9 best free-to-play games on Steam

Last Updated on June 9, 2024 by Jhonni Jets

With the rise of free-to-play and microtransaction business models, there are countless free games available on PC these days. However, not all free games are created equal, and many are low-quality cash grabs. But there are also numerous truly excellent free-to-play titles available on Steam that provide outstanding gameplay without requiring any monetary investment. This article will discuss the 9 best free games currently available on Steam and why they deserve your time and consideration.

Destiny 2

Building the Best PC for Destiny 2

Destiny 2 is a massively popular sci-fi first-person shooter from Bungie that was initially a premium game but has since transitioned to a free-to-play model. The base version of Destiny 2 offers an immense amount of content for free, including the complete main campaign and several endgame activities. You get access to numerous subclasses, weapon archetypes, and abilities without spending a dime. You’ll also be able to team up with friends regardless of whether they own expansions or not. While some late-game and seasonal content requires purchases, the core Destiny 2 experience is one of the most feature-rich free games out there.

Destiny 2 perfected the “loot shooter” formula with its relaxing gameplay loop of completing strikes and activities for powerful gear. The gunplay is tight and satisfying, with RPG elements like ability customization and meaningful weapons. Both PvE and PvP are well-supported, and regular updates keep things fresh. New players have dozens if not hundreds of hours of fun to look forward to exploring the world, leveling up, and collecting cool armor and weapons. Even without expansions, Destiny 2 offers an experience comparable to a premium game and much more content than most free titles.

Dota 2

Dota 2 on Steam

As one of the most played games on Steam, Dota 2 is a monument in the MOBA genre. Dota 2 introduced many players worldwide to the addicting formula of team-based battles in an asymmetrical map with farming, laning, jungle creeping, teamfighting, and high-stakes base assaults. What’s remarkable is that Dota 2 remains fiercely competitive even as a free game, thanks to its massive hero pool, steep learning curve, and ultra-high skill ceiling. From beginner to pro, there’s always more to learn and improve on.

While cosmetics and a battle pass provide optional monetization, all gameplay content is entirely free. No heroes, items, or abilities are locked away – every tool is available from the start. Dota 2 may have a more punishing social experience than other MOBAs, but its balanced and fluid mechanics are incredibly rewarding to master over thousands of hours. One of Steam’s most dedicated playerbases ensures quick matchmaking at all skill levels. For multiplayer gamers looking for an experience they can stick with indefinitely, Dota 2 is unparalleled as a free-to-play game.

Team Fortress 2

Steam Community :: Guide :: The Beginner's Guide to Team Fortress 2

As one of Valve’s oldest online games, Team Fortress 2 has stayed free since 2011 thanks to a generous Hat Simulator economy driven by Steam Community Market transactions. However, don’t let the silly aesthetic and comedic tone fool you – TF2 is a supremely well-crafted multiplayer shooter. Each of the 9 distinct classes offers a uniquely viable playstyle, from high-damage Demomen to support Medics. Control point and payload game modes provide the framework for lively team-oriented battles.

New players starting out will love exploring the side-scrolling levels and learning each diverse class. But TF2’s real depth comes from mastery – from learning intricate jumping techniques with Soldier to saving teammates as a pootis-healing Medic. Cosmetics provide optional self-expression without impacting mechanics. Regular updates have kept the game feeling fresh for 15+ years. With an active community, plentiful community servers, and endless room to improve individual skills, TF2 remains a gem of finely-tuned and endlessly replayable multiplayer gameplay.

Warframe

Warframe: Download

As the quintessential free-to-play looter shooter, Warframe provides a ridiculously massive campaign and grind for free. You play as agile space ninjas hacking and slashing through swarms of enemies across different open-world planets. Melee and gunplay feel incredibly fluid and impactful. But where Warframe truly shines is in its RPG progression – from slowly building up your favorite Warframe suits and choosing from giant skill trees, to assembling powerful customizable guns with riven mods.

New players can spend dozens of hours experimenting before hitting any paywalls. Side-activities like breeding pets and decorating your ship keep things fresh. An ambitious story delivers cinematic quests on par with triple-A games. Cosmetic-only microtransactions and a robust trading economy let you earn premium currency without spending a dime. With constant new content and reworks keeping the game feeling fresh, Warframe’s scale and carefree fun make it an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a massive free live-service experience.

Path of Exile

Path of Exile 2 Coming Soon - Epic Games Store

As the free-to-play action-RPG that spawned an entire subgenre, Path of Exile offers a true Diablo-style experience without costing a cent. Its character depth and customization blows its competition out of the water, from absurdly deep passive trees and layered item mods to dozens of high-impact skills to slot onto your action bar. Seasons provide continued reasons to start fresh without resetting progress. PvE is where PoE truly shines with its tight isometric combat, randomized maps, and lore-rich campaign.

