Free-to-play games are made free of cost to players and are generally entirely playable without spending any actual cash. These titles often adopt a battle pass system or other additional content that serves as the primary monetization approach but is optional.
In recent years, free-to-play games have gained more and more popularity, with many fully priced titles changing course and taking up this model. Such games tend to be multiplayer experiences and boast a high player base at any given time, as people participate in competitive or co-op scenarios.
Over the years, the number of free-to-play games has only grown and improved in quality, with many AAA developers releasing such titles that have led to a large fandom following.
Note: This article reflects the writer’s opinions.
Ten best free-to-play games to get into this year
1) Apex Legends
When it comes to battle royale games, Apex Legends currently holds the top spot. The first-person shooter was released on February 4, 2019, as a free-to-play title, to the surprise of many at the time.
As it gained more recognition, the game slowly climbed the ladder until eventually dethroning Fortnite and PUBG as the most-played BR title.
In Apex Legends, users can take part in large-scale team matches, where 20 squads of three people (or 30 squads of duos) battle it out to be the last ones standing. There is another mode known as Arena, which sees two teams of three players participate in a Deathmatch-like scenario set inside a small arena.
Currently, Apex offers up to 22 characters for gamers to choose from at the start of every match and contains a wide assortment of guns to use in combat. Its fast-paced movement, iconic ping system, and engaging gunplay are what set it apart from its competitors, as together, they meld into one incredible and cohesive experience.
2) Dota 2
Defense of the Ancients or DOTA started life as a mod for Warcraft 3, which developer Valve later acquired the rights to and published as a standalone game. Titled Dota 2, this iteration became a multiplayer online battle arena or MOBA game that is entirely free-to-play.
With more than a hundred different heroes to choose from, players will participate in teams of five in a scaled-down war-like scenario. Working together is essential in Dota 2, as they must maintain their team’s structures and destroy enemy ones.
The learning curve for the title is a bit steep, but once users get the hang of the basics, things are mostly smooth sailing from there.
Dota 2 has become a successful franchise on its own, as it has only grown in popularity over the last couple of years. It has even received an animated Netflix show, which seems to illustrate the events leading up to the state of the world seen in the title.
The in-game lore itself is quite rich as each hero has their very own backstory and origins, which sometimes connects to other characters.
4) The Elder Scrolls Online
Bethesda released The Elder Scrolls Online in 2014 to tell a new tale in the history of Tamriel, the continent where the events of Skyrim and Oblivion take place. ESO takes place a thousand years before the appearance of dragons in Skyrim and sees the threat of the Daedric Prince, Molag Bal, threatening the land.
Gamers can jump into the fictional world and participate in various quests and random events in groups or on their own. Many locations in Tamriel are open to them, such as ones from previous titles like Skyrim, Oblivion, and Morrowind, but the entire continent is not fully available to explore.
Since its launch, ESO has received many updates and expansions that have added new campaigns, locations, and playable races. The most recent expansion is titled High Isle, which takes the story to an island archipelago teetering on the brink of a civil war.
While the expansions come for a small price, the base game is free-to-play.
5) PUBG: Battlegrounds
One of the most famous battle royale games has always been PUBG, which started the genre back when it was still a mod for another game. Since then, PUBG has received a full release on December 20, 2017, and has managed to pull in a large player base despite being a priced game for a long time.
It was only in January 2022 that PUBG: Battlegrounds was turned into a free-to-play game, a move that significantly increased the number of its active users on all platforms. In principle, PUBG is the simplest BR title, which sees up to a hundred gamers participate in a match to be the last one standing.
Unlike most popular games in this genre, PUBG has the most grounded take and was inspired by a Japanese movie named Battle Royale. Developed by Brendan Greene, it started as a mod for the game known as DayZ.
Still hailed as the first BR title, PUBG’s legacy dwarfs all other games in this domain.
