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The best free-to-play games to try in 2024

Here are some good games for you to play without the need to splash the cash.

Update: We're now a few months into 2024 and have started to see a whole crop of great new free games becoming available, so we added our favourites so far!

Gaming is a pricey hobby, but not every game comes with an up-front cost — and indeed, the best free-to-play games never require you to spend a single penny of your own cash in order to enjoy them to the fullest.

When we say free-to-play, we don't just mean whatever free game is up for grabs on the Epic Games Store this month. These are all purpose-built games which either include in-game purchases or a premium subscription instead of an upfront cost.

But while some free-to-play titles may not have the best of reputations, or try to entice you to spend more real money than you would have spent buying a game anyway, there are also plenty of free games that’ll keep you entertained for hours, days, and even weeks without having to pay a penny.

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These games are especially good for when you want to experience a new genre, developer, or style of game without spending any money first, and fortunately, there’s a free-to-play game for every type of player. Whether it’s fragging out in Counter Strike, trading Pokemon cards, exploring the world of an MMO like RuneScape or diving into RPG quests with Genshin Impact, there’s no doubt something out there for everyone - and it's free.

What’s even better is that many of these free-to-play games mentioned below should be capable of running on most gaming PCs, with plenty of these titles being available on iOS, Android and consoles too! While we can’t fit every great free-to-play title on this list, and we’ve tried to spread the choices between genres, and there’s even more honourable mentions for you to check out. Be sure to let us know your favourites, too!


Counter-Strike 2

  • Release: 2023
  • Developer: Valve, Hidden Path Entertainment
  • Platforms: PC, Linux

It's been a bit of a bumpy ride for Counter-Strike 2 since it swallowed the original Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in September 2023. While it definitely delivers on the promise of updated visuals, weapons, maps and interfaces, the issues of lag and cheaters persist.

A team of five operators huddle together at the end of a match in Counter-Strike 2
Image credit: Valve

However, with that said, when you find it on form Counter-Strike 2 offers the same kind of hyper-competitive FPS magic it always did. With a seemingly simple gameplay loop to start, this is an endlessly complex game to master, with a dynamic and ever-changing meta of strategies and loadouts to dive into.

Because multiplayer is always fresh and exciting, you could play Counter-Strike 2 every single day, for the low-low price of free, and not get bored - and millions of people do.

Valorant

  • Release: 2020
  • Developer: Riot Games
  • Platforms: PC

Valorant is what I’d argue to be a blend of Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Apex Legends. It borrows CS:GO’s format and combines it with the hero-shooter elements and general vibrancy of Apex. So, if the 5v5 format appeals to you, but the realistic environment of CS:GO doesn’t, Valorant is a safe bet.

Key artwork for Valorant map, PEARL.

Valorant is another tactical shooter packed with heroes to play as. Choose your agent, and then prepare to plant or defuse a bomb while taking out the enemy team in the process. The shooter is just over two years old, has an active community and esports scene, and continues to keep growing.

Similarly to CS:GO, you’ll simply need to steer clear of the store of weapon cosmetics if you wish to resist spending any money.

Apex Legends

  • Release: 2019
  • Developer: Respawn Entertainment
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS

Apex Legends is for those of us who fancy utilising the abilities of various heroes and legends in combat, but while in the battle royale format. You can claim victory in Apex as either a trio or a duo, or even put your trio to the test in the 3v3 Arenas.

Like Valorant, Apex Legends is still a relatively new shooter from the team that created Titanfall 2. The FPS first launched in 2019, but its player base has continued to grow ever since as the game continues to revitalise the genre.

This particular shooter isn’t exclusive to PC, either, which is a grand positive. Not only is the game available across consoles with cross-play between them and PC available, but you can even dive into the action on mobile devices. Although, cross-play between mobile and consoles or PC isn’t available, as you’d expect.

Spelunky Classic

  • Release: 2008
  • Developer: Mossmouth, LLC
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, ChromeOS

Spelunky, one of the best platformers of its time, still remains free 14 years later. It also still remains a pretty good platformer, if that’s more your ballpark than FPS titles.

Throughout the 8-bit inspired title, you play as a spelunker exploring various cave systems, doing everything a spelunker should do: collecting treasure, rescuing damsels in distress, battling with enemies, and cleverly avoiding traps.

