Looking for the best free computer games to play in 2021? We've got all sorts of options for you in our overhauled list. We'll keep you updated throughout the year with all the best free PC games to play when they pop up.
In the mood for a spooky tour through an abandoned online shooter? Classic Command & Conquer or Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall? What about a collection of puzzle escape rooms or more mainstream free-to-play games like Fortnite or Path of Exile? There's almost anything you'd want to play for free, from MS-DOS classics to indie browser games, parodies of popular games to multiplayer online games with microtransactions.
It's ridiculous how many free games there are to play on PC. To make things easier we've divided our games list into genres, with our favorite free games at the very top if you don't know exactly what you're looking for. Some are free online games, others are free downloads from sites like Itch.io, and there are lots of free-to-play games to lose hundreds of hours into.
The best free PC games right now
- AI Dungeon - A text adventure in your browser where the characters and story are determined in real-time by you and an AI. Things can get really off the rail creating some silly, nonsensical situations.
- Blaseball - A massive sports betting simulation that nearly defies explanation, but we did try.
- Doki Doki Literature Club! - Beware, Doki Doki isn't your average adorable dating sim. It's a wild post-modern take with a twist.
- Hard Lads - A classic Robert Yang experience based on a viral video. He calls it "a short game about shirtless hunks who smoke, drink, kiss, and hurt each other."
- Haunted PS1 Demo Disc - An awesome collection of low-poly horror game demos that evoke early Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Weird, creative, spooky. There are 17! What a bounty.
- Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking - More an educational experience about games than a game itself, the digital museum is still a really neat interactive exploration of lockpicking minigames.
- Return To Castle Monkey Ball - B.J. meets bananas in this mashup between Wolfenstein 3D and Monkey Ball.
- Waterworks - A strategy game about managing a medieval water supply which we promise is more interesting than it sounds.
- We Were Here - A co-op adventure where you and a friend are separated but have to collaborate via walkie-talkie to escape a spooky castle.
Free-to-play PC games
Best free games: Free-to-play
While most of the games on this list are completely free, these free-to-play games are supported by in-game microtransactions or paid-for updates. They want your money, but they're also massive games you can sink months or years into and some of the most popular games in the world. These are the ones we think are actually worth your time.
Call of Duty: Warzone is Infinity Ward's standalone battle royale spinoff of 2019's Modern Warfare reboot, and it's awesome. Played on a sprawling 150-player map with frequent seasonal updates, it's a very high quality shooter that doesn't force you to spend a dime to play.
Genshin Impact may look a lot like Breath Of The Wild on PC what with its cliff-climbing and gliders but its elemental action combat really stands out. Swapping between heroes with their own unique elemental abilities to create powerful combos is good fun, as is exploring its gorgeous world in search of treasure chests and side-quests.
Riot's tactical shooter takes a direct shot at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with a hero-driven spin. For the reasonable price of free, Valorant is a fantastic competitive shooter that you can play for hours. Most of the game's heroes come for free out of the box and the rest can be unlocked for free if play enough. You can skip the unlock process if you drop 10 bucks per hero, but it doesn't feel necessary. Where the game mainly makes its money is cosmetic weapon skins that can range anywhere from $10 to $100. Those prices can get pretty ridiculous, but thankfully, it doesn't get in the way of Valorant's deep, competitive gameplay.
This phenomenally successful third-person shooter throws 100 players into a map and shrinks the borders of the playable area until only one individual, or team, is victorious. Once you've parachuted in you need to raid buildings and loot chests for weapons. You can also build structures anywhere you like. The best players are able to build and battle at the same time in remarkable shows of dexterity.
An outstanding, dangerously moreish digital card game. Regular events and card drops keeps the meta bubbling. The density of the card collection available is daunting but you can keep up with our round-up of the best legendary cards.
Two teams of five battle across three lanes in this colourful MOBA. Summoner's Rift provides lengthy, intense competition, but you can also jump into the Howling Abyss for some All Random All Mid action.
This is a crunchy and detailed Diablo-like with remarkably deep character development and progression systems. It's not the most beautiful action RPG in the world, but it is engaging and rewarding in the long run. The microtransactions aren't too intrusive either, which makes this a must-try for fans of Diablo 2 and its ilk.
You play a sci-fi ninja in this third-person co-op action game. Warframe has been quietly growing in popularity as new updates and challenges have been added. The game has even gained massive open world zones in addition to the many, many missions that make up its planet-hopping campaign.
