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 ship, becoming wealthy traders or unfriendly pirates, preying on other players. It is a true sandbox MMO that is vastly accommodating to the ambitious merchant, explorer, or scallywag.
And the ambition is ever growing: the recent Legends Return update allows you to bolster your boat with dragon mounts, or return to the launch version of the game with ever-changing progression servers.
Crossout is a post-apocalyptic MMO action game from Targem Games in which you craft and build monstrously-sized machines and use them to bash others in explosive online matches. So it is basically what you used to do during your childhood with Lego, but with the magic of computers.
You can craft a wide variety of vehicles - from small, nimble buggies to rugged off-roaders - with an arsenal of weapons just as large: get your murderous hands on power drills, machine guns, and rocket launchers, or even stealth generators if you fancy a quieter approach. With an arsenal like that, it is easy to see why Crossout is one of the best free Steam games.
As you fight, you build your reputation with your chosen faction. In PvP or PvE (where you can even fight user-created bosses) engaging in some good ol’ shooting will grant you new parts and blueprints to continue your vehicular crusade.
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 free Steam game 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 is a game that is constantly being updated and improved, with the the biggest additions providing whole new types of vehicles like warships. To help you make sense of it all we have put together a guide to air battles, and help with tank fights too.
Neverwinter is the MMO take on Bioware's classic and beloved RPG, taking you to the Forgotten Realms and pitting you against hobgoblins, kobolds, and much, much worse. It is a surprisingly robust action-MMO, with a strong emphasis on skill-heavy combat and a pretty world to explore. There is a bit of a push for players to buy 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 Swords of Chult update that adds a new skirmish and refines the PvP elements.
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.
Science fiction meets fantasy in this action-heavy MMO where players gain power with the ultimate goal of becoming a deity. Lofty is an understatement, but Skyforge delivers countless hours of action with a lot less grind than average free Steam games. How? Skyforge does without traditional levelling structures and set classes and instead lets you progress you character based on your total stats and XP. As for classes, you can swap between any of the 12 unlockable classes at will, giving you plenty of flexibility when approaching a new combat scenario.
Do you long for a free Steam game that is effectively one gigantic, endless spaceship dogfighting simulator? Star Conflict takes the idea of player-driven stories spawned by Eve Online and condenses it to a much more action-packed, combat-oriented experience with a much more gentle onboarding process. When you are not skirmishing in nimble fighters or massive frigates, you can simply explore the beautiful, vibrant cluster of ancient worlds scattered through its sizeable void.
Warface is a gritty free-to-play first-person shooter that you can tackle with or against your friends in co-op or competitive versus modes. You will find plenty of variety while playing with others as you attempt to master a range of teamwork strategies and playstyles on multiplayer maps that change every day.
Get to grips with the Rifleman, Sniper, Engineer, and Medic classes, and bask in the atmospheric environments that are beautifully rendered by Crytek’s Cryengine. With a substantial array of weapons and difficulty levels all available without spending a penny, Warface is a great option for some free FPS action.
What should you do when a load of terrifying alien monsters invade your city through breaches in your very dimension? Since there is not really a precedent for it, we recommend hiring the closers, an elite band of psychic teens with a penchant for alien bashing. Choose one of five colourful characters from the Black Lambs team and introduce these beasts to their interdimensional maker with chains of ridiculous combos. In PvE and PvP modes, Closers is a free anime action-RPG that allows you to smash aliens through the gravel with buses and slash them in a flurry of sword strikes. Now that is how to deal with an alien invasion.
It may get a lot of stick for looking like Overwatch, but Paladins has got its own take on the hero shooter formula. Using a deck of cards that imbue special passive abilities, you help your team capture control points and escort a siege engine to the front door of an enemy fortress. Champions level up throughout a match, with each new level upgrading their skills by drawing new buff cards. Afterwards, you can open chests, pick up more cards for your decks, and voila, you’ve got a new favourite free Steam game. Whatsmore, it is even getting a Battle Royale mode.
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 do not stop there. Smite has numerous modes, including the team deathmatch-influenced Arena. That said, it has 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 are just getting started, check out our Smite beginner's guide.
You might have spent many hours with Hearthstone, but a true rival to Blizzard’s epic CCG looks to be on the cards, so to speak. Shadowverse is an immensely popular game in Japan - quickly becoming its biggest of the genre after the mobile release in 2016 - and is already setting the rest of the world on fire. It is destined to be your next free CCG fix.
With the freedom of many strategies and playstyles to experiment with, and minimal RNG, Shadowverse always feels fresh. And that is before we mention the new card expansions that hit every three months. It is very easy to get started with, too: a tutorial, single-player story, and free card packs for beginners will get you going, but Shadowverse takes time to master.
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 vastness 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.
It is easy to think that every MOBA is a Dota clone, in the same way we all thought every shooter was a Doom copy in the 90s. But that is not true; the MOBA genre is expanding and offering new experiences. Take Fractured Space, for instance. It is 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 are hotkey abilities, but you will 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 is the first true progression for the genre, and you can captain one of its incredibly detailed ships for free on Steam.
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 Steam 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.
Atlas Reactor has the hallmarks of a good, old-fashioned PC game: thoughtful turn-based tactics, endless loadout tweaking, and a robot dog who is up for a scrap. But it is also thoroughly modern, thanks to its competitive PvP and a relentless rhythm that means it barely feels turn-based at all. That is made possible by a battle system in which players plot their moves at the same time before watching the explosive outcome. It is part League of Legends, part XCOM, and that is a genre clash that has to be witnessed.
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.
Rift is an exciting MMORPG from Trion Games, and it is a pretty popular free Steam game. Set in the epic fantasy world of Telara, you will be embarking upon a journey that sees your character grow, develop new skills, wield special weapons, and defeat dangerous beasts.
Once you have decided which faction you will be siding with - either the Guardians or the Defiant - you can start your adventure in this massive, rich world. You also have plenty of choice in which Calling you choose. Will you be a Warrior, Cleric, Mage, Rogue, or Primalist? Or, if you just want to bypass all that rigmarole, you can choose a Purpose: a pre-made profile so you can just get stuck in straight away.
Team Fortress 2
What can one say about Team Fortress 2, Valve’s mega-popular, constantly evolving shooter? It has many hats. It is 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 have some chums to play with. The package itself now feels infinitely huge, with a great variety of game types, from the classic capture point Red vs. Blu games, to co-op Mann vs. Machine, where players band together to keep waves of murderous robots at bay.
Dota 2 is massive, second only to League of Legends in the realm of MOBAs. Millions of people seemingly play 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 with this free Steam game, so check out our guide to the best Dota 2 heroes.
Warframe lets you play as a space ninja, and that is probably all that you need to know to start getting excited. Beyond that, it is a third-person co-op affair that pits you against goons and other space ninjas, all wearing fancy ‘warframes’ that provide special abilities. It is a slick action game with a hint of 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 will be slicing people in half and powersliding around on your knees for most of that, so don't be too concerned. It is one of the most popular free Steam games, meaning there is always people to play with, and frequent huge, expansion-like updates like Plains of Eidolon.
Card games have become big business on PC, and it is all too easy for them to feel quite similar. Duelyst is unlike any card game out there, though. It combines the RNG and card drawing systems of games like Hearthstone with turn-based tactics mechanics. 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 Steam games.
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 is glorious... until you die thanks to a sniper sitting a mile away. You will want to play with friends for this one, or at least be equipped with a microphone, as the chaos of battle only starts to make sense when you are 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.
Is there a free game we've overlooked? Drop your suggestions for brilliant F2P games in the comments below.