There was a time when free to play games meant low quality, limited gaming experiences. However, that is all in the past. Today, there are many skilled developers building immersive and enjoyable PC and mobile titles that exist without a paywall. The best free to play games offer an excellent starting point for anyone new to desktop or mobile gaming, with guaranteed entertainment on tap without the financial commitments of premium titles.
The free to play (F2P) category is pretty self-explanatory – games that are free at the point of download. There is no mandatory requirement to pay for additional in-game features or levels. All you need to invest is your own time and energy to master the gameplay.
As you read through this guide to F2P games, you will quickly realize that free does not mean poor quality gaming or a lesser selection of titles at your disposal. In fact, it often means that a greater diversity of titles are available, and are often more accessible due to the lack of a paywall.
Millennial users will recognize that what we usually know as free to play PC games today date back to the late 1990s, though freeware and freemium games have been around for a decade more. As the popularity of the internet soared, so too did the number of free to play games.
Free to play browser titles are considered by many to be the dawn of the casual gaming era, with gamers able to load up any title that piqued their interest instantly before getting down to business.
There is no doubting that there were limitations and issues with the early offerings though. One of the main gripes was the limited gameplay. It was all too easy to complete all the levels, resulting in players losing interest fast. Some browser-based F2P games also had advanced features hidden behind frustrating paywalls, which were an immediate turn-off for many gamers.
The best free to play PC games have come a long way since then in terms of depth with the rise of the games-as-a-service model. Since browser based games could update seamlessly without additional downloads, developers realized that they could continue adding features and live ops events constantly to keep players engaged for years rather than hours. By keeping players hooked for longer, the microtransaction model became lucrative and the best free to play PC games started drawing revenues to match the top AAA games.
In part, this was also due to the rise of gaming on social media platforms. As these platforms grew, developers were able to reach a larger audience and build a bigger revenue base allowing them to pour more resources into the games.
With the exploding popularity of mobile gaming, companies realized that they could apply the same model there and ride the growth tide. Today, the F2P model is by far the most popular in the mobile gaming space since it monetizes well while still making games accessible for all. Monetization innovations have even led to some casual mobile games earning more in revenue than the best AAA titles!
In recent times, the concept of a “battle pass” has evolved, providing a new dimension for game monetization. The battle pass usually has tiers that offer better rewards based on the tasks the player completes. While players can earn rewards through this feature without paying, they can earn bonus tier rewards and additional content by purchasing a subscription.
This feature has become hugely popular, allowing F2P games to have subscription revenue without putting features behind hard paywalls. It also gives more games the option to monetize through cosmetic items rather than items that impact gameplay, which can risk making the games pay-to-win.
The success of these new monetization methods means that even some premium AAA titles have begun moving to a free-to-play model. Going forward, the good news is that we can only see games becoming more accessible every year!
With quite literally hundreds, if not thousands, of free to play games available on web browsers or mobile today, it’s hard to find the best of the best. By looking out for the four following characteristics, you won’t go wrong in your search for the best free to play games:
The best F2P games don’t require you to have to pay for additional access to levels or features halfway through. They also generally balance game progress so they don’t become pay-to-win games where free players can never hope to compete with those that invest more. So, it's best to do your research if you want to spend your energy in games where you can access everything and reach the top by only investing your time.
Speaking of investing time, the best free to play games now offer an endless gameplay loop so they are playable for years on end. Take the endless 'running' genre as an example. The top games will continue to provide more and more levels, features, and live ops events that you can enjoy until you lose interest in the concept. Though thanks to today's diverse offerings, you’re no longer short-changed when it comes to free to play PC games or mobile titles, so there's always another waiting for you when you get bored with one.
The gameplay of the best free to play games is designed to be easy to understand, fostering the “pick up and play” appeal of the genre. You usually don’t need to have any previous gaming skill sets to be 'good' at these F2P games, or to enjoy them at all. Within a few minutes, you will be able to grasp the gameplay and start making progress.
Speaking of progress, the most popular F2P titles are those that not only make it easy for you to play but they also give a constant sense of progression. Clever gamification helps to reward F2P players constantly with new features, levels, and characters being unlocked. It dangles the carrot to encourage you to keep going to unlock new achievements.
If you are thinking of starting your journey into the wonderful world of free to play games, below you’ll find a host of genres to try. This simply acts as further proof that free to play gaming can suit all types of players.
RPGs are one of the most immersive options for gamers today. There are so many free to play RPGs, many of which are based around popular franchises, allowing you to take control of your favorite characters. Further, Collection RPGs have made a big splash in recent years with their focus on growing your character base and the constant leveling up making them perfect for F2P monetization mechanics while still offering immense gameplay depth.
The MMO space for free to play PC games is also hugely exciting. The rise of MMO games for browsers went hand in hand with the rise of free-to-play mechanics. The huge worldwide communities that the best MMO games boast make them endlessly engaging while the free-to-play mechanics make them accessible to everyone. With the huge number of MMO games in every genre, it’s easy to find a game to suit you.
If it’s action you're looking for, look no further than MOBA titles. These challenge you to fight and compete, work as part of a team, help allies, and crush enemies. The free to play games in this genre usually offer microtransactions to give you and your team an edge. F2P mechanics are particularly useful since you can shape your game experience according to your ambitions.
There is a huge choice of free casual games today. Whether it’s puzzle games or card games like solitaire, casual F2P apps can very quickly become a staple on your desktop or smartphone. These games are designed for short sessions and are perfect for whenever you get a small break.
Ideal for those wanting fast-paced entertainment and an adrenaline rush, the action genre is definitely one of the most popular F2P categories at present. Specializing in challenging your hand-eye coordination and reflexes, free action games offer a true test of gaming skill. The most popular games in this category belong to the Battle Royale subgenre, which fuses action elements with survival based deathmatch features.
Master tacticians can enjoy diving into F2P strategy titles, which can be real-time or turn-based. To succeed, you’ll have to rely on your decision-making skills to determine the outcomes of battles as well as the amount of resources you have available. Whether it’s building civilizations from the ground up or honing a nation’s army, you’ll need immense situational awareness to come out on top.
Now that this guide has opened your eyes to the broad spectrum of free to play games available online, don’t waste any more time. Sample the best free to play games available on PCs, consoles, and mobile devices, and brace yourself for some fun!