NFTs and NFT games are all the hype lately, with prices and number of users skyrocketing – what are some of the top NFT games, and what are the up-and-coming ones to look out for?
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What Are Play-to-Earn Games?
An NFT game combines conventional gaming designs with unconventional game mechanisms to let users have more control over in-game assets like skins, characters, weapons, virtual lands and much more. This is made possible by launching games on blockchains and anchoring them with digital asset-powered economies. These digital assets are often NFTs so that they are distinguishable and tamper-proof. The adoption of NFT token standards also allows developers to preserve the rarity and uniqueness of some of these in-game items. This is why some blockchain game assets are considered more expensive than others.
With this system in place, the players can claim ownership of game assets through 3 main strategies. They could create or breed new characters, purchase digital items on native or third-party marketplaces, or unlock and earn new items. Whichever way you choose to access these game assets, you have exclusive ownership rights over them. In essence, you can distribute or sell them and pocket all the money made from such trades. This is why this gaming model is called play-to-earn.
How Does the Play-to-Earn Model Benefit Gamers?
Virtual economies existing in gaming universes are not unheard of — popular massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) like RuneScape and World of Warcraft have players in the millions. Furthermore, many games claiming to be free-to-play are running on a 'freemium' model; gamers have to splash certain amount of money, on top of time and effort, to accelerate their rise through the ranks or obtain rare in-game items. While these in-game items may be worth a tidy sum, the true ownership does not lie with the gamer, but with the game developers.
While gaming companies should be rightly compensated for developing entertaining titles, gamers also bring value by spending time and actively participating in the in-game economy. The play-to-earn model could be seen as a way to synergize both parties so that all are rewarded for the value they bring. On one hand, gaming companies can develop a more vibrant in-game economy. On the other hand, gamers get to own their in-game assets and be rewarded for their time spent.
Can You Make Money Playing NFT Games?
Are There Free NFT Games?
While some of the games mentioned below — such as Gods Unchained and Splinterlands — are free-to-play, most require you to spend a certain amount to purchase a starter pack or progress further. Those not willing to fork out the upfront capital will be glad to know that there are initiatives such as Axie scholarships: sponsors loan three Axies to "scholars" and engage in a profit sharing scheme, which could see players earning around 50%-70% of the total profits.
What Are the Top NFT Games?
Like all emerging and established sectors, certain platforms have positioned themselves as the main highlight of the NFT gaming world. These games are at the forefront of the current NFT craze because they have successfully integrated NFTs with popular game themes. As such, players get to play some of their favorite game genres and at the same time engage with a profitable NFT market. Without further ado, here are some of the games that fall within this category.
You win matches when your gameplay causes your opponent’s life to drop to zero before yours. For every win, you receive experience points. As soon as the experience bar is filled up, you will move to the next rating or level and receive a new pack of cards to add to your collection.
Once you familiarize yourself with the cards, you can proceed to battle other players or participate in quests. The outcome of these activities would determine if you will earn more cards or not.
Learn more about Splinterlands here.
The Sandbox 3D
In the Alien Worlds metaverse, players can acquire NFTs to mine TLM, engage in battles and complete in-game quests. Depending on their strategy, players may purchase and assemble NFTs that best suit their gameplay. Additionally, players may engage in governance by electing the Councillors of six Planet DAOs, and thereby influence the direction of the game.
Learn more about Alien Worlds here.
As its name implies, Battle Racers is inspired by popular titles like Super Mario Kart and F-Zero. The whole idea is to combine different weapons and parts in order to create the most powerful cars. Players get to mix different parts and weapons that will give them some sort of advantage on the arcade-sized tracks. You can register your winning or prized cars on the blockchain as NFTs and subsequently sell them for crypto on OpenSea.
Sorare — Fantasy Football
Sorare is a fantasy football trading card game on the Ethereum blockchain. Players collect or buy trading cards to compete in weekly competitions, and stand a chance to unlock rare cards or win Eth. As of end-October 2021, Sorare has over 200 clubs officially licensed on their platform — including renowned names like Real Madrid, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich — with more added each week.
