The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S each boast a deep catalogue of games, bolstered by a backwards-compatible library of titles, but each pale to the Alexandrian depths of the PC. Most of the time, it seems hardly to matter – the big games come out on consoles (usually in a more readily playable state) and everybody’s happy. However, sometimes, especially when it comes to free-to-play games, it’s hard not to look at the PC gamer’s grass and wonder how they got it so green.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best free-to-play games on PC that we want for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S – a move that’s akin to tipping the hat out of respect to the venerable PC’s commendable racing achievements, while also dangling a carrot in front of the PC’s finest racehorse (in this case, the racehorse is free-to-play game developers) in a bid to get them too fat to run the next race.
Is this metaphor suggesting that consoles inherently ruin free-to-play games with that sweet, sweet carrot? Is the carrot in this case the healthy splurge of the microtransaction purchasing console whale? Has this introduction completely lost the plot? Let’s get on with the list.
The best free-to-play games on PC that we want for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S are:
- Lost Ark
- Furry Fury
- Team Fortress 2
- Magic: the Gathering Arena
- The new Gwent game
- Teamfight Tactics
- EVE Online
- Star Wars: The Old Republic
- League of Legends
- DOTA 2
Valorant, Riot Games’ competitive 5v5 character shooter, seems like a perfect fit for consoles and yet to this very day, the game eludes our pawing, controller-holding mitts. While Riot has been quite coy with the idea of a Valorant console release in the past, there hasn’t been much movement in the time between the game’s initial release in 2020 and today.
Still, console gamers remain high in their hopes, as various competing esport shooters, like Overwatch 2 and Apex Legends, continue to update their console counterparts alongside their banner-bearing PC editions. Perhaps the same will one day be true of Valorant also.
If there was a genre the PC could handily flaunt over the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, it would be the MMORPG. The singular reason you won’t find World of Warcraft on this list is simply that it still costs money upfront to play it – though you better believe it would be on here in a heartbeat should it ever go free-to-play.
In the meantime, while console players can still make do with the likes of Final Fantasy XIV, the current hotness in the MMORPG space is the more action-oriented Lost Ark. Published in the west by Amazon Games, the MMOARPG (you thought it was a mouthful before someone added ‘action’ to the abbreviation) became an overnight sensation back in 2021 and quickly started encroaching on WoW’s crown thanks to its free-to-play model.
What’s that, you ask? What is the game’s setting actually about? Come on, surely that doesn’t matter – It’s an MMO(A)RPG! Think less story, think more endless grinds for loot, and you’ve got yourself all the answers you ever needed.
It’s hard not to feel stung when the poster child of free-to-play MMOs, Runescape, finally chooses a platform with which to migrate from the personal computing space after 20 years, and instead of at last acknowledging the impassioned pleas of the console, it succumbs to the temptatious draw of the mobile.
Runescape is every MMORPG player’s first love – even Michael ‘Shroud’ Grzesiek enjoyed a trip down memory lane revisiting the game. Now imagine how many future Shrouds are out there, missing their chance to find disappointment in their surprisingly-limited Runescape inventories?
How many future adults are being deprived of the experience of walking into the wilderness, being clubbed to death by a full-time griefer, losing most of their inventory, and never logging on again? It’s heartbreaking.
In fairness to the independently developed Furry Fury, compared to the rest of this list, it’s the baby of the bunch. Having spent nearly three years on Steam Early Access, the game officially released on PC, Android, and iOS in April 2022. That’s nowhere near as much time as these other entries had to make a console port, so consider this more of an invitation than a call-out.
Furry Fury is a 1v1 or 2v2 online battle arena game, in which players knock monsters into each other across a board like jagged snooker balls. The object is to knock your opponents into hazards and objects until their monsters take enough damage and die. The game features a single-player challenge mode, an adorable array of different creatures with unique abilities, and a remarkably simple control scheme that would be perfect on consoles. Let’s just cross our gnarled snookermonster claws and hope this one makes the jump to console sooner than later.
Team Fortress 2
Before certain older readers with longer memories start sending us very sternly written telegrams – yes, we know, Team Fortress 2 was released on consoles once upon a time. Released alongside Portal and Half-Life 2: Episode Two in The Orange Box back in 2007 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Valve’s infamous hat simulator did have a dalliance with console players once in time immemorial.
