The Best Free PC Games of 2016

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2016 has been a year of many things. From the rise of geek culture in cinemas to the release of Pokemon Go and hype for the Nintendo Switch. It was also a year for new games, including Free-to-Play PC games. Steam, Armor Games, and Newgrounds released several new titles in all categories. Even Halo had a gift for gamers. So where do you begin?

I waded through new titles, ratings, and player numbers to pick some of the best games from this year. In no particular order, check out these awesome titles!

Paladins

Released in September, Paladins is a multiplayer first-person shooter set in a vibrant fantasy world. Characters, referred to as Champions for the game, come in all races and jobs with deep levels of customization. Players can build decks to customize their Champion's abilities, as well. Will you be an Elf, Human, or perhaps a Dragon? Will you rely on mechanical beasts or traditional weapons?

Join the fight today!

Transmissions: Element 120

Shooter and Horror fans will enjoy this Indie game, especially if you like Half-Life. Set in the same universe as the popular-yet-unfinished series, this single-player game gifts players with "a gravity defying [sic] weapon that allows you to jump buildings and sustain large falls."

Where are you and why have you been sent? The purpose of the game is to find answers to these questions and more.

Sound like your cup of tea? You can find Transmissions: Element 120 on Steam.

Fractured Space

This Sci-Fi MOBA has something for everyone. Players have their choice from Solo-Play, Co-Op PvE, and 5-vs-5 PvP. With the graphic power of Unreal Engine 4, you'll command your fleet in the epic expanse of space. Players choose the manufacturer, model, and weapon loadouts for their initial ship before launching as Captain to gain experience. The more experience a player earns, the larger a fleet they can control. Fractured Space combines the best elements of a shooter and a tactical game.

If you want to join the battle, you can find Fractured Space on Steam.

Tiger Knight: Empire War

TK:EW is an MMO that prides itself on historic accuracy. Developed in Unreal3 and accompanied by background music from the producer of the Final Fantasy soundtrack, the game has a lot to offer players.

Set in 300 BC, players have their choice of ancient kingdoms. The various modes of play range from one-on-one general duels to epic PvE army clashes. Damage types, units, weapons, and more come into play as you lead your army towards victory.

Please note: While the game is free-to-play, some optional paid DLC is available to enhance the experience.

Ready to enlist?

Mandagon

Enter Bardo, the Tibetan version of Limbo, to engage in an immersive narrative exploring life, death, and sacrifice. Mandagon is a 2D non-linear exploration game with small tasks to help you progress through the map.

While the graphics are pixel-based, the designs are absolutely gorgeous. The Tibetan influence drives the entire setting and storyline; players benefit from a deeper understanding of the culture in addition to the deep storyline.

The game is entirely free to play, and fans can access DLC that includes concept art, the entire soundtrack as a 22-minute meditation assist composition, and more.

Are you ready to enter Bardo and learn the meaning of sacrifice? The journey begins on Steam.

Atlas Reactor

RTS meets MOBA in this fast-paced turn-style battle. Players hire Freelancers to customize before challenging an opponent. Each round consists of a 20-second phase in which players order their troops before watching the action plays out. Players take their turns simultaneously, adding a new spin to strategy. You must react in real-time while attempting to predict your opponent's next move in an effort to overcome their team.

A weekly rotation of free-to-play Freelancers opens this game up to any and all who are interested. You can also earn or purchase in-game currency to buy your favorite Freelancers -- similar to League of Legends and DOTA.

Are you ready to enter the arena?

Shadowverse

Here's one for the card players! Fans of Yu-Gi-Oh, Hearthstone, and other Trading Card-Based games will enjoy this new addition to competitive card collections. With seven character classes and over 400 cards available, hours of play await.

Hailing from Japan, Shadowverse "features AAA artwork and unique game mechanics that make it the most visually and tactically rich CCG on the market." The art is a vibrant and impressive take on the illustrated style most commonly used for J-anime.

You have three ways to buy new card packs in Shadowverse. The three in-game currencies are Tickets, Crystals, and Rupies. The Shadowverse New-Player Guide notes:

"There are other ways of obtaining new cards besides spending crystals or rupies.

