed to near-perfection in Respawn’s Titanfall series and mixes it up with an eclectic cast of characters. The brilliance of Apex Legends lies in just how easy it is to jump into, while also offering a ton of strategic opportunities for seasoned players.
Player interaction is beautifully simple thanks to the ping system, the game looks like a stunner, and Respawn’s focus on providing quality over quantity updates has made this title feel like a true evolution of the ideas that its predecessors introduced to the market.
Call of Duty: Warzone
With battle royale games proving to be all the rage, it was only a matter of time before Activision threw its Call of Duty hat into the ring. Technically, this is the second Call of Duty battle royale experience (Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode was the first), but Warzone builds off of that foundation to create a dedicated game that’s become one of the most popular shooters around. Warzone feels like a greatest hits compilation of past Call of Duty games, all elegantly stitched together to create a new last man standing juggernaut that is fueled by the trademark intensity of Activision’s blockbuster franchise. Full of its own clever twists on the genre, such as a brutal gulag to give you one more chance to stay in the fight, Warzone excels at giving players second chances in its harsh frontier, and time has seen a promising game live up to the lofty expectations from fans to establish itself as an all-time giant of online gaming.
One of the oldest entries on this list, CS: GO has shown no sign of slowing down even in the face of rising competition in the esports scene. A classic showcase of high-speed action and precision, CS: GO still remains relevant on the global stage and regularly draws astonishing viewing numbers whenever a big tournament begins. A major influence on esports in general, CS: GO’s perfectly calibrated competitiveness makes it ideal for both casual and professional gamers, a benchmark that few games have been capable of reaching over the years.
It’s easy to look at Dauntless as a Monster Hunter clone wearing Fortnite armor, but beneath the obvious comparison, there’s a surprisingly fun game with an addictive grinding loop. Like its primary inspiration, Dauntless is focused on throwing you at all manner of nasty beasts, with battles providing a rewarding sense of progression and fashionable gear. Every creature is uniquely fun to battle, the game has plenty of personality, and the enjoyable combat makes it easy to fall in love with this love letter to adventure.
Originally a premium product that commanded a high price, Bungie’s decision to move Destiny 2 towards a live service format has been a monumental success for the cosmic sandbox. While each new expansion does have a price tag and the drier months are kept active with season pass content, the free package available to players is a meaty collection of storylines and multiplayer action. Currently, Destiny 2’s New Light version gives players access to every available planet, as well Crucible (PVP multiplayer), Gambit, and Strike activities.
That right there is a stacked collection of content to dive into, which shines under Bungie’s superb attention for detail, action-packed gunplay, and an improved sense of storytelling that each season has introduced to the game.
The gold standard for longevity in esports, Dota 2’s annual dominance of the scene is an unbeatable standard that every game aspires to. With The International still proving to be an annual highlight on the esports calendar that features a staggering prize pool, Dota 2’s legacy as gaming’s most popular multiplayer arena game isn’t just secure, it’s practically immortal. What’s truly remarkable is that Dota began its life as a Warcraft 3 mod and then morphed into a title that gave rise to a new genre in gaming. An undying slice of excellence, Dota 2 is a highly rewarding multiplayer experience that is bolstered by years of polish, tweaks, and expansive content.
Fortnite may not be the original battle royale, but it’s easily the game that made the genre mainstream, cool, and a pop culture juggernaut. Easily the biggest name in video games today, Fortnite has become a global pop culture phenomenon with its film and music crossovers, game-shaking events, and lucrative gameplay mechanics that many other freemium titles have emulated over the years. Beneath all of that though, there’s still an unbelievably solid game built around the idea of survival, scavenging, and instantly building a two-story condominium whenever someone fires a few rounds in your general direction.
A one-of-a-kind masterpiece that has defined the gaming industry since it became a global success story, Fortnite offers value and plenty of entertainment without demanding a single cent in return. That said, dedicated Fortnite players often do spend money in the store.
When it was first revealed, most people looked at Genshin Impact and regarded it as a cheap The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild clone. While it’s undoubtedly influenced by one of the best Nintendo Switch games, developer MiHoYo’s gorgeous open-world RPG has established itself as one of the biggest surprises in the free-to-play gaming market. Lush and epic in scale, Genshin Impact mixes the thrill of discovery with the addictive collect ’em all obsession of Gacha games to create a surprisingly generous package.
Having just recently been upgraded for Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles while adding a new region to explore, Genshin Impact has only become better since it launched last year.
Guild Wars 2
It’s been almost a decade since Guild Wars 2 arrived, and in the years since it has gained something more important than just a polished gameplay experience or a regular infusion of new content: a sizable and dedicated audience. Communities are the lifeblood of free-to-play games, and Guild Wars 2 (which wasn’t always a free-to-play game) has servers filled with thousands of players at any given moment in time. That makes for a game that lives up to its MMORPG title, and with gameplay that feels gameplay within the core experience, it’s no wonder that fans are still invested in this title.