Each month, Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus members receive a selection of free games alongside online multiplayer access. Each platform usually offers its users a completely different crop of games for $59.99 a year, per program.
Xbox owners can expect to receive up to four games for Xbox One and Xbox 360 through the Games With Gold Program, and PlayStation fans are offered up to six titles for PlayStation 3, 4, Vita and VR.
Amazon and the popular streaming platform Twitch also offer free PC games for Twitch Prime subscribers. Since Twitch Prime is a branch of Amazon Prime, anyone with an Amazon subscription can download these titles.
Here’s a quick look at this month's offerings, including the description, critical score and ESRB rating of each title, as well as important information for parents regarding mature titles.
PS Plus games become available on the first Tuesday of every month and can be downloaded for free throughout the month. Unlike Xbox’s free games, anything obtained through PS Plus will become inaccessible if your membership expires. Thankfully, your free games will be waiting for you if you subscribe again.
PlayStation is also offering three months of PlayStation Now, a cloud-based streaming service featuring games from PS3 and PS4, for $29.99. The offer runs through Sept. 25 and is open to new and returning subscribers.
Finally, PS Plus subscribers can snag two free experimental games as a bonus through Oct. 2. “Here They Lie” is a first-person horror game for PlayStation VR set in a nightmarish city, and “Knowledge is Power” is a PS4 game that can be controlled with a smartphone.
Metacritic score: 68
ESRB rating: M for use of drugs, strong language, blood and gore, nudity, intense violence and strong sexual content
Synopsis: “Mafia III” is set in post-Vietnam War New Bordeaux (a reimagining of New Orleans) and tells the story of veteran Lincoln Clay, who is betrayed and left for dead by the Italian Mafia. As Clay, players will build up a rival crime family in order to loosen the Mafia’s hold on New Bordeaux.
What parents should know: “Mafia III” deals with themes of war, revenge and organized crime. Offscreen sexual activity is present in the game, but this portrayal is often optional.
Players frequently engage in violent criminal activities across multiple missions. Torture and large-scale massacres are also depicted briefly, but player interaction is restricted during these moments. The game also includes frequent use of strong language, including the F-word. Some characters also use derogatory racial terms toward African-American characters.
Metacritic score: 64
ESRB rating: M for blood and gore, language and intense violence
Synopsis: “Dead by Daylight” is a five-player online horror game. One player must hunt the others as a powerful Killer — a monster inspired by various slasher horror movie villains — and the other players must attempt to escape while dealing with an ever-changing environment.
Metacritic score: 53
ESRB rating: M for violence, strong language, blood and suggestive themes
Synopsis: In this action role-playing game, players step into the shoes of a mercenary possessed by a fire demon. “Bound by Flame” players can travel the world and complete quests to recruit powerful allies in the fight against seven Ice Lords and their undead army. Players' choices can affect the story and the fire demon’s influence, which in turn affects how players interact with the world.
Metacritic score: 72
ESRB rating: M for strong language, blood and gore, drug reference, partial nudity and intense violence
Synopsis: Cause widespread chaos and destruction as Serious Sam in this tribute to the golden age of first-person shooters.
What parents should know: “Serious Sam 3” is a first-person shooter where players fight against a wide variety of monsters. It's heavy on violence and blood — players can wield a full arsenal of powerful weapons to defeat monsters — and the player character uses occasional strong language, including the F-word.
Xbox’s free games are usually divided across both of Microsoft’s consoles, with two titles featured for Xbox One, and an additional two for Xbox 360. It’s important to note Xbox One owners can also download the Xbox 360 titles, thanks to backward compatibility. Additionally, any games downloaded as an Xbox Live Gold subscriber will stay in your digital library, even if your subscription lapses.
Note: “Death Squared” for Xbox One is available for free until Aug. 15.
