Top 10 Free Games – Opinions Of An Australian Gamer
Written by Nick Petrou
Before we begin, very rarely is a game entirely free; many "free-to-play" games have paid features; and these paid features differ between games...
Some gain you access to purely cosmetic enhancements, some literally make your character stronger. The latter, coined "pay-to-win", is frowned upon in the gaming community. Similar to, but not the same as, pay-to-win features are "boosts". Boosts are usually associated with in-game experience or currency, allowing a player who purchases a boost to advance more rapidly than others. There are games that provide a portion of their content for free, but also offer extra, paid content, like greater in-game world access or extra maps. Many games allow players to unlock in-game items via either in-game currency or a real-world transaction. Although this may be considered pay-to-win on some level, it is not so evil because any player, provided they commit time to the game, can unlock every item just from playing the game. People who spend real-world money on such items just get them faster... so it's kind of like a boost. Common to many games nowadays is the loot box system. With this system you can purchase with real-world money loot boxes, card packs, loot chests etc., but their content is random. You have no way of directly selecting a specific powerful item.
Many free games will have a fair chance of making this top 10 free games list as long as they do not feature any direct/instant pay-to-win features; i.e. as long as they do not have an option to instantly increase the strength/power of your character or unlock powerful items/heroes/champions that are unavailable for purchase with in-game currency.
10) Team Fortress 2
Valve Corporation's Team Fortress 2 has been said to be an inspiration for many modern, hero-styled shooters, some being in this list. It is a fast, skill-based FPS with an undeniably cheeky graphical style, which is still going incredibly strong in the gaming scene of today. Though Team Fortress 2 was initially released in 2007, it was not until 2011 that it adopted a free-to-play model. And this was a damn good decision too, because going free-to-play, with microtransactions for cosmetic-only purchases, boosted Team Fortress 2's revenue by a factor of 12.
Now, I know that there hasn't been a whole lot of love for Epic Game's Paragon. Well, what I mean is that it is near impossible for me to find a match. But that doesn't take away from how much I love this game. The visuals are just beautiful and the character design is phenomenal. I really enjoyed the third-person perspective, which was very different for me after smashing 3-4 years of League of Legends in a limited isometric perspective. Even just playing against bots with a team of real people was great fun... I can only imagine how good competing against actual people would be. Paragon is free, but employs real-world currency purchases of cosmetic items. Every hero is immediately available to you from the start.
8) DOTA 2
Even though I may have only played Valve Corporation's DOTA 2 for a short while, I can honestly say that it COMPLETELY RUINED ME. I was a League of Legends noob, there is no doubt about it, and I thought I was pretty damn good. But then I played DOTA 2... It was like I was a crying infant in a dark room filled with malevolent demons. I really did enjoy my time with this game, mostly because the character design is so unique and fantastic. DOTA 2 just has to be on this free games list, it has one of the largest player-bases. It's free as a bird, although in-game cosmetic items can be purchased for DOTA 2 through the Steam marketplace.
7) Path Of Exile
When I was playing this game it was during the "Mum's work laptop" days. It was jittery as hell, and overall this stopped me from getting really stuck into this gory, chaotic murder-fest. Even though the laptop's built-in graphics literally gave me PTSD, I still remember Grinding Gear Game's Path of Exile being a whole lot of fun. Aside from dying in "hardcore mode", where upon your demise your character essentially loses its worth. Just thinking about this hacky, slashy good ol' time is making my teeth flare. I wonder if my PC can handle 1000 exploding corpses? Path of Exile allows for the purchase of cosmetic items like weapon and armour effects, and pets.
My friend kept on pushing and pushing: "Dude, come on, this game is sick."
And I would just be like: "If I want to play a card game i'll play Yu-Gi-Oh or something."
Then one night, after a few beers, I was convinced to play.
Within about 2 or 3 matches I had already decided to purchase myself some card packs - you know, some of them sweet microtransactions. And behold, for the last card of the last pack I opened I received none other than a golden Ysera. At this point, it kind of felt a tiny bit pay-to-win, for when I summoned her, and my opponent could not directly shut her down, she spawned all sorts of dreamy trouble. But realistically, it was pure luck that I snatched a Ysera that early into my fruitful (3 month) Hearthstone career. You can unlock card packs just from playing the game, albeit it is quite a commitment to stay on top of daily gold challenges and such. Blizzard's Hearthstone is obviously backed by - you guessed it - Blizzard, arguably one of the most successful video game developers in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, so it kind of has to be good.
