For a long time, microtransactions have been something of a scourge, injecting perceived value into games that should be allowed to stand on their own.
From cosmetic items to XP boosters and powerful gear, microtransactions can take many forms. What they do have in common, however, is the fact that you should need to buy minor stuff for a game you already paid money for, especially it it’s singleplayer by default.
With the stage set, let’s take a look at a few games without microtransactions.
|Vampire Survivors||2021-12-17||Roguelike||Luca Galante|
|Elden Ring (EU)||2022-02-25||Action RPG||FromSoftware||46%|
|Elden Ring (Xbox Series X/S)||2022-02-25||Action RPG||FromSoftware||47%|
|Subnautica||2018-01-23||Adventure||Unknown Worlds Entertainment||55%|
|RimWorld - Biotech||2022-10-21||Indie||Ludeon Studios||17%|
|The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild Expansion Pass (Nintendo) (EU)||2017-03-03||Action-adventure||Nintendo EPD|
|Prey (2017)||2017-05-04||Adventure||Arkane Studios||77%|
|Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire - Obsidian Edition||2018-05-08||RPG||Obsidian Entertainment||88%|
|Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire||2018-05-08||RPG||Obsidian Entertainment||90%|
|Divinity: Original Sin 2 | Definitive Edition||2017-09-14||Adventure||Larian Studios||40%|
|Divinity: Original Sin 2||2017-09-14||Adventure||Larian Studios|
|Horizon Zero Dawn | Complete Edition||2020-08-07||Adventure||Guerrilla||79%|
|God of War||2022-01-14||Action-adventure||Santa Monica Studio||55%|
|God of War Ragnarök (PS5) (EU)||2022-11-09||Action-adventure||Santa Monica Studio||35%|
|Cuphead||2017-09-29||Indie||StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc.||22%|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt GOTY Edition||2015-05-18||RPG||CD PROJEKT RED||65%|
|Dark Souls III Deluxe Edition||2016-04-11||RPG||FromSoftware, Inc.||52%|
Imagine a game which costs less than a big burger in a fast food joint. Imagine it having a couple dozen characters, several maps, a progression system… and imagine no microtransactions in sight. This is the promise of Vampire Survivors, an indie game which is basically a reverse bullet hell. Here it’s your character generating waves of all kinds of fun nonsense to kill hordes of enemies.
Vampire Survivors doesn’t look like much, a pixel-art, retro-looking game which seems to poke a bit of cheeky fun at Castlevania. Your characters attack on their own, your job is positioning and picking the right combination of weapons and buffs. There are so many things to unlock through play that you won’t be bored anytime soon: new characters, weapons, upgrades, buffs, etc.
The latest game by the inexorable providers of challenging games, FromSoftware’s Elden Ring is one of the finest open world games in recent memory. As a Tarnished your job is to explore the land, challenge corrupt and decadent demigods, and bring back whatever flimsy order you can to the troubled Lands Between. It’s not an easy task, but someone’s gotta do it!
Although Elden Ring is every bit as unforgiving as other FromSoft’s games, it also provides many ways to get ready for the battles ahead, with spells, mighty gear, and a host of summons who can provide crucial assistance. Elden Ring, as all games of the studio, stands of its own and wants you to rely on your skills and perseverance, and any fashion aspect is limited to things you discover.
Stardew Valley sits in the top ranks of the most beloved games of Steam, and it reached that status by being a completely delightful offering. You pay once, you get the full thing, no sneaky extra costs. If you want a thriving farm and the adoration of a nearby town, then you’ll have to work for it. The good part is that in SDV “working” is actually very fun, even if keeping a schedule is very useful.
Stardew Valley has a lovely retro aesthetic which works great with its cheerful, friendly tone. Your character’s inherited farm is neglected, so you’ll spend some time cleaning things up, but soon enough you’ll be planting trees, growing crops, making honey, and anything else you want. And if farming life isn’t all you want, there are surprisingly deep caves you can explore for riches.
|Developer:||Unknown Worlds Entertainment|
Subnautica is a gem of a game, with unique premise, polished gameplay, wonderful visual side, and absolutely no extra nonsense to pay for after you bought it. After an explosive intro, you’re mostly left to your own devices in an escape pod floating in the middle of an alien ocean. Now you have to survive, search for other survivors, and find the way out, none of which will be simple.
