Have you ever bought a game, only to realize after a few minutes of playing it that it sucks? (*cough* nomanssky *cough*) It is true that we can still find free demos for some games online, but that's not the case for all the game titles, and it's a dying trend at best. Below, we will see how we can download free games for Windows, to try before we buy.
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Steam is undoubtedly the biggest gaming platform, which has tens of thousands of games for every taste. The Steam client is compatible with most operating systems, and that is one of the most significant advantages of the platform.
Moreover, Steam supports many languages, it allows multiplayer gaming, and it provides a refund if we didn't like the game we bought.
For those not familiar with Steam, we will see in detail how you can create an account and install the platform.
Create a Steam account and install the client
If you don't already own one, you have to create a free account. The only thing we need to do is fill the necessary form. The most annoying part is the all-time classic CAPTCHA, but we can hope that it will be replaced at some point by Google's invisible reCAPTCHA.
After filling the form, we have to confirm our email address. To do so, check your inbox for the relevant email and click on the confirmation link.
Now it's time to install the Steam client.
The installation process is easy, and there are no third-party PUPs we should worry about. We are now ready to download free games.
If you want to install Steam on Linux or Ubuntu, follow our guide:
For summer sales and more, check out our ultimate guide:
How to download free games on Steam
There are four ways to download free games on Steam. Below we describe each of them in detail.
First of all, there are dozens of games worth to play that are free of charge. This kind of games come at no cost and with no limitations.
However, we are not talking about AAA games and recent titles like Resident Evil 7, Destiny 2, and the likes. Most free games are unknown indie titles, although that doesn't mean they can't be exciting and fun to play.
We can access and download free games by clicking on "Games > Free to play."
Now, we see a list of more than 600 games that we can play for free. If we click on "What's Being Played", the list is sorted by the most popular games.
If we want to see more details for each game, we can hover the mouse over it. That way, we see a quick list of tags for the game title, along with user reviews.
Once you find a game you want to play for free, just click on it for more details. Clicn on "Play Game" to download free games and play as soon as the download is over.
Free to play
You may have noticed that some games on the list have a "Free" label, whereas others are "Free to Play."
The free games are the ones we described above. In the case of the free to play games, we can play the whole game mostly for free, but there may be unlockable features and bonus content that require payment.
Demo games are the third category of free games on Steam, which is self-explanatory.
Demos are trial games, in which we can play a couple of hours or levels for free. In order to continue playing, we have to buy the game. Moreover, in demos we can't use the multi-player section.
Demos are a great way to try a game before you buy. Unfortunately, most known titles don't offer any kind of demo period.
Steam provides the option of a refund if we didn't like the game we bought. That way, we can purchase a game, try it for a while and ask for a full refund if we changed our mind.
However, refunds do not apply in all cases. We have a 14 day period to issue the refund request, and we shouldn't have played for more than two hours, according to the Steam counter.
Of course, two hours is usually enough time to explore the basics of a game and decide whether we like it or not.
Before you buy a game, make sure you read all the necessary information about Steam's refund policy.
Origin is another popular game platform, similar to Steam. The only difference is that it includes games exclusively released by Electronic Arts.
We have already covered in a recent guide how you can download free games from Origin "On the House":
We can also install Origin on Linux, albeit with an unofficial method.
Zona Entertainment Space
Many of you probably remember Popcorn Time with its enormous list of movies and TV series. Some of you might still be using it.
Zona Entertainment Space is a similar program, although it provides us with all the recent game titles and more.
First of all, the Russian platform is a fast torrent client that uses the P2P protocol.
Moreover, it has a modern interface with a beautiful graphical environment, which includes posters and information for all the available games.
Zona has a similar interface with Steam, but it differs in many ways. In fact, it offers us the ability to test any game we want for free, even the most known AAA titles.
Furthermore, we have access to the whole game and there is no limitation to the "trial" period. We can play any game from the beginning to the end, with all its features unlocked.
Of course, that means we can't use multiplayer options, unless there is a separate third-party server that has nothing to do with the developers of the game.
At this point, the question is, why would we want to buy the game, if we can play it for free?
Well, the companies behind those games spend millions of dollars to develop and support their products. If we don't support the games we liked, there won't be any development.
It's a matter of time for this kind of attitude to turn against us. Some game developers will go bankrupt. Others will try to increase their income with in-game purchases, microtransactions, and expensive DLCs, even for essential functions.
Access to new games - Is this legal?
The digital platform provides free access to any old title, but the best thing is that we can download for free any recent release, provided we have enough disk space.
Although Zona is a Russian platform, it is very popular in other countries as well. Depending on the country, there are laws that allow torrenting for personal usage, even when it comes to copyrighted material.
On the contrary, if you live in a country with strict laws about pirated movies and free games, such as Germany or Japan, things may become complicated.
In these cases you will need a paid VPN service in order to safely use Zona, if you don't want to end up with fines of up to 1,000 dollars or more. For EACH game you downloaded.
PCsteps does not condone downloading pirated games, nor can we guarantee that you will have no troubles if you do so. By using Zona, you take full responsibility for your actions and any repercussions.
How to install
The Zona installer is only 36MB. The installation process is easy, fast, and has no hidden third-party PUPs to alarm you.
