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Words: Kieran Galpin
With thousands of video games to choose from on every current console, ranging between the affordable and extortionate, selecting one to dedicate your time to can be stressful. What if you pay £50 or more only to discover you can't stand its complicated mechanics, poor graphics, and lazy story arcs?
Instead, why not try one of the countless free games out there? There is a common misconception that free games are only free because they are awful, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Here, we have collected some of the best free (or at least free-to-start, and discounting titles only available for very limited periods, such as those on PlayStation Plus) games out there, for PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch - and many are also playable on PC. So download, dig in, and spend the foreseeable future glued to your system of choice.
Call of Duty: Warzone (PlayStation and Xbox, official website)
Warzone combined two beloved franchise into one fantastic new game, those two ingredients being Call of Duty and Fortnite. Through its battle royale-style combat, you can dominate the other teams alongside friends or venture out solo to compete against other lone crusaders
This is the perfect game for anyone looking to fill the time between each annual Call of Duty instalment - but don't be surprised if you quickly become very invested in its exclusive content.
Get a feeling for what Warzone's about by watching our Wins & Fails video, below...
Fortnite (All Platforms, official website)
Inarguably one of the most popular games in the world, Fortnite has stormed its way into every facet of our lives. Though this game isn't for everyone, its simplistic mechanics and customisation options make for exciting gameplay - and you can unlock a lot of content each season without spending any real money, although opening your wallet is always an option.
SMITE (Xbox and PlayStation, official website)
Launched in 2014, SMITE arguably predates Fortnite's iconic battle arena mechanics. Instead of soldiers, however, you will play as iconic characters from myth and legend. From Anubis to Aphrodite, Baba Yaga to Odin, there are deities from every culture on earth.
Form your team and set out on your campaign to conquer the realms of man, all while collecting each and every deity to add to your collection.
Destiny 2 (Xbox and PlayStation, official website)
Destiny 2's expansive world has had players gripped for a few years now - and its audience has only grown since its switch to free-to-play. With its combination of community orientated combat and various themed seasons and challenges, Destiny 2 continues to be a fan favourite.
Whether you like PvE (player vs environment) or PvP (player vs player), there is a plethora of options to choose from. Crucible is your traditional team deathmatch, but if you prefer open-world gameplay then there are multiple options for that, too.
DC Universe Online (All Platforms, official website)
If you are a fan of the DC comic book universe and haven't played this online game, you're recommended to sign up immediately. Available on all platforms, DC Universe Online allows you to create a completely original character, design their costumes, assign their power sets, choose a weapon, and then team up with either the Justice League or the sinister Legion of Doom.
This third person combat game is open world with noticeable architecture to explore from across the DC Universe.
Warframe (All Platforms, official website)
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you were an alien ninja with wizard-like abilities? Well, wonder no longer because this third-person space shooter is precisely the game for you. With an expansive universe and regular updates, you could bank 500+ hours on this behemoth and still have worlds of content to explore.
Pokémon Quest (Switch, official website)
Pokémon is one of the biggest franchises in the world, and now you jump into the action for free. Journey through Tumblecube Island, befriend Pokémon, power them up, and become the best team in the land. You can even make the Pokémon come to you by cooking up specific ingredients found in the wild, drawing them to your customisable base camp.
Despite its Minecraft-like blocky aesthetic, there is a homely feel to Pokémon Quest, more akin to Animal Crossing. Its simple mechanics and relaxing playstyle are a calming way to spend your time, and you don't even have to break the bank to enjoy it.
Spellbreak (All Platforms, official website)
Spellbreak is a cross between Harry Potter and Fortnite, taking the mechanics from the popular shooter and combining them with a unique magic perspective. If guns are too mundane for you, then try hurtling fireballs at your enemies, flying through the skies, or freezing the terrain like Frozen's Elsa.
Rocket League (All Platforms, official website)
Rocket League combines football and high-intensity driving into one beautifully designed game. With regular new-season updates delivering fresh content much like other free-to-play games, Rocket League remains a staple in many people's libraries six years on from its initial release.
Rocket League allows you to take to the pitch solo or team up with friends to go against other groups. And if soccer-like play (aka Soccar) is not to your liking, then you can opt for a hockey-style mode, or even shoot for hoops in a basketball face-off.
Apex Legends (PlayStation and Xbox, official website)
Apex Legends is another online battle royale game that allows the player to take control of a roster of heroes - the 'Legends' of the title. Take to the skies as the "Winged Avenger" Valkyrie, break through the fabric of reality with Wraith, or infect enemies with Caustic. These are but three of the current 17 heroes you can play with - and the game, set in the Titanfall universe, regularly adds more Legends, weapons and abilities, and makes changes to maps to ensure it's always as fresh as possible.
PAC-MAN 99 (Switch, official website)
It doesn't get much better than the classics, and little in gaming is more classic than PAC-MAN. Though the signature game from 1980 is available for purchase on just about every platform, this multiplayer-focused version is currently free on the Switch eShop. This 99-player battle royale can seem a little daunting at first, but the basic premise of the iconic game remains: ghosts bad, dots good!
Tetris 99 (Switch, official website)
Is PAC-MAN not enough for you? Has your 1980s nostalgia got you begging for more? Then Tetris 99 is the obvious next step on your gaming journey. Though the premise of Tetris is simple - create lines with connecting building blocks to clear them, without the stack ever reaching the top - it can become very intense, very quickly. Especially when there are other players working to empty their screens at the same time, and whose clearances send fresh blocks your way. Probably the most dramatic puzzle game you'll ever play.
Brawlhalla (All platforms, official website)
Brawlhalla is a lot like Nintendo's iconic, franchises-mashing-up Super Smash Bros. in that it takes place on a 2D plane with 3D characters, and sticks with fighting game mechanics proven to be universally successful. With over 50 characters to play as, there are hours upon hours of playtime ahead of you in this Ubisoft-made affair.
With customisation options, weapons, and familiar faces like Rayman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this game is ideal for anyone looking for a refreshing and engaging fighter that takes the Smash Bros. formula onto non-Nintendo platforms in fine style.
Astro's Playroom (PlayStation 5, official website)
Coming preloaded on all PlayStation 5 consoles, the creators of the brilliant PlayStation VR game Astro Bot Rescue Mission, Japan Studio (RIP), have delivered a fantastic sequel with Astro's Playroom. There are four fully interactive worlds to explore alongside your Astro Bot, and the game makes full use of the PS5's advanced DualSense controller. The pad's cutting-edge vibration technology, with haptic and force feedback features, makes the bond between character and player that much more enjoyable. (Read our review of the game, here.)
Astro's Playroom also prides itself on being a family game, so sit down and enjoy the fun together when Monopoly gets too dull.
Warface (All Platforms, official website)
With over 85 million registered players, Warface is one of the biggest first-person shooters on the market. Take control of five unique classes and form the ultimate team to combat any situation. Warface strips back the bravado and flashy mechanics for one simple mission: kill or be killed.
With a Terminator-like class available, Warface isn't afraid to look to popular culture for influences. And if you become bored of both humans and humanoid mechs, the game also offers a super-fast zombie-like enemy that is guaranteed to up the ante in any fight.
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