With Xbox Game Pass offering access to premium titles at an affordable monthly price, players might not feel there is much reason to look into the Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One’s free-to-play games. These titles have a mixed reputation; while it is true that some games suffer from pay-to-win systems, there are also plenty of free releases that offer great gameplay and enough content to keep people coming back for months, if not years.
The best free Xbox games can be enjoyed regardless of whether someone invests anything besides their time. Even if that criterion is met, some games are still better than others in terms of quality and fun factor. That being said, here are the greatest free-to-play games on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One.
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Metascore: 80 (PC)
- December 8, 2023
- Embark Studios
The free-to-play market has many great multiplayer shooters, along with way more games defined by wasted potential and dead lobbies. While its longevity remains to be seen, The Finals does not seem to be just another flash in the pan, with the game launching to a fairly positive reception on most platforms. Like most free projects, Embark’s release has plenty of room to grow and blossom into something even better, but the current version is more than solid enough to warrant a download and a try.
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The Finals frames its action around a virtual game show that has players competing against each other to earn cash. This concept is tweaked to accommodate a few modes that are fairly similar but emphasize different elements. Bank It is the best option for people who want to focus on gunplay and prefer to work alone. While this mode splits players into team, cash is earned by directly killing enemies, so there is not that much need to prioritize teamwork.
Quick Cash is the casual mode that has three teams competing over a vault, and Tournament is similar but with a more competitive edge (and a few other differences). These two modes highlight The Finals‘ destruction mechanic, which is really the game’s main selling point. Almost everything on a stage can be destroyed in some form or another, which means a map can change drastically over the course of a match.
The Sims 4
The Sims 4
- September 2, 2014
After eight years on the scene, EA officially turned The Sims 4 free-to-play in 2022. The base game is currently available on all platforms at no cost, although players interested in the DLC packs will need to buy those separately. The Sims has been around for decades, and the fourth entry is one of the more polarizing entries in the franchise.
Issues aside, The Sims 4 can still provide dozens of hours of entertainment and silliness. Although nothing amazing, the vanilla version presents an accurate representation of the overall package, allowing newcomers to the series to decide whether they want to invest in this universe.
Metascore: 71 (PC)
- August 11, 2021
- 24 Entertainment , Thunder Fire Universe X Studio
- Battle Royale , Action-Adventure
Launching on PC in August 2021 before making its way to the Xbox Series X/S a year later, Naraka: Bladepoint was originally a premium product, but the game went free-to-play in July 2023. This transition breathed new life into the battle royale title, hopefully ensuring it will last for quite a few years longer. While this genre is oversaturated and dominated by a few key names, Naraka: Bladepoint offers a reasonably fresh take on the battle royale blueprint, primarily thanks to its focus on melee action rather than shooter gameplay.
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24 Entertainment took inspiration from a few different genres and concepts when crafting this release, resulting in a surprisingly refreshing experience. Naraka: Bladepoint features an assortment of heroes who each come with unique abilities, and they take a bit of practice to master. Solo runs are an option, but players can also form teams if they wish to add cooperative play. The combat takes hints from hack and slash juggernauts like Devil May Cry, making the game a great pick for people who prefer that type of system.
Super Animal Royale
Metascore: 73 (Switch)
Super Animal Royale
- August 26, 2021
- Battle Royale
There are so many free battle royale games that they can start to blur together, but Super Animal Royale is an exception. Even if it is not the genre’s greatest representative, Pixile Studios’ release has a unique visual style and premise that sets it apart from the crowd.
More importantly, the gameplay is satisfying. 64 players compete in a top-down slaughter to the end, and they fight using special animals. Progression comes in the form of experience points gained after a match, which then open up new Super Animals that can be used in future battles to the death. This animal battle royale game has unique Super Powerups that can help any player last longer in rounds, or even help them win.