A player manoeuvres a procedurally generated level in Spelunky Classic

What’s even more impressive from this 2008 2D title is that all of its caves are procedurally generated. So, if you played Spelunky back in the day, your run right now will be entirely unique from your run back in 2008 or after! There are also plenty of monsters to come face to face with, including bats, ghosts, and my personal favourite enemy in any scenario ever, man-eating plants.

Splitgate

  • Release: 2019
  • Developer: 1047 Games
  • Platforms: PC, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

Splitgate feels a lot like if you combined Portal with Halo, or any other out-of-this-world FPS title. What does this mean? Well, imagine being dropped into an arena where you must fight with other players, but there are portals to use to your advantage too.

It’s incredibly satisfying, and landing those stealthy shots before hopping through your portal and retreating to safety feels almost like bad manners, but that’s exactly how Splitgate should be played. With the portal mechanic, there are tonnes of opportunities to sneak around and take on opponents, leading to an FPS that feels incredibly distinctive.

If you don’t fancy trying out combat in the sci-fi FPS right away, there’s also a fun race mode that I’ve spent a lot more time playing than the actual game itself. No guns necessary, this mode has you using your portals to navigate a map and collect disco balls as quickly as possible. It’s some great head-empty fun trying to chase those near-impossible world records, if I say so myself.

Rocket League

  • Release: 2015
  • Developer: Psyonix
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Rocket League is another title that wasn’t free-to-play initially, and it certainly benefited from dropping the price tag. It has never personally been my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had fun with the football-meets-racing title.

Two players chase the ball in Rocket League

While you’d never catch me riding solo, pairing up with a pal to score goals while manoeuvring a racecar is where I find most of the fun to be had. Mainly because it’s amusing to me just how awful I am at it, and then even more comical when I somehow manage to accidentally score a goal. Usually an own-goal, might I add.

The games themselves are just the right length for you to easily step in and out of Rocket League, and it’s perhaps the perfect game for killing off some spare time. The game itself is easily approachable and great for clowning around, or you can get even more competitive and see just how skilled at Rocket League you truly are!

League of Legends

  • Release: 2009
  • Developer: Riot Games
  • Platforms: PC, Mac

League of Legends marks yet another appearance for Riot Games on this list, who has an every-growing list of free-to-play multiplayer games under its belt. The MOBA title takes inspiration from WarCraft 3 to offer players a tactical experience that feels a little more approachable than Dota 2 - which appears on this list shortly!

Zed from League of Legends.

You’ve a roster of heroes to pick from, which can be expanded upon through purchases with real money or an earnable in-game currency known as IP, all of which offer their own unique perks and abilities. In this 5v5, League welcomes new players to the MOBA genre, but that doesn’t mean the tactical title is easy.

You won’t become a Grandmaster or Challenger overnight, but League of Legends does promise you some MOBA fun for trying. That’s if you play alongside friends, though, as League is privy to plenty of issues with in-game toxicity from players (which Riot is working on via honour rewards and more).

Fall Guys

  • Release: 2020
  • Developer: Mediatonic
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch

Fall Guys only recently went free-to-play, and what a good decision that was. While there were plenty of issues at first due to the unprecedented amount of players, all the creases have since been ironed, and we can all go back to being clumsy beans.

Fall Guys' artwork for Season 6 featuring beans in new cosmetics stumbling along an assault course.

The party game drops you into a nefarious course that you must race to the end of. Either solo, or as a squad, you must run and bump your way to victory. It’s outlandish and silly, but it’s so much fun, both alone and with friends.

If you need something colourful that almost any friend can easily join you on - thanks to cross-platform play - Fall Guys is the best game to take a tumble with… literally.

The Sims 4 (base game)

  • Release: 2014
  • Developer: Maxis
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

The Sims 4 base game has come a long way since its release in 2014, thanks to monthly content updates that aim not just to fix bugs but also to add completely new features. In fact, it's fair to say that even without any paid add-ons, the vanilla game has changed almost beyond recognition in the decade since its initial launch. Popular basic features carried over from new expansion packs, new items and options to reflect a broader range of cultures and identities, and various quality-of-life tweaks are just some of the base game additions that have extended this iteration of the blockbuster life sim long beyond the lifespans of its predecessors.

