The best NFT games are here to stay and more new non-fungible token video games are launching every month. Just like linear gaming, these titles are an eclectic mix of styles and genres, including monster breeding sims, card battle games and epic role-playing adventures. These aren't all play-to-earn, but they all do enable players ownership of portions of the games.
This broad spread of genres coupled with the complexities of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology make NFT games a little hard to grasp. You can read more my our guide to NFT gaming or read our feature what are NFTs? for a broad guide to this new technology. Square Enix has recently announced its first NFT game too, called Symbiogenesis.
NFT games are different to mainstream experiences, as items bought or earned can be sold or traded within and perhaps across games for real money. The NFTs themselves can be used as part-ownership in a game. Most NFT games feature an internal maketplace to buy and sell items on a blockchain, but this means they can also be traded on the best NFT marketplaces outside of the game.
It's early days for many NFT games, both visually and technically, however there are some exciting stories being told that intertwine perfectly with some of the broader philosophical and technical aspects of non-fungible tokens and their uses. Also, the metaverse can be a gamified space too, such as with Butcher Billy's inspired retro Atari posters.
While some big publishers plan on entering the space, such as Square Enix and Ubisoft, to date NFT games are being released by indies. We're also seeing seasoned developers like Dead or Alive creator Tomonobu Itagaki and Days Gone creative director John Garvin enter the space. But that's for the distant future, let's take a look at the best NFT games to play now and coming soon.
The best NFT games: out now
Axie Infinity (opens in new tab)put NFT gaming on the map, and it's easily one of the top NFT games around. This monster-breeding RPG showed NFT games can work, be rewarding, and above all, fun. The idea is simple: raise a pet Axie and breed it to create generations of creatures, each one inheriting traits from its relatives. You can collect and trade Axies on NFT marketplaces or in-game, with rare breeds earning you large sums of money.
The game features standard modes such as Quest, player-versus-player (PVP) battles, and Adventure – each earns Smooth Love Potion (SLP), the game's utility token, which is used to pay for breeding Axies. In many ways Axie Infinity is a 'normal' game similar to Pokémon or Digimon.
But, as your Axies are registered on a blockchain their rarity and value can earn you real money. This play-to-earn model is what NFT games are known for, and it can be great when values go up but not so good when they decline. To offset the market forces imposed on the game Axie Infinity now has a free-to-play model similar to games such as Elder Scrolls Online, so players can join without needing to pay, but their Axies have limited development.
This year has seen a number of updates to Axie Infinity that have made the game more approachable and expanded on how Axies can be used; the new Builder Program for example enables players to create and submit games build on the Axie Infinity engine, the best are being developed to expand the Axie Infinity metaverse.
The Sandbox (opens in new tab) is one of the most successful NFT games around, because in many ways it's not a 'game' and more of a creator platform. Think of The Sandbox as an NFT-powered Minecraft or Roblox, you can play as well as build games and assets. Only here, in The Sandbox, you own your creations and can sell and trade your digital items, full games, and more on the platform's marketplace using the SAND token.
The other side to The Sandbox is Game mode, where you can develop a world of your own, adding games and experiences and building a metaverse inside The Sandbox. You can explore other players' worlds, play games and export content into your universe. This is governed by the LAND token, and also enables players to vote on new features, tools and the direction of The Sandbox.
The Voxel-visuals look approachable and resemble Minecraft, but there's so much more you can do in The Sandbox – and you own it. Watching gamers' land evolve to merge with other users' plots to create vast expanses of blocky, colourful kingdoms is mesmerising. Just like Fortnite, major brands such as AMC's The Walking Dead and NFT projects such as Bushidos, are partnering and feature in The Sandbox.
Gods Unchained (opens in new tab)is being led by former Magic: The Gathering Arena game director Chris Clay, so it's no surprise this free-to-play NFT card battle game shares much in common with Wizards of the Coasts' successful tabletop title.
Like MtG Arena the idea here is to battle other players using cards and combinations of cards, each has unique stats, strengths and weaknesses to understand and harness. It's a well-designed strategic game where good players can win and it's not the value of your hand that always matters.
Gods Unchained succeeds because it's free, rewards skill, and uses NFTs to enhance its traditional ideas. Cards are earned from playing and earning experience points, and these can be bought and sold, earning you real money on the crypto marketplace Immutable X as well as in-game as GODS tokens. GODS tokens are also used to fuse and enhance cards to create rare new versions or buy packs of cards. This is the best NFT game for card battle gamers.
DeFi Kingdoms (opens in new tab) was one of the first games to truly leverage the value of NFTs and intertwine it with nostalgic fantasy pixel art. This is a title that looks like a SNES role-playing game from the 90s or a modern indie, think Harvest Moon.
