AGE OF EMPIRES ONLINE

AGE OF EMPIRES ONLINE -- With over 20 million copies sold, this long-running strategy series has earned Microsoft respect, cred, and gobs of cash. Perhaps that’s why they’re releasing a new version for the smashing price of zilch. The new free game plays out much like older AoE games – create a city, build an army, deal with your neighbors -- but for a few dollars less.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT

WORLD OF WARCRAFT -- After six solid years of raking in dough from its millions of subscribers, the biggest name in online gaming finally decided to offer up some free goodies for new players back in June. You can play all the way to level 20 -- a good month or so -- before needing to plunk down any gold for that full membership.

GHOST RECON ONLINE

GHOST RECON ONLINE -- Long one of the premier names in squad-based military shooters, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series takes a turn for the free in this upcoming multiplayer effort. Due out later this year on the PC and sometime in 2012 on Nintendo’s Wii U, the online game lets you tinker with cool, futuristic Ghost Recon gear while battling it out in tactically rich, small-scale environments.

TEAM FORTRESS 2

TEAM FORTRESS 2 -- First made available as part of EA’s incredible Orange Box retail release (which also contained Half-Life 2, its follow-ups, and standalone phenom Portal), Team Fortress 2 is now free-to-play. That is, in a word, awesome. Packing the same gameplay but adding optional items for those who want a leg up, it’s a great way to get a multiplayer shooter fix without forking over any dough.

EVERQUEST II

EVERQUEST II -- Considering it came out alongside World of Warcraft -- only to get trounced on the charts by Blizzard's behemoth -- it's pretty amazing that this MMO is still going. Last year it added a free-to-play option dubbed Everquest II:Extended, and while you won't get access to everything the game offers, you can take your
character all the way up to level 80 and play through most of the game's expansions without dropping a credit card.
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