Platform: Xbox One
Date available: through Aug. 30
Metacritic score: 86
ESRB rating: E10+ for mild violence, mild lyrics and mild suggestive themes
Synopsis: Explore southern France and northern Italy while competing online in dozens of racing challenges. “Forza Horizon 2” features more than 200 real-world vehicles and a dynamic weather system which can affect each challenge. An anniversary downloadable content pack featuring 10 cars — including a 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia, a 2015 Lamborghini Huracan and a 2013 McLaren P1 — will also be included.
Platform: Xbox One
Date available: Aug. 16-Sept. 15
Metacritic score: 79
ESRB rating: M for blood and gore, intense violence
Synopsis: Charge into battle and discover who would win in a fight between Vikings, knights and samurai across single and multiplayer campaigns. “For Honor” includes an intuitive fighting system as well as 12 unique heroes, 18 different maps and several player vs. player modes.
What parents should know: “For Honor” is an online fantasy fighting game where players attempt to take control of map areas from other players. The game revolves around combat between historical warriors — who each have their own violent execution moves. Animated blood, on-screen stabbings and decapitations are present. Online chat between players is also present but can be deactivated.
Platform: Xbox 360
Date available: through Aug. 15
Metacritic score: 78
ESRB rating: M for blood and gore, intense violence and strong language
Synopsis: Travel to Tau Volantis as Isaac Clarke, a survivor of the Necromorph plague. In order to save Earth from annihilation, Clarke must investigate the source of the alien menace. A second player can join in on the action as John Carver, a soldier who has nothing to lose. Players will explore creepy environments, repair spaceships and craft a deadly arsenal to take down the Necromorphs and their allies once and for all.
What parents should know: “Dead Space 3” is a sci-fi horror game where players must defeat grotesque, alien zombies by cutting off their limbs with futuristic weaponry. A murderous cult that worships these monsters also plays heavily into the story. The game features several creepy environments, including derelict spaceships, space and a deserted ice planet. Jump scares, psychological horror and a number of curse words, including the F-word, are often used.
‘Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’
Platform: Xbox 360
Date available: Aug. 16-31
Metacritic score: 59
ESRB rating: E for cartoon violence
Synopsis: Save the Wasteland once again as Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in this platforming adventure. Using a magic paintbrush, two players can explore a dark, Disney-themed world, interact with dozens of classic cartoon characters and defeat the Mad Doctor’s evil forces.
Streaming platform Twitch usually offers four or five free PC games on the first of the month for Amazon/Twitch Prime subscribers. While the free games aren’t offered for Mac, Windows users can access their monthly free games through the free Twitch Desktop App. To redeem the free games, log into Twitch, click on the crown in the top right corner and claim the free game offer.
In addition to August's free games, Twitch Prime is offering a free bundle featuring the classic PC RPG series, “Wizardry.” The bundle includes access to the sixth, seventh and eighth entries, which each includes its own unique stories and worlds to explore.
Metacritic score: 81
ESRB rating: N/A
Synopsis: "Antihero" is a multiplayer strategy game where players take turns assassinating and blackmailing their way to victory. Contend against friends and strangers to come out on top in this cartoonish crime simulation.
Metacritic score: 80
ESRB rating: E for alcohol reference
Synopsis: In "Death Squared," players guide a colored robot to their respective goals while avoiding dangerous traps and deadly hazards. A co-op puzzle game for up to four players, "Death Squared" features a single-player campaign, a multiplayer party mode and a series of expert challenges to test communication and puzzle-solving skills.
Metacritic score: 79
ESRB rating: T for violence
Synopsis: Explore a hand-illustrated world inspired by Norse mythology in “Jotun.” As Thora, players fight massive giants and dangerous foes to earn admission into Valhalla. Players can take advantage of enemy weaknesses and patterns to succeed in combat.
Metacritic score: 76
ESRB rating: E10+ for fantasy violence
Synopsis: Explore the underground on a Wild West-themed mining outpost as Rusty, a miner robot with dreams of wealth. Dig through caves to uncover treasure and powerful upgrades, but be mindful of powerful enemies under the surface.