A group of Sims chatting in a modern living room setting.
Image credit: Maxis / Electronic Arts

Although buying all the expansion packs and add-ons would set you back the best part of a grand, The Sims 4 did try to mitigate the series' reputation for being a money-sink in October 2022, when the base game became free-to-play on all platforms. EA have taken to intermittently giving away some of the older DLC for free for limited periods, too, so it's possible to expand your collection without forking out the cash if you keep a close eye on the current deals.

The Sims 5 (a.k.a. Project Rene) is now in the works, and is heavily rumoured to be the series' first free-to-play-at-launch base game. But with the confirmation that The Sims 4 will continue to be developed alongside its long-awaited successor in some form or other — and with no confirmed release window for TS5 just yet — The Sims 4 retains its crown as the go-to free-to-play sandbox life sim.

War Thunder

  • Release: 2012
  • Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

War Thunder is a vehicular combat multiplayer game that lets you take your pick of war-era vehicles that grace the land, air, and sea and go to battle in them. If you feel like sailing in a pre-World War I vessel, driving tanks from the Spanish Civil War, or battling it out in a fighter jet, this one’s for you.

While the game initially focused on simulation back in the early 2010s, it has since evolved into something full of explosions and excitement for many. Whether you’re a full-blown aviation enthusiast or simply want to try out some military vehicles in a multiplayer environment, War Thunder boasts over a thousand aircraft, land vehicles, and vessels to test out.

As far as free to play games go, War Thunder boasts a lot of content for no cost at all; you can play out fast-paced arcade battles, realistic battles, or simulator battles which, in a way, are actually a lot more realistic than the realistic battles themselves. There are also plenty of events to take part in when you’ve some time away from trying out every vehicle, too!

Dota 2

  • Release: 2013
  • Developer: Valve
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

Dota 2 is yet another MOBA that takes inspiration from WarCraft 3, and it pits two teams of five against one another as they battle it out to destroy the enemy team's base. It’s a format that you’re no doubt familiar with, but Dota 2 certainly does its best to challenge players as much as possible.

Medusa from DOTA 2

Amidst the battle and your bid to destroy your enemies base, you must also deal with waves of enemy creatures, making teamwork of the essence. Dota 2 may seem daunting on the whole, and it hosts a steep learning curve if you haven’t played a MOBA before, but there’s still room for newcomers.

As one of the most popular games on Steam, and one of the most popular in terms of the esports team, Dota 2 and its community show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. So, if you want a title you fancy committing to, Dota 2 may be it!

Path of Exile

  • Release: 2013
  • Developer: Grinding Gear Games
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Path of Exile is an action-adventure RPG treat for anyone interested in dark fantasy. While it definitely bears some resemblances to the Diablo series, Path of Exile acts as a form of spiritual successor to the series in a way.

A player battles with enemy NPCs in Path of Exile

Choose from seven classes and start your life as an exile on the continent of Wraeclast and battle your way back home to Oriath. As you do so, you’ll be tasked with taking on ancient Gods across the continent in dungeons, caves, or outdoor arenas.

Path of Exile is packed to the brim with free content, plenty of replayability, and is also entirely free-to-play with no pay-to-win opportunities available; that means no in-game purchases or monetisation whatsoever, making the game accessible and approachable to every type of player!

Team Fortress 2

  • Release: 2007
  • Developer: Valve
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Team Fortress 2 will go down in history as one of the first and best multiplayer shooters of all time. The game as we know it now was initially born from a 1996 mod for Quake before being made into Team Fortress Classic in 1999. Now, we have TF2, which continues with more class-bassed shoot-outs.

A player being killed by an enemy player in Team Fortress 2

The game is wholly praised for just about everything, excluding its current bot problems which Valve are - finally - addressing, meaning it’s still well worth jumping into TF2 today. I fondly remember TF2 being my first ever experience with a shooter on PC, and while my aim still leaves more to be desired years later, TF2 felt like a lively place to start.

It’s one of those titles that every player should try at least once, even if shooter titles aren’t necessarily your thing, TF2 might surprise you with its charm. Or it’s character customisation if you’re also a sucker for that!

Guild Wars 2

  • Release: 2012
  • Developer: ArenaNet
  • Platforms: PC

Guild Wars 2 is an expansive MMORPG that just recently came to Steam, which takes you away to the vast expanse of Tyria. In this fantasy world, you must reunite the disbanded members of the Destiny’s Edge, a guild dedicated to fighting the colossal Elder Dragons that are taking over Tyria.

