The best thing about gaming in the modern era is the unprecedented availability of free personal computer games. But the staggering variety of no-purchase-necessary content can also be a bad thing. With thousands of options available, it can be challenging to settle on one particular offering.
Thankfully, The Burn-In has a solution to the paradox of choice and the ennui that follows too many rounds of “Fortnite.”
Here are four free-to-play video games that you can enjoy right now on a PC. To make things interesting, this list features titles representing a variety of genres and includes two mainstream hits, one cult classic, and an eerily compelling indie title.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
“StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty” is an instantly engaging and deceptively complex real-time strategy game. Set in a perilous science fiction landscape, it follows an embittered lawman turned mercenary as he forms a dangerous pact to save an old friend. Although it has become an eSports staple, the title has a lot to offer non-professional players.
For one thing, it weaves together a captivating narrative filled with political intrigue, complex characters, and thrilling interstellar combat. At the same time, it is also a very human story about hope, moral relativism, and sacrifice. Thanks to Blizzard Entertainment’s skillful design work, its 26 standard levels flow seamlessly between a series of well-rendered cut scenes.
“StarCraft II” features gameplay dynamics that make it easy to learn but difficult to master. It requires players to devote equal attention to resource management and army development. But there are few gaming experiences as satisfying as defeating a rival or an AI with a winning battle strategy.
A Dark Room
“A Dark Room” is modeled on the text-based adventure titles of the 1970s and 80s, but its sensibilities are distinctly modern.
The title places gamers in its titular location and tasks them with starting and maintaining a fire to avoid hypothermia. However, it quickly complicates the situation by introducing a mysterious woman and forcing the player to venture into the outdoors. From there, it unfolds an ominous narrative that fills every click with tension.
If “Black Mirror” had a video game spin-off, it would be a lot like “A Dark Room.”
Its mechanics are straightforward, and its graphics are nonexistent, but its bare-bones presentation is what makes it special. It is more involving than most AAA new releases because it forces the user to picture their surroundings, resources, and obstacles. It also features a spare, diegetic soundtrack that makes its unsettling world come alive.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
“Star Wars: The Old Republic” is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game for people who do not like MMORPGs.
That is to say; it is not built around endless grinding and irritating spend-to-advance roadblocks. Developed by BioWare, the title is designed to take players on an expansive trip through a galaxy far, far away. All of “Old Republic’s” free-to-play environments are as treacherous and beautiful as they seemed on the big screen.
The title offers satisfying rich and multifaceted gaming experiences. Users can play as members of eight different classes, all of which have distinct abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Gamers also must contend with a robust morality system that shapes their journey in accordance with their choices. And its range of alignment options and missions blurs the lines between “good” and “evil.”
Because of its setting, “Old Republic” will most strongly resonate with “Star Wars” fans. But its varied gameplay and cinematic flourishes make it a quality diversion for people who do not know the difference between a Twi’lek and a Wookie.
“Spelunky Classic” is basically the best NES title Nintendo never made.
The sidescrolling platformer sends players spelunking through a series of levels that will be familiar to “Super Mario” and “Mega Man” fans. However, it procedurally generates new caves with every run through. That means users can only figure out how to evade its traps and beat enemies through trial and error.
Because of its design, “Spelunky” is an endlessly replayable game. After users become familiar with its mechanics, they can attempt to complete it in one go. Next, virtual explorers can try to maximize their treasure hauls and uncover all of its secret areas. Its ever-shifting landscape and appealing aesthetics making repeatedly dying fun rather than punishing.
For people who grew up with 8-bit systems, “Spelunky” is a highly enjoyable throwback. And for younger players, it is a challenging 2D roguelike that ranks among the best games ever made.
“StarCraft II,” “A Dark Room,” “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” and “Spelunky Classic” may not be to everyone’s taste. But from a cost-value perspective, these four games have no competition.