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The best free PC games

The best free PC games: Path of Exile
(Image credit: Grinding Gear Games)

The best free PC games don't cost a penny, but they can still be a lot of fun. These titles run the gamut from shooters, to strategy games, to card games, to RPGs, but one thing they all have in common is that they're completely free.

Free PC games are actually a dime a dozen (just check the free sections on Steam or GOG, if you don’t believe me), but finding good ones is the trick. We at Tom’s Guide have compiled a list of the best free PC games to while away the hours, at least until your next big paycheck comes in. You might find your next big obsession, or you might shrug your shoulders, but either way, you won’t have to open your wallet.

Just be aware that while all of the games on this list are free, most of them have optional microtransactions available, some of which are extremely expensive. (The developers do have to recoup their costs somehow, after all.) Some games offer only cosmetic gear for purchase; some offer gameplay boosts. Generally speaking, I don't spend money on cosmetic gear, but will spend money on story content that's locked behind a paywall; your priorities may vary. Just be cautious about pouring tons of money into any game that offers luck-based "loot box" microtransactions, as these expenses can spiral out of control easily.

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Apex Legends

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

There are a ton of free battle royale games out there, but for my not-money, Apex Legends is still the best. Respawn Entertainment’s team-based battle royale has some of the best gunplay and movement in the genre, with loads of satisfying weapons and a unique island arena that’s a blast to run, slide and zip-line around in. With distinct hero characters in the vein of Overwatch, Apex Legends offers a layer of strategy and team-based synergy that other battle royale shooters lack, whether you’re playing as the run-and-gun Bangalore or the trap-laying Caustic. But Apex’s best feature just might be its brilliant Ping system, which lets you call out items and enemies on the battlefield without having to verbally communicate with your team. - Mike Andronico

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Free point-and-click adventure games aren’t that hard to find, but they tend to be either older fare or low-budget labors of love. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is neither. This standalone spinoff from the Life Is Strange series comes courtesy of the developers at Dontnod Entertainment and the publishers at Square Enix. In it, you take control of a young boy named Chris Eriksen, who envisions himself as a superhero — partially to alleviate his boredom, and partially to escape his loving-but-alcoholic father. There are quests to complete, puzzles to solve and dialogue options to explore, which lends this short game a little replay value. If you like it, you can also check out the Life Is Strange series, although that costs money. – Marshall Honorof

Brawlhalla

(Image credit: Blue Mammoth Games)

Brawlhalla is a great Super Smash Bros. alternative for PC players, but it would be a disservice to imply that's all it is. This platform fighter stands out with its unique weapons-based approach to combat, as each character brings their own gadgets to battle, and that can change the course of a fight. The game’s ever-growing roster of original characters such as Cassidy and Sir Roland is complemented by guest stars such as Rayman and WWE wrestlers, such as John Cena and The Rock. Better yet, Brawlhalla is cross-play, so PC players can duke it out with friends on PS4, Xbox One and Switch. - Mike Andronico

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

(Image credit: Valve Coporation)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ain’t broke. This game debuted back in 2012, and even then, it was a reimagining of a Half-Life mod called Counter-Strike from 2000. In other words: Counter-Strike is 20 years old, and hundreds of thousands of people still log on every month to play. Like many free games, you can purchase cosmetic skins for your characters and guns, but they’re not really necessary to enjoy the game. All you need to know is that CS:GO is a first-person shooter, where you and four other players navigate a mazelike map to shoot down the other team as many times as possible. It’s simple, but it’s stood the test of time. – Marshall Honorof

Gwent

(Image credit: CD Projekt RED)

Did you play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt? If so, then Gwent needs no introduction. If not: Gwent is a competitive card game that Geralt of Rivia originally played as a side quest in his third adventure. Fans loved Gwent so much that CD Projekt Red expanded it into a whole game, complete with new cards to collect, tons of customization options to unlock and real human players for competitors. The game is free-to-play and will give you a starting deck, although you’re on your own for acquiring more powerful cards. You can do so with real money, but you can also simply compete with other players, earn in-game currency and expand your deck that way. – Marshall Honorof

League of Legends

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

League of Legends didn’t invent the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, but this game arguably perfected it. In this game, two teams of five players each lead small armies across a map, battling each other across three “lanes” to see who can breach the enemy’s base first. It’s sort of like a real-time strategy game, except you’re in control of only one unit, rather than a whole army. The cool thing about League of Legends is that it offers more than 140 champions, each with their own unique skill sets. Some champions cost money, but there are always free champions on offer, too, meaning you never need to spend a penny for a varied gameplay experience. – Marshall Honorof

Path of Exile

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

Suppose Diablo were free to play, and that its main story campaign were incredibly long. That’s the basic pitch behind Path of Exile: a hack-and-slash action/role-playing game (RPG) that’s completely free to play. You choose from one of six classes and set out to conquer ten Acts, each with quests to complete, a town to explore and a huge boss to defeat at the end. While the game’s microtransactions aren’t cheap, they also aren’t necessary to complete the game, as they tend to be for cosmetic purposes only. The story is fairly intricate, as these things go, complete with a whole fantasy world full of lore, characters and unexpected plot developments. – Marshall Honorof

StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment Inc.)

A few years ago, Blizzard released StarCraft: Remastered. This update to its classic sci-fi real-time strategy game included improved graphics and multiplayer matchmaking, and it’s well worth its $20 asking price. However, if you don’t mind low resolutions and old-school multiplayer options, you don’t have to spend a penny to play StarCraft and its Brood War expansion. Around the same time that Remastered came out, Blizzard released the original StarCraft for free. I’ve always suspected that this was partially to entice new players to try it out, then pay money for the Remastered version. But either way, it’s quite a bargain for one of the greatest RTS games of all time, particularly since you get six meaty story campaigns, with more than 50 missions to complete. – Marshall Honorof

Credit: Blizzard Entertainment Inc.

Star Trek Online

(Image credit: Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment)

Have you already blown your way through Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard? Does yet another Next Generation marathon hold no appeal for you? Then Star Trek Online should be your next voyage into the final frontier. This free-to-play MMO picks up thirty years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, and casts you as a Federation, Klingon or Romulan captain in a turbulent galaxy. Unlike many other MMOs, which burden you with endless fetch quests, Star Trek Online structures each one of its arcs like a season of a TV show, complete with discrete “episodes” that take between 20 and 40 minutes to play through. You’ll get to customize your ship and crew, and enjoy cameos from Star Trek legends like LeVar Burton, Jeri Ryan and the late, great Leonard Nimoy. – Marshall Honorof

Star Wars: The Old Republic

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

I couldn’t include the Star Trek MMO in this story and not discuss its equally good Star Wars counterpart. Star Wars: The Old Republic is an odd duck, even in the canonically confusing Star Wars universe. It started life as a semi-sequel to the two Knights of the Old Republic games, but some parts of the story have shown up in the new Disney canon as well. In any case, this free-to-play game lets you create your own Star Wars character — a Jedi Knight, a trooper or a smuggler, among others — and experience an original story set 4,000 years before the original Star Wars trilogy. You’ll get to customize your character along the way, including choosing between a Light Side or Dark Side path. – Marshall Honorof

Credit: Electronic Arts