Two characters engage in combat in Guild Wars 2.

Guild Wars 2 is a free MMORPG, but there is a slight catch; you can’t install the standalone game, sadly, and can only install it while simultaneously purchasing one of the game's DLCs. You can pick up the game alongside the Path of Fire and Heart or Thornes DLCs for £25.99/$29.99 if you fancy it.

Alternatively, there’s a few other free MMORPG options on this list, but let’s not also forget Final Fantasy XIV, which is incredibly welcoming to newcomers, and free for your first 30 days before you will then need to commit to a monthly subscription.

RuneScape

  • Release: 2001
  • Developer: Jagex
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android

You most likely already know what RuneScape is. It’s the largest MMORPG out there, and while it started as a browser game back in 2001, it continues to live on with a mass of dedicated players and newcomers still flocking to the game.

A screenshot from Old School RuneScape

The game was remade in 2013 as RuneScape 3, offering players overhauled combat and improved graphics. Many players still prefer to play the old-school version, where fighting using abilities is not a thing, and idle-tasks are aplenty.

Both RS3 and Old School RuneScape aren’t the flashiest MMOs you could come across, especially when the likes of Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV look outstanding, but don’t be dissuaded by this. RuneScape has a mountain of content to keep you busy, and it’s completely free. There are no doubts that it’ll continue to be updated for a long time to come, too!

Genshin Impact

  • Release: 2020
  • Developer: miHoYo
  • Platforms: PC, iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5

Perhaps one of the most popular and approachable gacha games of all time is Genshin Impact. Yes, if you’ve heard of Genshin but are yet to try it, you’ve also no doubt heard that there are microtransactions. Your hard-earned Primogems - used to roll for various heroes in the game - can also be purchased outright and so forth.

Klee from Genshin Impact catching fish

Now that that’s out of the way, Genshin Impact is a rather fruitful albeit pocket-sized RPG adventure that proves to be pretty fun without needing to spend a penny. As you level your character and unlock more, you put together the perfect team of four to take on the lands which are packed with quests, ruins, and monsters to engage with.

Each character and region comes with its own stories for you to enjoy, and honestly, whether you’re embarking on the main story or simply roaming around aimlessly, the world of Teyvat has lots to do and see, and farming artefacts and the likes alongside friends feels very wholesome.

If you prefer space-faring, Hoyoverse also treated us to Honkai Star Rail (see below). This game is also free-to-play, very similar in both style and feel to Genshin Impact, and will see you venturing across various planets via the Astral Express, too. If I say so myself, the writing in Honkai Star Rail is miles better (and more amusing) than Genshin Impact, too, so I recommend giving it a go!

Phantasy Star Online 2

  • Release: 2021
  • Developer: Sega
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Phantasy Star Online 2 is intriguing, because the game initially released in 2012 in Japan. It wasn't until 2021 when an all-new game that borrowed from the original, Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, was released worldwide.

A player walks away from an explosion in Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis

It’s another MMORPG, but the difference is that levelling up can prove to be quite the challenge. After having chosen from the nine classes on offer and sculpting your character, you’re thrown into the ambitious open-world of Halpha where combat is at the forefront of your gameplay.

There are quests to embark on and NPC’s to interact with, but Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis is all about the action as you try to overcome the Dolls.

Hearthstone

  • Release: 2014
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, Android

Hearthstone is Blizzard’s gargantuan online card-game, and if you’re tempted to try it, just be aware that you’re likely to become hooked. Forget about one more match of League or Valorant, or spending the evening with World of Warcraft, you’ll be vying to play more Hearthstone instead. Conveniently, the card game is also set in the Warcraft universe.

In Hearthstone, you’ll build a deck of 30 cards with a particular hero and their power in mind, then you’ve also got a limited amount of mana to carefully use on abilities, or to summon the likes of minions. It’s easy to pick up, but you’ll have your work cut out for you if you’re adamant on being the best.

What’s also great about Hearthstone is the fact that most rigs can run it. It’s only downfall, however, is that to build a strong deck to battle it out with, you may have to make a few in-game purchases before you’re happy. Alternatively, Pokémon Trading Card Game Online is free and without microtransactions, so you can get a card-game fix from that without spending a penny, if needs be.