By default, Subnautica is a survival game with all that it entails. You’ll be making food and drink out of alien fish, scavenge resources, scan the wreckage to unlock new schematics, all the good stuff. This game manages to capture both the oppressive horror of ocean depths and the wonder of diving in the shallows filled with colorful lifeforms, and it’s amazing you only have to pay once for it.
RimWorld is something that might appeal to everyone who finds Dwarf Fortress appealing (which should be everyone, DF is amazing). Instead of a fantasy setting, RimWorld takes you to another planet, and instead of questionably competent dwarves, you’re helping hapless survivors and colonists. RW’s friendly art style makes it easier to deal with the gameplay’s complexity.
There are several scenarios for you to pick as a starting point, but even if you go fully sandbox, you can count on the AI-driven storyteller to deliver fun events interrupting your careful planning. You view the world in a 2D, top-down manner, which does wonders for clarity, especially when your colony of well-simulated, complex weirdo colonists grows to an impressive size.
Supergiant Games’ fan-favorite rogue-lite Hades would be one of the finest in the genre on the strength of its gameplay alone. As Zagreus, you’re given not only excellent fighting skills (with six very different weapons), but also magical boons, tweaking your basic actions (e.g. giving damage reflection to special attacks) and adding to them some visual flair based on the boon’s provider.
However, there’s more to Hades than just the fast-paced, action and clearing dungeons. There’s also great writing for all characters, a great protagonist trying to escape from his father’s domain, and excellent art style breathing new life into figures you know from Greek mythology. There’s even a great conversation system reacting to many factors, including how well your last run went.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a fantastic title, and a true return to form for Zelda, even if it breaks some traditions and replaces them with open-world, physics-defying tools, and freedom to come up with non-standard solutions to puzzles and boss encounters. Hyrule as presented in BotW has never before looked quite as vibrant and exciting.
There’s just so much to find and see and each location is filled with imaginative puzzles. And the boss fights are fantastically designed and never cause fatigue with repetition. Even finding the Kuruk seeds can be exciting, as long as you don’t try to do all in one sitting. It’s honestly quite impressive how this much content has been crammed into this game launched for a portable console.
Prey is another installment in Arkane Studios lengthy portfolio of excellent immersive sims. Getting off the beaten track yields useful rewards, clever use of tools and powers lets you sidestep some challenges, and the environments encourage experimentation. Which only makes sense, seeing as it takes place on a research-oriented space station, which is currently overrun by angry aliens.
Prey’s premise is excellent, and leaning close towards horror tropes, and the protagonist, Morgan Yu has a definitely bad day in more ways than you suspect. Thankfully, there’s a progression system, partially fueled by the aliens themselves, and a crafting system, both of which can outfit Morgan for whatever the plot has in store.
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
Obsidian, whom you may recognize from their work on a little-known title called Fallout: New Vegas, have also contributed to the revival of old-school, isometric RPGs. Pillars of Eternity 1 was an absolute smash hit, Tyranny is appreciated by many, and the sequel to PoE, Deadfire, is a clear improvement on the predecessor in terms of graphics, gameplay, and structure.
The story follows some time after the end of the first game and begins with your keep being destroyed by a suddenly animated titanic sculpture. That’s just the start of your troubles, but let’s not spoil things. Although PoE2: Deadfire does feature several DLCs fleshing out a few areas of the map, there are no microtransactions to speak of. Instead, you can get buffs for achievements!
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Although Larian Studios has made quite a few games before, and they are all fun, it was Divinity: Original Sin 2 that was their big break, and for good reasons. It’s a rare RPG, especially among party-based RPGs, where you can actually interact with the environment and play around with ability interactions. That’s on top of a quite fun story which has the characters reach for literal divinity.
