The quiet beginning of a new year is always a good time to look back on games from the year before, or to spend a few weeks exploring the fun, bite-sized games out there that get swallowed up in the busier months. In other words, it’s a good time to play free games.

Go on some short adventures, become overly attached to some new characters, get hooked on a daily word game—free games on the PC run the gamut. You can be a frugal PC gamer and spend years playing free games without buying new ones, or at least fill in the gaps between those big games with something smaller and quite possibly more satisfying.

Where should you spend those rare snippets of free time, though? We have some ideas, including a ton of free PC classics and our favorite free games of the last few months.

BEST OF THE BEST

Crusader Kings 3

(Image credit: Paradox)

2022 games: This year’s launches
Best PC games: All-time favorites
Best free PC games: Freebie fest
Best laptop games: Low-specs

This guide to the best free games is updated monthly with suggestions from members of the PC Gamer team. Below that we have our favorite free-to-play stuff that we’re dipping into right now and a boatload more recommendations if you’re just looking for the exact right game to play on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s a collection of timeless free PC games organized by genre.

If you’re looking for more free games to add to your permanent game library, make sure to check in every week on which games you can grab at no cost on the Epic Games Store and also all the temporary freebies right now available on other sites.

The best free games: November 2021

THE BEST FREE PC GAMES RIGHT NOW

(Image credit: Dead Idle Games)
  • Worlde – A word game sensation at the start of the year, this free daily puzzle challenge you with filling a grid with 5-letter words, using a few simple clues to hone in on what you got right and wrong before you run out of guesses. Its sudden explosion in popularity has already spawned countless imitators.
  • Townscaper – A delightful town-drawing game, where you simply place roads and buildings on top of the sea to create an aesthetically pleasing little city. You can get it on Steam or play a free version of it right in the browser.
  • Babble Royale – This is battle royale, but Scrabble. Decimate your enemies by spelling “plankton” or “guts” or “perfidious.” Just watch out for PC Gamer EIC Evan Lahti, who’s patiently waiting to snipe you with a perfectly timed Q.
  • Blaseball – A massive sports betting simulation that nearly defies explanation, but we did try. It’s still an absolute wild mess and we love it.
  • NERTS! Online – A competitive solitaire game for up to six players, NERTS! Online is a new version of a long-running multiplayer solitaire from strategy masterminds Zachtronics.

Best free PC games: Free-to-play

Best free PC games: Valkyrie from Apex Legends

(Image credit: Respawn Entertainment)

FREE-TO-PLAY GAMES

🔫 Apex Legends – Still our favorite battle royale, first and foremost because it’s a great-feeling first-person shooter. Apex has climbed to one of the top spots on the Steam charts for good reason. It’s the shooter we keep coming back to.

⛏ Fortnite – It’s Fortnite. Y’know, the massive sandbox battle royale, a game that’s hosted concerts, Star Wars characters, Marvel superheroes, and so much more. Right now is a good time to play, as Fortnite’s Chapter 3 launch nearly the end of 2021 made some sweeping changes to the game.

‍🔮 Path of Exile – This is a crunchy and detailed Diablo-like with remarkably deep character development and progression systems. It’s not the most beautiful action-RPG in the world, but it is engaging and rewarding in the long run. The microtransactions aren’t too intrusive either, which makes this a must-try for fans of Diablo 2 and its ilk. 2021 is a great time to play, as Path of Exile has gotten what is likely its last expansion before sequel Path of Exile 2 lands sometime this year.

🔫 Valorant – Riot’s tactical shooter takes a direct shot at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with a hero-driven spin. It’s a fantastic competitive shooter that you can play for hours. Most heroes come for free out of the box, and the rest can be unlocked for free if you play enough.

Best free PC games: Story & Adventure

Best free games: Deltarune Chapter 1

(Image credit: Toby Fox)

BEST FREE STORY & ADVENTURE GAMES

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Deltarune: Chapters 1&2 – This sorta sequel to Undertale is packed with memorable characters, catchy tunes, and emotive dialogue. Chapter 2 released in 2021 and was a Big Deal for Undertale fans.

The Doll Shop – Blending horror with romance, The Doll Shop transports you to a small village, which is being buried under a relentless snowfall. It tells a sinister story involving creepy handmade dolls. The art is sublime and the ending is especially memorable.

The Supper – The Supper is a dark story of revenge that brings to mind Sweeney Todd. You play as a peg-legged tavern owner, who has to serve three very special dishes to a trio of horrible pirates, who really should have checked the Food Standards rating first…

Lockheart Indigo – This is a sci-fi detective game that feels a lot like a JRPG. You’ve arrived at a vast mansion to solve the murder of its former owner, but locked doors and suspects stand in your way.

Eternal Home Floristry – The tale of a hitman who gets taken in at a flower shop while he recovers from his injuries. The game’s ability to tackle tough topics through the act of gentle flower arrangement is remarkable.

The Herbalist – A wordless adventure about a traveller searching for a mysterious herb. You wander around its strange world trying to interpret symbols, in the hope of discovering the plant you need.

Off-Peak – Stranding you at an otherworldly train station, Off-Peak encourages you to explore, talk to the locals, and luxuriate in its strange atmosphere. It’s got an incredible sense of place, despite feeling like nowhere on Earth, and as you poke around its nooks and crannies, the true nature of its world is revealed piece by piece.

Haunted Cities – There are three volumes worth of Haunted Cities to savour. Despite the name, these aren’t really horror games – they’ve just inherited much of the atmosphere of games such as Silent Hill.

Emily is Away – Party like it’s the early-’00s in this narrative game set in a chat client. You’ll get to know fellow high school student Emily through snippets of online conversations about life, love and indie rock music. If you enjoy this, paid-for sequel Emily is Away Too is worth checking out.

Olav and the Lute – An enigmatic adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic world, with a cracking central mechanic. Rather than combining objects with other objects, you’re affecting the world with a lute by plucking at its colour-coded strings.

Best free PC games: Horror

Free PC game: We Are Broken

(Image credit: Raul Felix)

FREE HORROR GAMES

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No Players Online – In the spooky No Players Online, you log onto an old FPS server, but where you’re the only player in a futile game of Capture the Flag.

We Are Broken – An interactive visual novel where you must talk your way out of being eaten by a vampire. We Are Broken conjures a dark and cruel world with cutting visuals and music that makes your skin crawl.

Sentient – This one’s a little Saw-esque. You’re stuck in a room and forced to obey instructions given through an old speaker. Being trapped is horrible enough, but what cranks up the creepiness factor here is the dog-flap sized hole looming in the corner of the room, darkness shrouding whatever, or whoever, is inside.

Bleakshore – This chilling adventure uses the fuzzy, lo-fi aesthetic of PS1-era 3D graphics to create an impressively eerie atmosphere as a shadowy figure stalks you across the landscape…

Faith – Faith lures you into feeling secure—if a little jumpy—with its retro aesthetic, before it transcends its limitations in one shockingly scary moment.

David Lynch Teaches Typing – What begins as a friendly typing lesson from film director David Lynch slowly descends into a surreal, disorientating nightmare. At one point you have to touch a gross twitching bug. Great work, kiddo!

House of Abandon – This story of a person playing a text adventure takes a sinister turn. Originally standalone, it became the first episode of eerie, atmospheric adventure Stories Untold.

Chyrza – Chyrza’s brand of horror is that unsettling strangeness you get with ruined alien desertscapes and mentions of a strange and terrible pyramid. But it’s not just Chyrza.