What are the best free games on Steam? If you're bored and penniless, you don't need to fear a gaming drought. Steam is full of games to play without spending a penny. What's more, they're actually good games: games as fun to play as their full-price, wallet-destroying siblings.
If you're not wedded to Steam, check the best free PC games - there's loads of them.
Because we desperately care about the health of your bank account, and honestly worry about how much money you’re spending on your nasty gaming habit, we want to help you find titles worth your time. Below you’ll find a bounty of free games, all waiting for you to play them right now.
In World War II soldiers would often hear thunder in the distance and prepare themselves for rain, only for them to discover it was actually War Thunder; a videogame about planes and tanks shooting each other. Gaijin's flight game straps you into a mind-shattering variety of authentic 1940s war machines and tasks you with surviving countless dogfights and land battles with other players. It’s a game that’s constantly been updated and improved, with the latest addition being a whole new type of vehicle: warships. To help you make sense of it all we've put together a guide to air battles, and help with tank fights too.
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Neverwinter is the MMO take on Bioware's classic and beloved RPG, taking us to the Forgotten Realms and pitting us against hobgoblins, kobolds, and much, much worse. It's a surprisingly robust action-MMO, with a strong emphasis on skill-heavy combat, and a pretty world to explore. There’s a heavy emphasis on buying things in the in-game store, but you can do everything without paying a penny. That even includes playing the frequent expansions, such as the recent Storm King’s Thunder, which adds three new zones and a new dungeon to the already huge MMO.
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Star Trek Online
Star Trek Online is an MMO set in the unmistakable sci-fi world of the starship Enterprise, where you are given a ship, a crew and sent off on sci-fi adventures that feel authentically Star Trek. Though it’s ever-ageing, it continues to get regular free updates that add new, elaborate episodic missions, additional gear, and seasonal events. The story also has a tangible impact on the evolving galaxy. While there is a cash shop and premium ships, the game continues to be extremely generous toward free players, allowing them freedom in their exploration of the final frontier.
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ArcheAge, Trion’s free-to-play MMO, begins very much in the mould of tradition: quests, crafting and slightly humdrum fantasy adventures. Get past that though, and the game quickly makes way for high seas escapades as you and some chums set off on your very own boat, becoming wealthy traders or unfriendly pirates, preying on other players. It's a true sandbox MMO that's vastly accommodating to the ambitious merchant, explorer, or scallywag. And the ambition is ever growing, with expansions that add new playable races such as the Dwarves, as well as huge new areas to explore.
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Warframe lets you play as a space ninja, and for a lot of you, that’s probably all that you need to know. Beyond that, it’s a third-person co-op affair that pits you against goons and other space ninjas, all wearing fancy ‘warframes’ that confer special abilities. It’s a slick action game with a hint of console gem Destiny about it, thanks to its buddy-up mission design and shared-world social environments. There may be a bit of grind involved if you want to craft the coolest gear, but you'll be slicing people in half and powersliding around on your knees for most of that, so don't be too concerned. It’s one of the most popular free games on Steam, meaning there’s always people to play with, and frequent big, expansion-like updates such as The War Within.
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It may get a lot of stick for looking like Overwatch, but Paladins has got its own take on the hero shooter formula. Hi-Rez have injected a little MOBA flavour into their game by giving you a hero and some abilities on the Q, W and F keys. You’ll use these to help capture control points and escort a siege engine to the front door of an enemy fortress. Champions level up throughout a match, upgrading their skills with buff cards. Afterwards, you can open chests, pick up more cards for your decks, and voila, you’ve got a new favourite shooter.
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It’s easy to think every MOBA is a Dota clone, in the same way we all thought every shooter was a Doom copy in the 90s. But that’s not true; the MOBA genre is expanding and offering new experiences. Take Fractured Space, for instance. It’s a 5v5 game where players travel down lanes and destroy the enemy base. But forget anime-styled heroes and jungles; Fractured Space is a sci-fi epic. Kilometer-long frigates warp into battle, pounding the enemy with missiles and lasers, and explosions tear apart zero-g instillations. There’s hotkey abilities, but you’ll be activating anti-ballistic lasers rather than a flashy skillshot. It retains all the tactical finesse of a MOBA, but never feels like one. It’s the first true progression for the genre, and you can captain one of its incredibly detailed ships for free on Steam.