5) League of Legends
When you are looking for a game to consume your life and cause you to weep when your connection drops randomly because the desert worms from Arrakis have tunneled through your cable internet, look no further. I spent years playing League of Legends, and I remember thinking: Free? W-what? Pfft, and, As if I am going to purchase skins. It took me all of 3 days to purchase my first - that Katarina skin where she has gray hair and a sexy tattoo across her ribs. I was hooked on Riot Games' MOBA for a good 3 - 4 years. The satisfaction of getting a kill can only be likened to... I guess... scoring a goal in soccer. Though I truly suck at all ball sports and anything requiring co-ordination beyond that of operating a keyboard and mouse and controller. As I have mentioned in a previous article, on the 10 best games of the decade, I have now gone completely off the now salt-fest that is League of Legends, but I will never forget the good times... and all of them free, aside from the $200+ dollars I ended up spending on skins.
4) Planetside 2
My first experiences with Daybreak Game Company's Planetside 2 were pure chaos. It took me a good while to gain a sense of direction and purpose; however, when I did, this game began to truly impress. It is a massively multiplayer first person shooter - I believe the only one of its kind - and this really does show. There are so many ways to play this game: You can skulk around with a pistol and invisibility, hacking people's computers and exposing their search history. You can fly bad-ass planes and crash them into your own base. You can try and squeeze your tank between the roots of giant trees in an alien swampland. And you can also try and play the game normally, following the strict commands of your squad leader to bring the Terran Republic to victory (the other two factions are both jokes).
3) Quake Champions
If you have read my previous article, a review on the Quake Champions Beta, you would know how I feel about this gorgeous arena shooter. Interestingly, Quake Champions is a free-to-play game that you can also buy. At first, my tiny brain failed to properly comprehend such a contradiction, but alas, it soon pulled through. id's Quake Champions starts you off with access to one playable champion (some brawny space-dude with an infinity stone or something), and allows you to earn in-game currency which can be used to hire the other champions. Or... you could be a top bloke/blokette and purchase the "champion pack" to unlock all of the champions while simultaneously supporting a bunch of hard-working game developers. Your call. You can totally purchase in-game currently with real-world currency to get look boxes and all that as well... pretty standard. Bare in mind that paid features were unavailable for the beta, and that things may change upon the game's release.
I'm sorry... what? I bet you didn't expect to see a phone game on this list, and I bet that you have never even heard of Pated's Seashine. I was travelling about Europe, getting seriously frustrated not having access to video games for that time. But then I realised that I can actually play games on my phone and use a hostel's shitty wifi to download them. It got me through that grueling 3 months of travelling (I will never leave home again). Basically, Seashine is a high-score game, with an explorative, poetic twist. The gameplay is smooth, thrilling, beautiful, and unique; and the developers are still updating it constantly. After not playing it for a good year, I jumped back in to find that a range of new playable jellyfish had been added. Pated is also always adding new challenges, such as new deep sea creatures and environmental dangers. This game fills its role just so well... and it's totally free. I will always have a special place in my heart for Seashine; it just had to be on this list.
1) Oldschool Runescape
Just when I thought it was over I get a prodding message from my friend: "Buying rune scimmy".
Itching like a smoker who has caught the scent of a fresh pack of sweet, sweet tobacco, I fought a most dire urge. Must... not... download... Runescape. Needless to say, I crumpled, and within minutes, had re-downloaded the Oldschool Runescape client. Like many Scapian's, I have grown alongside this game. Through the bad times and the good, I was there for Runescape and it was there for me. I go to quit, to rage, and exclaim that I will never touch it again... but there I go... here I go, right now... playing it once more. I can never pinpoint exactly what it is that draws be back. Is it the sense of accomplishment? The comradery between long-time players? The depth of its customisation? I really don't know why I love you, but I do. Oldschool Runescape can be experienced as a free-to-play game, and it stands strong as this in its own rights. But the true Runescape experience is that of subscribed membership, where the world of Gielinor is opened to you in its gloriously poor-visual totality.
You would have definitely recognised, if not expected, most of the games I had included in my top 10 free games list - there are some pretty massive titles thrown in there. However, I am certain there is at least 1 or two that were a bit unexpected, maybe a bit out of place. Perhaps you believe that some of the games I had included are actually pay-to-win? I suppose it can be a bit of a vague term. At the end of the day, game developers are probably sinking much of their life-force into their job. If you throw a lot of time into a free-to-play game, spending the odd few dollars and buying some bikini armour skin or flaming sword effect is a great way to show your support for its developers. Personally, my favourite kind of free-to-play financial models are those that offer cosmetic items solely.
Thanks for taking the time to read this top 10 free games list. Happy gaming 🙂