Gaming is an industry on the rise – according to Chumba Casino, it brought in more than $125 billion in revenue in 2018. And the coronavirus pandemic has only increased the amount of income that the gaming industry expects to see – the global games market value has spiked to nearly $160 billion, according to research from Games Industry.
With profits like this, it’s fair to think that it’s expensive to play video games. However, that’s not always the case. Companies are releasing new video games all the time, and many of them are incredibly affordable (and, in some cases, free).
Is it possible to participate in gaming culture without contributing a dime? Yes, if you know where to look. Below, we break down some of the best video games to play if you’re looking for a free (or very affordable) way to spend your time. Take a look:
A Note on Equipment
If we’re talking about gaming for free, keeping our costs as low as possible is essential. While many gamers have access to sophisticated gaming systems, for the sake of our argument here, we’re going to assume that all you have access to is a computer and a mobile device. The games we recommend are often available on those other systems, and when they are, we’ll make a note.
Fantasy games are a great way to escape our everyday lives. The video game experts at MMO Bomb have shared their recommendations for the best free fantasy games on the market below:
- Neverwinter: set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, this game will see you take the role of the hero, protecting the people and lands of Neverwinter from anyone who challenges them. It’s a medieval enthusiast’s dream game – you’ll fight your way through old monasteries and castles, dragons, and other obstacles to achieve your goals. Just like Dungeons and Dragons, you’ll be able to play as a specific unique ‘character class,’ each with its pros and cons.
- Naica: if the backstory is your thing, Naica might be the best game on the market for you. The tear-shaped world (Naica) plays host to five different races. You’ll begin the game in the Azura village, travel the world, learn about its folklore, fight monsters, and uncover the secrets that lurk beneath the attractive crystal exterior.
- Might & Magic: Chess Royale: this game manages to blend chess and fantasy – a winning combination for strategy fanatics. In Might & Magic, you’ll challenge 99 other players, optimizing your lineup and playing to win in this chess simulation. Strategy and intelligence are crucial to victory in this game.
Many people use online gaming as a way to unwind and get away from the stresses of everyday life, so a strategy game might be a little more than they’re willing to tackle on a Wednesday night after a long day at work. If you’re looking for a light, fun way to while away the time (and not your budget), look no further – CNet has you covered below:
- Among Us: this multiplayer social deduction game is perfect if you’re a fan of games like Mafia or Werewolf. All players are part of the crew of a spaceship, sky headquarters, or a planet base, and you spend the game attempting to keep your ship together and return down to earth with your crew. However, one crew member has been replaced by “a parasitic shape-shifting alien” trying to kill the rest of the players before the ship returns home. The problem? That shape-shifting alien looks just like everyone else. All of the other crew members have to handle their jobs business-as-usual and only talk when the imposter has killed someone off. The crew wins when they guess who the imposter is – but if they’re wrong, back in peril, they go. This fun interactive game is free to play on most major mobile phones but $5 to download on a computer.
- The Escape Game: escape rooms have been all the rage for the past few years – why not test out your skills virtually? The Escape Game allows you to solve all the puzzles you would encounter in a standard escape room without ever forcing you to leave your own home. Small groups can book in to play at an allotted time for around $30, and the company will send you a specific Zoom link where you’ll have access to everything you need to play. It’s a great, reasonably priced way to spend time with friends.
These games are some of the most common and the most popular – however, not all combat games are created equal. PC Games has compiled their best list of war games that don’t use conflict as a backdrop but an opportunity to examine one of humanity’s hardest parts. Take a look below:
- World of Tanks: one of the most popular games for the past decade, World of Tanks is about tank warfare. You’ll be battling other tanks to unlock new machinery, each more sophisticated than the last. While this game isn’t technically free, PC Games has shared a free access code, so take a look at the link above to play.
- World of Warships: if tanks aren’t exactly your thing, check out World of Warships – the premise is almost the same, but you’ll be leveling up for water warfare. Again, PC Games has a link for free access.
- DEFCON: a multiplayer game inspired by 1983’s Wargames, this unique strategy game raises the stakes, adding a level of psychological strategy along with its standard battalion-shifting. It uses the multiplayer function to simulate the paranoia and high stakes present in the Cold War. Players are generals, responsible for the lives of millions – but with no real risk to themselves, as they’re giving orders from a nuclear-grade bunker. It’s a sophisticated game that mirrors the pressures on military personnel, and it’s a heart-stopping way to spend a Tuesday night with your friends. You can download a DEFCON demo through the link above, and a full version of the game is available for around $15.
Video games are a great way to spend your time, especially when we’re not supposed to be out socializing anyway. With these tips, you’re sure to be able to have fun (without breaking your budget).