Pokémon Unite

  • Release: 2021
  • Developer: TiMi Studio Group
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android

Pokémon Unite is a MOBA game for Switch and mobile that pits two teams of five against one another. Rather than battle it out with each other, you and your team must battle with NPC trainers to collect points, and ultimately, whichever team has the most points after ten minutes is hailed the winner.

Players start their game of Pokemon Unite

It’s a simple premise that can provide a lot of fun. Each map is privy to its own ‘mons, and you’ll be able to witness yours grow in strength as matches progress, too. If you’re into Pokémon and like the idea of battling alongside others, this is a must-try, which can conveniently be played on mobile, too.

MultiVersus

  • Release: 2022
  • Developer: Player First Games
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

MultiVersus is the free, cross-platform spiritual sibling of sorts to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. In my personal opinion, it’s nowhere near as good, but it still puts fighting game fun on the table and covers it in sprinkles. It’s vibrant, full of memorable characters, and it’s far from boring.

MultiVersus characters Harley Quinn, Jake the Dog, Arya Stark, and Batman are in a 2v2.

As you might’ve already anticipated from the comparison with Smash Bros, MultiVersus is a platform fighter that can be played as a 1v1, 2v2, or even a free-for-all if you fancy. The roster of characters you get to pick from consist of various familiar faces from Warner Bros. various franchises. This includes Superman, Wonder Woman, Iron Giant, Jake the Dog, Shaggy, Velma, and even Morty Smith.

It might not appeal to every fan of fighting games, but there’s something deeply satisfying about witnessing Shaggy beat up Velma that you can’t experience anywhere else. That, and the toasting mechanic is pretty cool.

The open beta for Multiversus has gone offline now, but it's supposed to make a return for its full release in 2024. This is all a bit weird considering that Player First Games had already sold battle passes, skins, and the like during the beta, but on the plus side, you can still play the game in solo training and local PVP modes in the meantime.

Doki Doki Literature Club!

  • Release: 2017
  • Developer: Team Salvato
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

This wouldn’t be a complete list if I didn’t mention at least one game that’s guaranteed to creep you out. It’s hard to speak about what Doki Doki Literature Club entails without spoiling the game, but let’s set the scene.

In DDLC, you’re cast in the role of a teenage boy whose neighbour — his childhood best friend and archetypal girl-next-door — has cajoled him into joining their school’s literature club. At first glance it appears that this game is a fairly straightforward dating sim, especially as the other four club members are all girls who want to share their poetry with the main character.

A notebook open to a page with a series of random words written in two columns, from which the player assembles a "poem". On the left-hand page are chibi stickers of three of DDLC's main characters (Sayori, Natsuki, and Yuri).
Image credit: Team Salvato

However, Doki Doki Literature Club is far from what it seems. I really don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who’s somehow made it this far without hearing about what DDLC entails, but I will say one thing: it takes an incredibly dark turn about halfway though, and somehow things just keep getting more twisted from there. I may have just warned you about it, but believe me, everything grim happening still comes as a shock in Doki Doki Literature Club.

If you end up falling in love, 2021 saw a paid re-release called Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! for PC and consoles that included brand-new side-stories and other expanded materials, plus collectables if you buy it physically. I recommend checking out the free version first to see if it's for you, but if you end up wanting more, it's worth knowing that you don't have to wait to see if Team Salvato ever decide to make that sequel.

Overwatch 2

  • Release: 2022
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch

Now, we've already paid attention to shooters such as CS:GO, Valorant, and Apex Legends, but what about Blizzard's free-to-play FPS, Overwatch 2?

You'll have no doubt heard of Overwatch 2, or at the very least, heard all about how fans were unhappy with its in-game monetisation. That said, if you fancy a 6v6 hero shooter and are capable of ignoring cosmetics, Overwatch 2 does boast a rather fun array of characters and game modes to get stuck into.

Fortnite

  • Release: 2017
  • Developer: Epic Games
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Mobile

Now, Fortnite might have a reputation that precedes it, and you might hate the idea of being stomped on by a bunch of zoomers, but Fortnite is great. In this battle-royale, you can simply shoot and loot your way to the centre of the island and claim victory. And if this format doesn't necessarily appeal to you, Fortnite has an array of games made by other users in its Creator Studio.

Fortnite-chapter-2-season-3-art

I, personally, avoided Fortnite for a very long time. When I actually gave the game a go, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much fun is it, and how much there actually is to do in this battle-royale other than hunt other players. I wasn't alone, either, with Sherif sharing that he hates just how much fun he is having with Fortnite.