Although it’s seen its fair share of controversy over the years, Bungie’s Destiny 2 is still running strong today, with a recent expansion and multiple updates to add even more content to its steadily growing world. Players who are just now jumping in for the first time can boost themselves to a higher Light Level by proving they can tackle a Legendary story mission, giving them faster access to some of the end-game content packed within Witch Queen.
There’s a ton to see, unlock, and conquer for fans who are just starting their journey into Destiny 2 and there’s quite a bit that can be enjoyed without spending a dime. Players that to enjoy what they play can then opt to purchase a pack of DLC content to unlock even more story and multiplayer content.
Metascore: 79 (PC)
- April 27, 2023
- Odyssey Interactive
Following a decently successful stint in beta on PC, Omega Strikers eventually made its way to most platforms, including the Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One. Odyssey Interactive’s game takes elements from MOBAs, sports, and brawlers, blending them together to create an addictive gameplay loop designed around short play sessions. Focusing on 3v3 matches, Omega Strikers launched with only a handful of basic modes like quick play and ranked, so the game is fairly light in content; however, the core mechanics are more than fun enough to justify a download.
Omega Strikers: Best Forward Gear, Ranked
In Omega Strikers, every decision counts, and that includes picking the best gear for Forwards.
Although the gameplay is accessible, depth can be found in the roster of Strikers as they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Similar to something like Rocket League, Omega Strikers could be one of those games that people periodically return to whenever they have 20 minutes to kill and would rather not commit to a single-player title or a battle royale.
- March 25, 2014
League of Legends is one of the biggest and most engaging MOBAs available on the market, alongside DOTA 2. These two top-down-style PvP releases can be a ton of fun but players won’t be able to enjoy them on Xbox. Instead, players seeking a MOBA experience can download Smite for free on their Xbox console, giving them access to MOBA-inspired access that plays much better on a console than LoL or DOTA 2 would. The third-person over-the-shoulder perspective works insanely well for consoles, giving players the ability to aim their skill shots and abilities better, while also allowing them to move easily across the battlefield via thumbstick controls.
There are TONS of Gods for characters to try and master, with many available in the free-to-play rotation. Those who fall in love with the mythology and gameplay of Smite can purchase an Ultimate God Pack that will unlock access to all the available characters (and any future characters) forever.
Halo Infinite (Multiplayer)
Metascore: 87 (Full Release)
- December 8, 2021
- First-Person Shooter
Halo will always be a big deal for Xbox, but the license’s shine has dulled over the last decade. Halo Infinite launched to a fairly positive critical reception, and its single-player campaign was an improvement over the disappointing Guardians. That content is not free-to-play and requires either a cash investment or a Game Pass subscription; however, Microsoft decided to immediately release Halo Infinite multiplayer for free on Xbox consoles and PC. Ultimately, the project’s longevity relies on its online component, and 343 Industries has tried to keep the game active with semi-frequent updates.
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Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer has led a turbulent life, garnering praise and criticism in equal measure. While the gunplay is generally rock-solid, the modes, balancing, and maps can be more divisive, and the same could be said for the post-launch events. However, Halo Infinite has regular positive spells that allow it to build momentum, and matches are generally a fun way to spend a few hours.
Metascore: 81 (PS4)
- August 4, 2020
- Battle Royale , Platformer , Action
Initially launching with a price tag, Fall Guys went free-to-play when it expanded to more platforms, a move that has largely worked in its favor. A party game, Fall Guys supports an array of match types. The main mode is a 60-person battle royale divided into rounds, with each one consisting of mini-games.
In a local multiplayer setting, players can create smaller contests built upon a points system. Utilizing loose but amusing physics, Fall Guys is good for a laugh, and matches do not typically outstay their welcome either.
Killer Instinct (2013)
- November 22, 2013
While not quite as inescapable as Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, Killer Instinct is still a big name in the fighting genre. The 2013 reboot was one of the few reasons to pick up an Xbox One during its early days, and Iron Galaxy supported the free-to-play fighter for a number of years. Outside a 10th-anniversary update that added 4K support, Killer Instinct has been inactive for a while, although the core gameplay is so good that fans can still jump on and have a few fun matches.
