Gaming can be an expensive hobby, even if you’re not dropping hundreds of dollars on a racing chair. The good news is that even though people often associate cost with quality, the best items are sometimes the cheapest. In fact, the best games are sometimes free. On PC you can find great titles from indie publishers and AAA giants like Valve at no cost. Though some offer lootboxes, premium cosmetics, or optional subscriptions, these games can all be enjoyed without spending a single penny, if you want. From strategy titles and sports games to shooters like Counter-Strike 2, you don’t want to miss out on these. Here are the top 10 best free PC games to play in 2023.
10. Dwarf Fortress
Although a premium version of Dwarf Fortress is now available, you can still play the original for free. In it, you attempt to lead a successful colony of dwarves. That’s far easier said than done because this game is arguably the deepest and most complex simulation ever created. Even Rimworld, the game many players instinctively compare it to, doesn’t come close. Whether you’re trying to avoid lava floods or elephant rampages, there’s always something new and terrible going on. If you have the stomach for a true fantasy challenge, nothing compares.
9. Crusader Kings 2
Crusader Kings 2 isn’t the newest game in the series, but it’s arguably still the best. The base game is a sprawling simulation, putting you in charge of pretty much whoever you’d like in its deep historical setting. Kings, popes, lords, and ladies of all kinds clash in an ever-changing game of politics, romance, and murder. It’s the kind of game that players often refer to as a “story-generator” for the sheer number of absurd things that happen whether or not you plan them to. There are tons of mods and premium DLCs available if you want to expand the experience, but the free base game offers plenty.
8. Eve Online
Eve Online is sometimes uncharitably compared to an Excel spreadsheet. There’s no doubt the game is information-dense, but that’s one of the reasons it’s one of the best free PC games in 2023. This gigantic sci-fi MMO puts almost total control in players’ hands. Brutal PvP, faction wars, piracy, espionage, trading, mining, and quests barely scratch the surface of all there is to do here. Whether you’re trying to go it solo as a pirate in Nullsec or joining a fleet for massive inter-faction battles, Eve Online constantly delivers on its uncompromising premise. Just don’t expect the coziness of Final Fantasy 14.
7. Genshin Impact
What makes Genshin Impact so great? It’s a few things. Fun characters, gorgeous anime visuals, Zelda-esque exploration and puzzle-solving, and spicy elemental combat are all major factors. Though it’s true that the gacha lootbox experience is here and thriving, you can get a ton of value from this game even if you never spend a penny. Genshin Impact‘s popularity also means it gets constant updates, so if it sucks you in, you can be sure there will be enough here to keep you playing for a long time.
6. Rocket League
The premise is simple: soccer but instead of people you play with cars. Whether you hate the sport or you’re a diehard FIFA fan, Rocket League does enough with its concept to warrant a try. One of the best things about the game is how well its complexity scales. Want to drop in for a few casual games with friends and just knock the ball around? You can. Want to devote thousands of hours to perfecting your mid-air dribble? You can. There’s a thriving esports scene, too, so if you want to see what the best of the best can do, there are always options in one of the best free PC games of 2023.
5. League of Legends
MOBAs are difficult by nature, demanding deep knowledge of characters and mechanics, strategic flexibility, and the ability to work well with a team. Dota 2 is equally deserving of a mention, but there’s arguably no better representative of the genre than League of Legends. If you can survive the game’s intense environment you’ll be treated to one of the best strategy games on the planet. When you first dip your toes into the attack-and-defend gameplay loop, LoL might seem simple, but it can take hundreds of hours or more to master even a single character and keep up with the meta.
The FPS genre has some of the best free PC games in 2023, and Valorant is without question one of them. Heavily inspired by Counter-Strike 2, this game pits two teams of players against one another in some of the most calculated battles you could dream of. Arguably the game’s biggest innovation was the addition of unique powers to each of its characters. Teleport, heal, throw fireballs, and do whatever else you need to in the name of victory. It’s much better with friends, especially when you’re learning, but Valorant is a brilliant FPS experience no matter what.
Related:Destiny 2: All Opaque Cards
3. Destiny 2
It’s hard to argue with infinite sci-fi shenanigans from Bungie, the developer behind Halo. Whether you mostly want to solo everything as a PvE experience or join your friends as part of a devoted fireteam, Destiny 2 has you covered. Movement and powers all feel great, and the visuals effortlessly sell the setting. At the end of the day, it’s an FPS, so it’s only as good as its gunplay. Fortunately, Destiny 2 has some of the best and most satisfying shooting around. If you’re an FPS fan looking for your next fix, this might be it.
Fortnite is the definitive battle royale game and one of the best free PC games in 2023 for good reason. Whether you’re a casual player who just likes swatting down bots and beating up Loot Llamas or you’re aiming to go big as a pro, Fortnite has all the depth you could want. Constant updates mean there’s never a shortage of new things to discover and strategies to perfect, whether you play No-Build or the classic experience. Though the base game is free, there’s an extensive shop with a seemingly unlimited number of premium cosmetics, if you want to play dress up.
1. Counter-Strike 2
Counter-Strike 2 stands tall as one of the best and most popular esports titles of all time. You don’t need to know optimal AWP angles or how to pixel peek to enjoy this fantastic shooter, however. Whether you’re defusing a bomb or trying to plant it with your squad, CS2 offers some of the most polished tactical shooter gameplay around. Balancing your team economy with the needs of the round is a challenge, but players who master this and other skills will find the game’s potential basically bottomless. It can be tough on newcomers, but if you grab some friends and relax a bit, Counter-Strike 2 is a legendary experience.