By now, you’ve hopefully hopped on the social distancing train. As so many experts have suggested, it’s one of the best tactics for slowing the spread of covid-19. One possible side effect of social distancing is that you might find yourself with an uncontrollable urge to play a lot of video games. Thing is, playing a ton of new games can run up a huge tab. Sixty bucks for a new title here, sixty bucks for an annual online service there—it adds up, quickly.
But you needn’t break the bank in the name of gaming. There are plenty of great ways to play games out that don’t cost a penny. And there’s no better time to give them a try than while you’re hunkering down. We’ve gone ahead and rounded up some of the best options around.
Of course, it’s impossible to catch all the free offerings on the internet, so we could use a hand from you. If we missed any worthy free games, call them out in the comments. We’ll update this article regularly as more games lose their price tags—and as these ones jack back up in price.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
Through 10:00 a.m. on Monday, Ubisoft’s murderous romp through Ancient Greece is free to play. It’s not quite a vacation to the Cyclades, but, hey, in these travel-free times, this game’s a fitting substitute. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey presents a shockingly accurate rendition of Greece’s arid hills and azure seas. Make sure to clear some space on your hard drive, though. Depending on the platform, Odyssey will take up anywhere from 52 to 72 GB.
Life Is Strange: Episode 1
The first episode of Life Is Strange, Dontnod’s coming-of-age adventure game, is free on the Microsoft Store. It’s an emotional ride. You play as Max Caufield, a senior at a private high school who’s trying to reconnect with a long-lost best friend. The twist? Max is also grappling with her newly discovered time-manipulation powers. A lot of game developers talk about choice, about how your decisions affect a game. With Life Is Strange, Dontnod really walks the walk. You never know how your choices will play out, and, more often than not, you’ll be sidelined by an unexpected outcome. It’s as if someone turned the butterfly effect into a game. If you end up liking Episode 1, the whole first season is currently on sale for $4.
Alto’s Odyssey is an endless runner game; you just go and go and go through increasingly difficult platforming stages. But it’s one of the prettier games of that ilk, with stunning art that looks straight out of Journey. It even won an Apple Design Award in 2018. At the moment, it’s totally free on the Apple App Store. The prequel, 2015’s Alto’s Adventure, is currently free on the App Store, too.
Epic Games Store
Each week, PC gamers can snag free games from Epic Games Store. Every so often, the offerings are truly stellar. (Exhibit A, from earlier in the year: Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate.) This week happens to be one of those weeks: the two free games are Watch Dogs and The Stanley Parable. If you missed Watch Dogs the first time around, now’s as good a time as any to hop into Ubisoft’s techno-futuristic Chicago, drive some cars, shoot some guns, and hack some cameras. The Stanley Parable, on the other hand, is a far more pared-down experience. The game falls squarely in the first-person walking sim genre, but it’s one of the more mind-bending options out there, thanks to its novel fourth-wall-breaking narrative. Both games are free until 11:00 a.m. EST on March 26.
Free (and discounted) games on Itch.io
The good folks at Itch.io, the indie game storefront, are maintaining a list called “Games to help you stay inside.” Most of the games on it are heavily discounted; some are discounted by 100 percent. Right now, the list is a few dozen strong. But you can find even more free games by navigating to Itch.io’s standard sale page. If you filter by “Popular,” you’ll find that the whole first page is loaded with games at the low price of zero dollars (presumably because everyone’s downloading them, since, y’know, they’re free).
Free games on GOG
GOG is also running a list of free stay-at-home games. It’s a good mix of indies and classics, but the cream of the crop (and we’ll be accepting no dissent on this matter) is Gwent: The Witcher Card Game. Toss a coin to your witcher!
Try out those battle royales
You probably know what a battle royale game is by now. But, hey, just in case you don’t: A staggering amount of players, sometimes more than 100, get dropped onto a single map and gun each other down until there’s one person (or a small team) left standing. If you’ve ever seen the landmark 2000 film Battle Royale, it’s the video game version of that. Many battle royales are free-to-play, and some of the most popular ones are terrifically entertaining time sinks. There’s Apex Legends (PS4, Xbox One, PC), from the folks who made Titanfall. You could play PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PS4, Xbox One, PC, Android, iOS). Fans of Call of Duty should check out Warzone (PS4, Xbox One, PC). And, of course, there’s Fortnite (available on basically everything). Pick one and load out.
PlayStation Now trial
PlayStation Now may be a $10-monthly service, but your first week is totally free. Sony’s games-on-demand service allows you to stream or download games from a library of more than 800 PS2, PS3, or PS4 titles. And there are some true heavy-hitters on there. Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted: Lost Legacy, for instance, are available until April 7. Control and Shadow of the Tomb Raider are on there through August 31. Don’t forget to turn off the auto-renew before the monthly price kicks in!
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate first month
Yeah, yeah, it isn’t technically free, but the first month of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is just a dollar. (It’s $15 a month normally. Standard Game Pass is $10 a month.) Not only will you get access to all Microsoft first-party games—including Gears 5, The Outer Worlds, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and this month’s stellar Ori and the Blind Forest—you’ll also have access to more than 100 games from other big publishers. Try it out for a month. A dollar for more than triple-A games than you can conceivably play is a fair trade in our book. But, once again, don’t forget to turn off the auto-renew!