01/11/2021 By RuneLite
Video games have come a long way since the days of two paddles hitting a square ball back and forth. Today, free-to-play games dominate the fast-growing market. More of these free games release from major developers every week, a lot of them with the same trappings. The so-called “gameplay loop” of these free games doesn’t usually lend itself well to the plot.
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While many free games do have stories, as we’ll see throughout this list, many don’t require you to pay much attention to the story. Much of the time, these stories go unfinished anyway. There’s something for everyone with these free games, many of which offer online play that lets you play with friends and strangers alike. These online elements make for the perfect free game where the story is totally optional.
Released in 2017 following the controversial first game, Destiny 2 is a dense game that is well-supported by developer Bungie. With new content in the form of events, raids, weapons, and added planets to explore, there is a ton to do and see in this game – so much that you’re probably going to miss some of it.
Story and lore are a big part of Destiny 2’s base game, but the game also features a mode called Raids. These are multiplayer missions where you enter areas with up to five other players to kill a high-level enemy boss. They’re incredibly difficult but offer great rewards. Or you can always explore the vast planet levels on your own and see whatever you find.
Genshin Impact is one of the biggest free-to-play games ever released, with reportedly up to 40 million players. Like many RPGs, it has a lot of plot, even starting with an unskippable cutscene before essentially forcing a plot-heavy tutorial on you. But once you get past that, you’ll quickly find that Genshin Impact is a massive game with an infinite number of things to do.
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Updated with new quests and events every month, as well as daily commissions that give you Primogems (this game’s version of currency) and the infinite arena “Spiral Abyss,” there is no shortage of content that lets you bypass the story entirely. It’s not unusual for you to go days or even weeks without ever touching a main or side quest.
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
Unlike other games on this list, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall is not free-to-play, nor new. It originally released in 1996, but for the game’s 15th anniversary in 2009, Bethesda made the game free to download from their website. There’s no catch either – no microtransactions or limited time trials, it’s just free!
Daggerfall is the first Elder Scrolls game to feature open-world mechanics, though there is more of an emphasis placed on the plot and main quests than in later Elder Scrolls games. Still, it's entirely possible to roam around the map, completing side quests and raiding dungeons while completely ignoring the cataclysmic, world-threatening events like in other games in the series.
League of Legends
League of Legends is an odd game, in that while the game itself has a ton of backstory complete with rich histories and characters, none of it is actually in the game itself. If you want to learn anything about the plot of League of Legends, you’re going to have to go to developer Riot Games’ official website or look up various fan-made Wikis.
K-Pop/rap not your thing? No problem, because the odd mash-up band made to promote the game, K/DA, is nowhere in the game at all. Don’t care about Garen or his “First Shield?" Don’t read the book, and instead throw yourself into LoL’s massive multiplayer battles instead.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Released in 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic was one of the first games to sell itself as a mix between traditional single-player, story-based gaming and MMO, connected world gameplay. The result is a game that can be played as a single-player RPG like the previous Knights of the Old Republic games or an MMO akin to World of Warcraft.
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So while you could play a Jedi Knight and hear the dulcet tones of David Hayter as you advance through the plot, you could also completely ignore the main story and side quests as you and your friends' complete raids and other events like fighting pirates or go treasure hunting for ancient relics.
Planetside 2 is a massively multiplayer online space sim with an emphasis on massive scale battles. The sheer scope of this game is indeed incredible. With massive battlefields on several planets, players can hop in a tank, a plane, a spaceship, or fight on the ground. Teamwork is essential, and coordinating (or trying to coordinate) with strangers is a blast.
The plot in Planetside 2 is little more than window-dressing, an excuse for the in-game explosions and gun battles. There are three empires warring it out for freedom or domination, but that’s about all there is to it. Perfect if you just want to hop in and experience epic battles.
Honkai Impact 3rd
From the makers of Genshin Impact, Honkai Impact 3rd is another action RPG. But whereas Genshin is an open-world adventure, Honkai instead focuses on more linear levels. However, Honkai also features more unique gameplay in that it's a crazy mash-up of several different genres – platforming, dungeon crawling, shoot ‘em up, social sim, and even dating sim.
The result is a game where there’s a ton of player freedom and choice, just like Genshin. So while you can’t freely explore a large world, there’s greater variety in what you can do. And just like its successor, you’re free to tackle these levels in whatever order you want, and complete daily and monthly missions.
Old School Runescape
A classic in online gaming, the original version of Runescape finally re-released on Steam in February 2021. Runescape started out in 2007 as a free online MMO, similar to World of Warcraft but on a much smaller scale. Over the years, the game was improved and updated, but some of these changes were seen as controversial.
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That’s where Old School Runescape comes in, the original 2007 version of the game, with only some bug fixes and improved resolutions being added. Runescape is known for its lack of overall plot, allowing players to forge their own paths for their characters.
Phantasy Star Online 2
Phantasy Star Online 2 has seen a wild ride to release. The first game released on the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, and its sequel took 12 years to come out... in Japan. The game didn’t see a western release until 2020. Perhaps that’s why the game takes a more antiquated approach to its world.
Rather than an open-world adventure where the player can do whatever they like, Phantasy Star Online 2 instead takes a more structured, linear approach. It uses a Quest system where you have to accept a quest and follow a set path in a specific area in order to get loot.
Another online game, SoulWorker styles itself as an anime in video game form, not unlike Persona. Developer Lion Games prides itself on fast-paced combat and massive 100 player PvP dungeons that anyone can join on a global server.
SoulWorker was built around co-op in mind, so it’s easy to create a party of up to four players and jump into either PvE or PvP dungeons and start wreaking havoc. There’s also an in-depth crafting and housing system, so if you wanted to play this as a bizarrely violent take on Animal Crossing, that’s something you could do.
NEXT: Genshin Impact: 10 Expert Tips For Free Players
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About The Author
(54 Articles Published)
Josh Griffiths has an extensive background in writing about video games, movies, and books. With a particular love for indie games, he can usually be found at his computer or playing with his dog, Cam.
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