Top 50 best free games you should play today

Best Flash games and downloadable games to play

best free games

Gaming is often considered an expensive hobby. Consoles cost hundreds, and gaming PCs can easily run to over a grand. However, once you're set up with a rig, the amount of games you can get for free is staggering.

Sure, to play the latest AAA console smash, you're going to have to put your hand in your pocket, but there's a different route too.

As well as an army of top free-to-play online games that attract players in their thousands, if not millions, there are scores of freeware titles you'd be mad to miss. Everyone from EA to the tiniest indie developer has something to offer.

We've gathered together 50 of the best free games available for the PC, and some on the Mac, from browser Flash titles to giant sprawling MMORPGs. And there are a few games here that you used to have to pay top dollar for, thrown in for good measure.

1. Planetside 2

Two years before Destiny, back in 2012, we had Planetside 2. It's an epic, all-out first-person battle so impressive, you'll give yourself a quick pinch every time you remember it's completely free. There are in-game purchases of course, but you can still dive into gaming's biggest ever battlefield and be useful with just default gear.

Planetside 2

There's simply nothing like taking part in a massed assault on an enemy base and coming out on top, or living in a world where an enemy convoy could appear on the horizon at any second. If you need any proof that 'free' doesn't mean making compromises any more, Planetside 2 will provide it.

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2. Dota 2

The Dota universe came from a mod made for World of Warcraft 3, but Dota 2 is very much its own entity, not to mention one of the most popular free-to-play games.

This top-down arena battler is incredibly active, attracting multi-million dollar prize funds for serious tournament players. It's not just for obsessives, though.

Dota 2

A brief tutorial now points out the ropes, with the Steam Community stepping in to provide guides to the original MOBA (or whatever-you-want-to-call-this-genre-if-not-MOBA).

Don't expect a warm welcome or easy learning curve from this surprisingly complex game, but bring a few friends and you have a good chance of being hooked on one of the biggest crazes in PC history.

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3. Tribes: Ascend

Jetpacks rule: it's one of the few things you can rely on apart from death and taxes. And Tribes: Ascend is the world's premiere online jetpack shooter. Don your jetpack and launch into battle across huge maps, with weapons that take real skill just to land a hit – never mind a kill.

Tribes Ascend

Tribes: Ascend is fast, furious, and absolutely brilliant, and there's no reason to spend any money in the in-game shop if you simply want to hold your own in battle. Though there's plenty of stuff to buy if you do fancy splashing some cash…

You can pay to unlock more classes, weapons and perks, but if you're going to keep it casual you can still have loads of fun with Tribes: Ascend.

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4. Path of Exile

A Diablo III-style third-person role-playing game, Path of Exile is a bit different from most free-to-play games out there. It's not just about whacking real life people until they scream at you in shrill pubescent tones through their Skype headsets.

Paths of Exile

It's more of a slow-burner than a multiplayer blaster, but give it time and you may well fall in love with this free-to-play loot-gathering hit. There are hidden depths that you only uncover after playing for hours (and hours), and a huge skill tree to slowly pick away at. There are no game-ruining things like real money auction houses here, either.

Instead, even basic loot can be useful because there's always an opportunity to enhance even the simplest weapon with magic. If you got tired of the grind of Diablo III, it's a good one to check out.

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5. League of Legends

Pick your champion and head into battle in this amazing free-to-play game from the creators of Dota. League of Legends' automated matchmaking, range of characters and excellent maps have made it a multiplayer star over the last year, and one well worth a play.

It's a very aggressive game to play, but one that rewards good teamwork and careful tactics. Don't expect to master it overnight, but it won't be long before you're having fun.

League of Legends

Like Dota 2, League of Legends attracts many high-end players, and the top tournaments offer prize pools of over £1,000,000. The weird world of e-sports, eh?

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6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Ever played Magic the Gathering, the card game? Hearthstone is Blizzard's attempt at making an online free-to-play alternative to it.

Hearthstone

And in typical Blizzard fashion, it's excellent. It's immediately inviting, lacking the terrifying learning curve you might expect from an online fantasy card game. Hearthstone plays quickly, boasts an almost casual-style visual approach, and benefits from a basic rule set, all of which adds up to a very accessible card battler that will give you hours of enjoyment.

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7. Might & Magic: Duel of Champions

There's one other alternative to Hearthstone we need to mention, too, and that's Might & Magic: Duel of Champions. It initially seems a bit less accessible, with a less glossy approach that feels a bit closer to card battling's roots, but there's actually a bit less grind involved in the game.

Duel of Champions

That means a bit less of the casino-effect visual hit when you win, but it won't sap your time in quite the same way either. Unless that's what you're after.

Where's the official Magic: The Gathering take on the fantasy card battler? There is one, called Magic Online, but as there's real money involved it's anything but free.

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8. Star Wars: The Old Republic

Taking over from the original Star Wars MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies in 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic was not free at release. But it has since, like so many games of this kind, adopted the free-to-play model. If you want to get Sith kicks, this is the best way to get them for free.

