Free-to-play games are some of the most popular in the world, but the "free" in their name usually comes with strings attached. F2P games often want you to spend money on items or skins, though you can still enjoy them for dozens or hundreds of hours without spending any money. And it's not hard to find completely free PC games to spend your time with in 2021, either—but which ones are actually worth your time?
The best free PC games are as fun and rewarding as any you'd drop money for. This regularly updated guide to free games includes some of our favorites this month, along with tons of recommendations for small, unique experiences and mammoth F2P games to get lost in.
Our favorite free PC games right now can give you something interesting to check out on a lazy Sunday, while our advice on the best free-to-play games will hopefully help you make the right commitment to a game that can eat up months of your life. Genshin Impact might be the free game for you if you like open world RPGs, but there's also Call of Duty: Warzone, which is currently undergoing a mass zombie outbreak.
Our other favorite free PC games are arranged by genre and tone, like adventure and horror and puzzle. Don't try to play them all—just peruse for the ones that are right for you.
If you're looking for more free games to add to your permanent game library, make sure to check in every week on which games you can grab at no cost on the Epic Games Store and also all the freebies right now available on other sites.
The best free PC games right now
- Blaseball – A massive sports betting simulation that nearly defies explanation, but we did try. A new season started on March 1st.
- Cloud Climber – A short walking sim "about the end of humanity," set on a sequence of wooden towers jutting up into the clouds. Simple, but thoughtful and pretty.
- Loco Motive – A throwback to classic LucasArts point-and-click adventures with a great sense of humor. Solve a murder mystery aboard a train and marvel the pixel art and funny writing while you do.
- NERTS! Online – A competitive solitaire game for up to six players. What's a Nert? I don't know. But NERTS! Online is a new version of a long-running multiplayer solitaire that the game developers at Zachtronics like so much, they made a digital version when Covid-19 meant they couldn't go into the office.
- Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking – More an educational experience about games than a game itself, the digital museum is still a really neat interactive exploration of lockpicking minigames.
- SuchArt: Creative Space – This is just a demo, but a surprisingly fun one that gives you a sandbox and powerful painting tools to go to town with. If you're feeling stir crazy at home, channel that dangerous desire to repaint the whole house with this simulation, first.
- AI Dungeon – A text adventure in your browser where the characters and story are determined in real-time by you and an AI. Things can get really off the rail creating some silly, nonsensical situations.
Best free PC games: Free-to-play
While most of the free games on this list cost absolutely nothing, free-to-play PC games are a bit different. They're supported by in-game microtransactions or updates that might cost something. You don't have to pay, but they're designed to get you to part with your money. But they're also big, frequently updated games that you can keep playing for years, and they're some of the most popular games on PC today for that reason.
The F2P games on this list are good even if you don't spend a penny, and we think they're also worth your most valuable commodity: Time.
Call of Duty: Warzone began life as a side mode to Modern Warfare, but has grown into its own fully fledged battle royale with over 85 million players. If you enjoy CoD's snappy shooting, it's the best game out of the franchise in years (provided you have the hard drive space). Similar to Fortnite, there's always enough to do that you never feel too tempted to spend real money.
Genshin Impact may look a lot like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and it does have similar open-ended exploration. But it's also an intense action-RPG with a ton of characters to collect, and much of the fun is assembling a powerful team with unique elemental abilities that combine in dramatic combos. And there are many, many treasure chests out there to find.
Fortnite really needs no introduction: It's the massive sandbox battle royale, a game that's hosted concerts, Star Wars characters, Marvel superheroes, and so much more. Constant updates keep the world fresh, while Fortnite's combination of building and shooting gives it the competitive depth to stay engaging. It's still the battle royale that all others have to compete against.
Still the digital card game to beat. Like any living online game, Hearthstone has its ups and downs, but each new expansion brings an exciting new meta to come to grips with. You can try to compete with the best and earn the rank of Legend every month, or go crazy in the anything-goes Wild mode, where years of cards are all fair play. There's also quite a good bit of singleplayer content to work through from recent expansions, if that's your preference.
This is a crunchy and detailed Diablo-like with remarkably deep character development and progression systems. It's not the most beautiful action-RPG in the world, but it is engaging and rewarding in the long run. The microtransactions aren't too intrusive either, which makes this a must-try for fans of Diablo 2 and its ilk. 2021 is a great time to play, as Path of Exile has gotten what is likely its last expansion before sequel Path of Exile 2 lands in 2022.