Teamfight Tactics

  • Release: 2019
  • Developer: Riot Games
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, Android

Teamfight Tactics doesn't even need installing if you already have League of Legends installed. On the other hand, this also means you have to install League of Legends to play it. You could think of it as a League-themed minigame of sorts, but TFT is much more fun than that, even if you're not familiar with Riot's famous MOBA.

This round-based strategy game is basically what would happen if you mixed a trading card game with auto-chess, somewhat. In a battle between eight people, you must use the units available (LoL characters), powerful items, and more, to divise a team that synergises well together and ultimately wins the fight.

Image credit: Riot Games

TFT is a fantastic game to play casually, competitively, or against friends, but do bear in mind that there's quite the learning curve, especially if you're not used to League's array of characters and their capabilties. There's also no in-game purchases for anything except cosmetics (I can't get enough of those adorable Little Legends), so while your battle may be privy to the woes of RNG, you definitely don't need to worry about players that pay-to-win.

Honkai: Star Rail

  • Release: 2023
  • Developer: HoYoverse
  • Platforms: PC, iOS, Android, PlayStation 5

Genshin Impact's little sister Honkai: Star Rail probably would have won more recognition as genuinely one of the best games of 2023, if only it hadn't continued HoYoverse's tradition of making excellent RPGs with appalling monetisation strategies. But if you have a soft spot for anime-style games and are immune to the temptations of loot boxes, you should consider giving HSR a go. Despite technically being the fourth entry into HoYoverse's long-running Honkai series, Star Rail is an extremely accessible starting point, following one of Honkai Impact 3rd's supporting characters into an alternate universe where both he and the audience can begin with a fresh slate.

Image showing Honkai Star Rail characters March 7th, Himeko and Dan Heng aboard the Astral Express.
Image credit: HoYoverse

Star Rail also breaks HoYoverse's long-running ARPG tradition, switching up into turn-based combat while sticking with the elemental powers that are the developer's signature. The result is a combat system that's at least as satisfying if not more so, but without some of the frustrations that come with Genshin's ambitious open world. Long story short, if you prefer to execute considered moves for maximum strategic effect over pulling off flashy combos in real-time, this game might be for you even if you've bounced off HoYo's previous offerings.

Story-wise, Star Rail's a treat for fans of space opera, following the adventures of a ragtag crew turned found family who travel the universe together on a starship themed after an old-timey steam engine. Its persisting core cast makes it feel cosier than Genshin, even with a new playable unit dropping every few weeks, making it easier to ignore the gacha and just enjoy the ride if you're that way inclined.

The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog

  • Release: 2023
  • Developer: SEGA / Sega Social Team
  • Platforms: PC, Mac

Our second F2P game released in 2023 and set on a train is The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog, a very silly visual novel that is also an officially-licensed spin-off from the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog series! Sure, this was an April Fool, but it's also the highest-rated Sonic game on Steam, so who are we to argue with consensus?

Sonic the Hedgehog lies dead in the memetic "Family Guy collapsed" position, while Tails looks shocked and Amy is delighted. Text reads "AMY: Someone murdered my darling Sonic!"
Image credit: SEGA

It's Amy Rose's birthday, and she's invited a bunch of her friends and Sonic series mainstays to take part in an immersive murder mystery experience on a luxury train. It's all fun and games until someone really takes a potshot at Sonic, leaving your character — a train concierge on their first day on the job — to investigate.

The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog is obviously meant as a bit of a gag, but it's genuinely really good fun, and proves that memey free-to-play spin-offs and high-quality releases aren't mutually exclusive. Blending together a procedural mystery in the style of Ace Attorney and Danganronpa with snippets of more classically Sonic-style platforming mini-games, it's well worth a couple of hours of your time to check this one out.

Samsara Room

  • Release: 2020
  • Developer: Rusty Lake
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, Android

The original Samsara Room was an in-browser puzzle game released in 2013, but this 2020 remake is available through Steam, Itch.io, Google Play, and Apple's App Store. The game was also rejigged a bit to add more content and retrofit the story into the canon of the developers' now-long-running Rusty Lake series. All of the Rusty Lakes games are cheap, but Samsara Room is the only one that's completely free-to-play and is also, in a sense, the start of the series; so it's a great place to begin if you're looking to give this series of Twin Peaks-inspired mystery puzzle games a go.

