DRM. It’s a thing that people get very angry about, but most don’t exactly understand what it is. Despite the popular misconception, it doesn’t refer only to the ability to play offline.
Although the modern iteration of it that gets people so riled up boils down to having to rely on various platforms and launchers like Steam and Origin and in some cases are inaccessible without them.
So if that’s a fear you share with others, or perhaps you disagree with DRM in principle, we’ve prepared a list of games that are completely free of it. This means that while for the most part they function as Steam keys, you could, if you wanted to, unshackle them from Steam files and they would work perfectly fine on your machine (though of course multiplayer functionality might be unavailable). If you want to do that, you can follow instructions for PS outlined here.
Top 10 DRM-Free Games on Steam
|Super Meat Boy||Puzzle Platformer, Rage Game||2010|
|Shovel Knight Treasure Trove||Side-Scrolling Platformer||2014|
|Stardew Valley||RPG, Simulator, Survival||2016|
|Darkest Dungeon||Rogue-Like, Survival Horror||2016|
|Hearts of Iron 4 Colonel Edition||Grand Strategy, RTS||2016|
|Divinity: Original Sin 2||RPG||2017|
|Transistor||Action RPG, Strategy||2014|
|Sniper Elite 4||First-Person Shooter, Hitler-Killing Simulator||2017|
|Batman Arkham Asylum||Action-Adventure||2009|
|Witcher 3||Action RPG||2015|
Super Meat Boy
A fantastic little platformer, Super Meat Boy is a precursor to many more modern, so called “rage games” whereby the player must navigate difficult maps with a lot of sharp traps.
Due to the very fleshy nature of our protagonist, this will lead to many, many bloody and hilarious mistakes, repeatedly drenching the level in gore. While the game is tricky, the key to beating it is getting the rhythm of each level and, after a couple fails, besting it with one, smooth motion.
Super Meat Boy’s DRM-free nature extends to all its versions, for all platforms, though of course for the Steam version you’ll have to follow the steps outlined above. There’s a multiplayer component of course, and there’s a whole lot of content to enjoy here with higher difficulty options, high ranks and lots of secrets strewed throughout the game.
Diggy, diggy hole
Imaginative, cute and to the point, Shovel Knight is a reinvention of a classic side-scrolling formula.
You play as the titular Shovel Knight, whose weapon of choice is indeed a shovel, which happens to be a surprisingly practical weapon for someone who spends their time in dreary dungeons, digging up treasures and fighting monsters. Your job is to explore, solve puzzles and defeat bosses.
Shovel Knight is a pretty expansive title, with several pieces of DLC delving into stories of other Knights. There’s a whole lot to like about this little game and it did leave quite a legacy. As noted, it is available with no DRM on pretty much every platform in existence, including ones you’ve never heard of. Though if you’re here specifically because you wanted to know if Amazon Fire TV version of Shovel Knight has DRM or not, well… Ask customer support? I got nothing, sorry.
|Genre:||Survival, Simulation, Builder, RPG|
A chilled out farming life
Stardew Valley is an exceptionally… Comfy game. Inspired by Harvest Moon, the premise is simple: you inherit a plot of land from an estranged relative and try to turn it into a profitable venture by maintaining it and selling its crops.
What makes this interesting is the RPG aspect. Stardew Valley is not just that little plot of land, it’s the entire sprawling community around it with characters who have their own little stories.
Stardew Valley has a playable multiplayer component and it can be played via LAN, though unfortunately there’s no split-screen option, so each player has to have their own copy of the game. Despite lack of any DRM, there’s only a limited way to share this game.
|Genre:||Rogue-like, Survival, RPG|
Stress is the number 1 killer among dungeon dwellers. 2 is Monsters.
In contrast to Stardew Valley, Darkest Dungeon is an exceptionally un-chill experience, in fact it is a very frustrating experience, at least the first couple of attempts.
You begin by gathering the party of adventurers that are randomly generated in towns. You can swap out your heroes (or hire new ones if they die, which will happen often), heal their various status effects, equip them and send on another bout of mind-breaking, stressful adventuring in them dark dungeons.
Darkest Dungeon has no multiplayer component, but it has several different modes of play. Including the endless horde mode loosely inspired by works of Lovecraft. Due to the lack of any multiplayer, you can play the game at your leisure and only occasionally check for updates.
Hearts of Iron IV
Historical accuracy at its finest
Technically, any Paradox game is eligible for this spot, as the studio has promised that all of their games, from now to forever, will be DRM-free.
Yeah. That’s commitment to the ideal! But of course I can’t very well just put 10 Paradox games here and I’ve already talked at lengths about Stellaris, so Hearts of Iron!