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Fighting games can be pretty intimidating for newcomers to the genre. The following games are a good place to start.
Now, Killer Instinct‘s free version only includes one fighter, although all the modes are available. If someone really wants to experience the game, they will either need to buy the definitive edition or play it through Game Pass. Still, the free iteration serves as a good introduction to Killer Instinct‘s offerings and combo-driven mechanics, all the while including enough content for newcomers to properly judge whether they want to try the full package.
World Of Tanks
Even if its popularity never fades, the longer an MMO is around, the harder it gets for new people to jump on board. World of Tanks is no exception as the game has developed an intense fanbase over the last decade, one that can be difficult to break into for free players who are just starting out. For the uninitiated, the vehicular combat game focuses on, well, tank warfare, with players generally being divided into two groups for large-scale battles.
Wargaming Minsk’s title has an impressive range of tanks, which are split into types and tiers, and quite a few modes to help keep things interesting. While free-to-play, World of Tanks has quite a lot of monetization options, and players will need to invest if they want the premium higher-tier tanks. That said, hours of fun can be had by sticking solely to the entry-level tanks, provided beginners do not go in expecting to win many matches.
- March 23, 2017
- Battle Royale
Debuting in 2017, PUBG: Battlegrounds was a landmark release for battle royales, to the point that the game can be credited for sparking the genre’s explosion in popularity. After spending years as a premium product alongside plenty of free-to-play competitors, PUBG finally transitioned to the latter business model in 2022, a decision that came with an unsurprising resurgence in popularity. In many ways, this title is the quintessential battle royale, in the sense that it provides the exact basic experience associated with these sorts of releases. A hundred players compete on an ever-shrinking battlefield to see who will be the last person standing; in the meantime, they must scour the land to collect loot.
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PUBG can feel clunky at times, and its gunplay is certainly not the best in the free market. That said, the game can be addictive since contests offer an element of unpredictability that allows them to be constantly engaging. The playerbase is quite large as well, so it is rarely difficult to find a match.
Metascore: 75 (PC)
- October 1, 2020
- First Watch Games
- Third-Person Shooter
Developed by First Watch Games and published by Hi-Rez Studios, Rogue Company is a third-person hero shooter that tends to be overshadowed by other free Xbox games. This might be due to the game feeling like a hodgepodge of other successful online shooters, and it can be difficult to stand out while sharing a marketplace with Overwatch 2 and Valorant. Even though it sticks close to well-established conventions, Rogue Company is a polished and confident project that gets most things right.
Focusing on 4v4 matches, First Watch’s title has a decent selection of modes (King of the Hill, Demolition, Strikeout, Ranked, Wingman) and 20 maps spread across them. The latter selection is not lacking in variety either, as there is everything from a castle to a ship. Rogue Company might not be a game-changer, but it is a fun title to throw on as an alternative to more popular shooters.
- February 20, 2007
- Realtime Worlds
Microsoft has made a couple of Xbox exclusives free for everyone to download. One example is Too Human, an ambitious but messy game that should be added to a player’s library; however, the freebie that is the most “must-own” is Crackdown. In 2007, Realtime Worlds unleashed this sandbox game on the world, delivering a simple but highly satisfying experience.
Crackdown does not pretend to be deep or complex, but the project delivers arcade-style fun that makes it easy to revisit. Set in Pacific City, players take charge of an Agency member who is tasked with clearing out the gangs that control the town. As enemies are defeated, players earn experience orbs that improve their stats, and progress is skill-based and continuous. Within a few hours, the agent will transform into an overpowered superhero who can benchpress cars and leap over buildings.
Crackdown 2 is also free to download. While not as highly regarded as its predecessor, the sequel is still entertaining in its own right.
