First person shooters are by far the most popular games in the world, with Battlefield 3 and Black Ops 2 dwarfing games like World of Warcraft in terms of standing and sheer number of players alone.
Due to their popularity, shooters have been made into the subject of movies based on vidoegame licenses like Doom and Max Payne, and also used as influences in films like Gamer and Shoot 'Em Up. The flip side to that is that they've become the targets of lazy politicians and gun lobbyists who seek to blame their popularity on violence in schools instead of looking elsewhere—towards 'gun culture' in general, and to the availability of firearms at retailers.
Needless to say, shooters aren't going away any time soon, and some of them—such as the ones we've listed ahead, are entirely free to play so you can get a solid experience without having to pay a single cent for the experience. Read on to find out about the ten best free to play FPS games.
We've updated this list by removing Battlefield Play4Free (which goes offline in 2015) and replaced it with the 2015 release Dirty Bomb.
10. Enemy Territory: RTCW
Return to Castle Wolfenstein is one of the earliest instances that a high quality, and fully polished first person shooter was made available for free beyond what was typically available in the form of mods for existing games. Developed by Splash Damage, it was originally designed as the multiplayer mode for Return to Castle Wolfenstein but was released instead as a free standalone download.
Enemy Territory: RTCW was a new breed of game that saw two teams—the Axis and Allies—battle each other not for flags or points, but for actual territory. With one team on defense and the other on offense, players on both teams were divided into various classes to better supplement their team’s capabilities out on the field. Despite being a decade old, the game still enjoys a healthy online community.
9. Quake Live
Quake Live is the free-to-play version of Quake 3 Arena. Designed to be played on the browser, Quake Live runs on just about any operating system, including OSX and Linux. It sees a number of differences and tweaks to Quake 3 Arena but retains the game’s core assets and mechanics.
The game is designed with online play in mind, with a heavy focus on competitive e-sports.
8. Dirty Bomb
Dirty Bomb is a free-to-play first-person shooter from the makers of Brink, Quake Wars: Enemy Territory and the venerable Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. It goes without saying that no one does class and objective-based multiplayer gameplay quite like Splash Damage, and it really shows with Dirty Bomb, which is a follow-up of the iterations and evolution of the multiplayer gameplay of their previous titles. Best thing about it is that it's free to play. A good game that's free? What more could you ask for?
7. Super MNC
Super Monday Night Combat, or Super MNC for short, is a free-to-play multiplayer shooter that blends shooting with tactical sports. It’s a bit like what football would be if they allowed guns into the stadium. Players are split between two teams and battle each other while being cheered and jeered on by sportscasters and fans alike.
There’s a surprising amount of strategic depth to Super MNC that you won’t find anywhere else.
Developed by Adhesive Games, Hawken is a first person shooter in which you pilot the body of a gigantic mech and fight your way across wartorn cities in conventional team deathmatch and free-for-all modes as well as a more in-depth “siege” mode that sees two teams duking it out for the control of territory.
Players can choose between three different classes of mechs, and instead of managing their ammo, they have to manage their heat—as their giant guns are prone to overheating when fired continuously.
5. Tribes Ascend
Tribes Ascend is the successor to the highly successful Tribes series of games by Dynamix from over a decade ago. It’s also the first one in the series to be entirely free to play. Players can enjoy the game by simply playing it for free or paying for weapon upgrades and additional utilities for their characters.
Much like the original games, Tribes Ascend allows players to traverse and battle across vast stretches of terrain and even board flying fortresses with jetpacks and ski to improve their speed while on the ground. Fans of the original games should feel at home with this one.
Firefall comes from the developers at Red 5 Studios and is an attempt to blend the first person shooter genre with RPG elements—it’s not unlike Borderlands. The game offers a heavy focus on cooperation in addition to competition, and sees players teaming up to battle against monsters out in the wild. Much of the action is focused around ‘thumpers’, a mining device dropped from orbit that needs to be defended against incursions from hostile creatures.
As an RPG, the game features multiple player classes referred to in the lore as “Battleframes”. Each of these classes serve various purposes out on the field, and interestingly enough, players can even switch between frames should they choose to alter their role in the game.
3. Planetside 2
The original Planetside may have died a miserable death when developers were moved off its team and the game was left to linger and waste away as players and interest in the game declined over time, but SOE, seeing a keen opportunity to do something with the brand created Planetside 2.
The game rose out of the ashes of its predecessor like some mythical bird, soaring into the heavens and quickly became one of the most engrossing first person shooters to date.
Planetside 2 sees full scale battles taking place over the face of the planet Auraxis, where three distinct groups battle for territorial dominance. They have at their disposal numerous vehicles and weapons to allow for a futuristic experience of war.
Be warned that this isn’t a game that’s easy to pick up and play. You’ll need to invest some time in getting with a dedicated group of players and staging assaults, or you may find yourself lost and alone without a clue as to your objectives.
2. Blacklight Retribution
Blacklight Retribution is a sci-fi themed FPS in which players can join any number of servers to partake in online battles against many other players. The game is split across a variety of game types and maps, largely offering close quarters battles in which players engage in classic death match modes, Capture the Flag, or fight for dominance over specific objectives on the map.
Blacklight’s maps are filled with weapon depots, in which players can purchase upgrades with points accumulated during play, for ammo, better weapons, and even hardsuits, small-sized mechs that can be mounted by players to provide an edge on the battlefield.
One of the game’s biggest feats is the customization of weapons and armor. Players can upgrade their kit by accumulating in-game money, which is acquired through play and leveling up, or use real-world currency to purchase these items permanently or lease them for a short period of time.
1. Team Fortress 2
It would be unfair to every other game on this list to say that Team Fortress 2 is “by far” the best game here, because every other game on the list is just as enjoyable to play and offers a host of experiences in their own way. That being said, Team Fortress 2 wins out with its ‘fun factor’ and Valve’s love and dedication to the game over half a decade really shines through with the game.
Team Fortress 2 offers a variety of game modes, ranging from simple Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch, to a mode called Push the Cart in which one team attempts to move a cart across the map while the other team sets up defenses to prevent it from going through. There’s even a variety of variations on these modes, which see both teams pushing separate carts. The game also plays host to a variety of objective control modes and a bomb delivery mode.
In addition to all of those competitive team-vs-team modes, players can also indulge in a cooperative ‘horde’ mode called Mann vs Mann, which pitches players against throngs of robotic enemies across a variety of maps.
The game’s complexity is increased severalfold with the division of character classes, which help to provide players with discernible roles out on the field, and a large variety of weapons and customization. One of the game’s biggest draws is its use of hats and other decorative equipment, which can be acquired simply by playing the game, or as bonuses for purchasing other games on Steam.