Best free games 2021: 20 free games on PC you can download and play right now

The best free games are kind of what make PC gaming so great – while big titles like Deathloop might get all the fanfare, the free games are what us PC gamers really play the most with our friends. And, it makes sense. The low price makes it easy for all of our friends to get the same game and get playing together. Games like Paladins and League of Legends became so huge precisely because anyone can buy them and play them at any time. 

Plus, building one of the best PC games is extremely expensive. Especially now that graphics cards like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 are getting huge price bumps due to shoddy availability, you're going to need to save every penny you can after you buy one – and the best free games will let you do just that. 

Some might think that just because a game is free that it's of a lower quality than something that costs $60 on Steam, but that's just not the case anymore. Game developers can make quite a lot of money from free games, thanks to in-game purchases of cosmetic items, even if some folks might not like that idea. 

Either way, we went ahead and picked out 20 of the best free games you can play right now right here. 

 Linux, Windows or Mac - which one is best for you? Watch our guide video below:

Andrew Williams and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article

Idle Big Devil from Hong Kong Spark Software may still be in Early Access, but the idle RPG game has already gotten a lot of raving reviews from Steam gamers. While it is an idle game, which lets you progress through the game without much interaction, there’s a lot of stuff to do while you wait so it never gets boring. You also get a ton of free currency in the initial play, giving new players a chance to progress quickly.

In this game, you’re appointed by the king as the lord of killing the Undead and creatures possessed by evil spirits. You do so with the aid of a total of five heroes whom you recruit yourself throughout the course of the game. As you travel the continent, you can participate in different events that allow you to collect loot, as well as complete daily tasks that reward you with prizes. You can also gather resources to power up your heroes and upgrade your castle. 

Idle Big Devil does get a bit complicated and harder as you progress, and you will get to a point where you have to decide whether to spend money or endure a slower progression in the game. However, this game can be completely free to play, if you choose not to spend money. 

1. Fortnite Battle Royale 

The Battle Royale is huge right now, and Epic Games has refined it to perfection with Fortnite Battle Royale. Originally designed as a kind of add-on for Fortnite, Battle Royale blew up in a way that nobody expected, fast becoming among the best free games 2020 has to offer.

Fortnite Battle Royale is entirely based on a simple scenario: you’re dropped in a map with 99 other players in a free-for-all melee, and the last one left standing at the end wins. Because of its meteoric success, Epic Games is working hard to steadily integrate new game modes and fresh features. Take Playground mode, for example – it drops you in the map and lets you build up structures for a set amount of time before the floodgates open and the carnage begins.

What’s particularly cool is that with Fortnite, you can actually play with your friends, regardless of which platform they’re on. Whether you’re on PC, Xbox One, iOS, Android or PS4, you’ll be able to match up against millions of other players from all these different platforms.

Dota 2

2. Dota 2 

The Dota universe may have evolved from a WarCraft 3 mod, but Dota 2 is very much its own entity, and holds its own as one of the best free games of 2020.

This top-down arena battler is very dynamic, drawing in multimillion-dollar prize funds for serious tournament players. Yet, it’s not just for the most hardcore gamers.

A brief tutorial now shows you how to play, with the Steam Community offering guides to the original MOBA. Don't expect a warm welcome or an easy learning curve from its complex gameplay mechanics. However, bring a few friends, and Dota 2 will have you hooked on one of the biggest crazes in PC history.

3. League of Legends

Pick your champion and charge into battle in this trailblazing free-to-play title from the folks that brought you the Warcraft III mod, Dota. League of Legends’ automated matchmaking, sundry cast of characters and exquisite maps have made it a multiplayer behemoth over these last few years, and one of the best free games 2020 has that will absolutely stand the test of time.

It’s an aggressive gameplay experience to be sure, but one that rewards great teamwork and careful tactics. There is a bit of a learning curve as well, but you’ll be taken on a thrilling ride shortly after pressing play.

Like Dota 2, League of Legends attracts many high-end players, and the top tournaments offer prize pools of over $1 million. The wacky world of esports, eh?

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

4. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Ever played Magic the Gathering? Hearthstone is Blizzard’s attempt at building an online version of it, for free.

As a typical Blizzard offering, this one’s truly impressive. It’s instantly enticing, lacking the terrifying learning curve you would expect from an online fantasy card game. Hearthstone plays fast, has a very casual visual approach and benefits from a basic rule set, all of which add up to a very accessible card battler that offers you plenty of fun – especially if you’re a World of WarCraft fan.

Not that it's not challenging as well, especially if you go against an opponent that plays their cards right, which is why it gets our vote for one of the best free games to date.

5. Star Wars: The Old Republic

Taking the Star Wars MMORPG mantle after Star Wars Galaxies ended its run (may it rest in peace), Star Wars: The Old Republic was not intended to be free at release. However, it has since, like so many MMORPGs before it, adopted the free to play model. If you want to satisfy your inner Sith, this is the best way to do that for free.

Subscriptions are on hand for more in-game potential and end-game content, but in true best free games fashion, all the story missions are still accessible for free – it just might take a bit longer now.