Cards are of four categories: commons, rare, super-rare and unique. The game is free-to-play and players are given a deck of random common cards when they complete certain onboarding tasks. However, to progress up the division leagues and win prizes, players will have to buy rare cards on the marketplace in Ether, at the very least.
From their deck of cards, players assemble a five-player team, select your captain and enter their team into weekly competitions. Based on the performances of the players in real life football matches, it will determine the number of points the team gets. Players own the NFT cards they have collected and can sell them to other players on NFT marketplaces.
The aim of the game is to build a powerful team of Illuvials which are used to defeat opponents in battle and earn rewards. The game combines both free-to-play elements and a paid experience since many in-game assets (including LAND and Illuvials) are represented as NFTs that can be bought and sold at will.
Based on the in-game footage below, we’d say that Illuvium is undoubtedly one of the best-looking NFT-enabled games too.
If you’re familiar with Pokemon, then odds are you’ve already got some idea of how NFT Champions works — given that it’s a blockchain-enabled turn-based battle, collecting, and adventure game.
NFT Champions features story-driven gameplay filled with a range of side quests for players to complete, ensuring that everybody's gameplay experience is different. Similar to Pokemon, the game unfolds across various regions, each of which has its unique characters, champions, and quests.
Players can opt to either progress through the game alone or team up with a friend for some co-op action.
The main aim of the game is to collect rare and powerful beasts known as Champions to form the perfect team. Each Champion is represented on the blockchain as an NFT and can be evolved into more powerful forms which can vary considerably in their individual stats and attack skills.
As a play-to-earn game, players will earn rewards as they progress through the game and defeat other players in 1v1 or 3v3 online matches.
The game is designed to be infinitely expansible, with new regions, champions, events, and game modes set to be introduced over time. The early access version of NFT Champions is scheduled to launch in Q1 2022.
For those that had a Tamagotchi but thought it wasn't realistic enough, Dogami could be what you've been waiting for.
The game features an entire “Petaverse”, which is comprised of more than 300 different DOGAMI breeds, each of which has its own different traits. These cutesy critters come in four different rarity scales — bronze, silver, gold, and diamond — and benefit from unique traits.
Dogami is one of the few blockchain games and DeFi projects to be built on the Tezos blockchain and will include both NFT and play-to-earn features.
The Dogami story is being crafted by alumni from Image Comics and Marvel Comics. The game is also backed by several heavyweight investors including the likes of The Sandbox, Ubisoft, and Animoca Brands, with advisors hailing from these firms too.
According to the official roadmap, the first generation of DOGAMI NFTs will be released in Q1 2022, whereas the beta version of the game (including AR features) will go live in Q2.
The game is an expansive PVP brawler that sees players duke it out across various game modes using their user-configured weaponized tanks to earn rewards.
Many items within the game (including tanks, bodies and weapons) are represented as NFTs and are fully tradeable, with their unique properties and rarity heavily influencing their value. Likewise, each tank is massively upgradeable, with players able to swap out bodies, weapons and items to maximize their chances of success.
As you can see from the in-game footage below, Spider Tanks features top-quality graphics, frantic gameplay, and a huge amount of customization options.
Spider Tanks is unusual among play-to-earn and NFT games in that it is also free to play. Because of this, it's accessible to anybody, anywhere, with no initial investments required.
The release date for the game isn’t yet public, but mid-2022 looks like a reasonable bet.
The Walking Dead: Empires
From the makers of the massively popular The Walking Dead TV series in collaboration with Gala Games and Ember Entertainment, The Walking Dead: Empires is arguably the biggest name NFT game in current development.
The game is a blockchain-powered survival MMO that sees players work together to scavenge and fight their way across the world of the walking dead to stake their claim over its resources and territory.
Featuring PvE and PvP battles, intricate crafting gameplay, and an expansive post-apocalyptic world full of surprises and danger, The Walking Dead: Empires is a primarily collaborative experience that sees players band together to take on the undead (and sometimes each other).
