The best free PC games, Steam and more for 2021

The best free PC games, Steam and more for 2021

Here’s a list of the best free games for PC, Steam, Epic Games Store and more from this year 2021. We’ll explain how and where to play them and more.

You may have seen this article on the Meristation pages and been invited to participate, but chances are you’re here because you once idly searched your favourite search engine for “free games” and (if you’re lucky) ended up here. In any case, apart from a greeting, we want to offer you something quite different. Almost every magazine has articles on the subject (we’ve published several here over the years), it’s a popular topic that always piques the interest and curiosity of a wide range of veteran and novice gamers alike. But most reports of this kind are limited to a more or less long stream of names with descriptions, and that’s about it. Without detracting from the importance of the work done on these materials and their usefulness to thousands of readers, we want to do something different here.

The word “free” does not mean the same thing everywhere

For those new to the topic and unfamiliar with it, a few basic concepts. First, yes, you can play thousands of games for free (legally) with your computer. But there are different types of “free”, which can be classified by their name: “Free to Play”, “Pay What You Want” and “Free”. ‘Free to Play’ or ‘F2P’ are games that can be played for free, but there are payment options, either to access certain content, to unlock characters or skins, or to progress more quickly, depending on the game and its model, which should be well researched before investing much time in it. “Pay What You Want” are voluntary paid games, usually indie and experimental, created by developers who are learning, experimenting or just want to start a small and quick project, without all the baggage that going to market involves; they are completely free, but if you wish, if you are very happy with the experience or just think they deserve it, you can leave them a tip for the work they do. In the third category are “free” or freeware games, free games without more, which can be titles that their creators left for free for whatever reason – seeking fame for future projects, love of art… – or games that were paid for in the past but are now left for free by those in charge to realise that their business cycle is over.

These aren’t the only alternatives that can be played for free on the PC. In the past, something called ‘shareware’ became very popular – codes that were distributed for free with part of the game and left the option to unlock the full game for a fee if the interested party enjoyed the game; classics such as Doom were born as part of this phenomenon. Nowadays their equivalent is some MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV, which allow you to play for free up to a certain level and then require a monthly fee to continue playing. There are also demos, which a few years ago were very popular even for big productions, but now their role has diminished – although they are still an interesting alternative for trying out a wide range of modest productions. Finally, there’s the more modern iteration of demos, which are time-limited and include more commercial multiplayer games – one or more of these temporary demos usually appear every weekend on Steam.

The most popular free PC games

These are some of the most played and popular free-to-play games at the moment, the names of which are well known to many, but should be kept in mind for new readers who join and want to know the upcoming options.

Fortnite: Battle Royale

A true phenomenon that draws millions of players and viewers every week. Fortnite consists of two parts: Save the World, the original paid concept that is a mix of team shooter and Minecraft, and Battle Royale, the free part (played by the vast majority of users), which is a free-to-play competition between 100 players whose goal is to remain the sole survivor. The lighthearted tone, dynamism, ease of starting the game and the great flexibility afforded by the build system are some of the features that set this game apart from others. Battle Royale mode, as we said, is free to play with micro-payments of a purely aesthetic nature.

League of Legends

The game that sparked MOBA fever, taking advantage of the popularity of the Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III and reimagining its ideas to bring them to a wider audience. From this root, a global game was born, with the world and characters continuing to expand conceptually and aesthetically. It’s a challenging game, as you team up with four other players and battle five others, choosing from a wide range of characters with unique abilities, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the features, details to explore and the pace of combat. However, once you get into the game, it will keep you engrossed for years to come. It’s free, and you can play for years without paying a single euro, but you will have to accumulate “blue essence” within the game or pay if you want to play with a particular champion. The selection of free champions is constantly changing and playing with them is quite functional, but you need time or a quick way to pay to be able to choose.

