Top Free to Play Games

Free to Play games, also known as F2P, have been around for a number of years but have become increasingly popular over the past five years or so using the freemium model. Free to play games that use this freemium model or payment system are a little different from the free games you may be used to. They typically allow players to install the full version of a game free of charge but limit certain aspects of gameplay or premium content to those willing to pay a microtransaction to access. Not all free to play games use this strategy with some even limiting the "premium" or pay content to be non-essential content to the overall gameplay and balance of the game.

While there are free to play games that cross all genre of video games, most of the latest and most popular freemium games can be lumped into one of three different genre. They include: massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, multiplayer shooters, and multiplayer online battle arena games. The list of top free to play games that follows includes some of the most popular PC games that are classified as free to play. Games are listed by both a combination of the quality of the game and how "free" the game actually is.

01
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Dota 2

Dota 2
Dota 2. © Valve

What We Like

  • Great character customizations through skins, weapons, armor, and more.

  • Players can design their own games.

What We Don't Like

  • Can be difficult and unforgiving for new players.

  • Player population can be insulting and offputting.

Release Date: July 9, 2013
Genre: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
Theme: Fantasy
Game Modes: Multiplayer
Game Series: Dota

Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena game that matches two teams of five players each in a battle to destroy the opposing team's base structure known as the "Ancient." To do so they must first fight through and destroy defensive towers, creeps, and barracks in order to reach the opposing team's Ancient.

Dota 2 is available exclusively through Valve's Steam platform and is arguably one of the most popular free-to-play games currently on the market. With hundreds of thousands of players online at any given moment, it is also one of the most free "freemium" games available. The premium features available for purchase in Dota 2 through micro-transactions are limited to various heros and item appearance customizations and boosts to the rate at which players earn experience for their Dota 2 profile level. All of these purchases have no impact on gameplay which means Dota 2 players need not spend a single penny to get full enjoyment/functionality from the game.

02
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Path of Exile

Path of Exile Free to Play Game
Path of Exile Free to Play Game. © Grinding Gear Games

What We Like

  • Extremely flexible character class customization.

  • Free to play and no "pay-to-win": purchases are cosmetic with no impact on gameplay.

  • An action roleplaying game (ARPG) that is unique from others.

What We Don't Like

  • Extensive skill trees can be overwhelming at first.

  • Progression through the game can eventually feel repetitive.

  • Less appeal for those who don't like spending time tweaking the minutiae of character abilities.

Release Date: Oct 23, 2013
Genre: Action RPG
Theme: Fantasy
Game Modes: Multiplayer

Path of Exile is an online action roleplaying game that has been extremely popular since its open beta release in Jan 2013 and has a subscriber based of more than 2 million players. In it players control a character from the top down or bird's eye view (similar to Diablo 3) as they explore various environments including caves, dungeons, forests and other large outdoor areas. There are six different classes to choose from along with a wide variety of skill trees and items you'd expect from an RPG.

Path of Exile is completely free to play but does have some microtransaction cosmetic based content that is available at a cost, but they have no impact on the game. The New Zealand-based developer Grinding Gear Games has stayed true to their word in saying that Path to Exile would never become a "pay to win" game.

03
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League of Legends

League of Legends
League of Legends. © Riot Games

What We Like

  • Season updates keep the game new and interesting.

  • Over 120 playable champions to choose from.

  • Enormous community of players.

What We Don't Like

  • Harassment and player toxicity is a problem in the game.

  • Game tutorials don't explain well your equipment choices and their impacts.

Release Date: Oct 27, 2009
Genre: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
Theme: Fantasy
Game Modes: Multiplayer

League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena game that was inspired by the Warcraft III mod Dota. It has also grown in popularity so much that it has surpassed the popularity of Dota and Dota 2 and become the most played MOBA game with popular worldwide competitions and tournaments.

In it, players control one of 118 different champions as they fight against an opposing team's champions, minions, and base/lane defenses. League of Legends, has been extremely popular and dominate ​games in the MOBA genre since its release in 2009 with the number of players reaching into the millions at peak times of the day.

Similar to many other free to play games, League of Legends offers premium content that offers convenience and champion customization that has no impact on overall gameplay.

04
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Heroes of the Storm

Heroes of the Storm
Heroes of the Storm is a multiplayer online battle arena game from Blizzard Entertainment. © Blizzard Entertainment

What We Like

  • Lots of maps makes gameplay more varied.

  • Huge number of appearance customizations possible.

  • Familiar characters from other Blizzard games.

What We Don't Like

  • Leveling experience is team-based, which can lead to team infighting if some members are less skilled.

  • Loot crate rewards makes progression and customization random.

  • Grind to gather gold to purchase unlocks feels excessive.

Release Date: June 2, 2015
Genre: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
Theme: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Game Modes: Multiplayer
Game Series: Blizzard

Heroes of the Storm is a multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA) that has been described as an online team brawler by developer Blizzard. In it two teams of 5 players each battle against each other to complete various objectives based on the game map being played. The players take control of heroes which are drawn from Blizzard's universe of games including the popular WarCraft, StarCraft, and Diablo games.

