Hunting out the best free Steam games to add to your list? Steam has you covered, with free games of all kinds, across all the genres. Even if the budget is tight and you can't swing a new game, you can swap some space on your drives for a new experience. There's a staggering number of free games on Steam, so we'll take you to the best picks to let your wallet relax and prepare for the next sale.
2023 games: Upcoming releases
Best PC games: All-time favorites
Free PC games: Freebie fest
Best FPSes: Finest gunplay
Best MMOs: Massive worlds
Best RPGs: Grand adventures
There are free-to-play heavyweights in online games like Apex Legends and Dota 2, of course, but there are fertile fields of indie games to work with too. We've rounded up a list of the best games you can add to your Steam library entirely free.
The free games section includes games the are totally free. You download the game and play it without any microtransactions or extra strings. There might be DLC available, but you can get the full core experience just by downloading the game free. Here's where you'll mostly find the short indie games and wacky experimental projects.
The free-to-play section contains games that are supported by in-game microtransactions. Here live the bigger games like Destiny 2 and The Sims 4 that, while free, will definitely attempt to shake a bit of cash from your pockets. We've considered the fairness of the in-game stores when selecting these games, and believe you can get a lot of fun out of them before you put in credit card details.
Best Free Steam Games
OpenTTD is a rather old open source remake of an even older sim game and it's still excellent in its Steam release. It remains plenty popular among fans of transport and management sims and for good reason. Despite looking relatively simple, it has a pretty deep simulation, including things like acceleration and torque for trains going uphill. It's also easily moddable, meaning there are all sorts of delights to expand the simulation with.
The Witness, but it doesn't feel like someone's cornered you at a party. This first-person puzzler is a surreal, irreverent take on Jonathan Blow's opus, with a narrative made up of audio logs that quickly devolve into sheer absurdity. It's only two hours(ish), and the puzzles are genuinely clever. It's definitely worth your time, especially if, like me, you eventually just played The Witness with the volume turned down.
Doki Doki Literature Club!
It may look like a cheerful classroom drama but don't be fooled, Doki Doki Literature Club! plays with that facade. Sedate chats with classmates create a languid impression for the first act or so, but dark twists await—there's a reason the game opens with a content warning. If you end up enjoying it then you might also like Pony Island and Undertale.
A Raven Monologue
A beautifully drawn experimental short story about a mute raven trying to interact with his townsfolk. The project is described as an attempt "to tell stories or to communicate an experience using a constrained work of interactive art." It's quick, simple to play, and full of room for interpretation.
Cry of Fear
A quality Half-Life total conversion that's full of scares. The game twists the old GoldSrc engine to give you an inventory system and a big, dark city to explore. Prepare yourself for relentless tension across eight hours of exploration and combat with 24 different weapons. The download also includes a bunch of custom campaigns and an unlockable extra campaign once you beat the main story. That's good value for a free download.
Crusader Kings 2
Everyone and their grandma has strong opinions about Victoria 3 and Stellaris these days, but it was Crusader Kings 2 that properly catapulted Paradox into the limelight. Free on Steam since 2019, Crusader Kings 2 is as much RPG as it is a strategy game: You take on the role of one of thousands of historical aristocrats (and then their heirs, and their heirs, and so on) starting at any date from 769 CE to 1337 CE, and you can play pretty much however you want.
Notionally, you're supposed to be securing your legacy, expanding your territory, and fighting for the glory of your dynasty, but you really can pick any goal you want. Fancy abducting the Pope? Go for it. Desperate to seduce the Queen of France? Fill your boots. The medieval world is your oyster.
CK2 has a vast library of DLC, all of which costs money, but the base experience is totally free and still capable of sucking up hours upon hours of your time.
Emily is Away
Return to those halcyon teenage days before Facebook, before Instagram, hell, even before smartphones. Emily is Away is an interactive story told entirely through a reproduction of AOL Instant Messenger: A name that will spark pangs of nostalgia in readers of a certain age and total incomprehension in everyone else. You don't need to be aged and grey to enjoy the story, though, which sees you cultivate a relationship with fellow high school student Emily across the internet in a branching narrative.
The supper plays like a classic adventure game, puzzles and all, but is basically a creepy short story. You're an old lady running an inn that's known for its "special sauce." It's a short and neat (but maybe not sweet) thing about serving up your evil stew to a few travelers.
It's the future, you're stuck in a train station, and everything is weird. Chat with the station's odd inhabitants and explore its twisted side passages to discover surreal little anecdotes and piece together meaning from the assembled scraps. It only takes about half an hour to complete and the music is sweet, so give it a download.
Movie tie-ins and spin-offs are almost always rubbish, but adding ludicrous action film The Expendables to ludicrous action shooter Broforce was a stroke of genius. The free DLC is an example of how to do a marketing tie-in that doesn't feel cynical or clumsily tacked-on. The beefcake stars of The Expendables feel right at home in the excellent run-and-gun action game.
The quasi-sequel to Undertale has both of its first two chapters available completely free to grab. An episodic RPG with creative battle mechanics that see you dodging enemy bullets in real time, it has new characters, as well as the return of favorites from Undertale like Sans and Toriel. Future chapters will release eventually, and are supposed to be paid, but you can enjoy the first two for free now.
