These days, gaming isn’t cheap. Video game prices have been topping $60, and that often doesn’t even include downloadable content that is almost necessary to keep playing the game if it features online multiplayer. And all of that is on top of the cost of whatever machine you game on — none of which comes cheap. However, if you game on a PC, you’re in luck, because there’s a slew of great games available for the low, low cost of zero dollars.
Sure, not every free game is a good game. For every one good free-to-play game, there are probably a hundred or more that are only average — or worse! There are diamonds in the rough, though. Steam has a vast selection of free titles. Here, we’ll look a diverse selection of free-to-play games available on Steam that are true winners and hold either a “Very Positive” or “Overwhelmingly Positive” review status.
This game is about as simple as they come, but it’s a winner in the realm of addictive achievement hunter games. You can spend hours upon hours (and will literally have to) playing. It’s sort of like a Tamagotchi in spirit, but instead of a virtual pet you have to take care of, it’s a virtual business empire. You start out squeezing lemons on your own and slowly work up to owning hundreds or thousands of businesses in 10 different industries. Eventually you can hire managers to do the work for you, allowing you to focus on upgrading and buying more businesses.
At a certain point, you’ll just be checking in, clicking a button or two, and letting the game sit on autopilot for a few hours as you rake in billions of dollars. And to think you don’t have to spend a penny to buy this game, which holds a “Very Positive” user review status on Steam. It also doesn’t require a top-of-the-line gaming machine to play, so all can enjoy!
2. Alien Swarm
If you’re a fan of the Left 4 Dead series, Alien Swarm might be right up your alley. This top-down shooter features the same four-player squad system, although there are some differences. With your team, which can be a group of friends or strangers online, you fight your way through — you guessed it — a swarm of aliens as you complete various objectives in sci-fi settings.
There are several classes players can choose from, each with special perks and different stats. There’s also a nice variety of alien types for you to fight. Just don’t let them knock you down, because unlike in Left 4 Dead, your teammates can’t resuscitate you. This game has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam, so be sure to spend the zero dollars required to check it out, and maybe goad a few friends into playing with you.
Altitude is a pretty simple, cute 2-D flying game. But it’s addictively fun. As you level up in the game, you unlock new planes and plane modifiers. The controls are simple and easy to learn, and there are a few fun game modes, including one that’s basically soccer. It doesn’t take much to run this game on older computers, and you can play it online with friends, or just go out and dominate strangers. It has a “Very Positive” status on Steam. Bonus: if you want to play with a controller, this game supports it.
This game may be my personal favorite of those on this list. Double Action: Boogaloo not only has an awesome title and “Very Positive” review status on Steam, but also lives up to every bit of that. It’s a shooter (with options for first- or third-person view) that’s as high octane as they come. You can run, jump, dive, wall flip, and slide as you lay waste to enemies in any of the many rambunctious arenas.
In this game, it’s one thing to be a skilled killer; it’s another thing to be a stylish killer. You’re awarded for having the most stylish kills, so get practice doing backflips off walls and getting headshots mid-air, because that’s a skill you’ll need to reach the top. There aren’t many games that give you bonus points for jumping off a skyscraper and plunging to your doom just so you could land one more shot on an opponent who similarly fell off. I can’t recommend this game enough, especially when it’s free.
Estranged is a pretty little Half-Life 2 mod (meaning you have to have a Source game installed in order to play it) that puts you on an eerie island after your character crashes his fishing ship there. If you enjoyed the spooky feeling that at any moment, a monster might pounce you, this is the game for you. It has an intriguing story, creepy zombie-like enemies, and nice puzzles, a la the Half-Life series. Just be careful: Resources are scarce, and the game punishes you just as much as it rewards you for poking your nose around.
This is an example of great marketing. The Expendabros is a very fun, arcade-style shooter in the same vein as Metal Slug and Super Time Force. You control several of the main characters from the shockingly popular The Expendables movie series and slash, shoot, and explode your way through enemies, machine, and even the ground. You can get creative about how you move about the level, as almost everything is destructible.
If you blow up too much of the level, you might even find it impossible to complete. The fun comes from the humorous enemies, over-the-top intensity of everything in the game, and all the different play styles of each character. You can beat the game in under and hour, but there’s plenty of replayability as you get your friends in on the action or try harder difficulties and new strategies. The reviews on steam are “Overwhelmingly Positive.”
Fistful of Frags is pretty much a clone of the ever-popular Team Fortress 2. The difference is that it’s set in the Old West and does weapons a bit differently. The big assumption of the game is that old weapons weren’t very accurate. So don’t be surprised if you can’t hit the side of a barn without aiming very carefully. The difficulty in hitting your target is part of what makes it fun, as you get more points for pulling off more difficult kills, and there are plenty of options.