Free classic games
Best free games: PC Classics
The MS-DOS Archive.org library - This recommendation exists outside a genre, because it's a collection of thousands of classic PC games playable in your browser. The MS-DOS collection on Archive.org contains more than 4000 games, all emulated and easy to play in just a few seconds. Wolfenstein 3D, Prince of Persia, Jazz Jackrabbit, Carmen Sandiego... you could spend a lifetime of lunch breaks playing these games alone.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert - Now here’s a rare thing: strategy with a sense of humour. From its infamously cheesy FMV cutscenes to its brilliantly bizarre weapons of war, Red Alert’s window into a retro-future cold war makes for one of the most charming RTS games ever made. - Robin Valentine
StarCraft - These days Blizzard sells a shiny remaster, but if the original’s good enough for South Korea, it’s good enough for us. There’s a reason that even today it’s an esports sensation – this iconic RTS remains a triumph of tight strategy and intense competition, with an incredible amount of depth for devotees to get lost in. - Robin Valentine
The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall - The second Elder Scrolls game is huge and ambitious, with the provinces of High Rock and Hammerfell open to explore. A lot of what became standard for the series, like the option to join the Mages Guild, started here. - Jody Macgregor
Beneath a Steel Sky - This early point-and-click adventure from the creator of Broken Sword features art by Watchmen’s Dave Gibbons, a twisty sci-fi story, and a really goofy sense of humour. One of its neatest ideas is how you can stick your AI pal Joey’s electronic brain into different mechanical robots to solve puzzles. And if you enjoy it, a sequel is currently in development. - Andy Kelly
The Dark Mod - A tribute to the Thief series, this standalone game lets you download a massive variety of user-made stealth levels, from tightly contained ones like Thief’s Den to the more open variety of Return to the City, and plenty of spooky ones like The Creeps. - Jody Macgregor
The Operative: No One Lives Forever - As it stands, no one can even agree which company owns the rights to this classic stealth FPS, so not only are the chances of a sequel or even a remaster close to nil, there’s nowhere you can even buy the original game. Luckily, you can grab it and its equally worthy sequel for free at this link. Its clever humour and charming 1960s setting hold up nicely, as does its unique spin on the genre – the key to success is creative use of the arsenal of goofy, Bond-esque gadgets at your disposal. That includes lipstick bombs, sleeping gas perfume, and a briefcase rocket launcher. - Robin Valentine
Free puzzle games
Best free games: Puzzle
Transmute! - Psst, please don’t tell the internet, but there are some bad things about retro games: limited lives, nasty difficulty spikes, the inability to save. None of these things is a problem for the decidedly retro, decidedly lovely Transmute!, which looks rather like a ZX Spectrum game, but is more forgiving, more modern in its approach. It’s a puzzle game, a wonderful puzzle game where you play as a wizard who can transform themselves into different objects. You might turn into a key to open a lock, or a boat to sail the open sea. And you’ll do so to unlock a gorgeous, friendly fantasy world. - Tom Sykes
Mirror Isles - No list of puzzle games is really complete without a PuzzleScript game from Alan Hazelden, and Mirror Isles is one of the very best. It’s a top-down, Sokoban-style puzzler where you have to hop between islands, by using magic mirrors to swap places with your reflection. Got it? Great. Now solve these increasingly difficult puzzles, by pushing mirrors and crates around each map. - Tom Sykes
Cube Escape - There’s a strange atmosphere to developer Rusty Lake’s series of locked room puzzle games. Getting out of each one will test your brain – but you’ll be even more taxed trying to figure out what’s going on in their bizarre universe. If you like them, we recommend moving on to the Rusty Lake games, though you’ll have to pay for those. - Robin Valentine
Corrypt - It’s usual for a puzzle game to grow in complexity, in cleverness, as the game goes on. But few hand over the keys to their universe. What starts as a relatively simple block-pushing game ends as one where you’ll reshape the world, by using magic to reprogram the state of the environment. - Tom Sykes
Counterfeit Monkey - Words are great, aren’t they? They hold power over the world – literally, even, in this text-based puzzle game. You come equipped with a letter remover, which allows you to change the items around you, by deleting a single letter from their names. - Tom Sykes
Naya's Quest - Naya's Quest was made by VVVVVV and Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh. In case you were wondering: yes, it is bastard hard, just less stressful on your reflexes. It's an isometric puzzle-platformer about a girl and her pilgrimage to the edge of the world.
The Republia Times - You're the editor of a newspaper in a totalitarian state in this game from the creator of Return of the Obra Dinn. Each day you must choose which stories to run and how much space to give them, impacting your paper's popularity and the government's approval with the general populace. Smart and cynical.
