PC players really are just spoilt for choice with dozens of games releasing each day, often to the point where some gems go completely under the radar. Trawling through Steam charts should come with a health warning — it can be completely overwhelming. If you don’t want to splash the cash, there are plenty of the best free PC games to catch your eye instead, but as you might expect, it’s hard to separate the worthwhile from the filler.
Below you will find some of the best PC games that won’t cost you a dime, just so you don’t have to figure out if Minecraft rip-off X is a more worthwhile download than Minecraft rip-off Y and actually play something worthwhile. We’ve gone for an eclectic mix of different genres to make things for more interesting, including shooters, MOBAs, TCGs, and narrative-based adventures. We’ve also deliberately tried to avoid talking about the free PC games that are just gateways into a grind without much else to offer apart from a wallet tease; we’re mostly prioritising full games over “introductory” deals.
If you have some hard drive space that’s existence is irritating or you just want to make your Steam library look bigger, here are the free PC games you should download and also how you can. Bear in mind that these are not in any order and that it is a living list, so we may add a new game if it impresses.
The Best Free PC Games
1. Doki Doki Literature Club
Developer: Team Salvato
Publisher: Team Salvato
Perhaps the most original game on this list, Doki Doki Literature Club may look like your ten a penny visual novel featuring high schoolers but it’s anything but. While it is a little on the slow side to truly get going, it’s worth the wait.
To explain what makes Doki Doki already such a cult classic would be to spoil some of the experience. Instead, go into it expecting to have your expectations subverted and remember that it is “not for those that are easily disturbed”. Consider yourself warned.
2. Marie’s Room
Developer: like Charlie
Publisher: like Charlie
Marie’s Room isn’t a game that will change the landscape of the industry as we know it, instead serving as a worthwhile journey into someone else’s life that you can get through in your lunch break — it takes only an hour to get through but it’s an hour that you will be glad you spent.
Perhaps most easily (and maybe cynically) labelled as a walking simulator, Marie’s Room is a mystery about two friends and the passage of time presented through a recollection that’s open to interpretation. If you want to play something that will make you sit back and reflect, this is the free PC game for you.
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Epic Games
Download: Epic Launcher
Fortnite (Fortnite: Battle Royale specifically) is a supremely ridiculous game that’s as much a meme at this point as it is a seriously competitive shooter that may leave you out in the cold if you’re trying to get into it with so many players building Legoland during every fight.
It will be rough going if you’re only just getting into it, but stick with the learning curve and maybe also get a squad together and there could still be plenty of surprised in store. Fortnite is also a game that refuses to sit still for a minute, so expect constant updates with new items and map changes.
4. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Just like Fortnite, there’s a well-established pool of experienced players still playing CS:GO that may offer some brick walls to overcome. However, with the option to play offline with bots to learn the ropes, you’ll learn to play Dust 2 over and over again and hang with the best of them before too long.
CS now also has a battle royale mode with the cheesily named Danger Zone. While most still gravitate towards the “classic” experience, there are many different ways to play Counter-Strike but beware of in-game chat if you’re of a sensitive disposition. The best way to experience it is with some friends who don’t mind carrying the newcomer.
Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: Digital Extremes
It’s quite bananas how far Warframe has come since its rough and ready launch in 2013. Originally a fairly straightforward action adventurer, Warframe is now an epic undertaking that consumes the lives of almost anyone who touches it thanks to the almost endless content and a grind that is very real.
While the grind can be a little unforgiving at points, it’s offset somewhat by just how much there is to see and do. Featuring a friendly community owing to its PVE community and an alternative for those left jaded by Destiny, Warframe just continues to go from strength to strength with each passing year.
6. Team Fortress 2
Another older Valve game that’s almost as popular as the new games released on Steam each week, Team Fortress 2 served as the inspiration for the likes of Overwatch and Paladins while doing it many years earlier — and arguably better. It’s free, which gives it a leg up over the former, and isn’t completely extortionate with its microtransactions, which helps it against the latter.
A radical departure from its predecessor, TF2 dropped the serious military shooter aesthetic and went in a completely different direction. A bright and colourful team-based shooter, Team Fortress 2 offers plenty of silly fun despite being over a decade old and a little rough around the edges.
7. Dota 2
If you’ve played a MOBA in the past and haven’t really gelled with it, you almost certainly won’t get on with Dota 2 either as it’s one of the less “smooth” of the options out there. There’s also a steep learning curve to overcome, but offline practice modes can help you get the gist of things, which is lucky as MOBAs are notoriously difficult to approach for newcomers.
Here’s a word of warning, though: the addiction will come at you fast. Dota 2 is notorious for consuming your life, so you better enlist some friends to share the slide into obsession with as you chip away at the surface of this game before realising that there’s an a hulking and intimidating beast within.
Developer: Blue Mammoth Games
Affectionately dubbed “Smash for poor people”, Brawlhalla is a chaotic multiplayer brawler that has a lot in common with Nintendo’s flagship that it will always struggle to separate itself from. While it may never reach the level of success of its most obvious inspiration, there’s plenty in Brawlhalla to gravitate to, which includes a decent pool of characters and approachable gameplay that it makes it great fun with friends.