DOS 2 features real-time exploration and turn-based combat powered by action points and several skills with their own spells and abilities. There are dozens upon dozens hours worth of fun in here, and instead of peppering in microtransactions, Larian released a bunch of grab bags of items, modifiers etc. completely free of charge, as simple updates enhancing the replayability.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Originally a PS4 exclusive, Horizon Zero Dawn has since made its way to PC, and it STILL doesn’t have microtransactions, because why would it need them? It’s one of the best singleplayer games of its generation, with a stunning open world, excellent designs or robotic creatures, and an interesting science fiction story set on post-apocalyptic Earth. It’s an excellent mix of features.
Of course, the TPP gameplay with a big focus on exploration and hunting robots was excellent as well. Unsurprisingly, HZD was a hit, and has lived to not only get an expansion, The Frozen Wilds, but also a sequel, Forbidden West, which takes Aloy on a new lengthy journey. Whether you’re on PS4 or PC, the Horizon series is an excellent choice.
God of War
|Developer:||Santa Monica Studio|
2018’s God of War was something of a fresh start for the venerable series, without having to reboot it entirely. It changes quite a bit about the gameplay, including a TPP camera and stronger RPG elements. Especially the gear system would be a great fodder for microtransactions but, thankfully, there’s none of that. If you want something, you have to earn it in-game.
The game takes place long after the events of original games. Kratos has moved to the north and built a new family. In fact, the plot revolves almost entirely around family issues, both between Kratos and his son Atreus, and between Norse gods. It’s a surprisingly mature (not just because of violence) story, complemented by an impactful action mostly powered by Kratos’ new axe.
|Developer:||StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc.|
In many ways, a true lightning in a bottle, Cuphead achieves fantastic results while having an incredibly ambitious scope — making the entire game animated in the rubber hose style, mostly known for its pioneering role in the beginnings of the animation industry. Cuphead is a fast-paced, hectic game centered around beating platforming levels and multi-staged boss fights.
It’s incredibly imaginative and fun, if difficult. It also had the great opportunity to put microtransactions in, with upgrades and new weapons being purchasable in-game, but it didn’t. The only paid content is The Delicious Last Course DLC and soundtracks. The devs’ fair attitude paid off greatly, so much so that Cuphead got an original animated show!
The Witcher 3
|Developer:||CD PROJEKT RED|
Whichever way you slice it, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a fantastic game. Even its expansions have so much content in them they could be spun off as smaller, standalone games and their price would be justified. And that’s in addition to a humongous, 100h experience of the base game taking you across several wildly different regions in search of Geralt’s adopted daughter Ciri.
The Witcher 3 would be a great platform for microtransactions, with a resource-intensive crafting system, ability point-heavy late-game progression, and the equipment system. Thankfully, there’s none of that. Instead, not unlike Original Sin 2 and Pillars of Eternity 2, we got a bunch of content-filled free DLC/updates adding the kind of stuff that would normally become microtransactions.
Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls games’ core idea is perseverance against overwhelming odds. Spending 2 bucks on a bag of souls or a booster would go against it. Consequently, the only things you get to buy for Dark Souls 3 are its two expansions, or, alternatively, the Season Pass containing them. If you hope to conquer the challenges ahead, you’ll need to do it with your own wit, skill, and effort.
Not even the multiplayer segment of the game introduced paid advantages or cosmetics. While we’re singling Dark Souls 3 here as an example, it does apply to virtually all FromSoftware games, from Demon’s Souls to the currently most recent Elden Ring. Microtransactions go against all that FromSoftware wants their games to inspire. Thankfully, they can afford to do things their way.
No hidden costs to worry about
This concludes our list of games with no microtransactions to pester you after you’ve paid for, supposedly, a complete product. Here you get what you pay for, and that’s it, you get the complete experience that won’t feel sluggish without XP boosters, or maliciously underpowered without spending $2.99 for the Otherwise Inaccessible Sword of Doom from the premium store.
Hopefully, you found something that caught your interest, and you’re ready to pay once and have fun with no strings attached.