It’s worth your time just to experience the Star Wars universe from different sets of eyes, like the hyper-professional Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter. If you want to go with the dull option and just have a generic Jedi Knight, though – you can totally do that as well.

World of Tanks

6. World of Tanks

World of Tanks is a different kind of MMO, as you may have already guessed from the title. Team-based, massively multiplayer action with a wide array of war machines to drive into battle awaits, with new players able to jump into the fray right away.

The upgrade system lets you personalize, while being surrounded by an entire army at all times to remind you that loners won’t make it on the battlefield. But be forewarned: get sucked in, and you may find yourself spending a hefty sum on great big chunks of virtual metal.

Some premium tanks go for just a few dollars, while others require a bit more coin. You can see where maker Wargaming is earning some money from World of Tanks enthusiasts. Still, this doesn’t stop it from being one of the best free games right now.

7. Runescape

Runescape is one of the largest free-to-play MMOs available, and now is a good time for a deeper look. In 2013, it entered its third reboot – this is actually 'Runescape 3', although just jumping in now, you may not even realize that it has been around in one form or another for more than 10 years.

Despite the overhaul, it's definitely not the sparkliest MMO in the world, but hanging onto this many players shows it's doing something right. The big change introduced in Runescape 3 that made it appear a lot more updated was the ability to see much further. In Runescape 2, the horizon quickly gave way to fog… not so now.

You can download the game for free or run it in your browser using Java, making it much more convenient than most other online role-players of this enormous scale.

Maplestory scene

(Image credit: Nexon)

8. Maplestory

If you’ve grown tired of the dark fantasy aesthetic of most MMORPGs, you’ll love Maplestory’s creative and inspired flair. Described by Nexon as the original 2D side-scrolling MMO, Maplestory takes the classic Dungeons and Dragons-inspired genre, and makes it kawaii.

The lighter tone and customization of Maplestory makes it feel more like Harvest Moon than World of Warcraft or Rift. And, it has more emphasis on improving aesthetics than many other MMOs, letting players a lot more personalization over how their characters look.

Maplestory even has in-game weddings and dinosaurs that play guitar. Really, the only thing missing from Maplestory is an Oasis-inspired soundtrack.

9. Warframe

If you're into third-person co-operative shooters, Warframe may be one of the best free games available. Players take control of members of the Tenno, an ancient race warring against enemies such as the Grineer, the Corpus, the Infested and the Sentients. Your Tenno soldier uses a Crysis-style Warframe armor equipped with guns or melee weapons to fight back.

Better looking than your usual free-to-play shooter, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Warframe's player-vs-enemy raids – so much so that some gamers see it as, "The Destiny that never was.” High praise all around.

SMITE

(Image credit: Hi-Rez Studios)

10. Smite

Gods from every pantheon come together in Smite to duke it out in a free Dota/MOBA inspired clash. Even though Smite is pretty overt with its influences – it comes from the same developer that brought us the FPS smash Tribes Ascend, it’s still a completely different beast.

The camera is behind the characters this time, which lets you a more direct connection to the action than simply ordering your lord around with a mouse. However, the idea will either be familiar if you've played its inspirations, or a way to get a feel for the style, if you haven't. Gods include Zeus, Thor, Kali, Artemis and... Cupid? Well, at least he has his own bow…

 11. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit 

Life is Strange and its sequel are one of the best modern adventure games on PC. Lucky for us, there’s now a free way to experience this spectacular series. Unveiled back at E3 2018, the Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit puts you in the shoes of 9-year-old Chris as he, and his alter ego, Captain Spirit, go on a grand adventure.

It’s a free-to-play single player adventure game without any kind of monetization – simply a nice prelude into Life is Strange 2. Just don’t go in anticipating the longest gameplay experience in the world, as you’ll likely finish it in just a couple of hours. That still doesn’t stop it from being one of the best free games, however.

Eve Online

12. Eve Online

In 2003, Icelandic developer CCP Games unleashed Eve Online, an immersive and in-depth “sci-fi experience” that would ultimately grab the attention of well over 500,000 players. Eve Online is unlike any game in its category due to the vast range of activities to participate in as well as its (appropriately) out of this world in-game economy.

Unfortunately, the Eve Online player base has been shrinking since 2013. It shouldn’t be surprising that as time goes on, fewer and fewer gamers are interested in paying a subscription fee for a glorified space sim with a steep learning curve. However, since the Ascension Update, released back in November 2016, Eve Online has gone free to play – at least to some extent.

The new ‘alpha clones’ system featured in Eve Online is like the “unlimited free trial” feature in World of Warcraft. You can still engage with other players in piracy, manufacturing, trading, mining, exploration and combat, but there are limitations such as certain skills that are off limits. If you don’t want to limit your access to some of the game’s most lumbering ships, you can always opt for the Omega subscription. Otherwise, the game won’t cost a penny, which is why it makes for one of the best free games to grace the gaming world.

