Whether you’re bored and looking for something to distract you for a few hours, or you’re a serious hobbyist gamer always looking for the next way to enjoy games without having to pay for it, you have a lot more options than you might think. Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the ways that you can find free games, from simple browser distractions to full big-budget indies and AAA releases that you can snag for free.
“Free” games from Gamepass and PS+
Let’s just quickly address the elephant in the room. No, the games you get from Gamepass and Sony’s Playstation Plus offerings are not free. You’re paying for the service that comes with them. This also goes for Nintendo’s online Virtual Console-esque offerings. Are the deals great? Yes. Do they offer you the chance to play a really wide range of games at a much lower price point? Yes. Do they routinely feature some of the best indies you might otherwise miss? Yes. But are they free? Definitely not. If you don’t pay for the service, you don’t get to access the games. So let’s just tick this one off the box right now and move on to where the real free games are.
The Epic approach
Given that it’s another big gaming conglomeration, you might think that Epic Games’ “free” offerings come with the same strings attached as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo’s. However, that simply is not the case. The games that they release for free every month are, indeed, completely free, with no strings attached whatsoever, outside of the fact that you have to download them through the Epic Game Launcher. However, if you’re a Steam lover, you can still find a way to launch these games through Steam instead of having to track different game launching and store apps, so it’s really, really easy to get into those free games, regardless.
The classic Flash game sites
If you were an active gamer and had access to the internet from the early 2000s to the mid-2010s, then you probably know the kinds of websites we’re talking about here. Flash may be well and truly gone now, but the sites that built their popularity (and even fame) off of Flash games, like Newgrounds, Kongregate, and Miniclip, are still around, in one form or another, and all of them have some free games that you can boot up in your browser, even if you don’t have the best setup for PC gaming. Nowadays, HTML 5 and Unity seem to be the tools used more for browser gaming than Flash.
Play real Flash games
Flash was once the cornerstone of the entire browser gaming community. It made game development much, much easier to get into, even if it was resource-intensive to run, not to mention somewhat limited in what it could do. However, Flash inspired generations of game devs and could be said to be the progenitor of several modern genres, from rogue-lites to idle games to battle royales. You can explore the history of Flash games through sites like the Flash Game Archive, which does its best to catalog and make available every single game that was hosted online made from Flash. It’s an ongoing effort and one that needs more support, but it’s the best place to start looking if you’re trying to play a Flash game in the 2020s.
Spin the wheel without the risk
When you’re looking through the history of free games, and especially browser games, you can’t ignore the role that casino games play. Poker, slots, blackjack, and the like have always been hugely popular online, and it’s easy to see why, with a real dopamine rush made readily available for anyone ready to spin the wheel. However, a lot of options require you to pay, so it’s nice to find examples of free slots games that allow you to simulate the feeling of hitting it big, without having to spend money that you’re not ever likely to win back. Perfect for those who love the feel of victory that comes with the jackpot, but don’t want to go to a real online casino.
Dig into a treasure trove of indie delights
If you love to tap into the indie scene and to see what new trends are bubbling up through the environment of smaller devs, then nowadays, that can be found in sites like Itch.io. In fact, it could be said that these indie game dev sites are now filling the role that sites like Newgrounds used to, only without the juvenile humor and somewhat problematic outlooks that were popular in online spaces in the mid-2000s. It’s important to bear in mind that not all games on Itch.io are free. In fact, many of them come with a price tag, so you have to keep your eyes open when looking through the library. However, there are always free games and demos to be found in the most popular tag.
Know when a new freebie drops
The Epic Games store is not the only one that drops entirely free games. Other PC game launchers, including Steam and GOG, will occasionally put up a title for free as well, even if it’s not as frequently. As such, you should consider using tools like the Free Game Notifier tool. You can install this tool in a Discord channel, even your own private channel, and it will let you know any time a free game drops in any storefront. You can even alter its settings to filter out certain types of games or platforms, focusing on getting you the games that you’re most likely to play. That way, if something drops for free, you’re sure to know about it before long.
With the tips above, you should have a good idea of how you can always be grabbing games for free. Where the best place for them depends, of course, on what kind of game you want, but you should definitely bookmark a few of the sites linked.