The term “free-to-play” has slowly lost the negative connotation it once held, thanks to the rise of high-quality titles like Fortnite, Rocket League, and Apex Legends. Free-to-play games have come to dominate the medium by providing players access to some of the best online gaming experiences from some of the industry’s top development studios.
For those looking to get the most out of their Xbox console while saving a buck (or 70), we’ve compiled this list of the 15 best free-to-play Xbox games available in 2023. All games on this list are available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One.
For paid options, check out our picks for the best Xbox Series X games right now.
Since its release in 2019, Apex Legends has been one of the most popular and populated free-to-play shooters on the market. What started as a battle royale game has evolved into a full-fledged online shooter, adding multiple maps and modes over the last four years.
Developer Respawn frequently updates Apex with gameplay tweaks, new playable characters, and adjustments to its maps and modes. Regardless of its free-to-play model, Apex has some of the best shooting mechanics among competitive first-person shooters, thanks to the developer’s Call of Duty and Titanfall lineage.
All game modes in Apex game be played for free, though new players start with access to only six of its 24 playable characters.
A cartoony 2D platform fighter, Brawhalla is a suitable Smash Bros. substitute for those without a Nintendo console or the ability/desire to shell out $60. Its tight, snappy gameplay and eight-player support make it a great local or online party game.
Without spending any money players get access to a roster of nine fighters, rotated weekly. The complete 100-plus-character roster includes a ton of fun crossovers, including characters from Assassin’s Creed, Rayman, Hellboy, TMNT, WWE, Shovel Knight, Adventure Time, Tomb Raider, The Walking Dead, Kung-Fu Panda, Street Fighter, and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0
Often sitting atop the free-to-play section on the Xbox store, Warzone 2.0 is the latest battle royale game from the world of Call of Duty. Developed by the FPS experts at Infinity Ward (Modern Warfare), Warzone 2.0 features the same refined Call of Duty gameplay found within the main series. In addition to standard battle royale modes, Warzone 2.0 offers the more approachable Resurgence and more tactical DMZ game modes.
The full game is free to play, though players can buy Season Passes to acquire rewards such as new weapons and Operators. Players can progress through each Battle Pass through Warzone 2.0 and/or Modern Warfare 2.
Another of the industry’s best shooters, Destiny 2 offers a ton of high-quality content to players for free, including campaign missions, PvP modes, strikes, and even some raids. From Halo 1–Reach developer Bungie, Destiny is a lore-rich, sci-fi FPS with an active community of developers and players alike.
What you get for free is a bit convoluted, so be sure to reference our Destiny 2 free-to-play guide before hopping in.
Fall Guys is our top recommendation for a free-to-play party game on Xbox. The last-man-standing game pits colorful, bean-shaped humanoids against each other across a variety of obstacle courses. It’s often tense, occasionally hilarious, and always fun. A Creative Mode is now available for free as well, allowing players to build and play their own Fall Guys obstacle courses.
Fall Guys is completely free, though players can dish out money for cosmetic items.
Six years on from the launch of its battle royale mode, Fortnite arguably remains the gold standard for free-to-play video games. On top of consistent gameplay tweaks, map updates, and endless crossover skins, Epic Games offers Fortnite players access to a digital hub of pop culture content ranging from live concerts and movie screenings.
Players can drop into Fortnite’s battle royale mode free of charge with the option to pay for cosmetic items. Save the World, Fortnite’s PvE co-op campaign mode, can be accessed by purchasing the Ned the Eternal Pack for $16 USD.
See our list of good games like Fortnite for more like this.
Halo Infinite Multiplayer
The only Xbox-exclusive game on this list, Halo Infinite is the latest arena shooter from Microsoft and 343 Industries. Infinite lives up to the series’ pedigree on a fundamentals level — gunplay and movement are as good as ever — though its cadence of content updates has fallen well short of the bar set by other shooters on this list. The free-to-play portion of Halo Infinite also includes Forge, the series’ extensive map and mode creation tool.
