The PC's Best Free Games Right Now

Most of the very best games on the PC need you to cough up at least a little cash, but if you absolutely must game for nothing, then let us show you how it's done.

If you look past the obvious avenues for playing on a PC - massively-multiplayer games like World of Warcraft (that require a subscription fee) or digital shopfronts like Steam - you'll find there are countless games that are free in some form or other that are often as good (and sometimes even better) than their paid equivalents.

We of course can't list all of the really great free PC games. We could spend all day just talking about the great flash games over on Newgrounds, for example. But for a nice smorgasbord of free gaming content, from downloadable to browser-based titles, this should have your weekend (or week, or month, or year!) covered.

Battlefield Heroes

Developer: DICE Genre: Third-Person Shooter It's Like A Free Version Of...: Battlefield

I've had a love-hate relationship with this game for over a year now. I love the gorgeous cartoon graphics and casual-friendly game mechanics (instant deaths are very rare), but the game's insistence on constantly spending money to maintain good equipment and weapons means that those who want to plat for free and be the best in the game will run into problems.

Extras: You can buy basically everything in this game, from fancy new uniforms for your characters to power-ups to bigger and better weapons.

Quake Live

Developer: id Software Genre: First-Person Shooter It's Like A Free Version Of...: Quake III

Quake Live is basically classic multiplayer shooter Quake III, only now instead of having to buy a copy you can play it in a browser window and you can play it for free. Simple!

Extras: There's a premium subscriber model for Quake Live, which lets you start and manage your own private games.

Neptune's Pride

Developer: Iron Helmet Games Genre: Space Strategy It's Like A Free Version Of...: Master Of Orion

Neptune's Pride began as a labour of love for a handful of ex-Irrational Games developers, and through word-of-mouth has blossomed into quite the cult hit amongst fans of space strategy sims like Master of Orion.

Extras: You can buy bigger galaxies to play in, more stable matches and bigger games with the purchase of in-game credits.

Minecraft

Developer:Mojang Specifications Genre: World Building/Survival Horror It's Like A Free Version Of...: Well, Minecraft

The undisputed indie smash of 2010, Minecraft drops the player off on a deserted island and forces them to fend for themselves, building a shelter from the surrounding terrain and then moving on to battle monsters, dig for gems and... build enormous statues of Final Fantasy characters.

Extras: There are two versions of Minecraft, free and alpha, and while the alpha (i.e. paid) version will give you access to what's basically a singleplayer campaign, the free version - which only has the world-building stuff - is still a blast.

Dwarf Fortress

Developer: Tarn Adams Genre: World Building/RPG It's Like A Free Version Of...: There's really not much like it.

Before Minecraft came along and stole its thunder with its fancy 3D graphics, Dwarf Fortress was the PC gaming world's best kept secret. You play as a dwarf, and can either go off on an RPG-like quest or can build yourself a settlement.

Extras: Nothing, it's completely and entirely free. Those who simply cannot stomach the game's primitive graphics should grab Stonesense, though, as it turns the 2D ASCII art into more pleasant isometric 3D terrain.

Canabalt

Developer: Semi Secret Software Genre: Platformer It's Like A Free Version Of...: Prince of Persia, if the Prince never stopped running and was under attack by an unstoppable alien invasion force.

In Canabalt, you press one button - to jump - and that's it. You'll have to press it a lot, though, because it's the only way you'll outrun a city that's collapsing around you under the weight of an alien invasion.

Extras: It's a flash game, so as long as you're playing it on your PC or Mac, it's free. No catch. If you want to get it for your iPhone, though, that'll cost you.

Lord Of The Rings Online

Developer: Turbine Genre: Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game It's Like A Free Version Of...: World Of Warcraft

Lord of the Rings Online is one of the best MMOs around that wasn't made by Blizzard, and in a welcome move, has recently announced a shift to a "free to play" model. Like other games on this list like Battlefield Heroes, this means you'll be able to sign up, create a character and play without ever paying a cent. Hey, Bilbo never had to cough up to travel Middle Earth, why should you!

Extras: You're of course handicapped if you go the free-to-play route; those parting with cash will receive all kinds of bonuses. But hey, you're playing a time-consuming MMO for free, you can suck it up and deal with it.