The game adds a few gameplay twists and variations compared to other MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends. It is freely available and players do not have to spend any money to take full advantage of the fun. There is an option to pay real money for player skins and to unlock additional heroes rather than waiting until they are earned.

05
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Planetside 2

Planetside 2 Free to Play Game
Planetside 2 Free to Play Game. © Daybreak Game Company

What We Like

  • Good graphics.

  • Unique faction sounds differentiate each well, even if you can't see them.

What We Don't Like

  • Subscribers and those who pay can access more powerful items sooner than those who don't pay.

Release Date: Nov 20, 2012
Genre: Massively Multiplayer First Person Shooter
Theme: Sci-Fi
Game Modes: Multiplayer

Planetside 2 is a massively multiplayer first person shooter that features large-scale first-person shooter battles with support for up to 2000 players. Set on the planet of Auraxis, battles are primary for territory control of the planet's continents and features three factions and six different character classes to choose from, with each class having its own unique weapons and abilities. The game features vehicle (land and air) combat along with traditional foot soldier combat.

Planetside 2 offers a cash shop and subscription-based model that allows players to earn experience, certification points and resources more quickly which can then be used to acquire in-game items. The benefit of these items, however, is more for convenience and cosmetic appearances rather than making players who pay more powerful than players who choose not to pay. That being said, players who do pay will be able to obtain a larger number of powerful items quicker, which may provide a slight advantage over less skilled players.

06
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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. © Blizzard

What We Like

  • Free to play doesn't limit players ability to acquire all available cards.

  • Great graphics and card interactions are visually exciting.

  • Gameplay is fast.

What We Don't Like

  • Players who pay can unlock new and better cards more quickly.

  • Staying free-to-play is a grind.

  • Random results can feel frustratingly improbable at times.

Release Date: Mar 11, 2014
Genre: Digital Collectible Card Game
Theme: Fantasy, Warcraft
Game Modes: Multiplayer

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a free to play digital collectible card game set in the Warcraft universe. In it, players pick a character class and create a deck similar to Magic The Gathering. They will then battle against an opposing character's deck using spells, weapons, and creatures to try and defeat the opposing player.

Players will start out with basic cards, earning more powerful and different cards based which are unique for some character classes. The game is completely free to play and players can eventually unlock all of the available cards, however, those willing to pay can unlock unique/special cards more quickly.

07
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Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars The Old Republic
Star Wars The Old Republic. © Electronic Arts

What We Like

  • Excellent game writing and voiceovers.

  • Solo gameplay is fun and viable; PVP is optional.

  • Updates since launch make the game worth checking out again.

  • Progression does not feel like a grind.

What We Don't Like

  • Free to play, but progression for non-paying players will be slower.

  • Subscription does not grant access to all content—additional purchases required to unlock additional character races.

Release Date: Dec 20, 2011
Genre: MMORPG
Theme: Sci-Fi, Star Wars
Game Modes: Multiplayer

Star Wars The Old Republic is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game set in the Star Wars universe. In it, players take on the role of a character in one of two factions the Galactic Republic or the Sith Empire. There are four main character classes to choose from for each faction, each class has two advanced classes that can be chosen as player levels up, resulting in a total of eight classes per faction.

SWTOR was initially launched using a subscription based game model with players purchasing one, two, three or six-month blocks. Due to dwindling subscriber based, Electronic Arts released the game under the free to play model in November 2012, offering most game-play/functionality for free but does limit the number of credits that can be earned and has slower character leveling for non-paying players.

08
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SMITE

SMITE
SMITE. © Hi-Rez Studios

What We Like

  • Lower camera perspective makes the game feel different from other MOBAs.

  • Learning the game is made easier for new players.

  • Combat is exciting and satisfying.

What We Don't Like

  • User interface is a not the most intuitive.

  • Leveling system is a bit lackluster.

  • Suffers from the common MOBA problem of abusive players.

Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Genre: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
Theme: Fantasy
Game Modes: Multiplayer

SMITE is one of the newer games on this list and like a few others, it is a multiplayer online battle arena, in which players take on the role of a mythological god. Like other MOBA games, there are two teams battling against each other as they try to destroy the opposing team's base. In this case, players will control one of 54 different gods from seven different pantheons: Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Hindu, Roman, Mayan, and Norse.

SMITE contains a few different game modes from Dota or League of Legends including Conquest which is a 3v3 player game, Arena which is a 5v5 player objective-based game, joust which 3v3 model that contains only one lane and tower, Assault which is teams must destroy the teams 2 towers, phoenix and titan and Siege which contains two lanes and includes special minions.

09
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Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2. © Valve Corporation

What We Like

  • Free players have full access to game features.

  • Well balanced gameplay.

  • Tutorial is good at getting new players into to the game.

What We Don't Like

  • Game has been around a while and shows its age a little.