Only Halo Infinite’s multiplayer suite is free to play; the campaign costs $60 USD.
Overwatch 2 is yet another super-high-quality shooter available for free on Xbox. From the renowned development team at Blizzard, Overwatch 2 is a 5v5, team-based hero shooter with eight game modes and 37 playable heroes.
Blizzard recently canceled Overwatch 2’s anticipated PvE Hero Mode, though players can still look forward to new maps, modes, and heroes throughout 2023.
New players will immediately get access to 13 playable heroes; the rest can be unlocked by reaching gameplay milestones.
Path of Exile
Path of Exile is an online action-RPG “designed around a strong online item economy, deep character customization, competitive PvP, and ladder races,” according to developer Grinding Gear Games. The game, often called a spiritual successor to Diablo 2, has been running for nearly a decade thanks to its evolving gameplay, expanding world, regular expansions, and frequent updates.
Path of Exile can be played solo or with up to five others. It’s completely free, though players have to pay real-world money for “stash tabs” to expand their item storage. Weapons, armor, and various cosmetic effects can be purchased as well.
The rise of the battle royale genre can be traced back to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds in 2017. PUBG wasn’t the first to do it, but it was the first standalone battle royale game to find mainstream success, selling over 75 million copies before going free-to-play in 2022.
PUBG is a more grounded shooter in the vein of Warzone, featuring multiple game modes across a rotating list of maps. It can be played from a first- or third-person perspective.
PUBG is largely free, though access to ranked and custom matches requires the $13 USD purchase of Battlegrounds Plus.
Roblox is a digital hub for playing, creating, and socializing that’s especially popular among children. As detailed by the developer, Roblox features “racing games, shooting games, MMOs, and RPGs… animations, short films, and other learning-based content.”
Many of the games within Roblox are free, though real-world money can be used to buy Robux, which in turn can be used to buy cosmetic items, private servers, and/or certain games.
Roblox has become a phenomenon among young gamers, and parents may want to read up on what the game entails before letting their kids loose on its digital playground. IGN has written its own Roblox Parents Guide for those interested.
Rocket League became one of the industry’s biggest free-to-play success stories after transitioning from a paid release in September 2020. While developer Psyonix has built out its offering with years worth of new vehicles, maps, and modes, the core gameplay loop of quick, addictive soccer-car matches remains its biggest selling point.
Best of all, the entire game is free — the only things available to purchase are cosmetic items for vehicles.
Coming up on its tenth anniversary, War Thunder has maintained a steady community for nearly a decade, offering players free access to large-scale battles. War Thunder boasts over 2,000 playable combat vehicles “crafted carefully from historical documents and surviving sources” and 100 maps “representing the main historical battle theaters.” It offers regularly updated PvP and PvE modes, though most players show up for the PvP.
War Thunder isn’t exactly new-player friendly due to its steep learning curve, but with no entry cost, there’s little harm in giving it a try.
Warframe quietly remains one of the most popular live-service games, boasting a community of over 70 million players. It’s a fast-paced, sci-fi action-RPG built around slick third-person combat that can be played solo or with up to three others.
The most popular modes are PvE and feature plentiful opportunities for exploration and a lengthy, expanding story featuring over 100 hours of content, according to IGN sister site HowLongtoBeat.
World of Tanks
Like War Thunder, World of Tanks is a military-themed MMO rooted in history. World of Tanks, however, features faster-paced, more arcadey gameplay that should be more approachable to newcomers.
World of Tanks offers its massive 160-million-player community over 800 vehicles from the WWII and Cold War eras “based on blueprints or proposed designs from that time period in history.” New players will have to complete four solo training missions and ten PvE co-op missions before gaining access to PvP multiplayer.
Looking for more free-to-play options? Check out the best free Switch games on the best free PS5 games for our picks on the other consoles.
Jordan covers games, shows, and movies as a freelance writer for IGN.