DOTA 2

The game that sparked MOBA fever, taking advantage of the popularity of the Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III and reimagining its ideas to bring them to a wider audience. From this root, a global game was born, with the world and characters continuing to expand conceptually and aesthetically. It’s a challenging game, as you team up with four other players and battle five others, choosing from a wide range of characters with unique abilities, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the features, details to explore and the pace of combat. However, once you get into the game, it will keep you engrossed for years to come. It’s free, and you can play for years without paying a single euro, but you will have to accumulate “blue essence” within the game or pay if you want to play with a particular champion. The selection of free champions is constantly changing and playing with them is quite functional, but you need time or a quick way to pay to be able to choose.

SMITE

Dota 2 and League of Legends are two big alternatives within MOBA/ARTS, but they are not the only ones. SMITE has managed to carve out a niche for itself by betting on its own values, which make it a solid and fairly independent alternative. A different camera and control system, more focused on giving the player direct action, gives the game a different identity from the quasi-RTS of the previous two games. It’s also more colourful and spectacular, with huge forces employed by the protagonist gods in combat. The game follows a model similar to LOL, with a “free rotation” that allows us to play for free with part of the squad, and the option to pay to gain direct access to all the characters.

Hearthstone

Dota 2 and League of Legends are two big alternatives within MOBA/ARTS, but they are not the only ones. SMITE has managed to carve out a niche for itself by betting on its own values, which make it a solid and fairly independent alternative. A different camera and control system, more focused on giving the player direct action, gives the game a different identity from the quasi-RTS of the previous two games. It’s also more colourful and spectacular, with huge forces employed by the protagonist gods in combat. The game follows a model similar to LOL, with a “free rotation” that allows us to play for free with part of the squad, and the option to pay to gain direct access to all the characters.

World of Tanks

Another classic, played by millions of users, is Wargaming, which is still as relevant as ever – along with its ‘cousins’ World of Warplanes and World of Warships. This F2P runs on a fast-paced, immediately accessible and fun formula, with many different types of tanks at our disposal, with which we can compete in intense battles against other players. Also, even though it doesn’t have simulation features, it has a certain appeal for military history buffs, as it includes locations and tanks from World War 2. For money you can unlock “premium” tanks, buy equipment and special ammunition that technically give you an advantage over other players, but none of this will give you victory over a veteran player, at least that’s the theory.

Warframe

Another F2P game worth trying is a futuristic action game in which we control ‘space cyber ninjas’, completing single or co-operative missions against AI-driven enemies. We have a variety of classes with different skills, but what sets them apart is the great dexterity that allows us to walk on walls, glide and perform all sorts of pirouettes to avoid enemies or dodge their attacks, which gives the game a special spirit compared to other shooters that focus more on shooting. With a very striking aesthetic and a very significant amount of ever-growing content, Warframe is a great and high-quality game that can keep us entertained for dozens of hours.

Destiny 2

Destiny 2’s transition to a basic F2P model is great news for those looking for a quality shooter to play at their leisure. With Bungie’s hallmark of polished and fun action, Destiny 2 offers rich content, an engaging story told at a level you’d expect from AAA, very high production values and ample opportunity for both single-player and competitive play. If you decide the base experience has won you over, you can purchase the add-ons: Forsaken and Shadowkeep, which do come at a price.

Dauntless

Clearly inspired by Monster Hunter, Dauntless is an F2P alternative game from Capcom, cut to a similar pattern: a group of player-controlled hunters against a large and powerful creature. With each completed hunt, we’ll have more resources with which to continue advancing and progressing, unlocking different styles of combat depending on our equipment. The game also has the advantage that it supports cross-play with almost all systems – including mobile ones in the near future – so it’s easier to play with a group in any circumstance.