As a play-to-earn game, The Walking Dead: Empires allows players to earn revenue from their in-game efforts through a variety of different mechanisms. For one, players can construct bases on any NFT-based LAND that they own, allowing them to fortify their defenses and keep enemies at bay. LAND owners will earn rewards when players sell, fight, or kill upon their plots.
The game was announced in December 2021 at the Gala Games' "Into the Galaverse event". Its release date is currently unknown.
MAD Metascientists is an upcoming NFT-powered game that features a wide array of unique gameplay and play-to-earn mechanics, providing players with an expansive digital landscape of entertainment and opportunities.
The game is centered around unique tokenized scientists who are tasked with pushing “the boundaries of knowledge and creation” by harvesting a rare resource known as MAD Metafuel. These scientists can evolve collectible NFTs known as MAD Metacells, as well as MAD Nanocells — which can vary in their traits and rarity, and are used to battle other cells to earn the player resources and rewards.
The game will launch with the one-time exclusive mint of 10,000 MAD Metascientist NFTs, which users can use to explore the expansive MAD Metaverse (known as the Madverse) in search of MAD Metafuel. For those that miss the original Metascientist NFT drop, MAD Metacells and MAD Nanocells will act as the primary gameplay element — and these can be evolved, bought, sold, and traded.
As a play-to-earn game, MAD Metascientists allows players to earn rewards for their in-game activities in the form of MAD tokens ($MAD) and MAD Metafuel, which can be sold on the marketplace or used for a variety of in-game mechanics — such as creating MAD Metacells.
MAD Metascientists stands apart from other NFT games in that players can use its proprietary “host protocol” technology to alter their gameplay using digital collectibles they hold from other popular NFT collections — such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoPunks, and Meebits.
MAD Metascientists is the first game in the MADVerse. The genesis drop for the MAD Metascientists NFTs as well as the metascientists lab (its in-game dashboard) are currently slated to launch in Q1 2022.
The game takes place in a sprawling jungle filled with opportunity and danger. Sections of the jungle can be owned and leveraged by players in the form of NFTs. Players can build on the plots to generate passive income and increase their fortunes.
The game features several different player factions, including adventurer, tribal, capitalist, and merchant — each of which will have a different experience in the world of Gold Fever — and will often come head to head in the clash for resources.
Gameplay will involve warding off constant attacks from enemy factions, dealing with the local wildlife and climate challenges, basic survival actions, and working together to explore and make the most of the game's massive virtual world.
Gold Fever’s gameplay is centered around the NGL token, which can be mined by players and used to purchase in-game assets. It's also the game's native governance token, helping users shape the evolution of the game through voting.
The beta version of the game recently opened to select testers. The team expects to have at least a partially functioning game economy, quests and NFT infrastructure up and running by Q1 2022.
One of the newest names on this list, Sidus Heroes is an upcoming MMORPG space exploration and battle game that features a massive open universe to explore and conquer.
Players take on the role of NFT heroes which can vary in their rarity, attributes and desirability. Beyond this, the game features a wide variety of NFTs, including monsters, raw materials, gear, and land — each of which can be used or sold on the in-game marketplace.
Featuring top-quality graphics, PvE and PvP battle elements, a deep and complex in-game economy, a player-owned governance council, and a wide variety of different game modes, Sidus Heroes is shaping up into one of the most feature-complete play-to-earn games.
The game is being built on Ethereum and will leverage one or more currently undisclosed layer-2 solutions to ensure it is cheap to play and accessible.
As the first play-to-earn game on Algorand, Cosmic Champs looks to kickstart the platform’s blockchain gaming ecosystem, helping the platform’s approximately 10 million users earn rewards for their in-game efforts and progress.
Designed to be accessible, Cosmic Champs looks to leverage the speed and cost-efficiency of the Algorand blockchain, while providing an exciting, mobile-first experience.
There are four main classes of the NFTs in the game:
- Champs: Regular and NFT champs are used for participating in the game's battle mechanics and can be won in battle.
- Ships: Used for exploring the Cosmic Champs universe and traveling to play-to-earn arenas (i.e. planets). The stats and cosmetics of ships can be upgraded.
- Planets: These are player-owned assets that are used for PvP battlegrounds, earning the owners a fraction of the spoils following each battle.
