While there are numerous big-budget AAA gaming titles out there vying for the discerning gamer's time and money, there are also numerous classic games that can be played for free. Whether it's older titles that have been cut loose by their owners (or released as freeware for the promotion of newer games), landmark games that have been released to the wild by benevolent publishers, or video games transitioned to a new monetization model, these are the best classics that have gone free.
id Software's Wolfenstein 3D is a PC classic and rightly regarded as the grandfather of the massively popular first person shooter genre. Players step into the shoes of Allied spy BJ Blazkowicz as you fight your way past your Nazi captors in order escape the prison of Castle Wolfenstein. While it doesn't have many of the refinements of modern shooters, Wolfenstein 3D run-and-gun gameplay holds up well. Bethesda, which now holds the rights to the Wolfenstein games, released a free, browser-based version of the game to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Wolfenstein 3D's release.
Originally released as part of the Orange Box compilation, Valve's Team Fortress 2 is a multiplayer classic, taking the cooperative class mechanics of previous Team Fortress titles and giving it a cartoony spin. The game has since gone free-to-play, with microtransactions for the purchase of items and customizations. While the Source engine might be showing its age, Team Fortress 2 still provides a ridiculously fun multiplayer experience with an emphasis on the absurd. And hats.
Fly the flag for the Allied or Axis powers and take to the field in the classic Battlefield 1942. A watershed moment in shooters, Battlefield 1942 melded rich, class-based cooperative gameplay with expansive battlefields and vehicular combat. With the ability to support up to 64 players on the map, BF1942 offered up massive combined arms battles over land, sea, and air, and spawned a bestselling franchise. Electronic Arts later released the core game for free in its Origin service.
As if the original Command & Conquer's over the top sci-fi action wasn't ridiculous enough, Westwood followed it up with a crazy reimagining of Soviet-American 'relations' as high-tech conflict rather than chilly espionage. Set in an alternate universe where the Cold War goes hot, Red Alert delivers classic RTS gameplay that sees users explore the map, exploit resources and exterminate the opposition.
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun is the direct sequel to the original C&C Tiberian Dawn, and brings expanded gameplay with land, sea, air and subterranean units, as well as urban environments and richer terrain. A follow-up to the first C&C game, Tiberian Sun advances to the future. The Global Defense Initiative keeps watch over an Earth ravaged by Tiberium while Kane and the Brotherhood of Nod scheme to conquer the shattered world.
A free-to-play browser-based shooter, Quake Live is the successor to the excellent multiplayer shooter Quake III Arena. Featuring the same frenetic, adrenaline pumping action of its desktop ancestor, Quake Live delivers intense multiplayer firefights against AI and human foes armed with a variety of weapons across a series of arenas. While you can sign up and play for free, Premium and Pro subscriptions offer further features and remove advertising.
The second installment in the iconic Elder Scrolls series of sandbox RPGs, Daggerfall charges players with destroying an ancient golem and putting the spirit of an ancient ruler to rest. The game's real joy lies with its massive world. You can customize your character to an insane degree, craft your own spells and items, own property and interact with thousands of characters. This successful execution of a highly detailed open world set the template for later games such as Skyrim.