While Steam gets a lot of hype for discounted prices, you don’t actually have to spend any money to enjoy some of the best games the service has to offer. Over the years, Steam has accumulated a number of great games that are free-to-play, and I’m here to tell you which ones you should check out.
Some of these recommendations will be obvious, as some of Steam’s biggest games are free-to-play—so why wouldn’t I suggest them? But, I also want to make sure to tell you about some offbeat free games you might otherwise not hear about, especially when it comes to games that try something new. With that in mind, here are our top free Steam games that everyone should try.
Note: This article originally ran in 2015, but has now been updated with newer picks.
If you’re looking for a game to really sink your teeth into, Dota 2 is probably your best bet: I spent dozens of hours trying to master Valve’s MOBA, and barely scratched the surface. While your goal is straightforward—lead your creeps and team to the enemy base, so you can destroy a large structure known as the ancient—the depth and intensity that Dota 2 offers is staggering. It’s a great game for people with a competitive streak, provided you can keep your cool under pressure.
Everyone compare Paladins to Overwatch, and there’s a good reason for it: this free-to-play shooter does share some overt similarities, especially when it comes to character types. That dude up there, for example? You guessed it, he’s kinda like Reaper. What sets Paladins apart is that it is also heavily influenced by MOBAS. Once you pick a champion, you can’t change it. Each champion has a card loadout that influences abilities, and as you progress through a match, you gain currency to further upgrade your skills. You’ll still be capturing points and moving the payload, but Paladins offers more control over how you play. Worth noting: the game is in beta right now.
You might know Vlambeer thanks to games like Ridiculous Fishing, and Nuclear Throne. One of their earliest games is also on Steam, and not only is it free, it’s also damned good. Super Crate Box is an arcade-style game where you try try to rack up a high score. The twist? Your weapons are constantly randomized, which keeps you on your toes. Super Crate Box is a good choice for people looking for a simple, addictive, no-frills game that is a joy to play.
Build your own airship, deck it out with weapons and abilities, form your own squadron, and take to the clouds. Cloud Pirates is an MMO where you partake in fast-paced sky battles against other players. The cool thing is, you can customize your ship however you’d like. Want a ship with heavy firepower? You can build that. Want a behemoth that can take lots of damage? Make it happen. Despite the game being an MMO, I found Cloud Pirates very easy to pick up and play. It’s kind of like the Smash Bros. of vehicle warfare games.
A game that puts you in the shoes of an 11 year old girl who doesn’t know how sex works, How Do You Do It? is short, sweet, and refreshingly honest.
It may not get as much press as it used to, but Team Fortress 2 is still a popular team-based shooter with way too many hats. Even if you’ve played it before, it’s always nice to jump in every once in a while. TF2 might be nearly a decade old, but it holds up pretty well. There’s a reason it’s so influential!
An action RPG that mixes some of the best that games like Diablo and Final Fantasy VII has to offer, Path of Exile is a great game that many people would probably fork over $40 bucks for. Fortunately, you don’t have to. The best part: Path of Exile continues to update, so even if you’ve played it before, it might not be a bad idea to give it another try in 2017.
Depression is not a subject that people speak openly about—but Depression Quest doesn’t pull any punches with it. Created in the style of choose-your-own-adventure games, Depression Quest is a take on what it’s like to live with depression, and the many difficulties that come with it. As you can imagine, it’s a very bleak game...but also a necessary one. Disclosure: I am friendly with the developers behind the game.
Remember the days of Windows XP and AIM? Emily Is Away is a contemplative look at the early ways in which we communicated with one another via instant messaging, told through the eyes of a guy that’s just about to graduate high school. Think of it as the video game version of 500 Days of Summer. Given that Emily is Away 2 is about to drop this week, now might be a good time to pick this gem up.
It starts out really cute, then becomes horrifying. Hope you’re ready to have a heart attack.
There are a ton of other free-to-play games on Steam, which you can check out here. But do make sure to let us know some of your personal favorites below, too!