- Treasure: Cosmic Gold tokens (COSG) and various NFT-backed rewards can be discovered across the Cosmic Champs universe.
Cosmic Champs is unusual among play-to-earn games in that it features real-time battles and esports tournaments. It’s also rare in that it’s being designed with a ‘gameplay first’ ethos in mind — ensuring that it’s fun to play, while still being rewarding.
Like most P2E games, Cosmic Champs rewards users in its own native utility token — in this case, known as Cosmic Gold ($COSG). This token has a variety of functions within the Cosmic Champs gameworld and ecosystem, being used for staking, NFT purchases, and community governance.
One of the few blockchain-based multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, Thetan Arena is looking to take on the likes of Dota 2, Smite, and League of Legends with an esports title that allows users to team up and battle other players to earn real revenue from their skills.
As a MOBA, Thetan Arena requires players to work as a team to battle their way through a variety of different game modes, including Battle Royale, Superstar, Tower Seige and more.
The game combines a variety of tried-and-tested elements, including staking, guilds, in-game pets, streaming, and more to provide what could be one of the first mass-market play to earn games.
Players are rewarded for their skills and teamwork with a variety of NFTs and gTHC — depending on the results of each match and the rarity of the participating heroes (and their skins).
According to the official roadmap, 42 player battle royale mode will be available in Q1 2022, whereas additional game modes including co-op and tournaments will go live throughout the remainder of 2022.
One of the few blockchain-enabled MMORPGs, Untamed Isles is an ambitious title that is reminiscent of the massively popular Monster Hunter game series.
The game blends monster hunting, taming, breeding, fighting, and collecting gameplay with a turn-based MMORPG to produce a deep, captivating experience for players.
Unlike many other play-to-earn games, Untamed Isles is designed to be a social experience, allowing players to form parties, join guilds, navigate its open world together and participate in quests. It also features voice chat functionality to help players better connect.
Every monster found on the isles can be captured, tamed, as well as mixed and matched with others through a powerful breeding system to create unique results — such as new looks, skills and moves. This can be further augmented with the various equipment available in the game.
Besides simply capturing and battling monsters, players can also participate in a range of other activities, including fishing, guild-based territory battles, dungeons, PvP battles, and more.
Three Up-and-Coming NFT Games to Watch
Guild of Guardians
Guild of Guardians is a fantasy-themed role-playing game where the familiar model of building a team of heroes, completing quests in dungeons and earning resources is played out. As with other games, collecting resources allows in-game items to be crafted, which could be turned for a profit. However, Guild of Guardians, as the name suggests, focuses heavily on building communities – or guilds in this case. Guardians team up to compete against in-game challenges, and in return they get to earn Gem – the native currency of the game.
Furthermore, the game developers want the game to be play-to-earn – but not at the expense of other players. There is no PVP gameplay in Guild of Guardians; players compete against monsters in dungeons, hence users do not need to spend money to beat other players.
Neon District is a role-playing game (RPG) that allows users to collect characters, gears and crafts. Like all the games highlighted in this guide, the in-game items and characters featured on Neon District are NFTs. As such, the in-game items found on Neon District are essentially digital collectibles backed on the blockchain. You have the right to monetize your participation by selling earned or purchased in-game assets to other players.
The goal is to build a team and compete against other players in missions or real-time combats. One multiplayer competitive game mode, called Neon Pizza, in particular, pitches players against each other for the chance of earning the platform’s native token – Neon, gears, parts and so on. All you need to do is send your characters on pizza delivery runs to feed hungry citizens. You can also take up a more villainous strategy by ambushing the pizza delivery team of other players and stealing their earnings.
The earnings, which are denominated in Neon, can be used to purchase characters, weapons, parts, armors, juice and other in-game items required to upgrade characters.
Other Popular NFT Games
From our list, you will notice that NFT crypto games adopt popular gaming genres, albeit in combination with blockchain elements, particularly ideal for establishing rarity and uniqueness. As such, NFT games are not all that difficult to play. They are also enjoyable and highly rewarding, as in the case of Axie Infinity, where some players are able to earn a decent income.