Path of Exile

A game that many believe has managed to dethrone Diablo from the pinnacle of the genre. Path of Exile is an F2P developed by fans of the genre, and it shows. It captures like no other the essence of Diablo II that Blizzard itself missed in its sequel, has a huge amount of content, a huge development tree and a payment model that could be considered “fair” and that doesn’t prevent you from enjoying it without investing a single euro. In addition to the huge amount of content already in the game, Path of Exile 2 is coming in the future, as part of the same game and with a new campaign, also free. A real gem, representing the best of the Free to Play model, and a must buy for ARPG fans.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

The tenth re-creation of the Star Wars universe, in turn the second attempt to bring it into the realm of permanent worlds, takes us back to the years of the Old Republic and the wars between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire. Bioware was responsible for the practical implementation of what was explored in the two installments of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and was initially responsible for making sure the idea could be realised. Star Wars: The Old Republic allows us to create a character by choosing from several species, and visit dozens of planets in custom stories for each of the roles, with companions to dialogue and decisions to make. The free content is very generous, you can play solo without much trouble, and the story retains great moments (the only downside is that it’s not translated into Spanish, so you’ll have to know English to enjoy it).

Paladins

For those looking for an F2P alternative to Overwatch, Paladins is one of the most obvious options. A 5v5 team shooter with multiple game modes, over 40 champions to choose from with their own unique abilities and a friendly enough game system for those who want to play for free – although you can pay to unlock all current and future champions in one go, as well as getting a Season Pass with exclusive resources and skins.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Nearly two decades after Counter Strike gained dominance in internet cafes around the world, the game is still hugely popular thanks to the F2P strategy that has made it the most played game on Steam today, with consistent figures approaching a million simultaneous users. Being such a well-known game, the introductory experience can be challenging and requires patience, time and dedication before you feel like you’re doing anything meaningful – for this, as with any team-based multiplayer game, it’s always best to go with friends. The game is free to play, but by paying, you’ll gain access to matches with other paid users and various extra features in the form of skins and items.

Roblox

With over 90 million active users, Roblox tends to be less represented on gaming sites than, say, Fortnite (which has the same number of users), probably because of its chaotic nature, which also gives it its charm. Roblox is not one game, but many, infinitely many, it’s a generic engine on which creative people can create their own worlds and games, ranging from small spaces where you can just hang out with friends to ambitious simulators of all kinds. There’s all sorts of gambling games, Battle Royales, mini-GTAs, things like (unofficial) Dragon Ball games and infinite options, although each game can have separate paid options if it has reached a certain popularity.

Dungeon Fighter Online

One of the most popular multiplayer games in the world, DFO is a Final Fight or Street of Rage style browser, but with an MMO progression system, making it have a wide range of characters, classes, subclasses and skills. Its advantage over other F2P MMOs is some immediacy, as the approach is fairly straightforward, and it has quite a long way to go once you start getting into the story. It has a PVP mode, co-op and a payment system that allows you to get exclusive items, help advance and get powerful items ahead of players who don’t pay. As is usually the case with games like this, it’s a matter of spending money or patience, it all depends on your priorities. The game is available on Steam, but it’s recommended to use it directly.

Apex Legends

Electronic Arts and Respawn’s F2P is an attempt by the big software giant to keep up with other alternatives in the popular Battle Royale genre. With a more serious and focused approach than Fortnite, Apex is popular with those who want to play a shooter with some substance before the chaotic Epic holiday games. Its payment model focuses on cosmetic items for characters and weapons, loading screens, music and other items that can be purchased either via battle pass or microtransactions, so it has no competitive advantage over players who don’t want to pay.

Call of Duty: Warzone

The hugely popular Call of Duty has made forays into the Battle Royale world before, but Warzone is the main assault: a completely free-to-play, standalone game with no dependency on buying other games, crossplay between PC, PS4 and Xbox One and 150 players spread across a huge map, but with the distinct spirit of Modern Warfare in its gameplay and staging. A new alternative in the F2P landscape.

Valorant

The new game from the creators of League of Legends is aiming very high, presenting record figures in its first days. This reformulation of Counter Strike combined with hero shooter elements represents a return to the tactical and cerebral shooter, with a clear and evident vocation to become a benchmark esport that is already free for any player who dares to try its demanding bet.

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