- March 15, 2005
- Action , Real-Time Strategy
A minor Xbox cult classic, Phantom Dust earned a remaster for the Xbox One. While it has some rough edges, the game’s fascinating mechanics and engaging battle system make it worthy of recognition even all these years after its debut. Phantom Dust is set in an alternate reality where Earth’s surface is covered by toxic dust that erases memories, forcing humanity underground; however, two guys learn they can harvest this substance as a power, and they head out in the hopes of remembering their pasts. This premise serves as a fun setup for a post-apocalyptic romp, and it is matched by an atmospheric presentation.
Phantom Dust‘s combat takes a while to fully comprehend, but it is complex, unique, and clever. Although played in real-time, the action is built upon a card system that offers a lot of options for deck builds, and new elements are introduced fairly regularly throughout the single-player campaign. Learning the intricacies of the cards is half the battle, and once everything clicks, Phantom Dust really begins to shine. Although the campaign is enjoyable, this game’s main selling point is its multiplayer, which is not that active in this day and age.
Metascore: 85 (PS5)
- March 25, 2013
- Third-Person Shooter
With its 10-year anniversary approaching, Warframe is well-established as one of the free-to-play market’s heavyweights. Digital Extremes’ third-person shooter was initially relatively small-scale, featuring largely corridor-style stages that players would grind endlessly. However, the project has ballooned considerably in scope over the years. Nowadays, Warframe offers deep lore, variety, overwhelming customization options, and rock-solid combat.
Compared to some other free universes, Warframe is accessible to newcomers, although the campaign’s opening hours can be a bit slow and repetitive. Nevertheless, for anyone looking for a free Xbox game that can keep them entertained for months without requiring a monetary investment, Warframe is about as good as the options get.
Call Of Duty: Warzone
Metascore: 79 (PS5 – Warzone)
Call of Duty: Warzone
- March 10, 2020
- First-Person Shooter , Battle Royale
Soon after the debut of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Activision dropped the next era of Warzone, the publisher’s free-to-play battle royale game. Creatively entitled Warzone 2.0, the sequel is not a massive departure from its predecessor, although it is more than just a reskin. This version launched with a fresh map, a revamped Gulag, and a new mode called DMZ. Ultimately, players who enjoyed the original Warzone will likely feel at home with 2.0.
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As far as battle royales are concerned, Warzone 2.0 is among the most satisfying on the market. Visually, the game looks good, and it runs well on current-gen hardware. The gunplay is also fantastic, which should hardly come as a surprise considering Call of Duty‘s pedigree. Despite debuting separately, Warzone 2.0 can be regarded as Modern Warfare 2‘s companion app, and together they provide a robust experience.
- September 26, 2019
- Phoenix Labs
- Action RPG
Dauntless does not hide its Monster Hunter inspiration. The game shares many similarities with Capcom’s franchise, although its stages are closer in design to pre-Monster Hunter World releases. Monster Hunter World and Monster Hunter Rise are both available on Xbox consoles; consequently, Dauntless can be difficult to recommend since the action RPG must exist alongside its more famous brethren.
That said, Dauntless is not a clone of Monster Hunter. The game’s combo-heavy combat system stands on its own two feet, offering a lighter and quicker experience than most weapon types in Capcom’s franchise. The free-to-play title feels like an MMO as well, which sets it apart from Monster Hunter. While it could use a larger roster, Dauntless‘ Behemoths are a lot of fun to fight.
- February 4, 2019
- Battle Royale , First-Person Shooter
Respawn’s Apex Legends is a contender for the best battle royale title on the market, a proclamation driven by its polished gunplay and squad-based gameplay. The latter introduces an element of strategy and coordination that is absent from most other releases in the genre, and it is combined with stellar first-person shooter gameplay reminiscent of Respawn’s Titanfall series.
As there are so many free-to-play battle royale games on Xbox, newcomers to the genre might not know where to start. If someone is only willing to try one game, they should pick either Apex Legends or Fortnite. 2022 and 2023 were not the greatest years for Apex Legends, and they saw the game lose some momentum following a couple of polarizing updates. Nevertheless, Respawn’s shooter is still among the best representatives of the battle royale genre.
