Where to find the best free PC games
Of all the forms of gaming out there, PC gaming can quickly become the most expensive. If it’s not the initial outlay on a desktop or laptop, then it’s a bunch of PC peripherals – gaming screens, gaming mice, gaming keyboards and/or gaming headsets – required to fully immerse yourself in a game.
Thankfully, what doesn’t have to cost a lot is the all-important gaming side of things. Instead of spending upwards of $100 for every new game, there are a number of ways that you can pay a little to get a lot, or pay nothing at all to play games that are still worth your time.
If you’ve got a PC, you’ve got the biggest variety for scoring games that don’t cost a cent. Keep an eye on these places as the best spots for free games:
On top of this, there are subscription services like Humble Bundle, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, as well as EA Play (formerly Origin Access) or EA Play Pro (formerly Origin Access Premier) for subscription services that bundle a mix of fixed and rotating rosters of games.
The return of free PC game demos
For far too long there, publishers were spruiking betas as a pre-order incentive. Nowadays, free game demos – a small curated teaser for a full game experience – have started to make a welcome return so you can try them on the bigger digital platforms listed above.
When free isn’t really free
Free games tend to be free because monetisation is tucked away somewhere else. In the case of subscription services like Xbox Game Pass for PC or EA Play Pro (formerly Origin Access Premier), you’re paying an ongoing monthly fee to access a library of games. Sometimes those games drop out of the library, too, and you never truly own them.
For free-to-play games, they are free to download and play, but there are usually incentives to spend money in game for either cosmetic items or a gameplay advantage (though the latter is frowned upon these days). Fortnite makes money by charging for costumes and skins. It also uses a ‘Battle Pass’, which is a monetisation system you’ll find in other popular free-to-play titles like Dota 2 and Call of Duty: Warzone. Basically, it’s an optional seasonal cost to unlock in-game items.
Other games like Star Wars: The Old Republic are free to play, but levelling up your character is slower than buying premium play time, and certain story content is locked behind a paywall. Bottom line: money is always being made somewhere, even if you’re one of those free-to-play gamers who manages to never spend a cent, others are paying to cover the cost of the game’s continued support and ‘free-to-play’ status.
Epic Games Store
If you play games on your PC, you should absolutely have Epic Games Launcher installed. Why? Because Epic Games offers free games every week. These days, Epic offers multiple free games a week. As long as you add the games to your library during their free period, they’re yours to keep.
They’re not no-name titles, either: they’re legitimately good free games. When this page was initially written, there were two free games: the excellent co-op shooter-RPG Remnant: From the Ashes and indie adventure game The Alto Collection. Earlier this year, Grand Theft Auto V was available for a free for a week, and A Total War Saga: Troy recently launched for free for 24 hours on Epic Games Store.
The only catch is you have to activate two-factor authentication to claim your free games these days, which isn’t really a catch. Head here for a full list of past and recent Epic Games Store free games, but here’s our pick of the top 10 best ones that you may have missed (or may be gathering digital dust in your Epic Game Store library):
- A Total War Saga: Troy
- Killing Floor 2
- Overcooked 2
- Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
- Grand Theft Auto 5
- Just Cause 4
- World War Z
- Kingdom Come: Deliverance
- Darksiders Warmastered Edition
- Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
There are, of course, free-to-play games available on Epic Games Store that you can add to your library at any point. Our pick of the seven best free games on Epic Games Store are:
- Delores: A Thimbleweed Park mini-adventure
- Rocket League (coming soon)
- Magic The Gathering
- Auto Chess
- Battle Breakers
- The Cycle
While Steam doesn’t give away weekly games for free, it is the most popular digital gaming platform on PC, so you can find a whole range of free-to-play games there. Here’s our pick of the 10 best and most popular free-to-play games on Steam:
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- Dota 2
- War Thunder
- Destiny 2
- Team Fortress 2
- Path of Exile
- EVE Online
- World of Tanks: Blitz
Origin Access/EA Play
In terms of free-to-play games on Origin, there are only two (admittedly big names): Apex Legends and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The lack of free-to-play games on Origin is likely because that category is well covered on other digital platforms, and because EA also offers its premium EA Play (previously Origin Access Basic) and EA Play Pro (previously Origin Access Premier) subscription services.
|EA Play||EA Play Pro|
|New releases (up to 10 days before launch)||Up to 10 hours||Unlimited|
|Early access to upcoming games||Up to 10 hours||Unlimited|
|Evolving collection of games||Play List||Pro Play List|
|10% off Origin purchases||Yes||Yes|
There are more than 200 games in the EA Play ‘Play List’ (formerly ‘Basic Vault’), although not all of those are available with the Origin Access (Basic) subscription. Here’s our pick of the 10 best EA Play ‘Play List’ games:
- Battlefield V
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Command & Conquer: Generals
- Dead Cells
- Dead Space
- Mass Effect 2
- Star Wars: Battlefront II(2017)
- This War of Mine
- Titanfall 2
And here’s our pick of the 10 best games you can only access with an EA Play Pro subscription from the ‘Pro Play List’ (formerly the Premier Vault):
- Command & Conquer Remastered Collection
- Darksiders III
- Sonic Mania
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
- The Surge
- Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince
- Two Point Hospital
GOG is a digital platform created and released by CD Projekt, the publishing arm behind awesome games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and the most anticipated game of 2020, Cyberpunk 2077. The platform is DRM-free, which means any game on GOG that’s added to your library has no copyright protection that would stop you from backing it up.
