For a lot of gamers, the term “free-to-play” has a negative connotation. This stems from a history of exploitive games that have used the business model in order to get players to fork over more cash through progression paywalls, otherwise known as pay-to-win. And while the free-to-play genre is still ripe with deceptive titles, there are still some gems out there offering plenty of fun content for free.
Since it can be hard to sift through the overwhelming amount of free-to-play titles out there, we decided to do some of the work for you. So today we’ll be highlighting some of the best free games on Steam you should check out in 2019. Make sure to check back as we’ll be updating this list regularly.
Brawlhalla is free-to-play fighting game developed by Blue Mammoth Games. While the game is heavily inspired by the Super Smash Bros. series, it places a focus on platforming fundamentals rather than technique. In most of the game’s modes, which include Free-For-All, 1v1 Strikeout, Experimental 1v1, and custom games, the goal is usually to knock the enemy player off the stage.
Brawlhalla features 44 playable characters in total and every week rotates a selection of 8 characters for newer players to use for free. Characters each have a distinct look and weapons at their disposal and players can use items such as bombs, mines and spike balls that drop onto the stage during battle. With simple controls and special moves that require only one button to perform, Brawlhalla is easy for new players to pick up.
Shadowverse looks to rival some of the biggest card-strategy titles out there, like Hearthstone, by incorporating an interesting mechanic: evolution. Created by Cygames, the game leans heavily into its anime art style and has you picking from eight classes: Elf, Royal, Witch, Dragon, Necromancer, Vampire, Bishop, and Nemesis. Players build decks consisting of Followers, Spells, and Amulets that are used in duels against other players.
At the start of each match, both players have 20 health and begin taking turns drawing cards. Starting on a player’s fourth turn, they are able to evolve a Follower card once per turn, granting them an additional 2 attack and defense in addition to triggering special abilities. This can greatly turn the tide of battle and lead to some exciting comebacks.
Black Squad is a first-person shooter MMO developed by NS Studio. The game has a military-theme and uses elements of modern warfare in its aesthetic, while its gameplay feels like a mash-up of Call of Duty and Counter Strike. Black Squad pits two teams, Viper Circle and Peacemaker, against each other in various maps and game modes, including Team Deathmatch, Demolition, Assassination, and Destruction.
While at first glance the game may appear to be another generic FPS game, the developers have made several decisions to ensure the game’s longevity that feel refreshing in the free-to-play genre. First off, Black Squad features great net code, ensuring that firing feels responsive and shots land when they’re supposed to. Secondly, the game avoids any pay-to-win issues by making all its weapons purchasable through in-game currency, with micro-transactions restricted to cosmetics only.
Coming from big daddy Valve themself, Alien Swam is a top-down shooter with up to four-player co-op. Missions have you and your team running-and-gunning through waves of alien enemies that have taken over your planetary colony.
The game features four classes to choose from: Officer, Special Weapons, Medic and Tech. Each class has unique equipment and specific roles to fulfill during missions, so co-ordination becomes essential for survival, especially in later levels. While combat can become repetitive after a while, for the low price of zero dollars, Alien Swarm is worth a try.
Although Teeworlds is over a decade old, its fast-paced, frenetic gameplay still holds up in 2019. The game is a nice blend of retro genres, combining aspects of shoot-em-ups and side-scrolling action titles. Gameplay has you controlling little “Tees” which are round, bi-pedal creatures resembling a certain pink Nintendo mascot, moving around the map with a grappling hook, collecting buffs and destroying your enemies with an array of weapons.
Teeworlds is open source and draws heavily on its community-made maps and mods. The game features three standard game modes: Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, or Deathmatch. With a great selection of maps to check out and intuitive controls that are easy to pick up, Teeworlds is still a blast to play.
Path of Exile
Those still feeling the burn from Blizzard’s announcement of Diablo Immortal may find solace in Path of Exile, a free-to-play action RPG from developer Grinding Gear Games. The game has you exploring large, procedurally-generated outdoor areas, caves, and dungeons, battling monsters and completing quests for NPCs. Completing quests rewards you with experience points as well as new weapons and equipment that make your character more powerful.
At the start, players choose from six available classes: Duelist, Marauder, Ranger, Shadow, Templar and Witch. Each class is focuses on either one or two of the game’s three core attributes: Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence. Since items you pick-up are randomly generated and come in different rarities with increasingly powerful properties, Path of Exile has a high level of replayability as missions may yield new rewards each run.
Previously known as Raiders of the Broken Planet, Space Lords is a free-to-play sci-fi shooter from developer MercurySteam. Gameplay has you and a team of three other players completing objectives, such as escorting a hostage to an extraction point or powering up certain machines. During missions there is a 50/50 chance of a fifth player, called the “Antagonist”, invading to try and prevent your team from completing your goal.
The game features a full roster of 16 playable characters, each with their own abilities and distinct playstyle. Unique to Space Lords is a mechanic where engaging in combat causes player characters to become “stressed” making them easier to detect even while behind cover. While the game reuses a lot of ideas seen in other shooters, it brings enough of its own flavor to the genre to make it worth checking out.
No stranger to best free-to-play lists, Digital Extremes’ third-person shooter Warframe has been delivering a robust and engaging experience for years and seems to always be improving with new updates. Although grinding can get tedious at times and knowing which skills to equip can be difficult to figure out, online guides as well as a very welcoming community make it easier for new players jumping in.
There are some cosmetic items as well as special currency you can purchase to speed up grindier parts but these never feel intrusive to the core game. With a wide-variety of character builds and weapons to craft, Warframe offers a lot of flexibility in how you choose to play. If you’ve been on the fence before, this is the perfect time to hop-in and become a badass, space ninja.
Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2 has aged well, like a fine bottle of wine. If that bottle was filled with hats, lots and lots of hats. Before DOTA 2, TF2 was Valves main lovechild, and thanks to a number of updates and weapon balances in addition to a strong community, the game has kept thriving for over 10 years.
While TF2 still has only nine classes, a wide-variety of tools and weapons allow players to transform their character’s playstyle to fit their needs. Additionally, new maps are always being added by the game’s community, allowing the game to still feel fresh even after all this time.
Crossout is a free-to-play vehicle crafting and combat MMO developed by Targem games. Gameplay has you building vehicles from various parts, customizing them however you wish, and then heading into battle with real players in PVP as well as bots in separate missions. The game has a Russian, Post-Apocalyptic vibe to it which feels partially reminiscent of the Mad Max universe.
While Crossout has received some criticism for being too harsh on new players as well as requiring a large amount of resources in order to unlock higher-tier parts, the game takes some measures in dealing with these obstacles. For instance, there are a number of guides online to assist beginner players as well as community members who will quickly bring you up to speed. Also, players are never placed in a battle where they’re severely outmatched by an opponent, ensuring that those who don’t have the time or funds needed to improve their vehicle’s parts still have a fair fight.