- July 25, 2017
- Survival , Battle Royale
Fortnite shot its way up the charts like a SpaceX rocket, turning it into one of Xbox’s must-haves. The game introduced construction elements to a battle royale mode that encourages players to build fortifications and strongholds. The players were quick to pick up on this, and have seamlessly integrated building platforms with combat; making one of the most complex yet rewarding combat systems ever in a game.
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At this point, Fortnite has diversified its portfolio, offering multiple free modes that are all wildly different. The battle royale is still the most popular and exposed, and that is not going to change anytime soon. Rocket Racing and Lego Fortnite randomly launched in early December 2023, and they are both fully-expanded ideas that are worth trying even for people who are not fans of the main games.
Lego Fortnite has attracted the most attention from these two modes, but they are both worthwhile additions in their own right. They are also nothing like Fortnite‘s other options, to the point of catering to different audiences. Lego Fortnite is a survival open-world game with solid base building, accessible combat, and a town-expanding component. While somewhat shallow compared to some other titles in the genre, this spin-off works perfectly as an entry-level option for kids or players new to survival games.
Rocket Racing might be the best free Xbox game for racing fans, at least in terms of its core mechanics. The tracks are visually impressive and creative, while the controls are generally on-point. However, similar to Lego Fortnite, Rocket Racing is not especially deep, so it can get dull after a while. Still, it is worth installing so racing fans have a non-Disney option they can turn to.
- November 1, 2012
- Gaijin Entertainment
If Battlefield is a bit too pricey, War Thunder is the perfect zero-cost alternative. The game features a whole WW2/Cold War battlefield to engage in, filled with open fields, urban jungle, and vast airspace. The massively multiplayer game engages 32 competing players in full-scale PvP matches with over 1700 available military vehicles to choose from.
There are also PvE and solo missions based on battles throughout history. The vast battlefield along with the gargantuan selection of vehicles leaves no limits to player strategies and tactics. Though it isn’t as popular as Warzone or Fornite, War Thunder‘s realistic gameplay is something that can be appreciated by a wider market.
Path Of Exile
Metascore: 86 (PC)
Path of Exile
- October 23, 2013
- Action RPG
For the most part, the free-to-play scene is dominated by multiplayer projects. However, there are a couple of RPG-themed exceptions, and Path of Exile is among the best on the Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One. Grinding Gear Games crafted an old-school action RPG that harbors back to the likes of Diablo 2, and there is a lot of game here despite its “free” price tag.
The campaign should keep players entertained for a few dozen hours, and that is only a drop in the bucket of the entire Path of Exile experience. Forget free games, Path of Exile is simply one of the greatest modern RPGs.
Rocket League‘s popularity speaks for itself. Debuting in 2015, the game blends soccer with cars, producing an experience that is simultaneously accessible but also skill-based. Rocket League was a huge hit before it went free-to-play, but the latter ensured the game would remain active for years to come.
Unlike some other free-to-play games, Rocket League is designed for short play sessions. Have 20 minutes to kill? Play a quick match in Rocket League. It will be time well spent.
Xbox Game Pass & PC Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass require subscriptions, but they provide subscribers with many titles at the click of a button (following an install, naturally). While the selected titles are not “free,” they are available at a fixed monthly price that makes them easier picks for players who are not sure if they are actually interested. Combined with Xbox’s free games, a Game Pass subscription could very well scratch any itch console or PC owners have, and the service covers an impressive range of genres.
Here are the different Game Pass offers and brackets:
- Xbox Game Pass Core: $9.99/month (includes roughly 30 games)
- Xbox Game Pass Console: $10.99/month
- PC Game Pass: $9.99/month
- Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: $16.99/month (Console, PC, and EA Play)
To help interested parties get an idea of what is available on Game Pass, the following articles contain recommendations across a range of categories:
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