Steam have a huge catalog of free to play games to offer and a surprisingly good amount are worth your time. Here are some of my picks.
A while back, I created a forum post in Reddit with the exact same reason. Many users in the community contributed to it with additional recommendations (thank you guys). It does not matter if you are new to Steam or because your wallet got empty after the last sales event. You can download and play these games for free as long as you want. Be aware of the in-game monetization with micro transactions or DLCs, but they are optional and you don’t need to pay for anything. Have fun exploring.
Playing games for free comes with some limitations and trade offs in most cases. Underlords in example don’t have any monetization yet. They are planning to introduce a cosmetics only Battle Pass soon. In Team Fortress everything is free, besides cosmetics and weapons with special effects. Most of them can be earned in-game. Counter Strike is technically free, but you want to buy the prime status to play against other prime member, for less problems with cheaters and trolls. Paladins on the other hand is fully monetized, with heavy in-game advertising and notifications. Many heroes are also locked out and need to be earned by playing, but the grind to get all is huge.
Primary: My personal favorites
I have hundred of hours playtime on my most beloved and played free games on Steam. Almost all in this category are first person shooter. If you want to play something else, the article covers other recommendations later below.
Genre: Auto Battler / competitive strategy
Linux support: Yes, native.
First release: 2019
Underlords is VALVEs take on this new genre, born from the popular Dota 2 AutoChess mod. They did a lot to differentiate it from those similar games by adding unique features and making it easy to get in. The core gameplay is to build a team of heroes with unique skills and logic, place them on the board and watch them fight automatically by facing randomly against one of your 7 opponents. Every player have the same chance to get those characters, nobody can buy card packs or so. Managing the money and finding the right synergies is crucial. At the moment, the game is in Early Access, but close to its release with new exciting features announced. A mobile version is also available, with cross-play functionality to Steam.
Team Fortress 2
Genre: Hero team shooter
Linux support: Yes, native.
First release: 2007
My very first interaction with a game on Steam. Team Fortress 2 is “the” trailblazer for hero based team shooter with individual abilities, the indirect ancestor of Overwatch and Paladins. Goal of both teams is to push the cart or capture the points on huge interesting maps. The balancing of every aspect of the game is remarkably well done, even with those diverse skill sets. Spy in example is my all time favorite hero of any shooter, with the capability to dress up as an enemy and stab them from behind! What a miracle! The in-game purchases are cosmetics only (with a few exceptions), mostly hats. The community is obsessed with hats. Did I mention hats?! Sadly, the player base is fallen down drastically, but it is still fun and I recommend you to test it.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Genre: Competitive team shooter
Linux support: Yes, native.
First release: 2012
Counter Strike isn’t your typical action shooter, but a hardcore competitive FPS. You play in a small group to set or defuse a bomb and rescue or defend hostages as the primary goal. Each round money is earned to buy new gear. There is no respawn, camping is on the agenda and ammo is limited, leading to intense matches. The gameplay is very skill and team based, requiring communication, teamplay, mind games, tactical operation. Unfortunately the community is a bit toxic and for some reason a magnet to cheaters. However new content is still being released. As of today CS:GO is one of the most played games on Steam and one of the biggest esport titles of all time.
Genre: Hero team shooter
Linux support: No.
First release: 2016
One of the few alternatives to Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 alike shooters. Over 40 unique champions are available and for each of them customization is possible, through free to use stats affecting card decks to choose from before the match begins and furthermore various booster earned during a match. This is needed, because the champion cannot be switched. The rest of the game have similar objectives to its rivals, most notably push the payload and capture the point. Have in mind the in-game advertising of cosmetics can be annoying at times. Still I recommend you to try it out, it is fun, have a lot of content and a big player base. Even cross-play between console is possible.
Secondary: Recommendations by others
The titles in this list are highly recommended from many other players, if you like the kind of game. I mostly played them briefly or just a short period of time.
An alternative to the League of Legends MOBA and one of the biggest esports titles on the market with a huge player base. Over 100 heroes are available and they are all free.
An open sandbox MMO without classes and a strong focus on loot, grind and PVP battles. There is no storyline and the economy is totally player driven. Best played in a guild.
First person looter shooter with MMO vibes and a storyline to follow, quests to solve and immersive worlds to explore. Graphics and controls are very polished and it feels good to play.
Another first person looter shooter giant like Destiny. There is ton of content and many customizable cyber ninjas to choose from. Developers are constantly improving and adding content.
Path of Exile
Diablo like Hack and Slash action RPG gameplay with focus on combat, loot and character customization. Endless content and possibilities and active developers, but can be hard to get into it.
Ring of Elysium
PUBG inspired Battle Royale, without the funny bugs. Starting package and spawn location can be chosen directly and seen by others. Also the endgame is totally different.
Massive multiplayer FPS with focus on PVP battles on maps with a huge scale. Choose your empire, work strategically as a team and battle a war against hundreds of enemies.
Wait, there is more…
- Alien Swarm Reactive Drop: Co-op Twinstick top down action.
- Awesomenauts: Side scrolling team based MOBA with heroes as a platformer.
- Doki Doki Literature Club!: Anime styled visual novel psycho horror.
- Dungeon Defenders 2: Tower Defense mixed with Third person shooter.
- SMITE: A MOBA with Third person perspective.
- Heavy Metal Machines: An isometric MOBA like with cars.
- TrackMania Nations Forever: Fun 3D racing game.
- Quake Champions: Fast paced classic FPS arena shooter.
- Splitgate Arena Warfare: Arena FPS shooter with Portal gun and Halo feeling.
- Star Conflict: Space action for multiplayer and single player.
- World of Warships: Combat simulation with ships on water.
- Duelyst: A card game with strategic board positioning.
- Shadowverse CCG: Trading card battle with deck building.
- The Elder Scrolls Legends: A competitive card game.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links: A card game based. I played this one on mobile.
- Neverwinter: An action MMO adventure based on Dungeons & Dragons.
- Star Trek Online: A massive MMO in the Star Trek universe.
- Battle for Wesnoth: Turn-based strategy like Fire Emblem.
- Brawlhalla: Fighting game in the style of Smash Bros.
- Endless Sky: 2D space trading and combat inspired by Escape Velocity.
- Heroine’s Quest: Oldschool Point & Click mixture with RPG.
- Teeworlds: A simple 2D sideview platform arena shooter with swing mechanics.
- Wyrmsun: Very oldschool looking Warcraft 2 like RTS.
- Zero-K: An RTS game inspired by Total Annihilation series.
And if all that is not enough, then have a look at the official Free to Play section of Steam. New and most played titles will be listed there. The landscape is always changing and exciting new games (and many junk too, that’s why I do this) are added all the time. Go and explore yourself and tell others what interesting games you found.