In terms of free games, GOG put a pass-time-at-home package together at the start of global coronavirus lockdown measures in 2020, which includes 27 free games that you can to add to your GOG library. Here’s our pick of the 10 best free GOG games from that list:
- Beneath a Steel Sky
- Bio Menace
- Delores: A Thimbleweed Park Mini-Adventure
- Flight of the Amazon Queen
- Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
- Jill of the Jungle: The Complete Trilogy
- Postal: Classic and Uncut
- Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves
- Shadow Warrior Classic Complete
- Ultima Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams
Like how EA owns Origin, Ubisoft created Uplay as its digital platform for the PC games it releases (you can also find Ubisoft’s premium-priced games on Steam and Origin). Uplay is very light on free games; in fact, there are only four of them to choose from (unless you count demos), two of which are very new:
- Hyper Scape
- Rabbids Coding
- Might & Magic: Chess Royale
While limited, there’s something to suit most tastes in that list. Trackmania is for racing fans. Hyper Scape is the latest free battle royale game. Rabbids Coding adorably teaches kids the basics of coding. While Might & Magic: Chess Royale is an ‘autobattler’ strategy game for up to 100 players.
Steam and Uplay free weekends
Certain titles on Steam and Uplay, including popular games like Rainbow Six Siege and The Division 2, have free weekends, where you can download and play as much of the game as you can stand during the open trial period. These weekends are offered to give new players a taste of games that receive ongoing support, and players are incentivised to spend money during or after the trial weekend to keep the in-game progress they earned during the trial period.
Humble Choice has three premium tiers – Lite, Basic, and Premium – that let you pick from a curated list of titles to add to the libraries of your digital platforms. Humble Lite costs $7.99 per month for access to the Humble Trove and 10 percent off Humble Store purchases. Humble Basic costs $19.99 per month and includes the Humble Lite perks, plus the option to choose three games from the curated list each month.
Humble Premium normally costs $29.99 per month and includes the Humble Lite perks (albeit 20 percent off at the store instead of 10), and lets you choose nine games every month from the curated list. It’s worth keeping an eye out for promotional pricing deals to save dollars on the subscription.
Humble Bundles change all the time and are offered for a limited time, covering a range of games, ebooks, and software. Each Bundle has a recommended minimum amount to pay to unlock all of the associated content. Sometimes the bundles include multiple games, other times they’re dedicated to a single game like Killing Floor.
Humble free games
Scoring free Humble games means keeping an eye on typical gaming news channels or Reddit to get a heads up whenever a limited-time free game is offered or a stealth deal is discovered. These offers sometimes have limited quantities of keys available, so it’s worth jumping on them as soon as you see them to ensure you score a download code.
At launch, Microsoft Store was a rough place to play games. These days, its main inconvenience is that it’s yet another digital platform that can be scanned for games. There are hundreds of free Microsoft Store games (if you don’t count the demos). But instead of sifting through all of those, here’s our pick of 10 of the best free Microsoft Store games:
- Forza Street
- Angry Birds 2
- Asphalt 9: Legends
- Fallout Shelter
- Microsoft Minesweeper
- Microsoft Ultimate Word Games
- Microsoft Solitaire Collection
- Dungeon Hunter 5
- Rope Slash: Cut the Rope
Xbox Game Pass for PC
Where other free-to-play games ask you to pay money after you’ve played, Xbox Game Pass for PC asks for an upfront (monthly) payment to access a library of more than 100 games. At the time of writing, you could still pay $1 for the first month, plus a limited-time price of $4.95 per month. To learn more, we’ve got a dedicated Xbox Game Pass page.
Of the 100+ library, here’s our pick of the 10 best Xbox Game Pass for PC games:
- Sea of Thieves
- Age of Empires: Definitive Edition
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection
- Forza Horizon 4
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Streets of Rage 4
- Middle-earth: Shadow of War
- Microsoft Flight Simulator
- Darksiders Genesis
As a website, itch.io is built as an open marketplace for all manner of indie devs to peddle their wares. There’s a lot of free and premium games available on itch.io, but it can be tricky to sift through it all. Cue the entry of the itch.io desktop app.
The popularity of free games changes over time – which is understandable given the 250,000+ free games on offer – but here’s a list of the top 10 most popular itch.io free games at the time of writing:
- Train 113 – Horrorgame
- The Baby in Yellow
- Stone House Orphanage
- Midnight Special
- There Are Ghosts in These Stalls
- Good Night Bobby
- Get Spooked
- Project Mannequins 0.3
- Kungfu Cowboy
- Make Sure It’s Closed
Battle.net used to be the exclusive domain of Blizzard Entertainment games, but that has changed in more recent years to include Activision’s Call of Duty games. There’s only a handful of free games on Battle.net, though, but they’re all quality titles:
- Call of Duty: Warzone
- StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
- Diablo III (first 13 levels)
- Heroes of the Storm
Wargaming has built its brand on making free-to-play World War II-themed games. Outside of the premium priced Master of Orion, all of Wargaming’s other PC games are free-to-play:
- World of Tanks
- World of Warships
- World of Warplanes
- World of Tanks Blitz
Whether you’re signed up to Amazon Prime or used to it being called Twitch Prime, Prime Gaming is the new name of the gaming-focused bolt-on for a Amazon Prime membership (read more about Amazon Prime here). You’ll need to download the Amazon Games App to play the free Prime Gaming games you’ve claimed.
If you have an active Amazon Prime subscription, then you have access to Games with Prime, which offers time-limited titles that can be claimed and yours forever. At the time of writing, here are the five best free games you get as part of Games with Prime:
- Metal Slug 2
- The King of Fighters 2002
- Samurai Shodown II
- Fatal Fury Special
- Shock Troopers 2nd Squad