My Favourite Free-to-Play Games

My crippling addiction to Dr. Mario World has reignited my internal debate about the merits of free-to-play games. While I grew up in a world where you either dropped quarters into an arcade machine or bought a cartridge to play the full game, I understand now that games have always been driven by the business models behind them. Free-to-play is just another permutation of that, and it’s up to me how much I want to engage with that. With Google Stadia and 5G looming, streaming may add yet another approach to monetizing games.

Though I generally prefer to buy my games outright, there have been a few free-to-play games that really sunk their teeth into me. Here are a few of my free-to-play faves!

Pokemon Go

Though I’ve dabbled in mainline Pokemon games prior to this, Pokemon Go is the game that really sparked my fandom for the franchise. Turning the real world into a virtual playground, I became enamored with the idea of traveling to real-life places to do things, whether it’s catch Pokemon, fight in gyms, participate in raids, or trade Pokemon with friends. As of writing, I’m well past the level cap and it’s part of my daily routine.

With regards to the free-to-play side of the game, I think you now get a lot of game for free. There’s no financial gates that stop you from playing the game at any time. Instead, you’re gated by storage and items, but earning money at gyms isn’t too bad if you have access to them. Though I’ve made a decent amount of in-game money by battling in gyms, I’ve also spent more real money on this than I’d like to admit.


Even though it’s free-to-play, Paladins on most platforms is completely overshadowed by the juggernaut that is Overwatch. However, in the Nintendo Switch ecosystem where Blizzard’s hero shooter doesn’t exist, Paladins is the only game in town.

Even so, Paladins is a great game with enough unique wrinkles to stand on its own. I find that its free-to-play system for rotating heroes is fair, and the game regularly rewards you with in-game currency that can be used to unlock characters or cosmetics. I paid once for the all-character unlock when it was on sale and haven’t looked back.

HQ Trivia/Sports/Words

In this free-to-play live mobile game show, hundreds of thousands of players come together for a chance to win real money. Though I lost way more than I won, it became a communal afternoon activity at work and an evening activity at home with my wife. I’ve since fallen off the wagon, but the ride was fun while I was on it. Never paid for any of the game’s extra lives or other microtransactions, but I still have a few bucks in my HQ account that I should cash out.

Dr. Mario World

Dr. Mario World is the most aggressive game on my list when it comes to its monetization tactics. Every time you fail a level, that prompt comes up and asks you to buy additional items that can help you beat it. I would greatly prefer it if the game wasn’t so in-my-face about it.

Even so, it’s a fantastic puzzle game that has the original beat in almost every regard. With so many smart changes to the original formula, it’s way more exciting and dynamic than the original ever was. I may spend a few bucks as a means of supporting Nintendo for making a game I enjoy playing, but I don’t see myself getting sucked into buying these particular in-game items or extended playing time.

Do you play free-to-play games? What do you like or dislike about them? What are some of your faves? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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