The Best Free PC Games to Pick Up Now: Join the Gamer Population!

By Shane Martin on February 5, 2019

With gaming becoming more well-known, played, and respected as a real sport, the world is hosting 2.5 billion gamers (upwards of 50% being PC gamers) – and this number is only predicted to rise. With the age range 18-35 holding the largest amount of the gamer population, it is no surprise that college is a gaming hotbed. Everyone who doesn’t game knows a gamer who also knows a gamer, and so on.

Some current gamers enjoy what they play and are always on the lookout for other games to try. Some tried a game after being peer pressured by friends and had a miserable experience. Others don’t game and would like to start, but simply don’t know where to begin. With that in mind, here is a small list of the best free-to-play PC games for both freshmen and seniors (while not ruining their academic lives) in order to bring buddies and gamers together, and finally get “that one friend” who doesn’t game behind a screen and keyboard.

Check out this recommendation list and take a few up. The more games you play, the more people you’ll be able to connect with both in person on campus, and online with various gaming communities (Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.). After all, who doesn’t want more friends to bond with?

League of Legends tournament photo via Wikimedia Commons

League of Legends

By far the most popular MOBA (massive online battle arena) PC game out there, League of Legends has one of the biggest professional scenes. However, its casual scene is also refreshingly large. The developer of this game – Riot Games – has produced quite a few cute ads and breathtaking cinematics (including some music videos) over the past few years to appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike.

Without a doubt, anyone reading this article either plays League of Legends already, or knows someone who does. This game is more easily picked up with the guiding hand of a friend, but is certainly doable solo, as there are only 6 primary keys (q, w, e, r, d, f). The amount of options given to players seems endless with 143 champions. The best part is that there’s no “daily grind” that many other games contain. In other words, there’s no real progression in League of Legends other than the development of skill, which is not time sensitive. Playing this game will not feel like a chore because the only reason you’d have to play, is merely to play.

Hearthstone

Card games have been popular for the longest time since they don’t require a computer to play, but that doesn’t mean they are any less fun, competitive, or skillful when they are put on the screen. Hearthstone being one of the biggest card games on the professional and casual scene, it’s easy to see why it has made its way here. The basic concepts are simple, and consequently not too hard to pick up, but mastering the game poses the challenge. There is quite a bit of skill required, but there is also a hefty amount of RNG (random number generator), also known as luck. This allows for plenty of keyboard-flipping and screen-smashing moments with the friends you duel and the friends that watch (or you watch). I can recall plenty of times when I’ve arrived early to class only to play a couple games of Hearthstone to pass the time and a classmate sitting behind or next to me peek over and asked, “you play Hearthstone?”

Along with nine distinct classes (each of which has a set of cards specific to them), the card collection is quite massive, as is to be expected due to the original public release of the game occurring in March 2014. Excitedly enough, there are two different modes: “Wild” which uses all the cards, and “Standard,” which only uses a few sets to reduce the amount of pressure on players to have to constantly worry about all the things that could possibly be played on the enemy’s turn. The previous mode is perfect for newcomers, and extra competitive for veterans.

Minion Masters

This is another card game, (and one that is rather easy to learn either through the tutorial or a friend) but it is also a battle arena. Each player slings cards and they come to life on your side of the battlefield. There are some that fly, but most are land-bound (there are two bridges at the center for each player’s creatures to cross on). There is single and double player, the latter of which gets super interesting and interactive because of the communication required for two sets of cards and brains.

From the picture it may seem like the way to play is just to drop cards until your opponent(s) is swarmed and can’t defend him or herself. Frankly, you’re not wrong – to an extent – because this is certainly a strategy, as there are many cards that are specifically designed to spawn dozens of small, low-health minions. However, this is by far not the only way to play.

Battlerite

Similar to League of Legends only because it is classified as a MOBA style game, Battlerite is a fast-paced two versus two (or three versus three) arena. Each game can go up to five rounds, as the team that wins must be the first to three wins, and to increase the intensity, a circle of death appears and shrinks after a short duration to prevent each round from going on for too long. Admittedly, the game is a bit trickier than League of Legends to get the hang of due to the different keys being used.

Either way, the game-play is intense, pretty, and skill-demanding as you ascend. Battlerite is a wonderful game to play with friends as there are always new things to try and combine together between the champions you can play: it’s just you, your friend(s) and the enemy team to the death for 10-15 minutes. Most importantly, it easily brings communication, trust, and laughs to the scene due to the game’s intimate nature. It’s gotten to the point where my main teammate – who happens to be one of my best friends – and I are in sync to the extent that we never really talk strategy anymore because we know exactly what we’re going to do: we just ramble.

All of the games mentioned in this article have much more to them than what was mentioned. Even though Hearthstone is the oddball out due to its lack of multiplayer mode, it can be just as fun to sit next to a friend playing this game and helping them think of what to do next (or to just make fun of them when they make a mistake).  When it comes to the other three, the online PVP (player versus player) can truly strengthen bonds of friendship as it forces both people to work on their communication and synergy with each other. However, learning all the important and little things of a game is part of the experience, whether the individual is figuring it out by him or herself, or is being taught the ins and outs by a trusted friend. In the end, though, it’s not about the game, but about the conversations and adventures had with those whose company we enjoy.

Honorable Mentions

Fortnite: everyone knows what this FPS (first-person shooter) is.

Paladins: another great first-person shooter with multiple different play-styles and engaging aesthetics.

Team Fortress: yet again another first-person shooter with much less stress on the fantasy element contained in the prior two.

Heroes of the Storm: a MOBA-style game like League of Legends, is less competitive and more reliant on teamwork.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: an RPG (role-playing game) game that brings Star Wars to the playable PC screen for all those die-hard fans and those that just want to get in on the light-saber action.

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