Video games are fun. They are also expensive, at least if you want to play a game that is not loaded with microtransactions. If you want to play lots of games while spending as little money as possible, this guide is for you.
Assuming you are interested in playing paid games (as opposed to freebies like Fortnite), there are two ways to do it: pay for a subscription to many games at once or pay to get some permanent free games at a lower rate. There are also some premium games that anyone can claim for free on some platforms.
Your options depend on which gaming platform you currently have. So, let̵7;s start with what is easily the best option for free premium games and cheap game subscriptions: PC.
PC: Xbox Game Pass, Humble Choice and Epic Games Store
PC gamers are a bit spoiled when it comes to cheap games, with thousands and thousands of older titles and indie games available in a dozen different game stores for almost nothing. But we continue here assuming that you do not already have a Steam library that would embarrass Alexandria, and that you want to play premium (read: paid) games as little as possible.
There are many ways to do this. For subscription services, there is the Xbox Game Pass for PC (yes, it has the Xbox in the title, and yes, it is for the PC), EA Play (formerly EA Access, formerly Origin Access) and Ubisoft’s Uplay +. All of these offer a wide range of games – some new, others not – for a monthly fee.
Among them, the Xbox Game Pass for PC currently has the edge. While the options from EA and Ubisoft are pretty solid, Microsoft has a committed commitment to offering a variety of games from different publishers and developers, and new high-profile games as soon as they are released. The much loved The outer worlds came to the Xbox Game Pass for PC on launch day at no extra cost, which is a pretty sweet deal for a story-based game with limited replay value. This puts the Xbox Game Pass library over those from EA and Ubisoft, which can be kind of same-y, relying on many games in the same big franchises.
The Xbox Game Pass for PC costs $ 10 a month with over a hundred high-profile games, and as an added bonus, it will soon also include games from the EA Play library. If you also have an Xbox, you can also get a lot of games for your console, some of which are available on your computer and others not. It requires the $ 15 Game Pass Ultimate subscription – still a great deal.
Note that even though the service is set up as a streaming movie service, it still downloads games directly to your computer and plays them locally. If you use a laptop or a low-efficiency desktop, there may be games available that you can not actually play on your machine, especially newer 3D titles. If your computer is not powerful enough to play the games you want, you can consider Google Stadiums instead. It has a much smaller selection, especially free games, but the streaming system only needs a solid internet connection.
Another option you can consider is the Humble Choice subscription, from the same people who organize the Humble Bundle. For $ 15-20 a month, you get access to “Humble Trove” with 90+ games, and you get to pick and keep up to nine titles a month. It is “keep” as in “keep access to permanent”, so you can continue playing them even if you decide to unsubscribe. Humble acquired games can usually be redeemed on external services like Steam. Also cool: 5% of all subscription fees go to charity each month.
There is another option to consider for PC gamers: Epic Game Store. Epic is giving away one to three new premium games to its users every week, which they can keep and play forever without spending a penny. I’ve collected over 60 free games – games that would have cost anywhere from a few dollars to $ 60 normally – just by checking out the new offers every Thursday. You have to pay attention to getting the best titles, but it’s a great way to build a collection with a budget.
Xbox: Xbox Game Pass
It should come as no surprise that the Xbox Game Pass is also the best way to play lots of games for very little money on, well, the Xbox. Microsoft’s subscription offer is getting better all the time, and it’s now bundled with Xbox Live Gold (the multiplayer component of Xbox One) for a very reasonable $ 15 a month. That service will continue on Xbox Series X and Series S.
That gold subscription includes a few extra games each month, in addition to the games available in Game Pass, and you can continue to play these games even if you stop paying for the subscription. For example, this month’s free game is with gold The Division, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, The Blob 2, and Armed and dangerous. Game Pass now also includes free streaming games for Android phones and tablets.
PlayStation: PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus
Sony has a similar option for PlayStation 4, called PlayStation Now. For $ 10 a month, you can download hundreds of PS4 and PS2 games to your console or stream games from PS4, PS3 and PS2. (Streaming is fairly low quality – if you have the option, you want these downloads.) PlayStation Now does not include brand new titles like the Xbox Game Pass, but the selection of older games is much wider at the time of writing. .
In addition to playing locally on the console, you can stream PlayStation Now games to a computer if you connect a PS3 controller. Your game selection and progress synchronization over the network.
Sony’s premium online system is called PlayStation Plus – you have to pay for it if you want to play PS4 multiplayer games online. It costs $ 10 a month or $ 60 a year, with the latter option obviously a better deal. PlayStation Plus includes a couple of free premium games each month that you can link to your account. This month’s free games for PS Plus members are Street Fighter V and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).
These free games are yours as long as you keep your PlayStation Plus subscription active. Unlike Xbox Gold, you can not continue playing them if you stop paying. However, if you return to the PlayStation Plus service later, they are still available, even if they are no longer listed as “free”. PlayStation Plus subscribers also get access to some exclusive games in the PlayStation digital store.
Nintendo Switch: Switch Online (is not very good)
At the moment, Switch is definitely the odd man when it comes to free games. Nintendo has an online multiplayer subscription called just “Switch Online” and it’s pretty cheap for just $ 4 a month or $ 20 a year (or $ 35 for a family plan with up to eight users). And it contains many free games … from three or four decades ago.
Switch Online includes access to a selection of games from the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super NES. It’s a pretty good library, filled with absolute classics from Nintendo’s library and third party. And Nintendo is adding a few more each month. But they are, yes, very old games. Compared to the new and almost new titles available on Xbox and PlayStation services, it’s a small chunk.
Switch Online contains some newer games for free that are not found anywhere else like Tetris 99 and the coming Super Mario 35. But Switch’s choices for free games and low-subscription services are quite limited.
iPhone and iPad: Apple Arcade
Apple has entered the subscription game service, um, games, and its offering is called Apple Arcade. Since there are literally hundreds of thousands of games available on the iOS App Store, it’s almost as valuable as a curation service than anything else: The games in Apple Arcade are all premium, with no ads or in-app purchases as common in mobile games.
The service is $ 5 per month for more than 100 games. These range from high-quality touchscreen titles to complete console ports, and many of them have been made exclusively for the Apple Arcade platform. Some of them work with controls, and the games can be played on an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or Mac computer. You can start playing on your phone and move to any other device without losing your progress.
Of course, if you want to play free games, there is no shortage of them available in the iOS App Store, no subscription required. But almost all include ads or annoying in-app purchases. However, there are fairly frequent promotions that allow you to get a previously paid game for free, which usually means no ads and no (or fewer) IAP. Keep an eye on gaming sites and iPhone blogs to discover these freebies.
Android: Google Play Pass
Google’s alternative to the Apple Arcade subscription is Google Play Pass. It’s about the same setting as the Apple Arcade for Android phones, with one big difference: the selection is wider and it has far fewer exclusive games. It costs $ 5 a month or $ 30 a year.
Play Pass contains some great titles, especially if you’re looking for something for kids to play. But Google has not invested in the original development that Apple has, and it does not have the seamless device change. (However, some Play Pass games may also be available on Chromebooks or Android TVs.)
Just like iOS, Android has hundreds of thousands of games on the Play Store, most of which are free … and most require either watching lots of ads or buying things in the game to really enjoy them. But on a regular basis, premium games are made for free, temporarily, so that users can build up a free collection of better games if they act fast.