The most modern of Paradox’s series of grand strategy, historical games, Hearts of Iron IV picks up just after World War I with a very familiar, tense political situation. You can take control of any of the nations in the world and lead them to glorious victory. Yes, including the Germans and it is actually possible, although very, very unlikely to never allow Nazis to take over. There’s a fantastic multiplayer option to the game, but with so many intricacies in the game you can play the standard campaign for hours upon hours without ever getting bored.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Reach for Divinity with force of will alone. Paying for it would be kind of against the point
We’re on the home stretch now. You’d think that DRM-free games would only be smaller titles, since DRM has been a staple of gaming for, well, forever.
But believe it or not, there are big DRM-free titles on this list, whether that is by show of good faith or accident, the first one of those is, the flagship isometric RPG of future past.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 occupies a special place on this list, because it has a fully playable, 2 player split-screen, offline multiplayer you can run with a single copy of the game, with each player taking the role of one of the party members. With custom campaigns available, this is the height of what a DRM-free game would look like in modern gaming.
Little Red and her big talky sword
From the creators of Bastion, Transistor is certainly more than a sum of its parts. Ostensibly, it’s an intensively tactical game, revolving around combining various abilities you acquire throughout the game during an active pause.
But the game is very complex, it weaves the mechanics and story together fantastically with a plot that asks some very poignant, political questions.
Unfortunately,there is no multiplayer to speak of here, but despite that, Transistor will keep you busy with a plethora of bonus levels, puzzles and flexible difficulty setting (used by putting in different add-ons during gameplay) for a long, long time.
Sniper Elite 4
|Genre:||Tactical Shooter, Stealth|
DRM-free Hitler-killing adventure!
There are many different kinds of joy in life. Some are very complex and they may involve a fancy dinner with great classical music accompanying it.
Others may be very simple. Sniper Elite 4 is of the second variety, boiling down to finding creative ways to kill Hitler. Ok, there’s more to it, but if you’re like me you’ll rush through and then replay that one mission again and again.
It’s simple and it’s clean and it’s pure. With plenty of missions that can be approached from multiple different directions, Sniper Elite 4 is a long-lasting source of fun. There’s a multiplayer component to the game, but not a local one, so while you CAN play the game online, there’s no real way of doing that without some form of DRM. And, needless to say, cross-platform play is limited to PC and Xbox.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
I know, right? You wouldn’t think Warner Bros would do something like release a game without DRM, would you? You were kind of right, it WAS a mistake, but still, here we are!
Arkham Asylum, precursor to excellent Arkham City (which HAS DRM, I guess it must have been an honest mistake), Arkham Asylum introduced the iconic combat system that so many games have since adopted and improved on (or simply shamelessly copied, but that’s just testament to its greatness).
While again there’s no multiplayer here, Arkham Asylum has a whole lot of content to itself and a fairly engaging storyline, made better by the fact that you get to play as one of the most interesting pop cultural icons of modern world—Batman. With no DRM and a lot to do, this one should be quite hard to pass out on.
The silver sword is for loot-box merchants
Ah yes, Witcher 3. It had to be the top of this list, simply because it is an anomaly that has a shot at becoming a trend.
Arkham Asylum may have been an opportunity, but later releases by Warner Bros proved that this fluke isn’t getting replicated. With Witcher though, that chance is still here, because the entire series has always been DRM-free.
You have of course heard of it, so I won’t waste too much time explaining what Witcher 3 is—expansive and thoroughly engaging action RPG, the Witcher 3 is the culmination to the saga and an unwritten bow on Sapkowski’s fantastic story. And it is something to keep in mind going forward.
It will be very interesting to see where CDPR goes from here, especially given Cyberpunk 2077 and how much hype it’s riding on. Can we perhaps get a CDPR game with multiplayer? Will that game also feature no unnecessary DRM? Time will tell. But the promise is here and that promise is worth holding onto.
More DRM-Free Games
In the span of a last couple of years, we have gone an amazing distance when it comes to our online presence. It no longer is just something you dip in, for a lot of people it’s an integral part of just being. Of course entertainment, being entertainment, has to capitalize on this aspect, which is where we get our modern DRM.
But as we’ve seen, permanent connectivity need not mean third-party software, or relinquishing the rights to the product you own just for the sake of staying connected. The internet is, after all, much greater than that. It’s a relentless tug of war between our desires and short-term profits and maybe you don’t even care about all this admittedly pretty esoteric stuff.
The takeaway point in all this is simply that while we’re more connected than ever, this doesn’t have to boil down to DRM and this includes the products of your entertainment