13.  Apex Legends 

To say that Battle Royale games are popular in 2020 would be a massive understatement. However, the level of success that Apex Legends has reached so quickly after launch speaks volumes. It’s certainly earned its spot on this list as one of the best free games. Not only is the game itself incredible, bringing unique mechanics from the awesome Titanfall games to a Battle Royale, but the game itself has reached over a stunning 25 million players after a week.

Apex Legends places 60 players in the middle of a gigantic map, armed with a bunch of unique abilities that make both combat and traversal awfully addicting. It’s not exactly the chaos of 100 player battle royale titles like Fortnite or PUBG, but it feels balanced. If somehow you haven’t joined the Apex Legends bandwagon yet, you’re sorely missing out.

Destiny 2

(Image credit: Bungie)

14. Destiny 2

Though not exactly an open world game, Destiny 2 does follow a similar concept, letting players traipse around freely and going to different locations to pick up quests or just exploring aimlessly. This online multiplayer fps lets you start or join missions, run into your friends, follow around other players, or simply stick to doing whatever it is you feel like, eliminating the bad guys  you encounter. The graphics are pretty good as well; there’s no doubt that this is a AAA-level game that’s only free as it takes advantage of microtransactions. And, the campaign is better this time around.

15. Team Fortress 2

It may be an old vet in gaming terms, but nothing offers such crazy fun as Team Fortress 2. Unlike most shooters of its age, players in this game are still there to have a good time instead of spitting insults at newcomers. And, there's no shortage of cool toys to have fun with. Infinitely silly and incredibly fresh, it's still one of the shooter genre's kings, free-to-play or not. Of course, it makes sense to add it to our best free games 2020 list.

As you might have guessed, there are some micro-transactions included. You can buy additional items, often used to personalize your character. You can even create your own. It's fun, and gets you even more involved in TF2. Those cheeky devils at Valve obviously know what they're doing.

Gwent

(Image credit: CD Projekt)

16. Gwent: The Witcher Card Game

Command an army of Witchers, sorcerers, knights and even monsters, and lead them to an epic battle, using what else but the cards you’re dealt with. This is a card game, after all. Originally a game inside The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Gwent has evolved into a standalone spinoff of the wildly popular fantasy game.

You play against other players online in rounds, and to win each round, you need to gain more points than your opponent. The player that wins two out of three rounds comes out the victor. 

Originally, Gwent was only available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. However, iOS users can now partake.

17. Paladins

It’s not difficult to see why Paladins gets a lot of grief because its similarities to Overwatch. At the same time, the team-based shooter is also decidedly different from that of Blizzard’s. Abilities are upgraded based on a collectible card system, and can entirely change the way each character plays.

What’s more, unlike Overwatch, Paladins is completely free-to-play. While cosmetic items are available to buy using real-world currency, everything else can be unlocked just by playing. For instance, you’ll start Paladins with a single deck of basic cards, and from there, unlock more dramatically impactful decks.

Regardless of how you choose to play Paladins, you’ll get XP as you go. As long as you’re completing the daily quests and achievements featured in the game, you’ll be compensated with Radiant Chests and Gold, which can then be used to purchase more cards, costumes and weapon skins to make your characters more unique and skillful on the battlefield.

Neverwinter

18. Neverwinter

As a free MMO, Neverwinter sets the bar high for itself as it's based on perhaps the most iconic role-playing game of all-time, Dungeons & Dragons. Like everything else in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, the game is set in the Forgotten Realms, specifically, as the name suggests, in Neverwinter.

Touting eight character classes with groups of up to five players supported, Neverwinter is based on the fourth-edition rules of Dungeons & Dragons. However, the rules are somewhat different, as it allows players to heal their allies in addition to allowing for the use of special abilities in combat after racking up enough action points.

19. Dwarf Fortress

Inspiring the creation of Minecraft was no small feat for 2D sandbox game Dwarf Fortress. Dubbed a construction and management simulator, Dwarf Fortress took simple text-based graphics and turned it into a reasonably modern, 2006 piece of software. It’s often deemed a cult classic, thanks to its open-ended nature, and serves as one of the most iconic examples of a procedurally generated roguelike.

This means Dwarf Fortress both randomizes its environments and makes the game's permadeath system a much harder problem to avoid. This led to the unofficial motto for the game "Losing is fun," which was either ironic or an accurate description of what happens in the game. Hard to say either way.

One thing's for sure. If you’d like to play an important part of gaming history, Dwarf Fortress is a solid start. It was even exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City back in 2013. Can't say that for a lot of free-to-play games, making this one of the best free games 2020 has on offer.

Brawlhalla

(Image credit: Brawlhalla)

20. Brawlhalla

Have you been missing out on the action, just watching all your friends play Super Smash Bros Ultimate, because you don’t have a Nintendo Switch? Well, with Brawlhalla you’re in luck. Brawlhalla is a 2-8 player 2D brawler that pulls quite a bit of inspiration from Nintendo’s classic franchise.

And, it pulls it off. It’s an exceedingly fun way to pass a few hours. With an esports league, you can rest assured that you'll always have people to throw down against. It might not quite be the same as playing some Smash on a friend’s couch, but it’s close enough to be worth your time. That’s why Brawlhalla makes it to our list of best free games.

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