The latest Xbox Insider program update nixes the Xbox Live Gold requirement for free-to-play (F2P) Xbox games for users in the Xbox Insider Alpha & Alpha Skip Ahead rings. The change will roll out to other Xbox Insider levels in the coming weeks, and, hopefully, everyone else soon after.
This will be a huge benefit for players — after all, a game isn’t really free if you have to pay a subscription fee to play it online. It will also bring Microsoft up to date with Nintendo and Sony, which allow players to access multiplayer modes in F2P games without subscribing to their respective online services.
Xbox Insiders in Alpha Skip Ahead & Alpha today we are flighting some new features. Multiplayer in Free-to-play games, Looking 4 Groups and Party Chat on Xbox no longer requires an Xbox Live Gold membership as we flight and test these service changes ahead of general availability
— Xbox Insider (@xboxinsider) March 24, 2021
To help you prepare for this change, we made a list of 10 great F2P games on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. We focus on games that are purely free to download — stuff that you can play all (or most) of without having to pay for large chunks of content. We left out games that are “free to start,” or require you pay to unlock most of the game — which why you won’t see Destiny 2 or Killer Instinct on this list.
That said, while all the games on our list are free to download and play, most feature some form of in-game monetisation, such as bonus characters, “Battle Passes” that unlock new cosmetic items as you level up, or — in some cases — loot boxes that include randomised rewards. However, these purchases are optional and not essential to playing the games.
Apex Legends is a squad-based battle royale FPS set in the Titanfall universe. While most games in the Battle Royale genre start players on even footing, Apex Legends includes a selection of unique heroes with special abilities, giving each player slightly different capabilities in battle. The game also popularised the “ping” system, where your in-game character communicates important information to your squad mates — like weapon locations or incoming enemies — making it easier to play without voice chat.
Call of Duty: Warzone
Another multiplayer battle royale game, this time based on the wildly popular Call of Duty franchise. Unlike other Call of Duty games, Warzone features 150-player matches in a massive map that includes elements of multiplayer arenas from previous Call of Duty titles. Players compete to be the last combatant standing, utilising the weapons and tactical gear Call of Duty is known for.
Dauntless is all about taking on massive beasts, known as “behemoths,” slaying them, and turning them into armour and weapons that will help you take on bigger behemoths… rinse off the blood and repeat. It’s a simple concept, but the loop can be highly addictive (as evidenced by the wildly popular Monster Hunter series, which Dauntless cribs from).
We’ve covered a few free-to-play battle royale games so far, but none are as popular as Fortnite. The third-person shooter’s competitive modes are the most popular, but there are also creative and co-op modes to try out… And digital concerts to watch. Film studios have even been known to debut new movie trailers in-game before anywhere else. Honestly, Fortnite is more of a platform than a game at this point, and you can try it out for free if you somehow haven’t already.
Neverwinter is an MMORPG based on the Neverwinter Dungeons & Dragons setting (go figure). All in-game content is free; you can roll a new character and level up to the end game without spending a penny. Players pick between eight classes and thirteen races — all pulled directly from the D&D tabletop game. Drows, Tieflings, Dragonborns are all here, and more. Fans of big, modern MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV, The Elder Scrolls Online or World of Warcraft, and long-time D&D players will find plenty to enjoy.
Path of Exile
Path of Exile is an action-RPG brimming with choice. There are 19 specialised character classes to play, over 1,325 passive skills to unlock, and heaps of unique weapons and armour to collect and customise. You can play the game’s storyline and explore its world online with friends or by yourself, and there are recurring special events and challenges to keep you busy while you build the perfect character.
Phantasy Star Online 2
Microsoft helped Sega finally bring Phantasy Star Online 2 to western audiences in 2020 — almost 8 years after it originally launched in Japan. Like the original PSO, PSO 2 is an online action RPG that’s all about collecting loot and slaying hordes of monsters with your friends. While it shows its age in places, Phantasy Star Online 2 is fun to play and has over eight years worth of content to enjoy. Some progress will even carry over to the next game in the series, Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, releasing later in 2021.
Roblox is less of a game and more a game creation platform. Players can create their own video games using the tools and assets available in Roblox, and share their creations online. The range of available content is huge — virtually every popular genre of video game has been recreated in Roblox.
In Rocket League, two teams try to score goals by ramming, flipping, and skidding their RC car-like vehicles into a giant soccer ball. Yes, it’s as awesome and chaotic as it sounds. Even better, the game supports cross-play, so Xbox players can team up or challenge friends on PlayStation 4 or 5, Switch, and PC.
Warframe is another free-to-play action MMO, but it stands out from the competition thanks to its striking sci-fi theme, highly acrobatic gameplay, and a large variety of content. There are dozens of unique Warframes to unlock and customise, numerous planets to explore, multiple factions to interact with, and several storylines to experience — some of which are truly mind-bending. The game also receives regular free updates that often add entirely new gameplay elements. It’s a dense game, but Digital Extremes has several guides for new players looking to try the game out.