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.

In fact, DRM, short for Digital Rights Management, means that a game developer includes a way to prevent an owner of the game copy from replicating the digital content. In the past, it meant CD keys or online registration, but in recent times it evolved into tying your game to a digital platform. A DRM-free game is just that—a game whose developer trusts you as a buyer not to copy and release the product. People who look for DRM-free games in general also are worried that, if something were to happen to their account, they would irrevocably lost the games they have bought and that fear isn’t entirely unfounded.

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 DRM-Free Games on Steam
GameReleaseGenreTrailerSale
Super Meat Boy 2010-11-30 Indie 86% Read more
Shovel Knight Treasure Trove 2014-06-26 Action & Shooter 12% Read more
Stardew Valley 2016-02-26 Adventure Read more
Darkest Dungeon 2016-01-19 Indie 89% Read more
Hearts Of Iron 4 Colonel Edition 2016-06-06 Strategy 51% Read more
Divinity Original Sin 2 2017-09-14 Adventure 48% Read more
Transistor 2014-05-20 Indie Read more
Sniper Elite 4 2017-02-13 Adventure 91% Read more
Batman Arkham Asylum Goty 2010-03-26 Adventure 88% Read more
The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Goty 2015-05-18 RPG 69% Read more
Cyberpunk 2077 2020-12-10 FPS & RPG Read more
Cuphead 2017-09-29 Indie 19% Read more
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number 2015-03-10 Action & Shooter 81% Read more
Brutal Legend 2013-02-26 Adventure 81% Read more
Wasteland 2: Director's Cut - Classic Edition 2014-09-18 Indie 42% Read more
Assassin's Creed: Director's Cut 2008-04-09 Adventure Read more
System Shock: Enhanced Edition 2015-09-22 Adventure 91% Read more
Tormented Souls 2021-08-27 Horror 68% Read more
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire 2018-05-08 RPG 87% Read more
Sora 2016-01-05 Action & Shooter 37% Read more

        

Super Meat Boy

Release:2010-11-30
Genre:Indie
Developer:Team Meat

Deliciously rare
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.

        

Shovel Knight

Release:2014-06-26
Genre:Action & Shooter
Developer:Yacht Club Games

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.

        

Stardew Valley

Release:2016-02-26
Genre:Adventure
Developer:ConcernedApe

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.

        

Darkest Dungeon

Release:2016-01-19
Genre:Indie
Developer:Red Hook Studios

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

Release:2016-06-06
Genre:Simulation
Developer:Paradox Development Studio

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

Release:2017-09-14
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Larian Studios

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.

        

Transistor

Release:2014-05-20
Genre:Indie
Developer:Supergiant Games

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

Release:2017-02-13
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Rebellion

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

Release:2010-03-26
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Feral Interactive (Mac)

Wait, what?
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 Series 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.

        

Witcher 3

Release:2015-05-18
Genre:RPG
Developer:CD PROJEKT RED

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.

Post-offline era

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