Ah, free-to-play games. There was a time when this genre consisted mostly of puzzle platform and point ‘n click games found on various shady websites; not that there’s anything wrong with that. Over the last decade, however, free-to-play games have evolved into something much bigger and better in terms of quality, as major developers and publishers jumped on the highly profitable bandwagon and started putting out their own freebies. As a result, there’s a little something for everybody at the moment so today we’re going to take a look at what we consider to be the top 10 best free-to-play games available right now.
There’s currently a pretty hot debate going on regarding Paladins and its glaring similarities to Overwatch. Truth is, video game developers have a tendency of emulating other successful titles all the time and that’s not going to stop anytime soon. Besides, Paladins isn’t a direct copy of Overwatch even if some might say otherwise as it does feature some different mechanics along with a fairly interesting card system. The best part, of course, is that Paladins is a free-to-play game that recently entered Early Access on Steam, which means that everyone can play it now. The game is currently in open beta so it’s not necessarily representative of the final product but if you like team-based shooters it’s definitely worth a try.
9. Team Fortress 2
Speaking of team-based shooters, you can’t go wrong with the title that started it all and served as inspiration for both Overwatch and Paladins. Despite having been released back in 2007, Team Fortress 2 continues to look good and is tons of fun even today thanks to its unique art style and quirky characters. Unsurprisingly, Valve’s smash hit still has a very dedicated community to this day and is currently the second most popular free-to-play game on Steam right after Dota 2. Long story short, if you haven’t played Team Fortress 2 now is as good a time as any because there are plenty of people to play with and Valve continues to deliver patches that make the experience even better.
8. Star Wars: The Old Republic
While it’s no World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic is arguably one of the best MMORPGs around and you can play it for free right not if you don’t feel like spending 20 bucks for the benefits of becoming a subscriber. Sure, there are a number of restrictions in place for those who haven’t subscribed but if you’re a fan of the Star Wars universe it’s definitely worth checking out either way. Unlike most MMORPGS, The Old Republic is a story-driven experience and has a lot to offer to gamers who enjoy other Bioware titles as it features some of the same systems the company is known for. Perhaps the biggest flaw of the game is that it often feels more like a single-player experience than a traditional MMORPG, though some people may actually see that as a plus.
7. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
A few years ago I would have laughed at the notion that CCGs could become extremely popular one day. While the genre as a whole is still nowhere near as popular as FPS or MOBAs, we got to give it to Blizzard for bringing a lot of attention to collectible card games with Hearthstone. The games features the same silly fun and easy learning curve we’ve come to expect from most titles developed by the company these last few years, and yet, it’s also very complex and highly competitive at the same time. Hearthstone is probably the best free-to-play game to start with if you want to become a professional gamer who doesn’t want to bother with team-based titles or doesn’t want to break a wrist while trying to get to the top of the Starcraft 2 scene. It’s easy to get into, fun, and there’s plenty of tournament money to be made if you’re good enough.
Warframe is a very solid class-based co-op action game that has improved tremendously over the past couple of years. The game puts you into the shoes of a space ninja that has a number of wicked moves and spells, which is very badass in and of itself. In addition to the cool theme, however, Warframe features an excellent combat system that gets even better in PvP, a very impressive art style, and a wide variety of activities you can participate in either with friends or random strangers. While it might get a bit repetitive at times, this free-to-play game is still worth giving a try as there’s nothing quite like it on the market today. The microtransactions might get under the skin of some people after a while, however, it’s certainly possible to get all the good in-game stuff given enough time and patience.
Epic Games’ Paragon is by far the most visually impressive MOBA available today, which is probably not a big surprise given that the game runs on the company’s Unreal Engine 4. Looks aside, though, the game isn’t too shabby when it comes to the gameplay either and features a very interesting and diverse lineup of playable heroes. At the moment there aren’t nearly as many characters as you would find in Dota 2 or League of Legends, but the game is still in Open Beta and its roster continues to grow every three weeks or so. Epic is designing this game with the community in mind and is constantly pushing out updates that are very much based on player feedback in an attempt to make it as good as possible. Even though it’s not receiving as much attention as it deserves right now, I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a try at some point because it’s pretty great. But just make sure you have a decent computer if you’re playing on PC because the impressive visuals do take their toll on some systems.
4. Path of Exile
Path of Exile is what Diablo 3 should have been at launch but couldn’t quite pull it off. Even though it was inspired by Blizzard’s popular series, this free-to-play game manages to surpass its source of inspiration in many ways and the end result in a great free-to-play game that offers a fair business model. Even better, developer Grinding Gear Games continues to update Path of Exile with new content all the time and the game’s community is as numerous as ever. Unlimited character customization? You’ve got it. Superb animations and spell effects? Yessir! Great multiplayer, compelling story, competitive PvP? All of that and more. Path of Exile is one of the best online action RPGs out there and a must-play for anyone looking for an excellent free-to-play game.
3, League of Legends
Riot’s tried and true MOBA remains the most popular free-to-play game out there and with good reason. While often bashed by some as being a “lesser” version of Dota 2, League of Legends was actually developed with a very different audience in mind, an audience that companies such as Blizzard are desperately trying to cater to these days with games like Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. If you’re looking for a hardcore competitive experience you can definitely find it in League of Legends if you’re good enough to get into the higher leagues, but at its essence, this is a MOBA that anyone can learn pretty quickly and have plenty of fun in the process. After all, most people who play video games just want to have fun so go try League of Legends if you’re one of them and haven’t played it already.
2. EVE Online
While not technically a free-to-play game just yet, EVE Online does currently offer a 14-day free trial with fair restrictions and will launch the new Clone States system later this year. This system means that players will be separated into two groups, one of which will consist of subscribers with full access to the game while the other one will be able to play the game for free for an unlimited period of time, albeit with certain restrictions. An interesting compromise and definitely worth looking into because even more than a decade later, the Eve Online community continues to be extremely active and the game’s persistent universe is bigger than ever. Clone States are scheduled to arrive in November but I suggest picking up the free trial now to get a first taste of the popular MMO. You won’t be disappointed.
Arguably the undisputed king of free-to-play titles, Valve’s Dota 2 may not be the most popular online game and definitely not the easiest to get into, but it is one of the most complex and fulfilling experiences in gaming. As many people tend to say, there’s no win sweeter than a Dota 2 win and they are certainly right because there’s a massive amount of pride associated with winning a difficult 90-minute game, especially when you’re playing with friends. All that aside, Dota 2 is also one of the few MOBAs that gives players full access right off the bat to its complete lineup of 100+ heroes and the game’s loot variety is far superior to any of the fancy skins offered by similar titles simply because you can mix and match the plethora of different cosmetic items to make the heroes look truly unique. Then again, it’s pretty much impossible to compete with the Steam Workshop system so we can’t really blame anyone for not being unable to offer something just as good.
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