Competitively, Brawlhalla is susceptible to having a bit of an imbalanced meta and a somewhat toxic community, so you have been warned if you’re thinking of getting serious. Regardless of that, it has more than enough to it to entertain you and your family for a few hours if you’re Switch-less and just want some dumb fun.
9. Quake Champions
Developer: id Software
It’s a little odd that Quake Champions isn’t more popular than it is. It’s a fine slice of retro arena shooting spliced with some modern sensibilities with a free introduction and plenty of content. Perhaps a modernised and tweaked Quake isn’t what the fans wanted, but if it’s just a fun FPS you want, Quake Champions will more than get the job done.
The game’s champions offer a different take on the arena shooter and fall under the Overwatch umbrella of having different abilities suitable for different situations — it’s no longer simply a case of who has the quickest reactions. Quake Champions isn’t the most popular entry on this list of the best free PC games, but it’s supported well enough for you to really sink your teeth into it if you so wish, though the waiting around for a match is a little much at times.
10. League of Legends
Developer: Riot Games
Publisher: Riot Games
An incomprehensibly popular free-to-play PC title, LoL is also similarly incomprehensible for those uninitiated in the ins and outs of the MOBA, possible even more so than the aforementioned Dota 2. There’s a staggering amount of people playing it for a reason, however, and that is because it’s arguably the best MOBA on the market.
While you may struggle to get anywhere near the competitive scene at this point in the game’s life, you will still gain something from running the lanes in League of Legends, so much that your social life will disappear without you realising it happened. While the microtransactions may be on the invasive side for some and the community so toxic that it needs quarantining, it’s a good time with friends as long as you can wrap your head around it.
The progenitor for the wild surge in demand for CCGs, Hearthstone still arguably remains as the best example out there. While it is certainly not a walk in the park to get to grips with, it’s also not so obtuse, dense, and overly cynically motivated by money that you can’t eventually understand its ins and outs. Those who pay more will get more from the game almost no matter what, so bear that in mind before you take the big leap into competitive play.
The Blizzard stamp of quality and extra attention to detail is obvious as well as a lowered skill ceiling making it fairly approachable. The outcome of matches does depend a lot on RNG, though this may not be that big an issue if you’re just looking for a timesink — think of Hearthstone as a modern Solitaire to kill some time with rather than something that should consume your being and you will get something back from it.
12. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit
Publisher: Square Enix
While the developers themselves may label it as such, calling The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit “just” a demo doesn’t really do it justice. A standalone story set in the Life Is Strange universe, Captain Spirit focuses on a young boy as he seeks to get away from the stresses in his life by letting his imagination run wild.
Those who love LiS will find a lot to love in this short parable, but anyone who enjoys emotional rides that may be labelled almost critically as a “walking simulator” will also find much to appreciate here. It may not convert the unconverted, but for providing a full-bodied toybox to explore and bridging the gap between LiS installments, Captain Spirit deserves some space on your hard drive.
From our Captain Spirit review:
“There are few examples of ‘show not tell’ storytelling more elegant than The Awesome Adventures of Captain which can be enjoyed by fans of the Life is Strange series, as well as anyone who enjoys narrative-driven experiences.”
13. Dwarf Fortress
Developer: Tarn Adams
Publisher: Bay 12 Games
Listen, unless you have the patience to learn what many call the most densest and most confusing game ever made, you may want to survive Dwarf Fortress: a maddening hybrid of different genres that is far more complex than its basic visuals may suggest. The keyword here is creativity, though with the caveat that no matter what you do, you will eventually fail — it’s just the way the game works.
There is no grand story or obligations apart from keeping your fortress intact as direct dwarves towards its upkeep and also expansion. That’s it, but don’t be deceived into thinking that you can simply pick up and master Dwarf Fortress. Serving as heavy inspiration for Minecraft, view it as the ugly but somehow also stunning cousin to Mohjang’s monolith and remember that dying is fun before you boot it up.
14. Spelunky Classic
Developer: Mossmouth/Derek Yu
Publisher: Mossmouth, LLC
Arguably the definitive roguelike (and perhaps even indie) experience, Spelunky Classic paved the way for many of its peers to follow suit when it launched into cult status in 2008. A HD update came out in 2012, but if you can deal with some more basic visuals and the less complete package, Spelunky Classic is yours for absolutely nothing.
Players are tasked with navigating underground taverns for treasure while fending off the beasties and ghoulies that lurk within. Sounds simple, but with an ever-changing layout and an oppressive difficulty that undoes all your hard work after a simple mistake, you have an addictive dungeon crawler with an iconic status that feels wholly earned. Just don’t cheese the shopkeepers if you can help it.
15. World of Warcraft
A little bit of a cheat for our list of the best free PC games because the rest of the content past level 20 is gated off, but the Starter Edition for World of Warcraft is more than good enough if you simply want to socialise and take part in the best video game activity of them all: fishing. If you just want to farm and kick back with friends, the entry point for WoW will tide you over until/if you decide to commit.
While WoW isn’t quite the juggernaut it once was (nothing can stay at the very top forever), there is still some catharsis to be had from grinding away and a hobby that will turn into an obsession unless you’re being careful. The limitations with the free account are fairly numerous, though they may actually be a godsend to still allow you to see sunlight more than once every four months.