Free horror games
Best free games: Horror
We Are Broken - An interactive visual novel where you must talk your way out of being eaten by a vampire. You’ve been abducted and placed in a dark room, and your blood-sucking captor wants to know the location of the human resistance hideout. Through choosing dialogue options you must try to resist the vampire’s demands – or break in the attempt. Through the stories of three characters, We Are Broken conjures a dark and cruel world with cutting visuals and music that makes your skin crawl. Having a vampire sneer at your attempts to protect those you care about makes for a chilling story. - Rachel Watts
Sentient - This one’s a little Saw-esque – you’re stuck in a room and forced to obey instructions given through an old speaker. Being trapped is horrible enough, but what cranks up the creepiness factor here is the dog-flap sized hole looming in the corner of the room, darkness shrouding whatever, or whoever, is inside. - Rachel Watts
Bleakshore - This chilling adventure uses the fuzzy, lo-fi aesthetic of PS1-era 3D graphics to create an impressively eerie atmosphere. Searching for a missing woman called Orla, you discover a trail of her belongings – each one illuminating something about the nature of your relationship with her. Meanwhile, a shadowy figure stalks you across the landscape... - Robin Valentine
No Players Online - In the spooky, original No Players Online, you log onto an old FPS, but where you’re the only player in a futile game of Capture the Flag. The map feels convincing, and eerily empty as a result, while the gradual introduction of creepy elements is masterfully done. Brief but very effective. - Tom Sykes
Faith - Standing out amid all the grainy, first-person horror games, Faith might look pretty harmless at first – but it’s a horror game with genuine bite. It lures you into feeling secure – if a little jumpy – with its retro aesthetic, before it transcends its limitations in one shockingly scary moment. - Tom Sykes
David Lynch Teaches Typing - What begins as a friendly typing lesson from film director David Lynch slowly descends into a surreal, disorientating nightmare. David teaches players how to type more efficiently and at one point you have to touch a gross twitching bug. Great work, kiddo! - Rachel Watts
House of Abandon - This story of a person playing a text adventure takes a sinister turn. Originally standalone, it became the first episode of eerie, atmospheric adventure Stories Untold. You can still play it for free by downloading the demo from Steam.
Chyrza - Chyrza’s brand of horror is that unsettling strangeness you get with ruined alien desertscapes and mentions of a strange and terrible pyramid. But it’s not just Chyrza. Kitty Horrorshow’s back catalogue thrums with eerie and creepy experiences.
Free action & platformer games
Best free games: Action & Platformers
1Boss1Battle1Button - The name says it all, really. This challenging rhythm game pits you against a scary Picasso-faced monster, and your only hopes of survival lie with a single button. Pressing it in time with certain beats lets you jump, crouch, and dodge out of the way of oncoming attacks. It’s a very cleverly designed game that offers a truly challenging nemesis. - Rachel Watts
Spelunky - The shiny HD remake is well worth the asking price, but if you’re strapped for cash, the original free version is still available and just as satisfying. Its roguelite journeys into the depths of a cursed ruin bring new meaning to the phrase “Just one more go...” - Robin Valentine
N 2.0 - This ultra hardcore platformer boasts a dizzying amount of levels – and if you can get through even a fraction of them, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something for the day. With simple controls and a minimalist aesthetic, the focus is entirely on quick, precise control. And lots and lots of practice. - Robin Valentine
The Last Tango - Rhythm espionage survival. I'd have called it Dance Dance Execution, but the principle remains the same. You play as two spies, dancing through a variety of deadly locations. They'll pirouette past traps, dodge under attacks, and take down enemies with an elegant twirl. And a gun.