Best Free-to-Play Steam Games
The ever-popular hero shooter from Respawn and EA has been around for a few years now, and shows no signs of slowing down. Oriented around squad-based play, Apex is a smart, strategic, and downright fun shooter that PCG's James Davenport called "the best battle royale available today" when it came out.
The Sims 4
It's The Sims, probably the most iconic life-simulator ever made, and it's free on Steam. The Sims 4's base game has been free on Steam since October 2022, letting all and sundry try their hand at building a dream dollhouse/subjecting innocent virtual people to unimaginable horrors. Lead a life of crime, raise a family, or, yeah, just stick 'em all in the pool and take away the ladder. The possibilities really are endless. And hey, if honest living gets too much, why not check out our list of Sims 4 cheats?
Bungie's multiplayer space shooter is free to play these days which means you can hop into a fireteam for free. It's got all the good gunplay you know Bungie for and regular content updates and new modes to keep you busy. If you're looking to get started for the first time, we've got a Destiny 2 beginners guide, and a refresher on what's going on right now can be found in the Destiny 2 roadmap.
Engrossing enough to be classed as a controlled substance, Marvel Snap is a superhero-themed card battler that you can easily lose hours to. It's one of the hottest card games going right now, a real minute-to-learn, lifetime-to-master deal, and it rewards well-thought-out deck building and careful strategy. You can do yourself a favour, though, and check out the things we wish we'd known before we started playing Marvel Snap before you pick it up. There's no need for you to repeat our rookie mistakes.
Guild Wars 2
Our best ongoing game of 2022 is free-to-play and going strong over ten years after release. An MMORPG with a vast open world and a dedicated community, Guild Wars 2 offers character customisation, a whole bunch of professions (or classes, to you and me), and rich PvP. It's still getting frequent updates and expansions, too, though you'll have to pay for the latter (sorry!).
Goose Goose Duck
Popularised by a stream from a K-Pop superstar, Goose Goose Duck is an Among Us-like that trades in waddling spacemen for, well, geese and ducks. It has quite a few more modes to offer than Among Us, though, so it's attracted thousands of players who grew tired of running the same old playbook in countless games of its space-based predecessor. Deceive your friends! Foil your enemies! Quack!
Card Hunter is a cute squad RPG based around digital collectible cards. You battle through dungeons under the guidance of a dungeon master, levelling up your squad of heroes, building your deck and enjoying some affectionate tongue in cheek digs at D&D along the way. There's loads to play before you ever see a payment screen and there are also co-op and competitive modes. If only more free-to-play games were like this.
Dota 2 is one of the biggest games on Steam. Described simply, two teams of five wizards battle to knock over towers and flatten the enemy base in battles that tend to last between 30 minutes and an hour. In practice it's one of the deepest and most complicated competitive games in the world. Every year the huge International tournament draws millions of viewers, and with 110+ heroes and a consistently shifting meta, this could be the only game you ever need in your Steam library.
The free-to-play implementation is mostly good. Most microtransactions are tied to cosmetics. In addition to individual item purchases you can also buy battle passes that grant access to modes, quests that you complete by playing games, and more cosmetic items.
This third person action RPG about futuristic ninjas can be completely baffling for new players, but if you persist with it you'll find a deep and rewarding game on the verge of some of its most ambitious updates to date. At launch it was a game about repeating short missions—and that's still part of it—but there are also open world zones and plans to add co-op space combat. Warframe has been getting better and better in the last few years, and now we reckon it's one of the top free to play games on PC.
You can spend real money to speed up crafting time, and to buy items and frames outright. Everything is perfectly craftable using in-game currency however, and players seem more interested in using the real-money Platinum currency to unlock new colour schemes.
Team Fortress 2
This team shooter has been around since 2007, but the character designs are timeless and the class design is still magnificent. Few shooters can point to a class as innovative as The Spy, who can disguise himself as an opposing team to sabotage their gadgets and stab their heavies in the back. If you prefer long-range engagements, the sniper has you covered, or you can ambush enemies up close with the Pyro. Whatever your play style, there's a class to match, and with enough play you will be switching between classes frequently to help your team push the cart or take a tricky point.
Path of Exile
Path of Exile is one of the deepest action RPGs on the market, and one of the most generous for being free-to-play. The basic structure ought to be familiar: pick a class and embark on Diablo-style killing sprees to earn loot and level up. There's a huge amount of class and item customisation to dig into as you start to move past the tutorial stages. Slot different patterns of gems into your armour sets to min-max your character and take them into even tougher dungeons. You only need to pay money for cosmetics that reskin your weapons and armour
This space MMO is famous for producing incredible stories of war and betrayal. Its player-driven corporations are fraught political entities that can be very inaccessible to new players. Even if you don't persist long enough to break into the grand PvP game it's still a gorgeous universe full of beautiful spaceships and nebulae. Some ships and skills are locked off in the free-to-play version, but you can spend a huge amount of time in the game before you need to look at paying for premium access.
Star Trek Online
Fly ships, gather a crew, and beam down to planets with an away team in this massive free-to-play MMO. It has aged quite a bit since launch and it's riddled with microtransactions, but you can still play through the story and see every side of the game without paying. If you do get drawn in to collecting high end ships and decking out your crew with signature Star Trek livery then expect to pay for it. You can grind for items using in-game currency, but for advance items that will take longer than seems reasonable. If you're looking for a free Star Trek experience, however, it's surprisingly fun.