Tackle Missions

Tapping the Missions button on the Home screen will show various missions for the day. Clearing these missions will net you rewards.

Unlock Achievements

Win matches, level up, and reach other in-game milestones to get rewards.

Purchase Crystals

Crystals can be purchased from the Shop.

Play the Main Story

Play through the stories to earn rewards. Some cards can only be obtained by playing through the story.

Create Cards

Cards that are no longer needed can be liquefied into vials from the Card screen. These vials can then be used to create new cards, as long as you have the required number of vials."

Deckbuilders can find Shadowverse on Steam, or on the official site.

Halo 5: Forge

343 Industries and Microsoft teamed up this year to give Halo fans an early Christmas present: Halo 5: Forge on PC.

Forge is a Creation game that allows players to build their own maps and game modes. Halo fans may remember Grifball from Halo 3, which was built in Forge. Now, Xbox One and PC players can team up to create and play on new levels, sharing maps and play styles to expand -- or experience -- the world of Halo 5.

PC players will find keyboard and mouse support, the ability to build maps for up to 16 players, and the ability to host and play on said maps.

Ready to report in, Spartans? Enlist through Halo Waypoint.

Riddle Transfer 2

Newgrounds Veterans may be familiar with the Riddle School series that ended on a cliffhanger a few years back. This year, developer Jonochrome is back with the finale of his popular puzzle series. In addition, he came out with a remake of the game that started it all: Return to Riddle School.

Riddle Transfer 2 picks up where Riddle Transfer left off, following Phil and friends as they race to escape back to their school. This Click Adventure series uses exploration, environment items, and situational riddles to lead players through puzzles to help Phil save the universe from Vizion.

Ready to pick up a years-old tale to find an end? Enroll in Riddle School on Newgrounds.

The remake of Riddle School can also be found on Newgrounds.

Learn to Fly 3

Our favorite stubborn Penguin is back. First, he refused to believe he could not fly. Then, he wouldn't let icebergs keep him grounded. Now? Penguin NASA wants to reach space.

In Learn to Fly 3, you are in control of our Penguin protagonist's arsenal of equipment. Help him build a flight suit, starting with low-quality items. The more you test, the more money you earn; the more money you earn, the better equipment you can afford. Boosts, Stages, Shells, and Launchers help our little arctic friend inch closer and closer to his dream.

Ready to defy gravity and limitations? Launch on Newgrounds.

Super Dangerous Dungeons

Great treasure awaits in this pixel-graphic 2D platform dungeon game. You take control of Timmy, the self-proclaimed world's best "thie--er, treasure hunter!" Timmy can run side-to-side and jump, but he cannot survive in the shallowest water or a single tap of damage. You must use the environment to your advantage, guiding Timmy to the key that will unlock the next area and then the exit door. Moving platforms, rising water, and more will attempt to keep you from the treasure within the temple.

Are you ready to brave all peril and help Timmy achieve his goal? Enter the temple via Newgrounds.

Jumphobia

This puzzle platformer puts a new spin on jumping challenges. You take control of the silhouette and guide them across levels, but you don't control your jumps. Instead, your character will jump every time you reach a ledge. You must be exceptionally aware of your environment, running across arrows to reverse gravity, jumping on monsters to slay them and advance, and controlling the direction of your jumps with excellent precision as you guide the silhouette through levels and portals. Helpful signs along the way offer hints and tips to help you advance.

Jumphobia can be found on Newgrounds or Armor Games.

Zombidle: Kingdom Domination

Take control of a dastardly Necromancer and help build his forces through the power of Clicks! In this click adventure, level up your necromancer and unlock zombie minions to deal more and more damage to various structures. Defeat the heroes sent by the Blacksmith's Guild to advance levels and journey through a map of the kingdom.

As your monsters take down buildings and people, you earn skulls. Skulls, in turn, are used to level up your monsters or unlock new ones. Occasionally, a defeated foe will drop a scroll. Scrolls over you the chance to watch a 15-second advertisement in order to earn boosts; these boosts can range from damage increase to skull multipliers. 

