Here we find ourselves at another happy Friday, so to get your post-work life up and running as you engage weekend mode, I’ve put together a dainty little list of five noteworthy, totally free games on Steam.
If you’re in the United States, you might be preparing to become your true underwear-on-the-couch self and embrace our nation’s newest three-day weekend. If you’re not familiar with where it came from, I’ll remind you—as of 2021, the United States finally (finally!) recognizes June 19 or Juneteenth, the day in 1865 that federal troops informed enslaved Texans they were free (two years after they were actually freed), as a national holiday. Our latest long weekend is an opportunity to celebrate and relish in Black culture and history, and, like with all long weekends, give yourself a kind pause from the exhausting daily grind.
Even if you’re not in the U.S. this weekend, there’s always time to find out how to better support your peers and yourself. I can help you with the latter—here’s my quick list of five fun, completely free games on Steam.
ARK: Survival Evolved, the survival game where you can take a stinky poop, dropped its usual $29.99 price tag and will be free to download on Steam now until June 19.
The gameplay is really just a fantastical episode of Naked and Afraid that you can direct on your computer. You’re a stranded character that ARK’s website description notes specifically to be “naked, freezing & starving,” and you need to do all the usual survival stuff to stay alive: find and kill dinosaurs with a bow and arrow, use your innate stonemason skills to circumvent the housing market and build shelter, etc. As for food, you can try your hand at being a foraging vegetarian or go full cannibal and learn to harvest human meat. Picky eaters are safe here.
If you would like to escape the particularly picky eaters interested in your tasty flesh, you can currently pick up all of ARK’s expansion maps also for free. Happy hunting.
Maybe spearing dinosaurs in the eye isn’t your bag. You might prefer hooking a clueless freshwater fish right in its poor adorable face. To that I say, try Fishing Planet, an always-free fishing simulator.
Like American Truck Simulator, a game that is not free on Steam (it’s $5), Fishing Planet is a wonderfully mundane, objectively worse interpretation of a real thing people do in their real lives. Unlike real fishing, you won’t be able to fry up your spoils in a crunchy fritto misto, or gaze out at a reflective river and finally feel at home, made whole by nature. Instead, you have to look at your screen and gain XP for reeling in a few wriggling catfish. But isn’t this beautiful in itself?
There are no barriers to entry for Fishing Planet—you don’t need a boat or buddy—all you need is a PC and willingness to let a free, repetitive game bring you to a meditative state. This weekend is the perfect opportunity to get into it, you’ll have plenty of time to chill with the fishes.
The free NSFW game Crush Crush is what you want to come home to after a long day slogging away on the Fishing Planet pontoon. It’s an idle dating simulator that lets you pick up hobbies like surfing and skydiving and work any job you have the skills for, like bounty hunter, pro athlete, artist, whatever you think is hottest, in order to slowly win the affection of anime girls, who initially don’t like you at all.
You need to click on the girls to generate hearts and will them to enjoy your company, just like real life. You might not want to think about making money to make people like you when you’re off the clock, but it’s actually soothingly time-consuming to juggle all your work with all your irritated girlfriends in Crush Crush. Let’s call the game a bubblegum pink cure for your Sunday scaries.
Typically, the games I play most on weekends are word games, usually Wordle and the New York Times Spelling Bee, which I’m very mildly obsessed with. Word Game: Episode 0, a free demo, takes word puzzles literally and has you play as puzzle-solving “I” character in a concept very similar to Baba is You.
It’s a bit of a copycat but still a fun puzzle game, though you might not want to spring for the full Word Game for $34.99 unless you know Chinese. This game is exclusively in Chinese, but as the Steam reviews will tell you, it can still be enjoyed with not a lick of linguistic diversity in you. If you’d like, Episode 0 could be a good way to break new language ground as a monolingual baby, or spend a while immersing yourself in Chinese grammar.
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to savor a completely work-free weekend, so if you have a few projects to tinker on, Virtual Cottage is the ideal companion. It’s more of a productivity companion than a “game”—it involves setting your objective and timeframe and displays a cozy, musical cottage complete with controllable rain sounds and a girl writing on a computer in solidarity. As long as it’s still running, the timer can’t be paused or stopped unless you quit the game, so Virtual Cottage is a more immersive, more motivating version of the “lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to” YouTube stream it seems to take inspiration from.
That’s all for my list. What will you play this weekend?