However, subscriptions are still available, giving you more in-game potential. All the story missions are available without a sub – they just might take you that bit longer.

Star Wars Old Republic

It's worth the download simply to experience the Star Wars universe from different perspectives, like the hyper-professional Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter. If you want to go with the dull option and just have a generic Jedi Knight, though, that's fine too.

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9. Super Crate Box

Dullest name in the world? Possibly! Super Crate Box makes up for it, though, with a simple mechanic that's far more fun than it has any right to be. How long can you last against a stream of incoming monsters? It probably depends whether you're fighting them off with a pistol or a rocket launcher.

Super Crate Box

The catch is that you don't score points for killing, but collecting crates – and every crate gives you a different weapon. And not killing the monsters only makes them crosser. It might not sound like much, but its speed and difficulty will keep you hooked from the off.

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10. The Battle for Wesnoth

You might have already encountered this little gem on your phone – it's available for iOS and Android – but it's totally free on PC and Mac. Those who were avid gamers in the 90s and 2000s will appreciate its old-school blend of turn-based battling.

Battle for Wesnoth

The fantasy setting and hex-based map make Battle for Wesnoth feel a lot like an indie alternative to the Heroes of Might and Magic games – titles we've plunged many hours into over the last two decades.

Younger gamers may notice the game style is a little like Advance Wars, but there's a lot more beef to this epic strategy battler. It started out with six factions available to play back in 2009, but since then user-generated content has added a bunch of completely new eras, making this a gargantuan game.

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11. World of Tanks

World of Tanks is a different kind of MMO – the clue being in the title. Team-based, massively multiplayer action with a huge range of war machines to drive into battle awaits, with new players able to join the action immediately.

World of Tanks

An upgrade system adds a sense of personalisation, while being surrounded by a whole army constantly reminds you that loners don't do well on the battlefield. Get sucked in, though, and you may find you end up spending a chunk of your wages on great big chunks of virtual metal.

While some premium tanks cost just a few pounds, others tip above £30. You can see where maker Wargaming is going to earn some cash from World of Tanks enthusiasts.

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12. War Thunder

Think World of Tanks is a bit too arcade-like for your tastes? You need to try out War Thunder. Despite being lesser-known, it's a great alternative to that tank battler. And for an extra sweetener, it throws airplanes into the mix too. As you might expect, they're a great deal of fun.

With a fast enough PC, War Thunder offers visual quality you don't see too often in free-to-play games. You will need to pay some cash to get hold of the more interesting planes and tanks early on, but getting Battlefield-like play for free sounds like a good deal to us.

War Thunder

There are arcade and historical battles on offer – the former is great for a more casual blast while historical battles are more for players with a few hours on their flight card.

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13. The Ur-Quan Masters

This game proves you don't need flashy visuals to create an offering with a compelling narrative. The Ur-Quan Masters is a fan-tweaked version of one of the classic PC space operas, Star Control 2. It's an action-strategy game where you build up a fleet of spacecraft from various races, to finally do battle with the Ur-Quan.

Adventure, strategy, action – it's all bunged into this melting pot.

The Ur Quan Masters

The Ur-Quan Masters sees you navigate through an intergalactic space war where the politics are more tangled than that bag of cables you have stashed in a cupboard somewhere. You have to convince races to join you in battle, or risk taking them on as enemies.

An often-overlooked classic, Star Control 2 is worth experiencing even if you didn't know about it first time around.

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14. Black Mesa

Remember a little game called Half-Life? It was quite popular. Black Mesa Source is the long-awaited rebuild of it in Valve's Half-Life 2 Source engine, and a must-play for any fan of the series.

Black Mesa Source

It's not simply a pixel-for-pixel recreation, but a re-imagining of it – adding detail so seamlessly that you'll forget how primitive the original was, as well as a few extra elements of its own, like female Black Mesa scientists.

It was an epic project, and the (mostly) complete version was finally released in late 2012. It's worth experiencing. You can download the full version as a legal torrent. In 2013 some improvements were made to certain levels in Black Mesa, so be sure to grab those files too.

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15. Runescape

Runescape is one of the biggest free-to-play MMOs out there, and now would be a good time to take a look. In 2013 it entered its third reboot – this is actually 'Runescape 3', although just jumping in now you might not appreciate it has been around in one form or another for more than 10 years.

Runescape

It's certainly not the shiniest MMO in the world despite the revamp, but hanging onto this many players shows it's doing something right. The big change introduced in Runescape 3 that made it appear a lot more modern was the ability to see much further – in Runescape 2 the horizon quickly gave way to fog. Not so now.

You can download the game or run it in your browser using Java, making it much more convenient than most other online role-players of this epic scale.

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16. FreeOrion

Ever wanted to run your own galaxy? Such real life aspirations might be a sign you have a hint of a megalomania problem, but in the game world it's perfectly acceptable. The dominance of consoles mean that we rarely see games of such scope, but for the more ambitious gamer, there's FreeOrion.

FreeOrion

It's a free indie title inspired by the classic space strategy series Master of Orion, the first two instalments of which were adored back in the 90s. But as games that old seem a bit musty these days, we have FreeOrion.