DeFi Kingdoms shows us how NFTs can be used in games as it marries the underlying utility of NFTs with classic game design. You can play DeFi Kingdoms as you would a retro RPG – questing for XP and items, managing your in-game resources, and developing your hero. But in DeFi Kingdoms it accumulates JEWEL tokens that can be converted to Harmony One cryptocurrency.
The by-product of DeFi Kingdoms approach means it's possible to explain complicated NFT and decentralised crypto concepts to people using storytelling and lore. DeFi Kingdoms is a gateway to NFTs but sadly this means there's no free entry to play (as yet).
Splinterlands (opens in new tab) aim is to offer the collecting and trading mechanics of physical card games such as Magic: The Gathering but digitally. This is a strength of NFTs, they can create verified rarity and enable players to trade and collect digital cards. Every action in Splinterlands is recorded on the Hive blockchain, ensuring everything is provable.
Gameplay is similar to Gods Unchained and other strategic card fighting titles like non-NFT game Hearthstone. Cards have values and stats, and some are rare and worth more. Duplicate cards can be fused to improve their powers.
Unlike Gods Unchained you do have to pay to play Splinterlands, a new card pack must be bought before you can begin. What cards you get is random, so there's the spectre of gaming's loot box mechanic hanging over Splinterlands. Once in the game, however, you can earn more cards from battles and quests.
Sorare (opens in new tab) is an NFT-powered version of fantasy football, and now there's an MLB edition too (launching 19 July 2022). It mixes both ideas into weekly tournaments where your deck of cards is affected by the real world stats and events of the world's major football leagues.
Collect cards of real world footballers and choose a deck of five sports stars to enter into the weekly competitions. How these footballers perform in the week determines your points tally, just like fantasy football. There are over 200 licensed clubs in the game, including Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
While it's free to enter and receive a starter pack, and you can win and earn rare cards as well as Ethereum from playing, you will need to buy rare, super-rare and unique cards if you want to progress and win more matches.
Wizards and Dragons: Reborn (opens in new tab) has been created from the open source code of another title, called Wool Game, hence the 'Reborn' name. The developer saw a way to improve where the previous game had failed and mobilised a community very quickly.
The game is an RPG where players' Wizards accumulate GP tokens from PvP – Quests and a Job system are also planned but not implemented – while avoiding Dragons, which will steal their GP. There's a training aspect to the gameplay, meaning your NFT-powered Wizard can grow as you win battles and reinvest earnings.
Wizards and Dragons: Reborn is an interesting idea but there's a sense the NFT side to this game overshadows the gameplay at present. Time will tell if this evolves enough, or if in fact it collapses totally.
Star Atlus (opens in new tab) mixes space exploration with mining, trading and combat to promise an experience close to classic sim Elite or the newer No Man's Sky, but here you can earn real money from your galactic endeavours.
Star Atlus offers triple-A gaming visuals and performance, and sets the standard for future NFT games. Gameplay is built around player versus player (PvP) and player versus environment (PvE) missions. You can invest in a fleet by purchasing ships and items from the in-game marketplace.
Star Atlus brings a level of mainstream gameplay to NFT utility. The game doesn't offer a free-to-play option, so the play-to-earn model could see many gamers put off. However, there's a lot of promise in Star Atlus, and you can begin building your fleet now.
Visually Parallel (opens in new tab) is already one of the most groundbreaking NFT games. This is a science fiction card game akin to Magic: The Gathering (another one). The story revolves around concepts such as different races coming together to find common truths, in order to solve differences and save the universe, which means Parallel has a community-based cooperative aspect its card-collecting.
Different card collection approaches yield different rewards with the release of the PRIME token. This opens the doorway to the Echelon eco-system which the team and other partners intend to introduce a series of new projects.
While card battle games already exist Parallel looks to reinvent the crypto based trading card game genre with great art, storytelling and DEFI (decentralised finance) mechanics – for example, there won't be reprints of cards, ensuring rarity.
The best NFT games: in development
The Walking Dead: Empires (opens in new tab) is one of a new breed of licensed NFT games that aim to ape the gameplay of linear games, in this case survival MMORPGs, while offering an NFT base from which to do it. This means you can play and earn, but also team-up for a game with a strong social aspect.
In the case of TWD: Empires it means you can buy and own collectible cards and items, craft new gear, build towns and own land just as you would in a 'standard' game but here if other players use your gear or play on your land you can earn from it.
Better yet, TWD: Empires is partnered with the VOXverse, developed by legendary The Sims creator Will Wright. TDW: Empires NFTs use the VOXverse to enable players to eventually trade and play across a metaverse of games and events. Like many of the best NFT games in development you buy character card packs now and begin planning your game.
Treeverse (opens in new tab) is still in development but aspects of this NFT game are available; you can buy 'Timeless' characters that are intended to have utility in the Treeverse universe. The game promises a rich open world to explore that will blend fantasy and sci-fi MMORPG with a MOBA-style combat system – multiplayer online battle arenas.