Eggnogg+ - This is Nidhogg, but free, and with different moves, and a bit more tongue-in-cheek. It’s a feature-rich, cheeky counterpart rather than a simple clone of the day-glo swordfighting game, and it was first released before its inspiration. Expect hyperactive duels in a series of arenas. - Tom Sykes
Cuckoo Curling - A fun four-player game that combines the rules of curling with Connect Four. An easy game to pick up and play with friends, you can play Cuckoo Curling in local or online multiplayer. It’s cute visuals and humour are perfect for anyone. Just watch out for the crocodile. - Rachel Watts
First Cut - Flashy fighting games are all well and good, but there’s something satisfying about the one-on-one sword duel, as evidenced in Square’s classic Bushido Blade. First Cut is that but in 2D, essentially, offering feudal Japan-themed duels against some truly beautiful pixel art backdrops. Moves are kept simple, but tactical: you can attack, block, or dash in a number of directions, while your opponent can behave identically. Mistakes will be punished severely, either by the AI or a nearby chum, as it only takes one landed hit to defeat your enemy. The tension that results from this is palpable. - Tom Sykes
Best free Story & Adventure games
Best free games: Story & Adventure
The Doll Shop - With the help of its art students, Atelier Sentô makes beautiful, free adventure games inspired by, and set in Japan. Blending horror with romance, The Doll Shop transports you to a small village, which is being buried under a relentless snowfall. Fairly long, for a free game, it takes the time to establish its world, before the darkness at its rotten core is revealed. It’s all the more effective for it, telling a sinister story involving creepy handmade dolls, and the arrival of an old friend to your remote village. The art is sublime and the ending memorable in this handcrafted visual novel. - Tom Sykes
The Supper - Octavi Navarro’s wonderful adventure games tell short, twisty stories set in evocative worlds. The Supper is a highlight: a dark story of revenge that brings to mind Sweeney Todd. You play as a peg-legged, tavern-owner, who has to serve three very special dishes to a trio of horrible pirates, who really should have checked the Food Standards rating first... - Tom Sykes
Lockheart Indigo - This is a sci-fi detective game that feels a lot like a JRPG. You’ve arrived at a vast mansion to solve the murder of its former owner, but locked doors and suspects stand in your way. The latter are dealt with via interrogations, in the form of turn-based chat battles. - Tom Sykes
Deltarune: Chapter 1 - This sorta sequel to Undertale is packed with memorable characters, catchy tunes, and emotive dialogue – despite being a fraction of its size. The start of a series, Deltarune: Chapter 1 tells a fulfilling story in its own right, while building on the battles of the previous game. - Tom Sykes
Little Party - The quiet and bittersweet story of a mother trying to reconnect with her daughter. You wander around quietly, checking on your daughter and her friends as they visit your woodland cabin for a party. It’s a gentle and funny game about rekindling lost relationships. - Rachel Watts
Eternal Home Floristry - The tale of a hitman who gets taken in at a flower shop while he recovers from his injuries. The game’s ability to tackle tough topics through the act of gentle flower arrangement is remarkable – a powerful and beautiful story. - Rachel Watts
The Herbalist - A wordless adventure about a traveller searching for a mysterious herb. You wander around its strange world trying to interpret symbols, in the hope of discovering the plant you need. Its detailed illustrations and ethereal music draw you completely into the mysterious setting. - Rachel Watts
Off-Peak - Stranding you at an otherworldly train station, Off-Peak encourages you to explore, talk to the locals, and luxuriate in its strange atmosphere. It’s got an incredible sense of place, despite feeling like nowhere on Earth, and as you poke around its nooks and crannies, the true nature of its world is revealed piece by piece. - Robin Valentine
Haunted Cities - There are three volumes worth of Haunted Cities to savour. Despite the name, these aren’t really horror games – they’ve just inherited much of the atmosphere of games such as Silent Hill. The boxy, PS1-style worlds hold fragmented stories to piece together, and overall a foggy, inviting sense of place. - Tom Sykes
Emily is Away - Party like it’s the early-’00s in this narrative game set in a chat client. You’ll get to know fellow high school student Emily through snippets of online conversations about life, love and indie rock music. If you enjoy this, paid-for sequel Emily is Away Too is worth checking out.
Olav and the Lute - An enigmatic adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic world, with a cracking central mechanic. Rather than combining objects with other objects, you're affecting the world with a lute, by plucking at its colour-coded strings. It's a bit like Ocarina of Time, and a lot like LOOM; to open a door, for example, you'll pluck a certain combination using the game's moderately fiddly interface. Olav & Lute is a short, stark, striking adventure.
Best free strategy games
Best free games: Strategy
Dwarf Fortress - A complex game of colony management that’s still in development 18 years after its original inception – and with good reason. The incredible depth of its simulation doesn’t just add depth and challenge, it allows for emergent stories to arise as you play, giving your dwarves a life of their own. - Robin Valentine
Tiny Islands - Roll & Write is a popular board game genre at the moment, and the brilliant Tiny Islands translates the concept to the digital realm. You’re drawing maps of little islands in the sea here, by placing beaches, houses, even waves as random cards are dealt out to you. But placement is everything, as every icon has its own set of rules. - Tom Sykes
Brogue - ASCII roguelikes have a reputation for being impenetrable. Brogue, despite staying true to the genre, works hard to feel approachable. The controls make navigating its dungeons a breeze, and the elegant shading makes its symbols atmospheric and readable.