Riot's tactical shooter takes a direct shot at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with a hero-driven spin. For the reasonable price of free, Valorant is a fantastic competitive shooter that you can play for hours. Most of the game's heroes come for free out of the box and the rest can be unlocked for free if play enough. You can skip the unlock process if you drop 10 bucks per hero, but it doesn't feel necessary. Where the game mainly makes its money is cosmetic weapon skins that can range anywhere from $10 to $100. Those prices can get pretty ridiculous, but thankfully, it doesn't get in the way of Valorant's deep, competitive gameplay.
Free classic games
Best free PC games: Classics
The Dark Mod – A tribute to the Thief series, this standalone game lets you download a massive variety of user-made stealth levels, from tightly contained ones like Thief’s Den to the more open variety of Return to the City, and plenty of spooky ones like The Creeps.
The Operative: No One Lives Forever – As it stands, no one can even agree which company owns the rights to this classic stealth FPS, so not only are the chances of a sequel or even a remaster close to nil, there’s nowhere you can even buy the original game. Luckily, you can grab it and its equally worthy sequel for free at this link. Its clever humour and charming 1960s setting hold up nicely, as does its unique spin on the genre – the key to success is creative use of the arsenal of goofy, Bond-esque gadgets at your disposal. That includes lipstick bombs, sleeping gas perfume, and a briefcase rocket launcher.
StarCraft – These days Blizzard sells a shiny remaster, but if the original’s good enough for South Korea, it’s good enough for us. There’s a reason that even today it’s an esports sensation – this iconic RTS remains a triumph of tight strategy and intense competition, with an incredible amount of depth for devotees to get lost in.
The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall – The second Elder Scrolls game is huge and ambitious, with the provinces of High Rock and Hammerfell open to explore. A lot of what became standard for the series, like the option to join the Mages Guild, started here.
Beneath a Steel Sky – This early point-and-click adventure from the creator of Broken Sword features art by Watchmen’s Dave Gibbons, a twisty sci-fi story, and a really goofy sense of humour. One of its neatest ideas is how you can stick your AI pal Joey’s electronic brain into different mechanical robots to solve puzzles. And if you enjoy it, a sequel is currently in development.
The MS-DOS Archive.org library – This recommendation exists outside a genre, because it's a collection of thousands of classic, free PC games playable in your browser. The MS-DOS collection on Archive.org contains more than 4000 games, all emulated and easy to play in just a few seconds. Wolfenstein 3D, Prince of Persia, Jazz Jackrabbit, Carmen Sandiego… you could spend a lifetime of lunch breaks playing these games alone.
Free puzzle games
Best free PC games: Puzzle
Transmute! – A wonderful puzzle game where you play as a wizard who can transform themselves into different objects. You might turn into a key to open a lock, or a boat to sail the open sea. And you’ll do so to unlock a gorgeous, friendly fantasy world.
Mirror Isles – No list of puzzle games is really complete without a PuzzleScript game from Alan Hazelden, and Mirror Isles is one of the very best. It’s a top-down, Sokoban-style puzzler where you have to hop between islands, by using magic mirrors to swap places with your reflection.
Cube Escape – There’s a strange atmosphere to developer Rusty Lake’s series of locked room puzzle games. Getting out of each one will test your brain, but you’ll be even more taxed trying to figure out what’s going on in their bizarre universe.
Corrypt – What starts as a relatively simple block-pushing game ends as one where you’ll reshape the world, by using magic to reprogram the state of the environment.
Counterfeit Monkey – Words are great, aren’t they? They hold power over the world—literally, even, in this text-based puzzle game. You come equipped with a letter remover, which allows you to change the items around you, by deleting a single letter from their names.
Naya's Quest – Naya's Quest was made by VVVVVV and Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh. In case you were wondering: Yes, it is bastard hard, just less stressful on your reflexes. It's an isometric puzzle-platformer about a girl and her pilgrimage to the edge of the world.
The Republia Times – You're the editor of a newspaper in a totalitarian state in this game from the creator of Return of the Obra Dinn. Each day you must choose which stories to run and how much space to give them, impacting your paper's popularity and the government's approval with the general populace. Smart and cynical.
Free horror games
Best free PC games: Horror
No Players Online – In the spooky, original No Players Online, you log onto an old FPS, but where you’re the only player in a futile game of Capture the Flag.