Release Date: Oct 9, 2007
Genre: Multiplayer First Person Shooter
Theme: Modern Military
Game Modes: Multiplayer

Team Fortress 2 is a multiplayer team-based first-person shooter that was released back in 2007 as part of the Half Life 2 combo pack, The Orange Box. Players choose one of nine character classes from two opposing "construction" teams; Reliable Excavation & Demolition and Builders League United. It includes standard multiplayer first person shooter game models such as capture the flag, control point, territorial control just to name a few.

Team Fortress 2 was initially released The Orange Box and remained a retail game until June 2011 when Valve converted it to the free to play model. The base game is available for free, while some equipment and character skins are available through small micro-transaction payments. Players can get full gameplay without having to spend any money.

10
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War Thunder

War Thunder Free to Play Game
War Thunder Free to Play Game. © Gaijin Entertainment

What We Like

  • Competitive multiplayer, PvE campaign missions, and solo gameplay.

  • Updates, including naval combat added in October 2018.

What We Don't Like

  • Ground tank combat is sluggish and frustrating at times.

  • Between-mission menus are dense and complicated.

Release Date: Nov 1, 2012 (Open beta release)
Genre: Multiplayer Online Combat Game
Theme: World War II
Game Modes: Single player, multiplayer

War Thunder is a free to play multiplayer combat game which is focused on military vehicular combat. It includes battles on land, sea, and air using World War II and the Korean War era vehicles. The game features a number of different battle types including Arcade Battles which pits teams of up to 16 players against each other; Realistic Battles and Simulator Battles which are modes that take a more realistic approach to the gameplay and Unrealistic Battles. The game includes five nations that players can choose to represent which are all of the Axis & Allies from World War II including the USA, Germany, Soviet Union, Great Britain and Japan.

In addition to competitive mulitplayer games, War Thunder also includes PvE gameplay which includes campaign missions which can be played solo or cooperatively.

11
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World of Tanks

World of Tanks
World of Tanks. © Wargaming

What We Like

  • Beginning tutorial is good at getting players started.

  • Plenty of vehicle unlocks to pursue.

  • Great visuals and sound.

  • Historically accurate tanks.

What We Don't Like

  • Paying players gain advantages over those who play for free.

  • Grinding gameplay to attain unlocks.

  • Post-tutorial learning curve is challenging.

Release Date: Apr 12, 2011
Genre: Action, Massively Multiplayer Online Game
Theme: Tank Combat
Game Modes: Multiplayer

World of Tanks is a massively multiplayer tank combat game in which two teams of up to 15 randomly chosen players battle each other in tank combat. Each player will pilot a single tank of their choosing (within a given tier) in one of six different types of battles; random, training, team, tank company, historical and clan battles.

While World of Tanks is completely free to play and full functionality is available, it can take those players who opt not to pay for a premium account quite a long time to earn gold and experience that is required to purchase premium/elite tanks and level up the different tiers. Those opting to purchase a premium account will see an increased rate of earning experience, crew experience, and gold in each battle.

12
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TERA

TERA Free to Play Game
TERA Free to Play Game. © En Masse Entertainment

What We Like

  • Good graphics, visuals, and sound.

  • Real-time action gameplay is smooth and exciting.

  • Stronger feeling of cooperation within the player community.

What We Don't Like

  • Grinding and repetitive gameplay at mid-levels.

  • Crafting system is uninspired.

  • Mundane questing system.

Release Date: May 1, 2012
Genre: MMORPG
Theme: Fantasy
Game Modes: Multiplayer

TERA is a fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game that featured tactical combat featuring 10 character classes for players to choose from. The gameplay features the standard quest-based missions and player vs player combat that is included in many MMO games. In combat, players target enemies from a third-person perspective. In addition to the ten character classes, TERA also features seven races including draconian humanoids, giants, and humans to name a few. The game was initially released in South Korea and Japan back in 2011 and then May 2012 for Europe and North America after beta testing was completed.

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Neverwinter

Neverwinter
Neverwinter. ArcGames

What We Like

  • User-generated content and player voting offers new and often great adventures.

  • The Foundry design tools allow inventive players to create fresh content.

  • Solo gameplay is very viable and fun.

What We Don't Like

  • Character visuals are less exciting than in other MMOs.

  • Main storyline is often lost and seems inconsequential.

  • Combat is not innovative, but more straightforward.

  • Quests are too often boilerplate and feel too long.

Release Date: Jun 20, 2013
Genre: MMORPG
Theme: Fantasy, Dungeons & Dragons
Game Modes: Multiplayer

Neverwinter is a free to play multiplayer online roleplaying game set in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting. It allows players to choose one of six character classes and form adventuring parties of up to five players. The gameplay itself is based on a modified version of 4 Edition Dungeons & Dragons which includes daily healing powers and action points that allow for special abilities in combat.

The full game of Neverwinter and all its locations are available for free, players can purchase armor and weapons using real money microtransactions but in-game content is not based on any pay based system. The game's in game development tool called the Foundry toolset also allows for user generated content.