Terra Nil - Building games see the environment as a resource, or an empty square waiting to be filled by some lovely concrete. Terra Nil begins at the ultimate end of civilisation – with the poisoned earth – letting you breathe life back into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In this relaxing, therapeutic anti-builder, you construct devices to cleanse the earth, and to regrow green plants and trees. - Tom Sykes
Best free chill games
Best free games: Chill and relaxing
Toripon - Topically, at the time of writing, Toripon is a game about being inside. You’re stuck inside your flat, thankfully with company. Instead of friends – pah! – and family – pah! – your companions here are loads and loads of birds. Don’t ask why. Don’t look a gift parakeet in the mouth. Just sit back and explore your apartment, examining every nook and every crevice for your feathered friends. You have your smartphone and a legally distinct version of Instagram, so why not snap every bird, ‘collecting’ them in your scrapbook? This is lovely and happy, exploring the nice side of social media. - Tom Sykes
Bernband - You’re an alien in an alien city, going for a nice walk. Flying cars BladeRunner past as you cross a bridge, someone’s rapping in the corner of the car park, and every crowd hubbubs away. Despite the four-fingered hands and alien aviary, it feels like a real city. A real chill city. - Jody Macgregor
Lieve Oma - Is there anything more chill than going on a short walk with your grandma? Lieve Oma takes you on a relaxing jaunt through an autumnal wood on the hunt for mushrooms. As you scamper around, your granny follows slowly behind, teaching you about which mushrooms are okay to eat and teaching you her humble life lessons. - Rachel Watts
Forest Are For Trees - Walking through the forest is something that takes on new meaning in this mind-expanding exploration game, which is small and possibly infinite all at once. It’s a walking sim, sort of, where you traipse around an eerie woodland. But something funny happens when you make contact with a tree. Inside every tree there’s another forest full of ghostly trees. You saunter through these arboreal portals in slick real-time. You could go back, but what if you kept going, into one of these trees? And so on, and so on, and argh. This is less a game, and more a beautiful creation myth. - Tom Sykes
Best weird and funny games
Best free games: Comedy and Oddity
Everything Is Going To Be Okay - Vividly animated creatures deal with existential horror and pain – and are alarmingly sanguine about it – in this cathartic collection of minigames, videos, and quizzes. It’s overwhelming, just as life can be overwhelming. But it’s refreshing for a game to deal with that fact. - Tom Sykes
Pet the Pup at the Party - The story is simple: you’ve run out of small talk at a rambunctious house party and before anyone notices how awkward you are, you must find a pooch and pet it. It’s a frantic race trying to navigate the endless corridors and rooms of the house. You’ll need to dodge random people who want to talk to you, ignoring them and following the soft noises of the puppy to find it. And after all that, what better reward could there be than a cute new friend? It’s fun, chaotic, and completely relatable to those of us that always wind up hanging out in the kitchen. - Rachel Watts
Head Over Hooves: My Heart Bleats For You - An apocalyptic dating sim where you must make a goat fall in love with you and then sacrifice it to save the world from eternal damnation. Through a number of mini-games, you must impress your furry friend whilst keeping your true intentions a secret. It’s a bittersweet tale of unrequited love. Cute, funny, and very weird. - Rachel Watts
Alfonso's Bowling Challenge - This sort-of sports game swerves away from its premise quickly, building on its strange version of bowling until you’re making breakfast and chopping hair with your bowling ball. - Tom Sykes
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist - This team-up of The Stanley Parable creator William Pugh and stand-up comedian Simon Amstell takes you on a hilarious journey behind the scenes of a game falling apart at the seams. - Robin Valentine
The Book Of Beasts and Buddies - An interactive monster manual filled with curious creatures. Each page throws you into a brief Pokémon-inspired encounter, and through interacting with them you can gather your findings for the bestiary. A tiny visual novel that’s funny from cover to cover. - Rachel Watts
Cooldog Teaches Typing - There are plenty of educational game parodies, but only one features a chihuahua-looking thing as the teacher. He’s eager to teach though. If you learned to type by having a teacher shout at you, you’ll appreciate the gentler methods of Cooldog. - Jody Macgregor
Stick Shift - As creator Robert Yang says, "Stick Shift is an autoerotic night-driving game about pleasuring a gay car." It’s part of an anthology with Hurt Me Plenty and Succulent, covering eroticism, politics and more. Stick Shift is funny while also offering food for thought.
Skeal - Recommending Skeal is a tough job because the absolute best experience is to go in with zero idea of what to expect. To that end, it’s a downhill skiing experience which becomes transcendental the longer you ski and the more reveals you trigger as the jape unfurls.