There’s a special kind of disappointment you feel when you shell out $80 for a brand new videogame, only to realise it’s a dud. You just wanted to play something new, but now you need to go through the process to get yourself a refund or exchange. Or do you just leave it sitting on your shelf as a cold reminder of your hurt?
The great thing about free games is that this financial disappointment doesn’t really exist. There’s no money on the table, so you don’t really feel the pressure to get your $80’s worth.
Path of Exile
If you’re going to play something for free, why not give a local game a go? Path of Exile has been steadily going toe to toe with Diablo 3 and every action RPG under the sun since its Kickstarter almost a full decade ago. The New Zealand-made indie didn’t just become not just a benchmark for other dungeon crawlers though: it’s also a trailblazer for leading the way in ethical microtransactions, the developers’ term for the fairest monetisation policy in free-to-play games going around.
Want a massive time sink but not into the competitive atmosphere of a battle royale or a shooter like Call of Duty? Then Warframe has enough content to keep you going for literally years. There’s massive twists throughout the story, and once you get through the opening you’ll get to grips with one of the coolest movement systems in any third-person action game.
Have you heard about this little game called Fortnite, or have you spent the last few years living in a cave on Mars, with your eyes shut and fingers in your ears?While PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds might be the game that helped to kick off this battle royale craze, Fortnite is the game that made it an international phenomenon.
Rocket League is a game that dares to ask “what if soccer was played with rocket-powered cars and exploding balls?”
If you haven’t already played this game yet, you’ve most likely watched a stream or video where some else did. The good news is that Rocket League is as fun as it looks.
Even at its most frustrating, everything moves so fast that you don’t have time to be upset. It’s the kind of game you can play to kill 15 minutes or a couple of hours.
Another free-to-play battle royale, and certainly not the last on this list. Apex Legends operates like other games within its genre – you play in a two or three-player squad, drop onto an island and fight for your survival while a safe area shrinks.
What makes Apex Legends unique is that there’s a roster of 17 characters to choose from, with each having a special ability. The Overwatch comparison you’re subconsciously currently making in your head isn’t too far off the mark.
If you’re less into battle royale mode, Apex Legends also has a standard team deathmatch.
Looking at its art style, you’ll probably know right away whether or not Brawlhalla is for you. This cartoony platform brawler is a joy to play.
While the game is clearly taking a lot of inspiration from Super Smash Bros., Brawlhalla has enough going on to stand on its own. Its combat mechanics are as tight as they are fun, and it has one of the better online experiences for the genre.
The game also has a lengthy list of playable characters, which includes Hellboy, Finn from Adventure Time and John Cena. It recently added the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to its roster too.
Call of Duty: Warzone
Warzone is Call of Duty‘s battle royale spin-off and it doesn’t disappoint. After spending a solid decade establishing Call of Duty’s multiplayer pacing and gunplay, Warzone has comfortably established itself alongside Apex Legends and Fortnite as a go-to shooter.
Warzone also supports cross-platform play, making it a good option if you want to get a group of friends who maybe don’t all own the same console but want to play something together.
World of Warships: Legends
What if you’re a gamer of a certain vintage, and you enjoy tactical battles on the high seas with all the warfare it entails? Consoles don’t have the full array of WW1/WW2-themed games that you might find on PC, but one that has crossed over is World of Warships: Legends, the console edition of Wargaming’s free-to-play naval battler.
Legends offers 9v9 battles with a variety of ships throughout history, with players controlling an individual cruiser, battleship or destroyer from one of 8 countries. Battles are broken into tiers, ensuring that players will only be matched against other ships in the same class, preventing new players from being steamrolled.
Imagine Avatar: The Last Airbender, reimagined as a battle royale. That’s what you get from the cel-shaded stylings of Spellbreak, where players hover, teleport and bounce around lobbying thunderstorms, fireballs, cyclones, rocks and other magical spells at each other.
If you like the competitive idea of battle royales, but you’re a bit sick of the current top dogs, Spellbreak is an excellent breath of fresh air. Get the Xbox Series S & X version here, and the PS4/PS5 edition here.