A shadow person with bright white eyes their only visible feature waves at their own reflection in a mirror, surrounded by an elaborate green patterned wallpaper.
Image credit: Rusty Lake

Like the other Rusty Lake games, Samsara Room is a surreal cube escape puzzle that can be completed in a single sitting. You wake up in a mysterious room with no obvious exit, but through interactions with the sparse furnishings, can begin to unravel the story of who you are and how you got there. The ultimate goal is, of course, to escape — although in Samsara Room's case, the exact details of that outcome end up being much stranger than you could imagine.

Our Life: Beginnings & Always

  • Release: 2020
  • Developer: GB Patch Games
  • Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS

And now for something completely different! While we've already touched upon a couple of visual novels on this list, Our Life: Beginnings & Always is easily the most wholesome pick of the bunch. There's nothing sinister lurking beneath the surface here: it's just a gentle story about growing up and spending time with your best friend, the "lonely boy next door" who could well be the love of your life. But with a high degree of customisation for your character and plenty of choices that let you control the direction of the story, that really is up to you.

The secondary character creator from Our Life: Beginnings & Always, allowing you to customise the game's primary love interest Cove as he appears in the teen section of the game.
Image credit: GB Patch Games

The base game is available for free, and there are six add-on chapters that can be bought as DLC for just a couple of quid each if you end up really liking the game and its characters. A sequel titled Our Life: Now & Forever — following the same format but with a mostly new cast, including the series' first female and non-binary romanceable characters — is currently in development and expected to release in 2025, with at least four DLC chapters planned.

Lily's Well

  • Release: 2022
  • Developer: PureIceBlue
  • Platforms: PC

In the words of the Steam warning: "This is a horror game about disturbing content", and they're really not lying. The protagonist of Lily's Well is a nine-year-old child who is safe from none of the grisliness she encounters over the course of the game, and although the extremely retro graphics mean it's not terribly gory, it's nevertheless one to steer clear of if the notion of children in peril is upsetting to you.

A retro-styled adventure game screen showing a choppy river on the edge of a forest during a thunderstorm at night. Text reads: "While the water only goes up to your knees, it could easily drag you under."
Image credit: PureIceBlue

What makes Lily's Well so impressive, though, is the sheer ambitious scope of the thing. While it might seem like a simple enough puzzle game on the surface, keep at it and you'll gradually uncover a plot about hidden conspiracies and dubious goings-on that could rival Resident Evil's Umbrella Corporation for the sheer wild audacity of nefarious plotting. It's a ridiculously good and compelling horror story for something you don't even have to pay for.

Sheepy: A Short Adventure

  • Release: 2024
  • Developer: MrSuicideSheep
  • Platforms: PC

Sheepy: A Short Adventure is a 2D platformer with an impressive pixel art visual style, and while admittedly on the short side (taking about an hour on average to beat), that's just about the only complaint you could level against it if you're a fan of the genre. You play as a plush sheep toy lost in an abandoned underground facility, brought to life by an unknown magical power and given the freedom to explore.

A plush sheep stands on the edge of a gap in the floor an industrial-style underground room. An illuminated street sign provides a backdrop as well as one of the few spots of colour.
Image credit: MrSuicideSheep

Take a look at the reviews for Sheepy: A Short Adventure on Steam and you'll quickly notice a trend: nobody can believe that this game was relased for free. This financial decision was seemingly made on purpose and without a time limit on it. Popular music YouTuber turned indie game dev MrSuicideSheep even offers a £9.30 soundtrack DLC — a traditional way of adding optional ways to support a free game on Steam — showing that he did know he could definitely get away with charging a tenner for this, but nevertheless, you can still play it completely for free; you may well just choose not to.

Honourable Mentions

Honourable mentions are owed to Lost Ark, Albion Online, PUBG: Battlegrounds, Tower of Fantasy, EVE Online, Planetside 2, Crusader Kings 2, Pokémon Trading Card Game Online/Live, Magic: The Gathering Arena, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Call of Duty: Warzone, Warframe, Lord of the Rings Online, DC Universe Online, Paladins, World of Tanks, Dragalia Lost, Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, Let It Die, Destiny 2, Vampire Survivors (mobile)


For more suggestions on games to play, check out what we would deem to be the best horror games, and the best games on Game Pass right now!

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