Perhaps most shockingly of all, it was discovered while writing this entry that you can still play the PS3 version! The game stopped getting updated back in 2008 on Sony’s now two-generations old console, yet the servers remain up at time of writing, and there’s seemingly still a small contingency of players that keep coming back.
Honestly, at this point, it’s more interesting if Valve just leaves that version alone. Still, seeing as consoles have never received a free-to-play version of the game, it would be quite nice to see the venerable character shooter make a reappearance on the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. Clearly, the players are still there!
Hearthstone, Blizzard’s free-to-play competitive trading card game, has not had the easiest ride in the last few years. After competitive Hearthstone player Ng ‘Blitzchung’ Wai Chung infamously voiced his support for the protests happening at the time in his native Hong Kong back in 2019, and after Blizzard’s self-admittedly rash banning of the player in response, the esport saw an immediate decline in its 2020 viewership.
The number did not get better in 2021, where the nearly 90,000 peak viewership in 2020 devolved to less than 24,000 in 2021, according to Esports Charts. Problems continue to plague the game itself, with players lately baffled at a single card costing $25. So let’s just say it’s been a little rough earning public favour for the card game.
Still, perhaps a shot in the arm from a console launch is exactly what the series needs. Controversies aside, Hearthstone is still a beloved and quite popular game and is still getting updates from Blizzard semi-regularly. With the still-pending Activision Blizzard acquisition by Microsoft, we might even see the game being added to the Game Pass list, which would surely drive numbers up overnight.
Magic: The Gathering Arena
Trading card games seem to have no trouble passing up console support, a trend that is as mystifying as it is cruel. We can all understand why the Pokémon TCG passes on console releases – that’s one of Nintendo’s kids, it’s not used to sharing toys. Magic: The Gathering Arena, however? A series this venerable should know by now that sharing is caring.
MTG: Arena brings the classic competitive card game into that accessible, free-to-play, Hearthstone-like format that keeps games feeling snappy and looking flashy. While there are persistent rumours that someday the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S will get their day in the sun, for now, we must simply watch from the sidelines, dreaming of the day we can pit our Harry Potter deck against our D&D deck.
The New Gwent Game
This is the last of the card games, promise. Or at least, we think it’s a card game – the truth is we don’t know enough about the upcoming Gwent standalone project, codenamed ‘Golden Nekker’, to even say that much with confidence. The one thing we do know is that, at least for the time being, console players are not getting it at all, and this is a crying shame.
Gwent, for those unaware, was a surprisingly addictive and feature-rich trading card game that came packed in as a side activity to pursue in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game spun off later into its own standalone game, Gwent: The Witcher Card Game, which was released on consoles as well as PC back in 2018 and is still going today – although it has since stopped getting updates on consoles as of 2020, probably because console players made up less than 3% of its audience.
So maybe CD Projekt Red is well within its right not to bring us this new console game, but surely these are different times. Netflix’s The Witcher has been a wild success, and even though Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales was evidently not a great earner for the company, at least you can’t point the finger directly at consoles being the problem. Come on, let’s have another round!
There’s likely a reason the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S don’t have many auto-battlers like Teamfight Tactics, and it’s probably to do with buttons. If a console player finds out they can have just as much fun playing a game that has a single button input as they can playing a big-budget cinematic adventure so dense with control options that they need an illustrative guide for the buttons on-screen at all times, then they might chuck their now-worthless high-end controller out the window.
Teamfight Tactics flies in the face of the thing console players require most – validation that their expensive console wasn’t an excessive solution to their want to have a little fun in their lives. However, it bears pointing out that Teamfight Tactics is also available on PC – can you imagine how a high-end PC gamer feels on the issue? A keyboard has more buttons than the elevator in the Empire State Building, yet they get to have access to one of the most popular auto-battlers? Come on, Riot Games, be reasonable.
If EVE Online’s perpetual existence is reliant on one thing, it’s the stability of the PC. Consoles come and go and the transition from one console generation to the next often leaves online-only games behind to rot unsupported on old hardware. The thing with EVE Online is it cannot be allowed to rot, because if there’s any chance your real-world pension is wrapped up in the selling of one particularly rare ship, and before you can make bank its developers shut off the PS5 servers – well, better luck next retirement.
