Column: The best games in life are free


Photo credit: Paulina DePaulo

Image displays a Nintendo Switch alongside a gaming mouse and a few dollar bills. With the overwhelming prices of video games in the modern age, here are five wonderful games that you can play for free!

By Paulina DePaulo, Columnist

To be honest, I could talk for hours about all the things I love about video games, but the price tag is definitely not one of them. 

Most video games now range between $10-40, and some mainstream ones can go for up to nearly $70. I can’t count the number of times I’ve shamefully hit the “purchase” button on an outrageously priced game, only to abandon it a week later. 

The truth is, video games take incredibly large amounts of time and effort to create, more than any other typical piece of media. Some games have been created from the mind and talent of just one person, while others take teams of nearly thousands of people and a decade’s worth of time to execute. The creators of these amazing games should always be fully supported, but I don’t always feel like buying a $60 game on a whim. 

So, when you’re on a budget, here are five incredible games you can play for free. 

Marie’s Room

From the development team like Charlie, “Marie’s Room” is a sentimental story game in which you explore your old best friend’s abandoned room. You play as Kelsey, who is returning to her memory through the left-behind artifacts in a sunny Orange County bedroom. The gameplay is simple, and only takes around 30 minutes to complete. I was immediately entranced by the visual art style, which had the classic, cozy story game aesthetic that I know and love. In 3D, you’re able to move around the room and click on each object that you find, revealing key information about a past tragic event in quick, 10-second cutscenes. I especially loved the ending, which recreated Marie and Kelsey’s incident from within the walls of her tiny bedroom. The music is entrancing, the story is captivating and I couldn’t recommend it more. 

Emily is Away

“Emily is Away” is an independent project by developer Kyle Seeley, where you customize your user to make conversation through a 2000s-style chatroom. Like “Marie’s Room,” it’s short and sweet, taking you through the player’s relationship with the main love interest, Emily. Over the course of five years, you choose what to say to Emily as you try and make sense of your emotions and the way they’ve evolved. The game is fairly simple, requiring you to only select responses from given options at each interaction. It’s relaxing, intriguing and definitely not one to miss. 

You Have to Win the Game

From the two-person team Minor Key Games, this game looks slightly different from the ones we’ve mentioned. “You Have to Win the Game” is a pixelated, 80s-style platformer, which is a type of video game that guides the player through the world in platform-like stages in a 2D space. It’s simple and almost mindless, with elements of strategy worked carefully into the gameplay. You might find yourself deep into a mystical cave system in search of an ancient key or dodging spikes to reach a magical crystal ball that brings you closer to victory. Like the other games, this one can also be fairly short, with the world record completion time being only five minutes. If you’re looking for an arcade on the go, this is definitely the game for you. 

Cube Escape: Paradox

By indie game studio Rusty Lake, “Cube Escape: Paradox” is another mystery puzzle game that follows detective Dale Vandermeer. Trapped in an alternate universe, you play as Vandermeer himself, collecting memories to discover his true identity and escape into the real world. The visuals are beyond unique, taking you from room to room in single-moment snapshots with interactive elements. Rusty Lake even developed a 20-minute short film within the same universe, and their other games follow the same general story. If you love lore-intense stories, go check out “Cube Escape” and all of its wonderful renditions. 

The Sims 4

Finally, while this is far from an indie game, I’m thrilled to say that “The Sims 4” has recently been stripped of its hefty price tag altogether. Electronic Arts, the major development company credible for all “Sims” games, announced late last year that as of Oct. 18, the fourth edition of the classic game would be completely free to download. If you haven’t played any of the “The Sims” games, they’re open-world life simulators that allow you to customize an avatar, get a job, move into a house and have emotional interactions with your community. I definitely have had my fair share of “Sims” phases in the past. 

Whether or not you’ve played video games in the past, these are stellar examples of ways you can support development companies (and individuals) without spending a dime. What are you doing still reading this? Go play!