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The rise of digital downloads has made it easier than ever for developers to distribute their games without a price tag. Without the costs associated with producing cartridges or discs, studios can offer their games up for free. This means you, the player, can download tons of free games to your system to play without a cost.
But not every “free” game is created equal. Some rely heavily on IAPs or downloadable content, and don’t actually offer a great deal without the player putting down some cold hard cash. We’ve picked the best titles that will all give you plenty of fun for free.
Here are six great picks if you’re looking for a free game to play on your Xbox One.
1. Phantom Dust
Originally released for the Xbox, fans of this card-based action strategy title were delighted to hear word of a multiplayer-centric reboot back in 2014. Phantom Dust was a cult classic, but it wasn’t a big success in terms of sales. Thus, many didn’t expect to see any kind of follow-up ever come to pass.
Unfortunately, the reboot hit a few hurdles, and it ended up in development hell. However, there was better news at E3 2016. Microsoft confirmed that a fully-fledged remake of the original game was in production for the Xbox One.
The finished product ended up launching in June 2017 for free. However, players have to pay $14.99 to gain full access to all of its multiplayer content. Still, if you’re looking for a single-player campaign and you don’t want to pay a dime, you could do far worse than Phantom Dust.
Killer Instinct was a launch title for the Xbox One. Over the course of three seasons helmed by two different developers, it’s grown much bigger and better in the four years since its debut. The sequel picks up where the classic fighting game series left off, offering up huge combos and enormously entertaining online multiplayer battles.
The game’s cast has swelled over the course of its lifespan, and now features guests like Arbiter from the Halo series and General RAAM from Gears of War. They battle alongside the larger-than-life fighters from previous installments in the franchise. A rotating selection of characters is always available for players to try for free. When you know who your favorites are, you can buy them individually or as part of a bundle.
Killer Instinct is a great choice for anyone who wants to get into the fighting game genre but doesn’t know where to start. It has an excellent tutorial, which starts off with basic inputs and leads players all the way through advanced strategies like cross-ups and feints.
Looking for an action-packed FPS that you can play for free? Look no further than Hawken. The game see players pilot enormous mechs to battle one another across competitive and cooperative game types.
As you might imagine, the free-to-play elements of this game are tied to mech customization. There are thirty different mechs to choose from, and a whole host of upgrades and weapons to tailor them to your play style. You can pay for these items with Mech Credits, which cost real money. Hawken Credits, which you earn via gameplay, also work.
Hawken is a satisfying FPS that stands up to long gameplay sessions. There’s a multitude of modes and maps, and a satisfying progression system. So if you’re looking for a game for the long haul, this is a title to check out.
When it comes to digital collectible card games, Blizzard’s Hearthstone (our complete guide) is still the gold standard. However, it can be difficult to build a competitive deck at this point in the game’s lifespan, making for a frustrating experience for new players. You can’t say the same for CD Projekt Red’s Gwent.
Gwent originally appeared as a side activity in the studio’s critically acclaimed The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Players loved the card game so much that it sprouted off into its own standalone experience. It arrived with plenty of online multiplayer options and plans for a single-player campaign.
At the moment, Gwent is on offer as a preview of the full experience. But there’s already lots to do, with dozens of cards to collect across five different faction-themed decks. Players can use real money to pay for card packs, but it’s also possible to earn in-game currency if you play well enough.
Path of Exile first launched for PC in 2013, and its roots on that platform are clear. This is a top-down action RPG in the vein of games like Diablo and Neverwinter Nights, but it’s been lovingly ported to the Xbox One with a control scheme that translates quite well.
You’ll spend most of your time leveling up your character, making your way through upgrade trees, and searching for fresh loot. This is a game where different players can end up with entirely different sets of abilities depending on how they choose to approach combat and questing. So there’s plenty of scope for replay value if you’re hooked by the core gameplay loop.
Path of Exile largely limits its in-app purchases to cosmetic items, but there are a few features locked behind a paywall. For instance, you’ll need to lay down some cash if you want to utilize its semi-automated public trading system, or gain extra character slots. However, there’s a lot of content on offer here if you just want to play for free.
The hero shooter genre is huge at the moment, thanks in no small part to the enormous success of Overwatch. However, that’s not to say that Blizzard’s exemplary FPS is the only game of its kind that’s worth playing.
Gigantic pits teams of five against one another in exciting, strategic combat. Here, the twist is that each team fights alongside an enormous Guardian. The key to victory is destroying your opponents’ Guardian while preserving the safety of your own, which isn’t as easy as it seems. There’s as much influence from the MOBA genre here as there is from hero shooter games, and it makes for an experience that’s much more tactical than its rather cutesy graphics might suggest.
In-app purchases include bundles of characters and skins, and in-game currency that you can use to buy that content piecemeal. It’s entirely possible to grind out enough currency just from playing the game to unlock the whole cast, but it might take a while.
Hours of Xbox One Fun for Free
These six games let you enjoy hours of fun on your Xbox One without paying a cent. And they aren’t second-rate experiences, either. No matter your favorite genre, you can fill in time between this year’s big releases by enjoying free titles.
If your console is filling up with all these games, you should look into buying an Xbox One external hard drive.