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What are DRM-free games?

DRM-free games are video games that do not include any digital rights management (DRM) technologies restricting how you can access, modify or share the game files after purchase. DRM-free games give you full freedom to play them whenever and wherever you want.

Why should you care about DRM-free games?

As a fellow gaming enthusiast, I know you want maximum control over your game purchases. With DRM-free games, you own the actual game files outright with no strings attached. This gives you benefits like:

  • Playing your games offline and anywhere – no internet required
  • Installing on as many PCs and devices as you want
  • Modding, tweaking, backing up files with no restrictions
  • Keeping games accessible forever – they won‘t stop working if DRM servers go down

DRM-free games empower you as a consumer rather than restrict you. And having true ownership of games preserves our gaming heritage.

How DRM restricts your game access

DRM implements various technological restrictions to control how you can access and modify your legally purchased games. Common DRM methods include:

  • Mandatory online activation – Unplayable without internet connection
  • Limited installs – Only 2-5 installs allowed per purchase
  • Tethered to accounts – Can‘t play without signing in
  • Preventing modding and tweaking – No editing of game files allowed

These restrictions limit what you can do with games you paid for. DRM essentially aims to treat you like a criminal!

Why publishers use DRM despite drawbacks

For publishers, DRM provides some protection against lost sales from piracy. But legitimate buyers suffer most from DRM limitations.

Studies show DRM has minimal impact on piracy. Pirates crack DRM, while paying customers face restrictions. DRM is ultimately a failed experiment.

Thankfully, many publishers now understand DRM‘s drawbacks. Major publishers like Ubisoft and EA have scaled back on restrictive DRM schemes.

And more niche titles are going DRM-free, trusting customers over punishing them. We vote with our wallets to support consumer-friendly options.

Checking if a game is DRM-free – Some tips

Here are some tips on how to check if a game is DRM-free before buying:

  • See if mandatory account signup or online activation is required – A clear sign of DRM
  • Check product reviews and descriptions for DRM mentions – But beware false claims
  • See if you can freely copy/transfer installed game files – DRM restricts this

Some examples:

  • GOG (Good Old Games) – All games on this store are guaranteed DRM-free
  • Humble Store – Many games are DRM-free, but check individually
  • Steam/Epic Games Store – Mostly use DRM, but some exceptions exist

When in doubt, reach out to the publisher directly to ask about their DRM usage.

Major DRM-free game stores to check out

Here are some leading stores offering DRM-free game options:

GOG (Good Old Games)

  • Largest source of DRM-free classic and newer games
  • Get installers, manuals, extras and patches for old games
  • Curates quality retro titles optimized for modern systems
  • Has new AAA releases like Cyberpunk 2077 DRM-free

Humble Store

  • Many DRM-free options for AAA and indie games
  • "Humble Trove" grants DRM-free access to 100+ games
  • Frequent bundles mix DRM and DRM-free games

Itch.io

  • Platform for indie games and creators
  • Many post DRM-free game builds directly
  • Can donate to developers through purchases

Direct from Publishers

  • CD Projekt Red provides DRM-free games on GOG.com
  • Devolver Digital, Paradox Interactive, others offer DRM-free options
  • Check publisher sites for DRM-free games

Great DRM-free games to get you started

Here are some top DRM-free picks on GOG and elsewhere to get you started:

  • The Witcher 3
  • Divinity: Original Sin 2
  • Celeste
  • Stardew Valley
  • Baldur‘s Gate Series
  • System Shock 2
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Night in the Woods
  • Hotline Miami
  • Undertale

Key takeaways on DRM-free games

To summarize:

  • DRM-free games have no restrictions on accessing, modifying or sharing game files after purchase. Full freedom and ownership for you as a gamer.
  • Major benefits like playing offline, freely modding and copying files. Your games won‘t stop working due to DRM one day.
  • Check for online activation requirements and reviews to confirm if a game is DRM-free. GOG store offers guaranteed DRM-free.
  • Support DRM-free stores and publishers as much as possible for a consumer-friendly future of gaming!

Hope this guide gives you a great starting point to build your DRM-free game library. Let me know if you have any other questions!