Want to play great games without paying a cent? Then you have two options. You can take the illegal route and resort to internet piracy for video games, or you can stay within the law and settle for free-to-play games, freebie deals, and giveaways.
This sounds like a huge compromise, but it really isn’t. There are tons of excellent free games out there, and there are enough of them that you won’t run out of games to play any time soon. Some premium AAA games from 5-10 years ago are also available for free now as well.
Will you be able to legally download mainstream games like Civilization V, Grand Theft Auto V, or Destiny 2 for free? Probably not. But I guarantee that you’ll find at least one legally free game you’ll enjoy using the sites below.
Steam is the go-to destination for digital games. Even though Valve’s customer support is often crappy and you’re banking on the hope that Steam will be around for years to come, many users feel that Steam’s massive video game selection is worth the risks.
For free games, stick to the Free to Play section of Steam. You can filter by genre, by category, by features, and by operating system. You can also view by New Releases, Most Popular, and Coming Soon. Or you can narrow it down with a search term.
As of this writing, the Free to Play section on Steam has just shy of 3,200 games. Even if you gave each game only one hour of your time, that’d still amount to 133 full days of entertainment—and many of these games are fantastic, including Dota 2, Paladins, Brawlhalla, Duelyst, Path of Exile, and Warframe.
You can also check out the Demos section of Steam, which currently has over 2,400 demo games that you can try to see if the full game is worth spending money on.
Up until the indie games renaissance of the late 2000s, indie games had a terrible reputation for being buggy, ugly, and boring. They were good as filler games to play when you needed to kill time between “real” games, and that was about it.
Nowadays, indie games are some of the best games around. Think about Undertale, Path of Exile, Braid, Spelunky, and The Binding of Isaac—all games made by single developers or small development teams.
And we’re starting to see more high-quality indie games hit the market, which is why itch.io is such an awesome platform. It specializes in indie games, both paid and free, and has grown quite a bit since its debut in 2013.
The Free section of itch.io has over 126,000 titles. Not all of them are good, of course, but there are plenty of diamonds to find in the rough. If you’re tired of big game studios killing the industry, these indie games may be perfect for reigniting your love for gaming.
There are many reasons why you might not want to buy games on Steam, but the biggest reason is that Steam games have DRM. If Steam ever shuts down or bans your account for whatever reason, you’ll lose access to all the games you’ve bought.
Which is why a lot of gamers prefer to use GOG over Steam whenever the situation allows for it. GOG is a game distribution platform like Steam, but all of its games are DRM-free—your games aren’t linked to your GOG account, so even if GOG shuts down, you’ll still have access to the games you downloaded. Most of the games on GOG are also playable on Linux, which is a nice bonus if you’re into that sort of thing.
The downside is that GOG’s library size doesn’t even come close to what Steam offers. GOG’s total library size is just over 2,700 games, and the Free section on GOG only contains about 70 games as of this writing. GOG is better if you have some cash to spare because its Under $5 section has way more games.
4. Twitch Prime
Twitch Prime is one of the many awesome benefits of an Amazon Prime membership. Of course, Amazon Prime itself isn’t free—but if you’re already subscribed for other reasons, then Twitch Prime is essentially a free benefit that you can take advantage of.
In this case, the benefit of Twitch Prime is that commercial games are made free to download every month.
These are always limited-time offers, so you’ll need to check in every so often and claim the free games as they’re made available. Past games that were once available include Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Psychonauts, SteamWorld Dig 2, Shadow Tactics, Superhot, and more.
Other Free and Legal Options for Games
Maybe you aren’t satisfied with the platforms above, and that’s fine. There are a handful of other ways to find high-quality games that won’t cost anything to download and play—they just won’t be as straightforward to acquire.
I recommend starting with the Wikipedia page on commercial games released as freeware. Sort by year to find the recent ones (older games may not be compatible with modern operating systems). I also recommend /r/FreeGames and /r/FreeGamesOnSteam on Reddit for all kinds of freebie offers and deals.
And lastly, if you’re okay with almost-free-but-not-quite, then you should check out the Humble Store, which has a bunch of discounted games, and the Humble Bundle, which is a monthly pay-what-you-want bundle of premium games. Both provide DRM-free games!
Wondering which games to begin with? Try a few from our roundup of the best free PC games!