We console players can’t help but be jealous of EVE, however. What if we wanted to get removed from our in-game job, then being a real-life politician, we turned to the streets to fight against the injustice of our removal? What if we wanted to fight Daleks? What if we wanted to share in a birthday war in honour of a player’s last birthday on Earth? EVE Online is a special game that completely escapes our understanding, and even if it’s just for a little while, it would be wonderful to find out what it’s all about.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
As EA CFO Blake Jorgensen said back in 2019, “believe it or not, we are close to $1 billion on Star Wars: The Old Republic revenue from the start of its history.” Since then, the game has gone on to receive further DLC expansions, enticing cinematics, and you can keep all your weapon mods stats now without having your character looking like they got dressed in the Death Star’s trash compactor.
Now as we’ve covered before, it’s common ground for MMOs to overlook console players, but this one really takes the cake. It’s Star Wars – one of the most popular and accessible franchises in the world. PS5 and Xbox Series X|S might have Final Fantasy XIV, but Star Wars is the final fantasy, and the numbered entries aren’t all that far off either. It’s about time console players had a chance to turn that billion-dollar revenue into two billion dollars, EA.
Incidentally, why not check out our best Star Wars games on PS5 list to tide you over?
League of Legends
At last, there is hope. When League of Legends finally left the PC, it came in the form of League of Legends: Wild Rift, and it carried with it the promise that someday it would make the leap to consoles too.
Since then, we’ve been in limbo. In the March 2022 patch notes for Wild Rift, Riot Games laid bare its plans for the game, and those plans did not entail a console port. For now, we simply watch the Wild Rift ranks from afar and pray Riot takes us by surprise by secretly spoiling us later in the year.
Let’s not waste too much time with this one – but it’s a nice thought, right? DOTA 2 is one of the best MOBA games around, the Primal Beast update has breathed new life into the game, professionals made $40 million from the T110 prize pool – it’s just nice to think that someday console players might get their shot, right?
If it weren’t for a little factor called Valve, which has for reasons unknown maintained a vested interest in preserving its space in the PC market, I would say let’s just keep on hoping. Instead, let’s be slightly more realistic in saying that just because we want some things, it doesn’t mean we’re ever going to get them.
This one’s a bit of a cheat, as Unturned has been released on PS4 and Xbox One. The catch here is that, when 505 Games published it, the publisher forgot to keep it free-to-play! Thus, on a technicality, it qualifies.
Unturned was developed almost entirely by one person, Nelson Sexton, under his studio Smartly Dressed Games. The game is essentially Minecraft’s aesthetic meets DayZ’s survival mechanisms meets Roblox’s open-ended multiplayer options, and after a certain point if you blend that many distinct experiences together you’re not really describing something derivative but instead something rather unique.
The game has maintained an active player base on PC, which makes it all such a shame that the same can’t be immediately claimed of its console equivalent. The missing ingredient, of course, is that the console version isn’t free-to-play, and so hasn’t been able to steal the undead hearts and minds of console players around the world – yet. There’s still time, 505.
One glance at MapleStory and you’ll probably see straight away what its main selling point is – it’s very, very, very cute. It might shock to learn then that the game is merciless, a grind-a-thon like no other, channelling the joys of labouring over various sizes of slimes and chopping away at them day-after-day for pitifully small rewards, all in the name of gaining that next great cosmetic item that really brings your chibi character to life.
In many ways, with its initial release being way back in 2003, MapleStory was quite ahead of its time in utilising grind-based game mechanics and MMO elements to keep players chained to a relentless dopamine cycle – a cycle all the more dopamine-riddled when everything in the world around you was just so overwhelming adorable.
It’s no surprise at all that the game still thrives – there’s simply no way of breaking out of the dopamine cycle once it has you, so the player base has likely stayed remarkably stable all these years. The only real surprise is that it hasn’t made the jump to consoles. Unlike technically more demanding MMOs, MapleStory is at its heart a simple 2D platform action game, not unlike the much more recent Rogue Legacy. It truly blows the mind that even when the games do seem like a perfect fit for consoles, we’ll still be denied by their sometimes crueller older brother, PC gaming.
After this cruel trek through what might never be, console gamers, fear not – there is still hope for ye. While we may not have access to everything we might want, we still have got quite a lot of good on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S already. Make sure to check out our other lists on the best free PS5 games and the best free Xbox games.