6) Rocket League
Developer Psyonix developed a unique concept for Rocket League by combining the fun vehicular combat of roller derby with football (or soccer for the American audience). The game debuted on July 7, 2015, as a priced game, although this changed in September 2020, when it went free-to-play.
In Rocket League, players take on the avatars of various four-wheeler vehicles and participate in a giant football match. Controlling their vehicles around the stadium, users must dribble the ball to the best of their abilities, work with their teammates and score a goal to net points. The side with the most points when the timer runs out wins.
The title offers a variety of vehicles and customizable options for gamers, including designs, decals, and color combinations. Certain iconic vehicles, such as different iterations of the Batmobile and the DeLorean from the Back to the Future movies, are also available as payable bonus content.
7) Fall Guys
Fall Guys is a platform battle royale game that sees up to 60 players compete against each other simultaneously in various obstacle courses, challenges, and sports to remain the final contestant.
Developed by Mediatonic, the title was initially priced when released in August 2020 but became free-to-play in June 2022 after publishing rights passed to Epic Games.
For those looking to enjoy some fun, non-serious competition, Fall Guys is an excellent pick as it balances out the intensity of a battle royale game with its cute and colorful aesthetic. This is also a perfect title for those who enjoy watching game shows where various contestants compete against each other, as Fall Guys is basically just that.
Several outfit options are unlocked as users gradually level up, while some can be bought from the store via in-game currency. A battle pass system has also been implemented since its move to free-to-play as an optional paid experience that will unlock new rewards more frequently.
8) Destiny 2
Bungie was once widely known as the mind behind Halo. With that time long behind, the developer is now associated with its new and original IP, Destiny, or more specifically, Destiny 2.
The first-person shooter was released as a follow-up to the previous game on September 6, 2017, being pay-to-play.
In October 2019, the title was re-released as a free-to-play offering under the rebranded title Destiny 2: New Light. This makes the base game and all previous expansions a free experience, while any new additional content can be purchased for a small price.
Since then, Destiny 2 has seen a steady gamer base of dedicated users who always return whenever a new expansion is added.
Bungie’s reputation for excellent gunplay was what brought the game to recognition, with some high-octane action coupled with a superb multiplayer aspect that allows for up to three players to team up together. It is a tremendous free-to-play title to play cooperatively with friends.
9) Halo Infinite (multiplayer)
Speaking of cooperative multiplayer games, Halo Infinite launched in December 2021, bringing with it one of the best games in the franchise. However, before the main campaign launched, the multiplayer was accessible from November 15, 2021, and the best part was that it was completely free-to-play.
This was great news as the multiplayer for Halo Infinite is super fun and is a strong hit of nostalgia for old-school Halo players. Iconic game modes like Capture the Flag, Oddball, and Slayer return, while new modes such as King of the Hill, Land Grab, and Last Spartan Standing were added in Season 2.
Users can customize their Spartans to look unique by applying different paint jobs, color schemes, armor plating, and visors. They can unlock certain premium options by paying for them, although these do not affect gameplay and are purely cosmetic changes that gamers can use if they wish to.
Finally, a title that has been quite talked about recently, MultiVersus is the newest free-to-play fighting game currently available in select locations worldwide.
Developed by Player First Games, it is a crossover title that brings together characters from many of Warner Bros.’ popular IPs.
Players can choose characters such as Batman, Shaggy, Arya Stark, Buggs Bunny, etc., and participate in a group fighting event in various 2D stages. The objective is to knock opponents off the stage until only one person remains, a premise similar to Nintendo’s Smash Bros. series.
While the game is currently in beta testing, the number of characters is limited to about 19, although more are confirmed to be added down the line. As Smash Bros. is a Nintendo Exclusive, MultiVersus is a great alternative for Windows, Xbox, and PC users who have wanted to experience the same thrill.
The game can be played with AI opponents or online with other gamers.
Note: This article is subjective and reflects the author’s opinion.
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