From throwing axes and wimpy derringers to single-shot snipers and double-barreled coach guns, there’s a whole arsenal to make use of in this fun, free game. There are also plenty of game modes for going head to head against friends and strangers online. It holds a “Very Positive” rating on Steam, with over 10,000 reviews.
This isn’t quite your typical game. It’s a very relaxing, mellow-out game that has you focusing on gravity and swinging. You swing around a glowing red ball in a world of floating blocks, aiming to collect all the pillars as fast as you can. The music is great for chilling out. With “Overwhelmingly Positive” reviews, plenty of people are loving this game. If you’re like me and have a hard time getting the hang of the swinging ball, you might find this game more stressful than relaxing — but hey, at least it won’t have cost you a cent.
Hawken is pretty incredible. The quality of the game is top-notch. In it, you pilot a mech — there are a lot of different classes of mech with all sorts of custom load-outs — and challenge opponents online in several different game modes. The visuals are stunning, and it really feels like a game you should have to pay for, although it lacks a story mode. There are in-game purchases, but you can get buy just fine without actually spending any money. The game has a “Very Positive” status in Steam. The only difficulty is you’ll need a powerful computer to get a great experience in this game. Fortunately there are some great, cheap video cards that can give your gaming PC a leg up.
Estranged might have been a game that looked and felt like Half-Life 2, but MINERVA practically is Half-Life 2 (bonus: it adds a sprint button!). The game takes place in the same world but follows a different protagonist. In it, you explore an island crawling with the same enemies you know and hate from Half-Life 2 as you try to uncover what the combine forces are up to here. It comes highly recommended and holds “Very Positive” status on Steam. If you already own Half-Life 2, why not fork out $0 and give this mod a try?
11. Path of Exile
Don’t worry, RPG fans. We’ve got you covered. Path of Exile takes you to Wraeclast, where you’ll fight and level up your character to be the ultimate warrior, assassin, witch, or what have you, and get your revenge on the people who exiled you. Fans of Diablo and other games like it will be able to get into the top-down, click-around style of game play in Path of Exile. The graphics are nice, the voice acting is legit, and the skill tree is insanely big, so you won’t be whining about there not being enough upgrades. It currently holds a “Very Positive” status after over 21,000 reviews.
12. Team Fortress 2
It’s hard to compare to a game this great. Sure there’s no campaign, but why should there be when the multiplayer is just so good? Team Fortress 2 offers players several characters classes to take to the online battlefield, allowing for very interesting gameplay and a range methods to suit each player’s preference. There are a number of game modes to keep things varied and interesting.
To top it all off, there are tons of weapons to unlock or buy through micro-transactions if you really feel like it. The whole game is also wrapped in a comedic exterior, with amusing scenarios, funny voice-overs, and absurd weapons and costumes. Team Fortress 2 holds an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating after more than 248,000 reviews. Do yourself a favor and check this game out if you haven’t already.
Unturned takes the Minecraft experience in a different direction. While it looks a whole lot like Minecraft visually, it plays a bit different. Rather than focusing on building and crafting, you focus on survival here. You have to watch your health, hunger, thirst, stamina, and radiation. There are zombies roaming around as well.
Fortunately, you can find weapons and ammo in town — just be careful conserving your ammo. You gain experience points that you can use toward leveling up your character. You can also do a bit of item crafting. You have the option of playing alone, or online with friends. Despite its simplicity and lack of visual brilliance, the game holds “Very Positive” status with over 122,000 reviews on Steam.
14. War Thunder
War Thunder takes us back in time to the air, land, and sea battles of WWII and the Korean War. In it, you can pilot planes, jets, bombers, and even various tanks. Whether you’re a beginner pilot or an experienced simulation flier (or just want to blow things up from the ground) there’s room in this game for you, as it supports keyboard and mouse, gamepads, and joysticks. Like some of the other games on this list, you’ll need to set up an additional account with the developer, but you needn’t spend a cent to get started. It holds a “Very Positive” rating with over 33,000 reviews.
Hopefully this list will have introduced you to some free games that your life has been missing. We realize there are tons of others — some very popular ones, too, like WarFrame and Dota 2 – but we couldn’t include all of them. If none of these strike your fancy, have a peek through the rest available on Steam here. Just be sure to look out for the “Very Positive” or “Overwhelmingly Positive” status to be sure you’re getting yourself into one of the good free games.
Follow Mark on Twitter at @WallStMarkSheet
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