When you drop hundreds on a brand new console, either for yourself or your kids, dropping another load of money on games isn’t exactly appealing. Fortunately, there are plenty of great free to play titles available on all the major systems.
There is one thing we want to note before diving in, however. Many free to play games have in-game purchases to support themselves. These “microtransactions” as they’re commonly called, can range from something as simple as cosmetic skins to items that actively affect gameplay. We made sure to limit our selection so games with particularly bad microtransactions weren’t included. For almost every game here, microtransactions are limited to purely cosmetic items, but we’ll be sure to note the games that don’t stick to that.
Also, because most of these games are online-focused, we’ll be sure to mention which games support cross-play between various platforms.
You’ve probably heard of Fortnite, but it’s as large as it is for a reason. As apart of the popular battle royale genre, you compete in 100-player matches where you must fight to be the last player (or team) standing, while picking up a variety of guns and items throughout the map . The gameplay is easy to pick up but still provides plenty of room for improvement for dedicated players—especially with the unique building system where you can construct structures on the fly. And with a variety of events and updates occurring throughout the year, there’s always something new to discover.
Rocket League (PS5/Xbox/Switch)
Rocket League takes the sport of soccer, replaces the humans with rocket-powered cars, and lets you go nuts with it. There are few limits to what you can pull off in Rocket League, and the few that exist are mostly due to your own skill. You can spend hundreds of hours fine-tuning your mechanics so you can pull-off crazy tricks to win competitive matches, or just play it every once in a while to have some quick fun. Rocket League works in either circumstance, and that’s the reason why it’s stayed so popular over the past five years.
Choose from one of 46 unique characters in this action-packed team-shooter. Every character has their own abilities and playstyles, and you can power them up mid-match with various cards for an added level of strategy. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely because Paladins takes some heavy cues from the popular game Overwatch, but the unique characters and mechanics make it a new experience—even if it has similar gameplay.
Do you have fond memories of the Smash Brothers series? Well, Brawlhalla takes that gameplay formula, adds in some unique mechanics, and has good online play to boot. Whether you’re playing against friends for fun or trying to climb the competitive ladder, Brawlhalla is sure to supply you with plenty of chaotic battles. There are 51 characters you can play as, including multiple crossover characters such as Lara Croft, Shovel Knight, and Finn from Adventure Time.
Apex Legends (PS5/Xbox/Switch)
If you’d prefer a more realistic battle royale, Apex Legends is your best bet. Not only are the shooting mechanics more realistic and the tone more grounded than something like Fortnite, but the game places a massive emphasis on your general movement. Between bunny hops and wall kicks, there’s plenty to master here, and the vast selection of unique characters only furthers that. And, of course, if you can grab a friend or two to join your squad (games are limited to teams of two or three players each), that just makes the matches even more enjoyable.
The last battle royale on this list, Spellbreak introduces some interesting ideas to the genre. Instead of your standard weapons, your characters equip various gauntlets capable of harnessing elemental powers. You can cause earthquakes or launch massive fireballs to deal damage, but it goes deeper than that. You can have two gauntlets equipped at once to create unique elemental combinations—such as poisonous fire or electrified water. If you love the battle royale genre, Spellbreak is worth checking out for the unique ideas it brings to the table alone.
Dauntless takes some clear inspiration from the Monster Hunter series, but hey, there are definitely worse places to take ideas from. While the core gameplay loop of fighting monsters, crafting new gear, and then fighting more difficult variants of the same monsters is here and mostly unchanged, Dauntless still has plenty of unique ideas up its sleeves. Even if you’re a veteran of the Monster Hunter series, this is still worth checking out. And if you’ve never touched any of the Monster Hunter games, then this is a perfect introduction to the genre.
Astro’s Playroom (PS5)
This 3D platformer is a love letter to previous Sony systems, but even if you know nothing of the company’s past, there’s still plenty to enjoy here. Astro’s Playroom is a free game included with, and exclusive to, the PlayStation 5. It makes use of various features of the new DualSense controller to show off what it can do including gyro controls, haptic feedback, and the touchpad. There’s plenty of standard platforming to enjoy, and all-around, Astro’s Playroom is a short and sweet venture that’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre.
A short and fun platforming adventure.
Warframe is an MMO, but it doesn’t fall into many of the same traps as other games in the genre. It’s free-to-play friendly, has involved combat mechanics, and the massive open world is a sight to behold. The alien worlds you’ll explore are vast and detailed with plenty of quests and events to take part in. And if you’ve got some friends to play with that just makes things even better.
Genshin Impact (PS5/Switch)
In this grand open-world RPG, you’ll explore the magical world of Teyvat. The world is full of unique things to find and plenty of items to collect. The various cast of characters all have unique perks and abilities with plenty more you can unlock as you level up. If you’ve played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you’ll definitely notice some similarities in movement and how the world is designed, but Genshin Impact still provides plenty of unique ideas—such as full-on co-op multiplayer.
Fair warning though, Genshin Impact has fairly egregious microtransactions compared to other games here. While you can have a good time playing for free, many characters and certain unlockables are locked behind loot crates.
Genshin Impact is available on PlayStation 5 with a Switch release planned further down the road.
World of Tanks (PS5/Xbox)
World of Tanks is a game where you control tanks—surprising isn’t it? The tanks feel as powerful and weighty as you’d expect, and while that means there’s a bit of a learning curve, it makes it so much more satisfying once you finally get a handle on the controls. And the well-detailed maps only make the gameplay better with plenty of buildings and structures to plow through while destroying your opponents.
Microtransactions are present here and they go further than purely cosmetic options. You can pay to upgrade your tanks in this game to give yourself an edge over your opponents and progress through the game’s leveling system faster.