Zombidle's mechanics allow for passive and active gameplay. DPS minions allow you to leave the game for a while to earn skulls, but eventually your progression will cease when they meet a boss they cannot overcome, as boss battles have a time limit. You can also click to deal damage as your necromancer and speed up progress.

Are you ready to grow a horde and tear down a kingdom with your dark powers? You can start at Armor Games, or on Zombidle's main site.

That Pokeyman Thing Your Grandkids are Into

This year saw a massive flux of Pokemon-related gaming and merchandise when Niantic released the Augmented Reality Mobile Game Pokemon GO. As the player base increased, so, too, did those curious as to what, exactly, was a "Pokeyman." Generations came together as Gen1 players introduced their parents and/or children to what shaped their childhood, and as later fans of each Pokemon Generation found each other in the community.

But with everything that grows popular, there is a foil: a parody. In That Pokeyman Thing Your Grandkids are Into, players take the form of Billy's Grandpa. In the first scene, Billy is attempting to explain the concept of a rad new mobile game to his grandpa, but the older man simply does not understand the appeal. Unconcerned, Billy runs off to explore the area around his grandpa's nursing home -- leaving a phone with his grandpa. Concerned for his daughter's reaction if something were to happen while Billy was unsupervised, Grandpa heads out to find him. The trouble is, various obstacles stand in his way in the form of citizens who refuse to move unless he progresses to certain levels or catches certain "Pokeymans." 

To play, Trainers control Grandpa as he moves around the map. Keep an eye on the phone screen to your right -- as you near a Pokeyman, a colored square will appear. Grandpa must stand exactly on the square to see a Pokeyman; press the button to catch and move on. Each critter in the game has a parodied name and style, as indicated by the "Reasonably Based Feller" on the screenshot above. It's a game of Who's That Pokemon?! as fans get to identify what critter is being parodied with each catch.

If you want to escape the possible fate of being moved to a worse nursing home by finding Billy and keeping him safe, you can begin your journey on Newgrounds.

We Become What We Behold

Not all games exist for pure amusement. Some are meant to provoke you, encourage you, or simply inform you. We Become What We Behold brings players to the world of Circles and Squares to act as journalists. Once players capture an image, it is displayed and tagged on a monitor for all to see. As you watch, the Circles and Squares will react to what they see.

Sounds innocent enough, right? But remember: You must capture images that capture attention. Images of something interesting, something hashtag-able. Something shocking.

Gameplay lasts around five minutes as you work to find what will get ratings for your journalism. Don't expect a happy ending.

Are you brave enough to see the consequences of these actions?

Realm Grinder

In this mouse-only upgrade game, you earn coins and build up your kingdom to earn more coins to build up your kingdom. The game has both idle and active styles available and gives you the choice between Good and Evil. Each alignment offers three unique factions with which to ally. Elves, Faeries, and Angels for the Good, or Undead, Goblins, and Demons for the Bad. You are locked into your choice until you Abdicate, which resets your realm and converts all of your current Faction coins to Gems that you can use to upgrade future kingdoms.

Each kingdom starts small with a single farm. You can also click around on the landscape to earn coins and the occasional Faction Coin. As you upgrade your kingdom, you unlock Assistants who gather coins for you. Each Faction offers unique benefits, though some come with a penalty depending on your playstyle. Elves, for instance, remove all idle play.

So, what sort of kingdom will you build? Will you ally with the forces of Good or Evil? Build your kingdom on Armour Games.

The End is Only the Beginning

Now that you have a starting point, it's time to get out there and start gaming! Build your kingdoms, hire the best Freelancers, save Riddle School, and collect all of the treasure! If you like the games listed here, then follow the tags on Steam, Armor Games, or Newgrounds to find even more exciting or intriguing titles. Don't forget to leave a rating or a review so that more people find the games and try them out.

You better work fast -- 2017 is just around the corner, bringing with it more new titles to enjoy.

Published Nov. 27th 2016

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