Treeverse is aiming for Triple-A accessibility; slay beasts, forge rare weapons, form guilds, defeat dungeons… fish. The pitch for Treeverse is it will be less play-to-earn and more play-and-earn. Hype from inside the crypto community is already building. Ric Galbraith known for his work on Cycle of the Shroom (opens in new tab) and Punks Comic's has been enlisted as a writer.
Right now it's early but you can buy plot of land and characters (and the game has a seed investment fund of $25m) on OpenSea, but that aside, one thing is for certain, and that is the art is top tier. Drawing heavily from anime references, the Timeless character illustrations are all hand drawn and beautiful. See for yourself as developer regularly released gameplay videos on its Twitter (opens in new tab).
Grit (opens in new tab) is a Fortnite-inspired battle royale set in the old west. As with Epic Game's monster hit the winner is the last gunslinger standing, here though there's a edge of cooperation to the events. The aim is to board and take over the last train found in the map, you can work together to hijack it or try going solo.
You can purchase Wild Card NFTs to boost your skills and unlock new gear while generative hero NFTs enable you to develop and customise your hero – this can lead to increased earnings. There will also be an NFT Battle Pass.
There's a lot planned for Grit and the battle royale genre has yet to be properly tapped into with NFTs. Better yet, Grit will offer a free to play mode, so you needn't spend money on NFTs – you can even earn in F2P and then can be used to buy non-fungible tokens. This kind of approachable design extends to the 'hat system' – if you die with your hat on you can come back for 1v1 duel, the winner stays in the game.
Bridgeworld (opens in new tab) is the first game from TreasureDAO (opens in new tab), an exciting eco-system that uses the MAGIC token as it's currency. Think of TreasureDAO as the decentralised 'Nintendo of the metaverse' that hosts and connects a number of games together. It's due for release in September but the lore is already building.
The aim of Bridgeworld is to collect treasures in various ways – from quests, mining, and community features. Owning treasures increases your staking potential in the Atlas Mine. As well as some strategy game design players can join community-based guilds to increase their mining power.
There's a feeling of early D&D and text adventures to Bridgeworld's lore and design. It can come across as obtuse but behind the wealth of world-building is the gamification of NFTs and the metaverse – it's called a 'bridge world' for a reason. There's a lot of innovative game design theory being put into practice with Bridgeworld, and it's one to watch.
The best NFT games: frequent questions
What is NFT in gaming?
NFTs will be treated as assets inside games, this could be in-game items, clothing, skins etc. Anything previously you have to purchase as an item can be an NFT.
Can I play NFT games for free?
Yes, some NFT games such as Axie Infinity are free-to-play as well as play-to-earn. Generally the entry level hero and items will have a limit to its development.
How do I join an NFT game?
Generally you need a crypto wallet, such as MetaMask, and you can connect this to the game's website. Even if a game is free-to-play you'll need to connect a wallet as these games will still offer free token rewards. As a rule these are the easy steps to take:
1. Create a crypto wallet, MetaMask is a universal one, and then purchase Ethereum.
2. You'll likely need Ethereum even if a game uses its own token.
3. Connect your wallet to the game's website and purchase your NFT.
4. You can also purchase a game's NFT in OpenSea and hold it in your wallet.
5. Play the game, earn and develop your NFT hero or creature.
What's the best NFT game?
It's still Axie Infinity which has 2.8 million unique players every day. The Sandbox is fast becoming a challenger to Axie Infinity's No.1 spot. The games with metaverse connectivity are likely the ones to succeed, both of these have broader uses.
What's the next big NFT game?
Watch out for VOXverse, it's not on our list as it's not an NFT game as such but a metaverse platform that can connect together other diverse games. VOXverse has been developed by the legendary game designer Will Wright, the creator of The Sims.
Can you make money on NFT games?
Essentially that is the main point of play-to-earn gaming. Your NFT item, land or character has a real world value because it's linked to a cryptocurrency. Think of them as shares in a game but ones you can affect directly due to rarity, for example if you develop a character with unique traits and only you own them, so the value increases. You can then sell your character on a blockchain and earn real money.
The dangers are values of cryptocurrency tokens and NFTs can down as well as up, leaving some NFT games open to inflationary/deflationary push and pull; a crashing value can see players leave a game. Adding free-to-play modes can encourage new gamers in to offset leaving players.
Why are NFT games important?
They are some very interesting economics experiments taking place with their in game currencies. If you view our current world as being based purely on an 'inflationary currency'- some of these games will show other systems that utilise deflationary mechanics and demonstrate alternative eco-systems.
How much should I invest in NFT games?
This is most definitely not investment advice. Never spend anything more than you would be willing to lose. Some of the best games above also require zero financial commitment to play.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific financial or investment advice or recommendations for any individual for any investment product. The article is only intended to provide general information and opinions about NFT games. The views reflected in this article are subject to change at any time without notice.