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Smite is a MOBA with a twist: you control your religion-influenced gods like you would in a third person action game, with the camera positioned behind them. This makes Smite feel a very different kind of 5v5 game, and the differences don’t stop there. Smite has numerous modes, including the team deathmatch-influenced Arena. That said, it’s still got plenty of familiar stuff: lanes, creeps, and items are all present and correct, and the pantheon of gods is being ever added to. If you're just getting started, check out our Smite beginner's guide.
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One of the great MMOs of our time, EVE Online is now available to play without a subscription fee. This means that literally anyone with a PC can start their own voyage of discovery within the vastless of space. The only question is: who will you be? Unlike class-based fantasy RPGs, EVE isn’t about being a ranger or a warrior and saving the world. It’s about becoming a cog within a huge, player-controlled universe. So will you be a trader and help bring much-needed items to others? Or will you rise through the ranks of a corrupt corporation and engage in tactical sabotage against your enemies? These are just two of the countless thousands of paths that are available to you in this incredible, unrivaled MMO.
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Team Fortress 2
What can one say about Team Fortress 2, Valve’s mega-popular, constantly evolving shooter? It has many hats. It’s also extremely refined, always full of players despite launching in 2007, and gets frequent updates to fatten the game up with even more hats, modes and maps. But despite how much the game has grown in the nine years since it launched, it remains easy to pick up, especially if you’ve got some chums to play with. The package itself now feels infinitely huge, with a great variety of game types, from the classic capture point team vs. team games, to co-op Mann vs. Machine, where players band together to keep waves of murderous robots at bay.
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Dota 2 is massive, second only to League of Legends in the realm of MOBAs, with millions of people seemingly playing it constantly, always coming back to check out new characters and patches. As a MOBA with roots in the origin of the genre you know exactly what to expect: an eclectic roster of champions, a huge list of powerful items, ten players, three lanes, and a massive emphasis on skill. You could spend days and days just thinking about the metagame, not to mention honing your talents by spectating the biggest matches come tournament season. Budding players need to get started somewhere, so check out our guide to the best Dota 2 heroes.
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Atlas Reactor has the hallmarks of a good, old-fashioned PC game: thoughtful tactics, endless loadout tweaking, and a robot dog who’s up for a scrap. But it’s also thoroughly modern, thanks to competitive-style PvP and a relentless rhythm that means it barely feels turn-based at all. That’s made possible by a battle system in which players plot their moves at the same time before watching the explosive outcome. It’s part League of Legends, part XCOM, and that’s a genre clash that has to be witnessed.
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Path of Exile
Considerably more grim and gothic than other action games out there, Path of Exile is also blessed with one of the most compelling levelling systems seen in an RPG. An impossibly large and liberating grid of abilities and improvements awaits, ready to allow you to enhance your character in any which way you see fit. To unlock those tantalising abilities you'll need to battle your way through the monster-infested world, making use of a combat system that is (whisper it now) possibly a bit better than Diablo III.
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If the one thing you feel like your life is missing is a golf MMO, then Winning Putt is here to make sure your dreams are fulfilled. A multiplayer stick and ball sim built on the CryEngine, it allows you to create a character and train them up to become a worldwide leader in the art of hole-in-one. Using microtransactions you can pay real-world money for ‘enchanting material’ or a bigger shaft (steady). But, like in the best free games, you don’t have to, and such trappings shouldn’t detract you. This is a golf game where you can play a round on the alien planet of Starglen, after all.
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Card games have become big business on PC, and it’s all too easy for them to feel quite similar. Duelyst is unlike any card game out there, though. It combines the RNG, card drawing systems of games like Hearthstone with a more turn-based tactics style of play. Each card you play summons a character onto a chess-like board, and you can move them around in order to flank enemies or escape them. This added layer brings a new level of thought and tension to a set of familiar rules. Combined with colourful, retro-cool art, Duelyst is one of the most original and captivating free games on Steam.
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PlanetSide 2’s scale is something to behold. Whole continents are locked in constant conflict, with armies clashing over bases, vehicles speeding across the ground, aircraft lighting up the sky – it’s glorious, until you die thanks to a sniper sitting a mile away. You’ll want to play with friends for this one, as the chaos of battle only starts to make sense when you’re in a squad that communicates. Think Battlefield's capture-point style gameplay, but on a large, never-ending scale, with three factions locked in ceaseless combat. Absolute FPS bliss.
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Is there a free game we've overlooked? Drop your suggestions for brilliant F2P games in the comments below.