We Are Broken – An interactive visual novel where you must talk your way out of being eaten by a vampire. We Are Broken conjures a dark and cruel world with cutting visuals and music that makes your skin crawl.
Sentient – This one’s a little Saw-esque. You’re stuck in a room and forced to obey instructions given through an old speaker. Being trapped is horrible enough, but what cranks up the creepiness factor here is the dog-flap sized hole looming in the corner of the room, darkness shrouding whatever, or whoever, is inside.
Bleakshore – This chilling adventure uses the fuzzy, lo-fi aesthetic of PS1-era 3D graphics to create an impressively eerie atmosphere as a shadowy figure stalks you across the landscape…
Faith – Faith lures you into feeling secure—if a little jumpy—with its retro aesthetic, before it transcends its limitations in one shockingly scary moment.
David Lynch Teaches Typing – What begins as a friendly typing lesson from film director David Lynch slowly descends into a surreal, disorientating nightmare. David teaches players how to type more efficiently and at one point you have to touch a gross twitching bug. Great work, kiddo!
House of Abandon – This story of a person playing a text adventure takes a sinister turn. Originally standalone, it became the first episode of eerie, atmospheric adventure Stories Untold.
Chyrza – Chyrza’s brand of horror is that unsettling strangeness you get with ruined alien desertscapes and mentions of a strange and terrible pyramid. But it’s not just Chyrza.
Free action & platformer games
Best free PC games: Action & Platformers
1Boss1Battle1Button – This challenging rhythm game pits you against a scary Picasso-faced monster, and your only hopes of survival lie with a single button. Pressing it in time with certain beats lets you jump, crouch, and dodge out of the way of oncoming attacks.
N 2.0 – In this ultra hardcore platformer with simple controls and a minimalist aesthetic, the focus is entirely on quick, precise control. And lots and lots of practice.
The Last Tango – Rhythm espionage survival. You play as two spies, dancing through a variety of deadly locations. They'll pirouette past traps, dodge under attacks, and take down enemies with an elegant twirl. And a gun.
Eggnogg+ – This is Nidhogg, but free, and with different moves, and a bit more tongue-in-cheek. Expect hyperactive duels in a series of arenas.
Cuckoo Curling – A fun four-player game that combines the rules of curling with Connect Four. An easy game to pick up and play with friends, you can play Cuckoo Curling in local or online multiplayer.
First Cut – Flashy fighting games are all well and good, but there’s something satisfying about the one-on-one sword duel, as evidenced in Square’s classic Bushido Blade. First Cut is that but in 2D, essentially, offering feudal Japan-themed duels against some truly beautiful pixel art backdrops.
Best free Story & Adventure games
Best free PC games: Story & Adventure
The Doll Shop – Blending horror with romance, The Doll Shop transports you to a small village, which is being buried under a relentless snowfall. It tells a sinister story involving creepy handmade dolls. The art is sublime and the ending memorable in this handcrafted visual novel.
The Supper – The Supper is a dark story of revenge that brings to mind Sweeney Todd. You play as a peg-legged tavern owner, who has to serve three very special dishes to a trio of horrible pirates, who really should have checked the Food Standards rating first…
Lockheart Indigo – This is a sci-fi detective game that feels a lot like a JRPG. You’ve arrived at a vast mansion to solve the murder of its former owner, but locked doors and suspects stand in your way.
Deltarune: Chapter 1 – This sorta sequel to Undertale is packed with memorable characters, catchy tunes, and emotive dialogue despite being a fraction of its size.
Little Party – The quiet and bittersweet story of a mother trying to reconnect with her daughter. It’s a gentle and funny game about rekindling lost relationships.
Eternal Home Floristry – The tale of a hitman who gets taken in at a flower shop while he recovers from his injuries. The game’s ability to tackle tough topics through the act of gentle flower arrangement is remarkable.
The Herbalist – A wordless adventure about a traveller searching for a mysterious herb. You wander around its strange world trying to interpret symbols, in the hope of discovering the plant you need.
Off-Peak – Stranding you at an otherworldly train station, Off-Peak encourages you to explore, talk to the locals, and luxuriate in its strange atmosphere. It’s got an incredible sense of place, despite feeling like nowhere on Earth, and as you poke around its nooks and crannies, the true nature of its world is revealed piece by piece.
Haunted Cities – There are three volumes worth of Haunted Cities to savour. Despite the name, these aren’t really horror games – they’ve just inherited much of the atmosphere of games such as Silent Hill.