The program supports only Windows and requires the latest Java version. Although Zona can install Java for you if you don't have it on your computer, we recommend that you download it and install it separately. That way, Zona can't install an older Java version that might be harmful to your computer.
That said, we can start our download from http://zona.ru/en/.
If you already have a torrent client and don't want to use Zona for torrenting, you have to uncheck "Open .torrent files in Zona". In case you change your mind, you can always activate the option through the settings.
In the same window, we can choose our desired installation and download folders.
How safe is this platform?
Even though we have a personal experience for many years with Zona, we did a clean install. Moreover, we scanned the app with VirusTotal.
Many known antivirus programs, such as Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, Comodo, and so on, marked the installer as safe.
However, 12 out of 60 antivirus programs think that it is malicious.
That doesn't necessarily mean that the application is dangerous. In fact, we can see that most of the results refer to "not-a-virus" threats.
Avira marks Zona as "ADWARE/ZvuZona.qdzkw." The only reference we could find about this was in Avira's website.
In this site, we read that some of those suspicious files may be safe, and thus the alarm may be a false positive.
The same goes for MacAfee's "Artemis" characterization that indicates unknown files that may not necessarily be harmful.
If you have any concerns regarding these alarms, we should not proceed with the installation of the program. You can always use Steam to download free games, which is 100% safe and legit.
We, however, have used the platform for the past years with no problems at all, neither with weird pop-ups nor with any other malfunctions. It is up to you whether you will use it or not.
Create an account (optional)
Zona does not require an account, but it gives us the option to sync our games to the other computers on our network and it also keeps some useful statistics.
If we want these features, we can create your account using an email and a password. When we finish, we will receive an email with a link in Russian.
Click the big orange button to confirm your email address.
If you haven't received the email, make sure you checked the spam folder.
How to download free games in Zona, without limitations
Now we're ready to download free games and spend the day testing the most recent titles.
There are many useful settings that will help us find our way to the best games for our taste. On the upper side we can filter the games by release date, adjusting the cursor as we see fit.
The same applies to the rating stats.
Furthermore, we can choose between a wide variety of genres and add games to our favorites.
If we wish to find a specific game, all we have to do is enter the title into the search bar.
Fast and smooth
The biggest advantage of Zona is how soon we can start playing on the platform, without any delay or annoying notifications.
Once we choose the game of our liking, we can click on the big blue download button.
However, we should check some of the options before we start our journey to download free games.
First of all, if we scroll down on the same tab, we will find a list of some related games.
Moving onto the torrent details, we need to check if the game is available in English. If we clicked on "Download" without choosing the appropriate source, we might have ended up with a Russian copy of the game.
The client is fast at downloading, thanks to Zona's dedicated servers and the popularity of the platform.
Of course, that also depends on our Internet connection, but we are allowed to choose the speed limit and the number of simultaneously torrent downloads.
The games we download will show up on our desktop, as soon as the download finishes.
We can also use the platform at night, when no one else uses our bandwidth, or when we are not at home. All we have to do is right-click on the program's icon on taskbar and choose to automatically shut down our computer when our downloads are finished.
How to install older games
Before we start playing, we have to install the downloaded games. If you're not a hardcore gamer, you may run into problems during the installation, because some of the installers are in Russian.
In that case, you should leave the default options and click "Next."
You should remember that the "Next" button is always on the left or in the center. The "Run" or "Finish" button will be at the center as well, or on the right.
Some games, especially older ones, will prompt us to choose our desired language. In this case, we uncheck the defaults and choose the second options.
Websites to download free games
Have you ever heard of abandonware?
The term refers to software that is no longer supported by developers or they do not actively enforce the copyright. In most cases, the software enters the "abandonware" zone when the company that owns the rights is no longer in business.
However, abandoned copyrighted software don't become automatically public property. They are still protected by copyright, regardless that the owners might not want to enforce it. Thus, downloading a copyrighted work is illegal.
That said, the websites we will mention below include a lot of abandonware, so you can download free games, but proceed at your own risk. In general, the majority of these games are older titles, either re-released as freeware, or abandoned by their creators.
Retro gaming is easier than ever with My Abandonware since we can download free games from 1978 to 2013.
The best part of My Abandonware is that we can play most games in our browser, just by visiting the game's page.
Of course, we can download free games and play them on our computer as well. The website contains more than 11000 old games for us to choose and we can use the search bar or sort the titles by year, genre, etc, in order to find what we're looking fro.
Remain in Play
Another similar website is Remain in Play.
The worst thing about this site is its layout. We found it hard to focus on anything than the wrong color combinations.
However, there is a search button on the upper left corner, in case we are looking for something specific.
If you haven't found the retro game you wanted on the sites mentioned above, you can try Abandonware DOS.
With a search button on the upper right corner and a sorting system by genre, title, keyword, or year, Abandonware DOS lets us browse the game collection very quickly.
At the bottom of the home page, we can find a list of the top 10 abandonware games.
Do you like to download free games?
Are you a gamer? Do you like to try your games before you buy them?
If you used any of the methods mentioned above to download free games, or if you encounter any issues, leave a comment.
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