The Best Free Games on Xbox One
Whether you’re stuck at home under self-quarantine or braving the current Covid-19 pandemic as an essential worker (and hats off to you if you are), it’s hard not to look at our world today and see nothing but bleakness. Thankfully, video games are still here to offer us some much needed escapism, and the burgeoning F2P (free-to-play) market means that you can still indulge your gaming habits even if you’re saving every penny you can.
The below list rounds up some of the best F2P games you can download and play right now if you own an Xbox One console. We’ve made sure to cover a wide variety of different genres so that every gamer regardless of their individual tastes can find something that appeals to them.
Path of Exile
Isometric RPG’s can be a lot of fun to play either alone or with friends, and thanks to Grinding Gear Games’ well-established F2P title Path of Exile, fans of the genre can hack, slash, and loot to their heart’s content without having to pay the upfront costs attached to alternatives like Diablo 3 or Torchlight 2.
Path of Exile has received a lot of new content over the years since its original 2013 launch, which meant the game’s Xbox One port was already in pretty good shape when it later arrived in 2017. The sheer amount of stuff to do in Path of Exile can admittedly be a little intimidating for brand new players, especially if they’re playing by themselves. On the plus side though, it also means that new players can pour as many hours as they like into the game with little fear of getting bored.
Vigor is a unique ‘micro-survival’ F2P competitive shooter that’s currently an Xbox One exclusively (though developer Bohemia Interactive is also working on a Nintendo Switch version). We played Vigor for ourselves last year and came away impressed with its PvP-focused risk/reward dynamics wherein players scrounge a map for resources and choose whether they want to escape early or stay and risk their early gains for a late-game airdrop.
Now, Vigor is admittedly not the prettiest game to look at, and it leans heavily into mobile game territory by relying on mechanics like timers and convoluted resource management. However, it’s also quite fair in its monetization methods. Players can purchase a premium currency called Crowns using real money, but the only things they can buy with Crowns are cosmetic items or boosters that influence certain match parameters (granting no tangible advantages to the player who used the booster).
Shooter fans who don’t mind playing games that are a little rough around the edges should absolutely give Vigor a try, especially if the quiet tension of trying to out-survive other players sounds appealing to them.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
Love it or hate it, Fortnite and its accompanying battle royale mode are still some of the biggest forces in the F2P space, and for good reason. Developer Epic Games has spent the past several years refining Fortnite’s 100-player battle royale experience through constant updates, map changes, seasonal themes, and full-blown map-altering events which players can witness in-person. In short, Epic has been putting the boatloads of money it’s made from Fortnite’s various in-game purchases to good use.
Yes, we’re aware that Fortnite’s popularity makes it an easy game to loathe and that in many ways it’s being marketed specifically towards a younger audience. However, those who are willing to give the game a chance will also discover a wealth of ancillary features such as in-game challenges, rotating competitive playlists, reward-filled battle passes, and an entire ‘Creative’ custom content creation suite.
Fortnite’s cartoony aesthetic may not jive with everyone, but it has still rightly earned its place as one of the most expansive and compelling F2P games of all time. It also supports full cross-progression capabilities across all its available versions, which means that even if you start playing on Xbox One and then migrate to another platform (or vice versa) you’ll retain whatever progress and unlocks you earned.
Many of the games on this list cater more to the competitive PvP crowd, but Digital Extremes’ Warframe is a clear exception to that rule. The well-established sci-fi action/shooter title certainly stands out thanks to its eye-catching visuals and hyper-kinetic ‘space ninjas’ gameplay. However, the main reason why Warframe deserves such a specific shout-out is because it emphasizes cooperative mission-based endeavors, making it an excellent option if you’re looking for a game to play alongside some close friends.
Warframe is also well-suited for players who enjoy having tons of long-term rewards to grind for, though that does also mean having to put up with the game’s subtle encouragements to simply buy those rewards for real money. Additionally, potential players should brace themselves for Warframe’s insanely convoluted network of different currencies, crafting materials, mission types, and sub-systems, an unfortunate byproduct of the game’s long and winding post-launch journey.
It takes a specific sort of mindset to fully embrace the sheer breadth of what Warframe offers, but F2P fans who are looking for a fun and action-packed co-op experience won’t be disappointed by its frantic moment-to-moment gameplay.
World of Tanks
Not only is Wargaming.net’s large-scale vehicle combat game World of Tanks one of the oldest games on this list (having originally launched way back in 2011), it’s also one of the most unique. As you can tell from its name, World of Tanks involves piloting a large roster of different armored tank vehicles hailing from various countries and participating in massive PvP engagements.
World of Tanks is also unique in that it caters strongly to military history buffs by ensuring a high level of authenticity and historical accuracy when it comes to how individual tanks look and perform. Realism is obviously toned down in favor of fun when it comes to gameplay, but this is absolutely the sort of game where you can ogle the immaculate detail of your tanks before taking them into battle.
Given World of Tanks’ ongoing success, Wargaming.net naturally followed up with two rather unsurprising companion games: 2013’s World of Warplanes and 2015’s World of Warships. As of this writing, World of Warplanes remains a PC exclusive, while World of Warships was ported over to Xbox One just last year.
Along with their obvious focus on planes and warships respectively, both of the latter two games are also notable for their support of PvE game modes, something which World of Tanks largely lacks. If you like the idea of World of Tanks but are put off by its heavy focus on PvP, checking out its two sister games might be in your best interest.