While some convenience purchases exist, everything from skills to loot to endgame is entirely accessible without spending. Crafting and trading create a bustling in-game economy. Constant expansions and reworks have kept Path of Exile feeling fresh for a decade. It’s one of the longest and most generous free experiences out there. The sheer volume of content and build diversity available for new players means you could play for hundreds or thousands of hours before hitting a wall. For ARPG fans looking to get their fix without cost, Path of Exile is hands-down the best free option.

Apex Legends

Apex Legends pick rates: Most popular Legends in Season 20 - Dexerto

Respawn Entertainment struck gold with this free-to-play battle royale, refining key elements that helped make the genre a phenomenon. The tight first-person shooting, fluid movement system, and character-based squad dynamics give every match a high-octane sense of tactical teamwork. Unique Legends provide variety without requiring unlocking. Matches are quick enough to fit into any schedule yet deliver multiplayer fun on par with AAA games.

New players will have their hands full just learning the map, looting efficiently, and getting their first squad wins. Mastering movement, efficient shooting, and optimal Legend abilities provides enormous room for long-term improvement. Cosmetics generate revenue without pay-to-win concerns. Robust ping system supports inclusive matchmaking. Regular seasons maintain freshness through new maps, Legends, and loot. Overall Apex delivers the most polished version of the battle royale template available for free.

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact | Download and Play for Free - Epic Games Store

This free-to-play open-world RPG surprised everyone with its beautifully-realized world of Teyvat and combat reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Players explore vast landscapes, complete quests for colorful characters, and engage in visceral real-time battles using a diverse roster of heroes with unique elemental abilities. New regions unlock regularly with rich storylines and side-content worthy of premium games.

Gacha mechanics and constellation systems provide long-term motivation for players. However, all content remains perfectly playable without heavy investing. Updates remain generous with free quests, domains, and characters. Lower rarities deliver fun and balanced experiences. Surprising depth through character builds, weapons, and artifacts provides meaningful progression. Excellent production values, a busy community, and consistent support from developers ensure this one remains a must-play for years.

War Thunder

War Thunder — Realistic Military Vehicles Online Combat Game for PC, Xbox  and PlayStation. Play for Free

For vehicle and aviation combat fans, War Thunder delivers perhaps the most authentic free-to-play experience available. Players can choose from an immense selection of historically-accurate planes, tanks, helicopters and ships spanning the 20th century. Detailed damage models and flight/driving sim elements immerse you in realistic conflicts.

New players have more than enough premium and regular vehicles unlocked from the start to fully experience each of the game’s varied modes. Carefully balancing progression unlocks keeps paying and non-paying players on even footing. A massive playerbase supports quick matchmaking at all tiers of play. Regular updates introduce new vehicles and maps keeping the game fresh. Overall War Thunder delivers a true hardcore sim experience completely for free, making it an excellent choice for military vehicle fans.

PlanetSide 2

PlanetSide 2 - Home

As one of the largest online first-person shooters ever made, PlanetSide 2 remains a pioneer of the MMOFPS genre a decade after launch. Three empires of hundreds of players each battle simultaneously across sprawling open continents in vehicle and infantry combat. Complex combined-arms warfare and tense territory control create memorable massively-multiplayer moments unlike anything else available for free.

New players have access to core vehicles, weapons, and infantry abilities right away allowing them to tackle any objective on day one. Cosmetics-only monetization ensures a fair playing field. Large organized platoons cooperate seamlessly with new solo prospects. Developer commitment to the game ensures a loyal community and regular updates with new content. For the ultimate free multiplayer shooter experience with hundreds of players per battle, PlanetSide 2 sets the bar unmatched by any other game on this list.

Conclusion

This list has highlighted some of the best free-to-play options Steam has to offer representing a variety of popular genres. From iconic competitive games like Dota 2 and TF2, to massive live-service grindfests in Warframe and Path of Exile, to hugely ambitious multiplayer shooters in PlanetSide 2 and War Thunder – there truly is something for everyone. Even relatively new hit games like Apex Legends, Destiny 2, and Genshin Impact offer immense amounts of quality content without cost.

What makes these games stand out is how fairly and generously they are monetized, ensuring that every element that impacts actual gameplay remains fully accessible without investing money. Cosmetic microtransactions or battle passes provide sustained funding to support developer operations without creating “pay-to-win” concerns. Overall, each title highlighted here sets the gold standard for how free-to-play games should be done right – by prioritizing player access, balance, and truly rewarding long-term engagement over financially exploiting their audiences.

So whether looking for your next core competitive obsession, deep shooter grind, or casual adventure – be sure to check out some of these excellent freebies that Steam has to offer. You may just find your next favorite game without spending a dime.

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