It’s the plight of the modern gamer to want to play everything yet only have the time and money to realistically play one or two a month. And with how depressingly common predatory cash-grab schemes and “surprise mechanics” are, it can be hard to justify spending your hard-earned cash on a new game that sections off entire game modes behind a paywall. Who wants to dole out the dough for what essentially amounts to an incomplete experience?

However, what if I were to tell you there’s a way to get hundreds of hours of super fun game time without spending any money? Now, I’m no mathematician, but if I’m not mistaken that’s a value-to-cost ratio of infinity. Here are 5 great free-to-play games that you can lose yourself in without spending a dime.

Warframe

Warframe Image

It doesn’t take much to pick up on what makes Warframe such an addictive game. It’s a high-tempo third-person hack-and-slash about robots in space – what’s not to love? But spend a little time with it and you’ll that, beyond its surface appeal, Warframe is a game with nuance and depth.

For a button masher, it’s surprisingly skill-based, something you’ll quickly learn when you first jump into a mission. Every player has the same simple move set for navigating through stages but experienced players can combine these skills in ways that make them appear to fly through maps. This isn’t a skill that you purchase or an upgrade that you eventual gain with time, this is raw muscle memory and practice. The combat, too, evokes memories of Shinobido and Tenchu albeit with the frenetic pace of Virtual On.

The best thing about Warframe is that it’s decidedly not pay-to-win. You can spend real money for premium in-game items, but they’re largely cosmetic and the passive bonuses they do provide, if any at all, are inconsequential. You can also spend money if you want to reduce the grind necessary to upgrade your items or open up equipment slots, but if it’s your first time playing it’s worth taking the time to farm the maps and experiment with your Warframe’s loadouts.

DOTA2

DOTA2 Battle

DOTA2 is the sequel to the massively popular Warcraft III mod, DotA Allstars. Developed and published by Valve back in 2011, DOTA2, just like its community, is harsh and unforgiving. It’s also chock full of obscure mechanics that can be combined and mixed in a seemingly endless number of ways. Five years of DOTA2 later and I’m still regularly surprised by how different skills and items can work together to create unpredictable interactions.

DOTA2 is incredibly complicated. There are more than 110 heroes each with 4-5 unique skills, and each hero can equip up to six different items, many of which also have active skills that you can use in battle. In your average match, we’re talking 5-7 activate skills on any given hero – more if you’re a support. Then there are heroes like Invoker, who only has four skills, three of which you press in different sequences to invoke up to 10 different spells. Or Meepo, a simple enough hero – while there’s only one of him – but level him up and you have to control four copies of him, and if one dies they all die.

DOTA2 isn’t for everyone, but there’s no risk in giving it a shot. All of the heroes and items are available from the start. You can purchase items and clothing from the in-game store, but they are purely cosmetic and don’t affect hero stats. In five years and 6,000 hours I’ve spent $300 on various trinkets and Battlepasses, but you can have the same experience as me without ever opening your wallet.

Dauntless

Dauntless image

Dauntless pits you and up to three other hunters in epic battles against a variety of enormous beasts. Like Monster Hunter, what Dauntless boils down to is a test of your concentration and consistency. Each monster type has its own attack patterns and move set that aren’t particularly difficult to learn and memorize. But can you maintain focus, dodge attacks and counterattack appropriately for 30 minutes straight?

You get your pick of a variety of weapons and each type feels completely unlike the others. There’s the speedy Repeaters and Chain Blades, the cautious range of the War Pike, and the lumbering, high-damage Hammers and Axes. You’ll want to experiment with each to get a feel for the weapon that best suits your personal style of play.

Yes, Dauntless is Monster Hunter lite, but it’s free and, more importantly, it’s fun. Whether you decide to graduate to Monster Hunter or stick with Dauntless is ultimately up to you, but at least you can make an informed decision before spending any money!

Conclusion

Free-to-play games get a bad rap. There’s a slew of great free games out there for the discerning gamer if only they’d just give them a chance. This list is just a sampling of some the awesome games you can play without giving up the contents of your wallet. What are some of your free-to-play favorites?

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