One of the biggest shakeups Destiny developer Bungie has made to its flagship sci-fi shooter franchise is when it repurposed Destiny 2’s base game experience (previously a traditional paid game) into a F2P relaunch called Destiny 2: New Light. While it’s undoubtedly meant to wet new players’ appetites enough that they’ll purchase more recent content releases like the Shadowkeep expansion or the latest season pass, New Light still offers a great value to players looking to dip their toes in without any financial pressure.
New Light players can participate in a long litany of different Destiny 2 activities including full story campaigns, open-world exploration, Crucible PvP play, and even DLC content from the game’s first three expansions like the unique PvPvE mode Gambit. If anything, Destiny 2: New Light is an excellent way for potential players to see if they’d enjoy Bungie’s unique approach to RPG-esque shooter gameplay completely risk-free. Plus, while it has had its share of stumbles, Bungie is committed to its mission of tweaking and refining Destiny 2 into an experience that all players can enjoy, not just those who have reached the proverbial endgame.
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
One of the many side activities players could get caught up in while playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was the well-constructed in-universe card game Gwent. Given Gwent’s popularity, it only made sense for developer CD Projekt Red to spin it out into its own standalone experience, which is exactly what the studio did with is 2018 F2P game Gwent: The Witcher Card Game.
Gwent’s CCG (collectible card game) format and F2P monetization method clearly position it as a direct competitor to similar games like Hearthstone. And if the only gaming platform you have access to is an Xbox One it’s really the only CCG option you have unless you want to dive into the limited backlog of older Magic: The Gathering games. Thankfully, CD Projekt Red has spent the past two years slowly refining Gwent into a highly compelling experience that perfectly supplements the already stellar lore surrounding its Witcher games.
The only major downside to Gwent’s format is that it caters solely to the PvP crowd. Witcher fans looking for a more PvE-oriented card game experience will want to instead check out Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, a story-based card-slinging experience which began as an expansion for Gwent before it was spun out into a standalone title. Sadly, unlike Gwent, Thronebreaker is not F2P and requires a $20 purchase to unlock.
If you’re looking for the thrill of large-scale battle royale on your Xbox One but Fortnite just isn’t doing it for you, there are alternatives to consider. One such alternative is Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends, a sci-fi-themed F2P game which sports a unique cast of playable characters and is set in the same universe as Respawn’s Titanfall series.
The unique skills and abilities each playable character can unleash makes Apex Legends feel a bit like a battle royale version of Blizzard’s Overwatch. In fact, the odds of your three-player team’s success often bank on how well you can synergize your abilities and the tactical advantages they open up.
Along with its unique characters and sci-fi theme, Apex Legends also sports quality-of-life features that many other battle royale titles (including Fortnite) have since repurposed for themselves, features such as a radial ping system and in-match revives. If anything, Apex Legends proves that players who want to be on the cutting edge of the battle royale genre need not look to Fortnite as their only option.
Call of Duty: Warzone
Infinity Ward’s recently released Call of Duty: Warzone is another excellent alternative to Fortnite, especially if you want to do more than just straight battle royale. As we noted in our own impressions of the game (https://www.gamecrate.com/hands-call-duty-warzone-perfect-example-how-battle-royale-genre-should-evolve/25419), Warzone succeeds as a F2P title because it translates the refined fast-paced gunplay that Call of Duty is already known for into an accessible and robust array of large-scale game modes.
Along with the more traditional battle royale experience, Warzone also offers a unique mode called Plunder wherein teams compete to see who can scrounge up the most in-game cash before the timer expires. Unlike in the battle royale mode, Plunder players have an infinite number of lives and can utilize their own custom loadouts, bringing the mode more in line with traditional Call of Duty multiplayer.
Despite the Call of Duty franchise’s aggressive “new game every year” release cadence, Infinity Ward has stated that it’s committed to Warzone for the long haul and sees it as a worthy long-term endeavor that can grow right alongside the franchise’s triple-A game releases.
The F2P and fighting game genres aren’t often paired together, but that doesn’t mean fans shouldn’t pay attention when they are. The Xbox One-exclusive Killer Instinct reboot served as a launch title for the console back in 2013, and right off the bat Microsoft ensured it got players’ attention by making it F2P.
Killer Instinct didn’t exactly set the fighting game world on fire when it first launched. However, across a series of post-launch “seasons” which included new playable characters, arenas, game modes, and more, the game grew into a well-rounded experience that was equal parts accessible and in-depth. Unlocking the full breadth of Killer Instinct’s features naturally requires some form of monetary investment, but Microsoft wisely guessed that allowing interested fans to sample a large portion of the game before they buy is an excellent strategy for attracting new paying customers.
If you’ve already perused our lists for the best free games on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, you’ll know that what we’ve covered in this Xbox One list is just a small portion of the entire F2P game roster.
Many of the games we covered in those two previous lists are also available on Xbox One, and we’ve gone ahead and catalogued some of them here as well:
F2P MMO Games
- DC Universe Online
F2P Fighting Games
- Dead or Alive 6: Core Fighters
World of Tanks Alternatives
- War Thunder
- Paladins (especially worth looking into for fans of Overwatch)
F2P Puzzle/Base Management Games
- Fallout Shelter
If you’ve found other Xbox One F2P games worth recommending or you just want to sing your personal praises for any of the above mentioned games, be sure to sound off in the comments below!