Your Turn

We've barely scratched the surface of what's possible on the PC (and in many cases Mac) when you want to game and want to do it for free. So now it's your turn: What are your favourite free games?


Comments

    Knytt Stories is a brilliant game with loads and loads of free downloadable levels as well as a level editor to make your own. The original Knytt is also very good.

    Desktop Dungeons is a very good dungeon-crawler which has nigh-infinite replayability and will keep sucking you in for a few more minutes of entertainment.

    Eversion is a brilliant and surprising platformer which introduces a lot of great elements, but if you can't figure out what to do just evert when the screen's background looks a little different! You'll figure it out.

    The two Merry Gear Solids are Christmas-themed parodies of Metal Gear. The second one is best and has some great satire and comedy in the lines. And they're fully voice-acted by people who sound very close to Snake and Otacon which really makes it great.

    Toribash is probably the best freeware fighting game I know of, and its online multiplayer is brilliant too. You choose your attack strategy by individually flexing the muscles in the person. It may sound complicated but you really get the gist of it after a while, and you can pull off some amazing looking moves.

    And of course there's the brilliant Cave Story which if you haven't played yet you don't deserve to be called a gamer.

      PS: Maplestory is a great 2D platformer MMO with pixelly visuals that can run on a lot of netbooks, and Combat Arms is basically a free online only version of Counter Strike but with better graphics.

    It would be good to know which of these can also be played on Mac for the those of us who wear berets and snort a lot.

    I got Canabalt a while ago as a Widget for Opera - awesome fun little game.

    League of Legends...
    Like a free Defence of the Ancients/Heroes of Newerth (i.e. doesn't require Warcraft 3)

    Extras:
    Can pay money to unlock characters or alternative skins, but characters can also be unlocked by playing.

    Spelunky is another obvious one, along with Shoot First and La~Mulana. But one of the little known treasures I like going back to sometimes is Guardian of Paradise - a Zelda-style romp with a unique puzzle-oriented magic system.

    And of course Iji - a wonderful throwback to Flashback/Out of this World style platform adventures.

    Another good resource is
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_commercial_video_games_released_as_freeware
    or
    http://liberatedgames.org/
    which list a lot of the great games that made the switch from commercial titles to freeware thanks to nice developers - Boppin', Halloween Harry, Death Rally, Castle of the Winds, StarGunner etc.

    but there's just far too much good stuff out there (especially because of how well some of them have aged despite getting a few years on them!):
    Armagetron
    3D Spryjinx (old arcade-style game, but great with 2P if it runs for you)
    Fraxy
    Boondog
    Warning Forever
    Jump'n'Bump (cute little bunnies violently curb stomping each other in single-screen platforming deathmatch)
    SoULFU (Secret of Ultimate Legendary Fantasy Unleashed - the spiritual successor to Egoboo)
    Q-Lat3

    this is just a rudimentary glance at about 2-3% of my freeware download folder, so I suggest finding a couple of good freeware sites to stick by for reviews and regular releases (sadly there is no more GameHippo, and Caiman.us won't get any more updates but at least is still online otherwise)

    I'm looking forward to FireFall next year. That's shaping up to be an awesome looking F2P MMOFPS :D

    Why is League of Legends not on this list??

    There's some Pay What You Want games on Yawma (http://yawma.net/games). I'd reccomend SHMUP and if you like puzzle games: Cascade ;)

    As much as I loved Battlefield Heroes, the game was ruined for people who don't want to or can't spend money on in-game items. You can't beat someone 1 on 1 when they're using a super/uber weapon unless their aim is completely horrible.

    I'm looking forward to the new free to play Battlefield game that won't be out for a while, until the in-game items ruin that one too. Now back to Transformice, where I can actually win with no money required XD

    Would have thought there would be more love for Alien Swarm.

    I'm Loving the fact three different people mentioned League of Legends.

    Nethack.

    If you are serious about RPGs, there simply is none better.

    My favourite free indie game of all time is Within a Deep Forest :)

    Everyone NEEDS to play "Where We Remain" by TwoFold Secret

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