Emily is Away – Party like it’s the early-’00s in this narrative game set in a chat client. You’ll get to know fellow high school student Emily through snippets of online conversations about life, love and indie rock music. If you enjoy this, paid-for sequel Emily is Away Too is worth checking out.
Olav and the Lute – An enigmatic adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic world, with a cracking central mechanic. Rather than combining objects with other objects, you're affecting the world with a lute by plucking at its colour-coded strings.
Best free strategy games
Best free PC games: Strategy
Dwarf Fortress – A complex game of colony management that’s still in development 18 years after its original inception. The incredible depth of its simulation doesn’t just add depth and challenge, it allows for emergent stories to arise as you play, giving your dwarves a life of their own.
Tiny Islands – You’re drawing maps of little islands in the sea here, by placing beaches, houses, even waves as random cards are dealt out to you. But placement is everything, as every icon has its own set of rules.
Brogue – ASCII roguelikes have a reputation for being impenetrable. Brogue, despite staying true to the genre, works hard to feel approachable. The controls make navigating its dungeons a breeze, and the elegant shading makes its symbols atmospheric and readable.
Terra Nil – Terra Nil begins at the ultimate end of civilisation, letting you breathe life back into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In this relaxing, therapeutic anti-builder, you construct devices to cleanse the earth, and to regrow green plants and trees.
Best free chill games
Best free PC games: Chill and relaxing
Toripon – You’re stuck inside your flat, thankfully with company. Instead of friends, your companions here are loads and loads of birds. Don’t look a gift parakeet in the mouth. Just sit back and explore your apartment, examining every nook and every crevice for your feathered friends.
Bernband – You’re an alien in an alien city, going for a nice walk. Flying cars BladeRunner past as you cross a bridge, someone’s rapping in the corner of the car park, and every crowd hubbubs away. Despite the four-fingered hands and alien aviary, it feels like a real city. A real chill city.
Lieve Oma – Lieve Oma takes you on a relaxing jaunt through an autumnal wood on the hunt for mushrooms. As you scamper around, your granny follows slowly behind, teaching you about which mushrooms are okay to eat and teaching you her humble life lessons.
Forest Are For Trees – Walking through the forest is something that takes on new meaning in this mind-expanding exploration game, which is small and possibly infinite all at once. It’s a walking sim, sort of, where you traipse around an eerie woodland. But something funny happens when you make contact with a tree. Inside every tree there’s another forest full of ghostly trees.
Best weird and funny games
Best free PC games: Comedy and Oddity
Everything Is Going To Be Okay – Vividly animated creatures deal with existential horror and pain—and are alarmingly sanguine about it—in this cathartic collection of minigames, videos, and quizzes. It’s overwhelming, just as life can be overwhelming. But it’s refreshing for a game to deal with that fact.
Pet the Pup at the Party – You’ve run out of small talk at a rambunctious house party and before anyone notices how awkward you are, you must find a pooch and pet it.
Head Over Hooves: My Heart Bleats For You – An apocalyptic dating sim where you must make a goat fall in love with you and then sacrifice it to save the world from eternal damnation.
Alfonso's Bowling Challenge – This sort-of sports game swerves away from its premise quickly, building on its strange version of bowling until you’re making breakfast and chopping hair with your bowling ball.
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist – This team-up of The Stanley Parable creator William Pugh and stand-up comedian Simon Amstell takes you on a hilarious journey behind the scenes of a game falling apart at the seams.
The Book Of Beasts and Buddies – An interactive monster manual filled with curious creatures. Each page throws you into a brief Pokémon-inspired encounter, and through interacting with them you can gather your findings for the bestiary.
Cooldog Teaches Typing – There are plenty of educational game parodies, but only one features a chihuahua-looking thing as the teacher. If you learned to type by having a teacher shout at you, you’ll appreciate the gentler methods of Cooldog.
Stick Shift – As creator Robert Yang says, "Stick Shift is an autoerotic night-driving game about pleasuring a gay car." It’s part of an anthology with Hurt Me Plenty and Succulent, covering eroticism, politics and more. Stick Shift is funny while also offering food for thought.
Skeal – Recommending Skeal is a tough job because the absolute best experience is to go in with zero idea of what to expect. To that end, it’s a downhill skiing experience which becomes transcendental the longer you ski and the more reveals you trigger as the jape unfurls.