As it's still in the thick of development, it's best for those who have some experience of the genre. Let's just say it's not exactly user-friendly yet.

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17. Ben there, Dan That!

Love sarcasm, deliberately crude visuals and knowing references? You have to try Ben There, Dan That! It's a funny old-school adventure.

Ben There Dan That

The creators of Ben There, Dan That now make paid-for games, and on the publisher website you'll only find the 'special edition' of this title, which comes with a mandatory donation. But if you're really strapped for cash you'll find the original freeware version on the Adventure Game Studio website – the tool with which this game was made.

It's an unashamed love letter to the point 'n' click games of old, the LucasArts classics that many of you may remember.

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18. Smite

Gods from around the world get together to battle it out in a Dota/MOBA inspired clash of divine vengeance in this effort. Despite Smite's obvious inspirations, it comes from the same developer that made FPS smash Tribes Ascend – a completely different beast.

Smite

The camera is behind the characters this time, making for a more direct connection to the action than simply guiding your lord around with a mouse, but the premise will be either familiar if you've played its inspirations, or a way to get the feel for the style if you haven't. Gods include Zeus, Thor, Kali, Artemis and... Cupid? Well, at least he has his own bow…

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19. Lord of the Rings Online

Many MMOs are being launched or relaunched as free-to-play at the moment, but Lord of the Rings Online is one of the titles that most warrants a second look. Not only is it an excellent game in its own right, it's one of the more mature MMOs out there.

LoTR Online

You will likely have to pay eventually, if only to unlock adventure packs, but there's no subscription fee and nothing to buy up-front. If you missed it at launch, it's time to give it a try.

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20. Quest for Glory II VGA

While many veteran gamers remember the LucasArts classic adventures – the Monkey Island games, Grim Fandango, Sam & Max and so on – AGD Interactive has busily been recreating some of the lesser-known 90s adventures. Quest for Glory II is our favourite of the lot.

Quest for Glory II

It's an adventure/RPG hybrid that can be played as a Warrior, Magic User or Thief, with each path unlocking new challenges and opportunities. It's funny, exciting, and incredibly open, and one of the most beloved adventure games ever made – both in its original form, and in this more recent remake.

On the ADG website you'll also find remakes of King's Quest I-III. All for free.

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21. Battlestar Galactica

The official Battlestar Galactica MMO is interesting for two reasons – it plays in the browser (and looks pretty good), and it's completely free-to-play. That's unusual for any licensed game, although as ever, the words 'free-to-play' have the words 'with-optional-purchases' slapped right onto the end.

Battlestar Galactica

The story is that both Galactica and the Cylons have been blasted into a new area of space by a mysterious bit of technology, and now both sides are fighting over outposts and control points. You can choose either, with a bit of wandering around the ships, and lots of mouse-based space combat and mining.

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22. Flight of the Amazon Queen

One of a handful of classic adventure games now available for free, Flight of the Amazon Queen is the story of the wise-cracking, slightly bone-headed Joe King. Think of Indiana Jones with about 90% more buffoonery and you're there.

Flight of the Amazon Queen

The old-school interface may take a little getting used to, but this classic adventure is worth downloading, particularly for fans of the genre. It also offers full speech, giving it more of a vibrant feel than some older point 'n' clicks.

Available from GoG, there's no messing about needed to get it working on modern operating systems, despite being originally released back in 1995.

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23. Hawken

Jump behind the controls of your own mech and fight it out in a gloriously realised future world with Hawken. They're the agile kind of mech rather than the slow lumbering tanks of MechWarrior Online, so purists should head there instead, but still, this is a change of pace from blitzing around in soldier uniforms with automatic rifles.

Expect to pay to upgrade your starter mech if you enjoy the action, but you can jump in and get the flavour of the thing without paying a single penny.

Hawken

Hawken is also one of the higher-profile games to support Oculus Rift. No one may own one of those virtual reality headsets yet, but using one as a giant mech sounds fun, right?

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24. TrackMania Nations Forever

Prefer cars that fly through the air, performing tricks like a 20 year-old Tony Hawk, rather than ones that come with a £20,000 bill should you nudge them against a bollard? The OTT style of TrackMania Nations Forever will be hard to resist.

TrackMania Nations Forever

The real laws of physics have little to do with the way this racer plays, but it provides more action than your average power sliding arcade racer as a result. It's racing meets extreme sports with an unlimited rev counter – and that's a great combo.

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25. Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall

Played Skyrim or Oblivion? You should at least give the classic Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall a nod. This 1990s RPG is a precursor to those incredibly popular RPGs, and is a bit of a classic in its own right.

Elder Scrolls Daggerfall

Its game world is many times the size of any of its successors, and indeed it's the size of a continent, one absolutely packed with atmosphere. You might not all be able to stomach the old-fashioned visuals, but it's worth investigating if you want to see where Skyrim came from.

It's available direct from Bethesda. The publisher started offering it for free to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the game. As if we didn't feel old enough already.