The best free games of 2021

No purchase necessary.

Image via Epic Games

It feels like there’s a limitless number of video games to play right now, but not everyone has the luxury of a limitless bank account. Some of the most popular games in the world don’t require you to buy the game itself, however; their developers make their money off in-game purchases like cosmetics and battle passes.

There is still a great deal of free games out there to play, so we’ve put together a list of the biggest and best free games that had a monumental year in 2021.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Image via Valve

There are a lot of free-to-play games to play on Steam, but no game has been able to keep its place at the top quite like CS:GO. During 2021, the game averaged a Steam high of 613,530 players, which is higher than most peaks of popular games like Apex Legends, GTA V, and Destiny 2. From January to April, the game had its third, fourth, fifth, and sixth highest monthly averages of all-time, sitting just behind April and May 2020.

CS:GO also surpassed the one-million peak players mark every month this year from January through May. The only other game on Steam to even come close to the one-million peak players this year was New World during its launch month, with 913,027 reported players at its highest moment.

Fortnite

Image via Epic Games

Fortnite is still one of the biggest games of the year when it comes to player base and streaming numbers, and the amount of content in-game is just as massive. The battle royale mode continues to be a popular choice for players, and its creative modes really allow the player base to explore fun ways to keep the game interesting.

If you’ve been away from the game for a while, now is probably the best time to get back into it with the start of Chapter Three. With a new island, gameplay mechanics like sliding and camping, weapons, and a battle pass full of items to earn including a Spider-Man costume, Fortnite isn’t slowing down in any regard.

League of Legends

Image via Riot Games

League of Legends is still the most popular esport in the world, and it punctuated that with record-breaking numbers at the 2021 iteration of Worlds. As a game, it still has a massive dedicated fanbase committed to mastering champions and pushing towers. It’s so popular that it’s spawned a mobile version in Wild Rift, a card game in Legends of Runeterra, an auto-battler in Teamfight Tactics, and now a successful Netflix series in Arcane.

The game has a massive pool of champions, but thankfully for new players, you can earn champions at a very rapid rate just via the first set of missions and the currency you earn.

VALORANT

Image via Riot Games

For years Riot Games only had one game under its banner in League, but all that changed with the development of Project A, now known as the popular multiplayer shooter that is VALORANT. The core of the game is familiar to fans of CS:GO, but it stands out with its impressive and glowing collection of agents with their own special abilities.

VALORANT continues to grow as a whole, with a level of freshness and consistent change that can be considering lacking in CS:GO. Apart from new agents, the team at Riot has added new maps, weapon and ability changes, and game modes, as well as a massive collection of cosmetics. This was VALORANT‘s first full year, and 2022 could be even bigger.

Honorable Mentions

  • Call of Duty: Warzone
  • Apex Legends
  • Destiny 2
  • Dota 2
  • Halo Infinite multiplayer