Elden Ring has cemented itself as a monumental gaming achievement, blending FromSoftware‘s signature tense combat with open world freedom. But at $59.99, is this hardcore dark fantasy masterpiece the right fit for everyone?
Perhaps you want to test run its formula for free first. Well my friend, you have options.
In this guide, I‘ll be recommending 12 of the best free games that capture aspects of Elden Ring‘s appeal. These won‘t be exact clones, but they nail the satisfying action RPG experience, offer expansive worlds to explore, and deliver that sweet dopamine hit of overcoming challenges.
I‘ve got indie darlings, niche foreign titles, and free-to-play giants. So read on for your crash course in Elden Ring alternatives!
What Makes Elden Ring So Special Anyway?
First, let‘s recap why Elden Ring made such an impact since it highlights what to look for in similar games. Here‘s a data snapshot of its success:
- Sold 12 million copies in under a month, breaking records.
- 97 Metacritic critic score makes it one of the highest rated games ever.
- 865,000+ peak concurrent players on Steam at launch.
Much of this insane popularity stems from how Elden Ring perfected FromSoftware‘s formula:
- Haunting high fantasy world full of secrets and scary monsters to discover.
- Challenging third person action RPG combat that pushes players to master timing and strategy.
- Deep character customization through builds, equipment, and playstyles.
- Cryptic lore and environments that inspire a sense of mystery.
- Multiplayer integration like summoning allies or being invaded.
- Rewarding feeling of overcoming harsh challenges through persistence.
No other free games nail every aspect as well as Elden Ring, but let‘s highlight the ones that come close in their own ways.
1. Path of Exile – The Premier Free ARPG
When it comes to loot hunting, dark themes, and custom builds, Path of Exile leads the ARPG pack. With 25 million registered players to date, its free-to-play model clearly pays off by focusing on robust systems over monetization.
PoE shines for players who enjoy:
- Creating unique character builds with its nearly infinite skill tree.
- Hunting for loot and crafting powerful endgame gear.
- Testing their skills against brutal map modifiers and bosses.
- Theorycrafting to push high-tier endgame content.
- Trading with other players to optimize your hero.
While not as open world, PoE captures the same gratification from overcoming challenges and min-maxing your adventurer. The game receives massive content updates every 3 months to provide hundreds more hours of dungeon diving and demon slaying.
PoE‘s expansive skill tree lets you create truly unique heroes.
- Peak player count in 2022: 237,160
- Total playtime: Over 1 billion hours
- Metacritic User Score: 8.3
- 6 content expansions released yearly
2. Genshin Impact – The Anime Zelda Killer
This plucky free-to-play gacha game took the world by storm with its Breath of the Wild inspired open world packed with adorable anime characters. While aimed at a more casual crowd, Genshin still provides satisfying exploration and combat.
Things to love about Genshin:
- Picturesque open world with diverse biomes to climb, swim, and soar across.
- Four-player co-op multiplayer to explore with friends.
- Elemental combat system with cinematic energy blasts and reactions.
- Gacha collection mechanic incentivizes logging in daily.
- Constant updates add more story, regions, quests, and heroes.
Genshin may seem like a mainstream guilty pleasure, but look past the shiny waifus and you‘ll find engaging adventures perfect for free players.
Vast beautiful regions to immerse yourself in.
- Over $3 billion in lifetime revenue.
- 47 million downloads on mobile alone.
- Average playtime per player: 170 hours.
- 55+ hours of story content and growing.
3. Warframe – Space Ninja Co-op Action
With 37 million registered space ninjas, Warframe crushes the free-to-play market by continually improving and expanding. This sci-fi looter shooter marries slick action combat with deep RPG build customization.
Tenno Operators praise Warframe for:
- Buttery smooth parkour mobility to run on walls, jump, and slide across maps.
- Hundreds of gear items to collect including katanas, crossbows, flamethrowers, you name it.
- Co-op PvE missions supporting groups up to 4 players.
- Regular content updates adding new gameplay modes, planets, cinematic quests and gear.
While not as gritty as Elden Ring, Warframe delivers satisfyingly complex combat, progression, and environments to master over hundreds of hours.
Blaze through levels with parkour and deadly abilities.
Stats at a Glance:
- Over 2.5 billion total hours played.
- Peak concurrent players: 152,351.
- Content updates every 1-2 months.
- Over 50 playable combat Warframes.
Plenty More Free Gems to Discover
While this covers some of the most popular and relevant options, gamers can find even more free alternatives by digging into MMORPGs like Guild Wars 2, expansive modpacks for singleplayer games, and other action RPG communities still going strong.
The key is to isolate the elements of Elden Ring that resonate and find free games that deliver on those fronts, even if in unique ways. Maybe you want more co-op play, theorycrafting depth, or just big swords and bigger monsters. There‘s something out there waiting to be discovered.
I hope shining a light on these free titles saves you some money while still satisfying your action RPG cravings. Let me know if you fall in love with any of these Elder Ring alternatives or have your own suggestions! Best of luck in your quests, and remember patience and perseverance overcomes all challenges.