In a world where the Epic Games Store, Amazon Prime, Games with Gold and PSN are throwing out free games left, right and center, it can be tricky to cut through the noise and pick the good games off the never-ending conveyor belt of free stuff. So, at a time of year when budgets (and belts) are tightening, I’ve put together a list of 10 of the top free to play indie games that you can get stuck into without paying a penny.
1. Floating Point (Windows, Linux, macOS)
I’m starting this list with quite possibly the strangest game on it. Floating Point is a game about momentum. You’re a small dot with a grappling hook in a randomly generated sea of cubes. Bars extend up and down from these cubes based on how fast you’re moving. Your job is to crash into those bars as fast as possible. It’s quite possibly one of the most meditative games I’ve ever played. If you want to just vibe for a while, give it a look.
2. Closers (Android, Windows, iOS)
Closers bills itself as an action RPG, but I’d say it’s more accurate to call it a sidescrolling beat-‘em-up. When monsters from another dimension breach the veil and attack the earth, it’s up to your Closer agent of choice to beat the tar out of the entire invading force. And you are more than capable of delivering some serious beat downs. There’s a strong narrative emphasis in Closers and an interesting sci-fi aesthetic going for it.
3. Awesomenauts (PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3)
When did Awesomenauts go free to play? 2017? How did I miss that? Well, anyways, if you haven’t heard of it, Awesomenauts is a 2D sidescrolling MOBA with teams of three. Characters are wacky, the art is cartoony, and the character designs are excellent. And they got some really interesting people to do voice acting. You might be familiar with the late John ‘TotalBiscuit’ Bain, or Ashely Burch? Both voice playable characters. It’s a fast, frantic game about trying to blow up an enemy base. Tale as old as time.
4. The Expendabros (Windows, macOS)
So you know Broforce, right? The weird affectionate parody of action films masquerading as a sidescrolling shooter game where everything dies in one hit, half the map is rigged to explode, and everyone has ‘Bro’ in their name? What if I told you that they made a free version? Enter The Expendabros. And, if you’re wondering, that’s one of the better puns the franchise has made. Now go forth and destroy the enemy, bro.
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5. Splitgate (PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Windows, Linux)
Splitgate is an arena shooter in the style of Unreal Tournament, except everyone has the portal gun from Portal. It is an absolutely buck wild concept done remarkably well. Maps have tight corridors and open sections leading to interesting firefights, and the portal mechanics greatly alters how exactly you move around the stage. The microtransaction marketing can be a little intrusive, but I haven’t seen anything too serious yet. And what other game are you going to play where you ambushed someone by opening a portal behind them and shooting them while they weren’t looking?
6. AirMech Strike (PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
AirMech Strike is a somewhat unusual entry in the RTS genre. Namely, because you yourself have your own unit that you control. Making units, placing defenses, determining where to attack, all of that is done using your Airmech, a Transformers-esque battle robot that turns into a fighter jet. Or a UFO. You get the idea. While the in-universe nature of each match as a 1-on-1 battle somewhat limits the scope of each match, the action is fluid and the strategy intense.
7. Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (Windows, macOS)
I know I said that Floating Point was the weirdest game on this list, but, well, just look at the title of this game and tell me that you’re expecting a vanilla experience. Billed as being directed by William Pugh of The Stanley Parable, you can really feel the metanarrative chops coming through strong. It doesn’t take long for the titular heist to go horribly off the rails for reasons I won’t spoil. It’s a short experience, but one that is also tied into some kind of ARG somewhere for people smarter than me to solve.
8. Century: Age of Ashes (PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Windows, PS5, Xbox One)
Really, I shouldn’t need to say more about this game. It’s a game about dogfighting, but instead of planes, you have dragons. Century: Age of Ashes is a team based competitive game about burning people to death with dragon fire. As of this writing, there’s a seasonal event happening until January 2nd. Really, the only question is why all the dragoneers wield weapons when they cannot possibly reach anyone with those weapons. And also, they all have dragons they can use instead.
9. Helltaker (Windows, macOS, Linux)
Let’s be honest. You knew this was on this list. Helltaker is a very strange rhythm puzzle visual novel game about attempting to get a harem full of demons. It’s not a very long game, but the puzzles can quickly become brutally difficult. Especially if you’re going for the secret ending. There’s even a boss fight that still feels like a puzzle. The game’s art is incredible, which is lucky for me because I would’ve totally missed this gem if I wasn’t following the game’s solo developer on twitter for his art.
10. Infinity Wars (Windows, macOS)
I’ve been a fan of trading/collectible card games for quite some time. And while there have been a number of digital card games, none have really gone above and beyond the way that Infinity Wars does. Infinity Wars takes advantage of its digital nature to do things that no actual tabletop card game could. The main thing being that turns are resolved simultaneously, via a planning and execution phase. So every game eventually boils down to a high-stakes match of “I know that you know that I know.” And there’s a sequel currently in development.