Play-to-earn. Blockchain games. Cryptocurrency gaming.
You may have heard these terms before and been intrigued. You might have wondered, “What is this new technology, and can people actually earn money playing video games?”
You wouldn’t be alone. While most people think of earning money as a grind and involve putting on business casual clothes, today’s landscape is shifting. Think about this: During the pandemic when there was sky-high unemployment in different parts of the world, many people didn’t turn to Fiverr or search for a job flipping burgers.
They went online to a realm within cryptocurrency and earned money playing video games.
In this article, we cover the 10 Best NFT games that have either been released or soon will be. And when we cover them in our blockchain game reviews, we will explain how some people are making tens of thousands just by playing these games, and how you can too.
The 10 Best NFT Games
These NFT games are the best of the best, the leaders in today’s field. You’ll see some familiar names on this list and some you may not have heard of.
Some are RPGs, others racing. Some turn-based, others more free-flowing. The best combine graphics, in-game economy, and stellar gameplay. And there are more than newcomers on this list too. We’ve got some OGs that’ll make you want to take a few free hours and get immersed in their worlds.
Because many heavy-hitting games will be released in 2022, we reserved the last two spots for games that haven’t launched yet.
Scroll down for the first game on the list — the formidable Axie Infinity.
#1 – Axie Infinity
- Release date: March 2018
- Game type: Turn-based combat
Axie Infinity, released in March of 2018, has supplanted previous top NFT games to become the undisputed #1. According to one account, this turn-based combat game approached nearly 2 million daily users in August of 2021, proving its gameplay is addictive.
One report suggests that the total volume of the Axie marketplace since inception is over $2.3 billion. The company behind Axie — Sky Mavis —recently raised $152 million in Series B funding to bring its valuation to $3 billion.
Axie Infinity is popular in part due to its addictive gameplay. In the game, a player uses a team of three Axies (small, Pokemon-like creatures) to wage battles against other players. The gameplay is turn-based, meaning one player makes their move without interruption before the other player gets their turn to make their move.
A player can also level up their Axies in Adventure Mode, helping their Axies gain experience and strength. One of the main play-to-earn components of Axie Infinity is breeding. A player can mate two Axies together to create offspring, which they can then sell on the open market.
Like other NFT games, Axie Infinity has a strong economy with a marketplace that allows users to purchase Axies, land, items, or bundles. All marketplace items are in Ether (the native cryptocurrency of the blockchain Ethereum).
So how do you get started playing Axie Infinity? Fortunately, the process is easy.
The main assets you need are three Axies. They can be of any type, but the only way to accumulate them is to purchase them directly from the marketplace. Right now, those three purchases would cost around $270. After purchasing, you need to fill out an application with the Axie team before entering the game and playing.
#2 – Splinterlands
- Release date: October 2018
- Game type: Battle trading card
Splinterlands, a battle trading card game, saw a surge in popularity this summer along with the overall NFT boom. The game has been among the highest in daily active users and is helpful for beginners as no cryptocurrency knowledge is required to start playing.
From a play-to-earn perspective, Splinterlands is no slouch. One player even turned his initial $10 payment into $17,000. While other gains may be more modest, the game has income growth potential.
Splinterlands is similar to other strategy and combat trading card games: Each card has several stats that are used during battle or when fighting in tournaments. You can receive cards via drops from the company behind the game or purchase them directly on the marketplace.
That marketplace has many other items, including potions, booster packs, and card skins. While the in-game Splinterlands currency is called Dark Energy Crystals (DEC), you can purchase the items with various cryptocurrencies, gift cards, and even PayPal.
Splinterlands also has issued a governance token called $SPS, which allows holders to vote on future tournaments, quests, storylines, events, and more. The best way to earn $SPS is to stake items within the game itself, which will earn a staker $SPS airdropped into their wallet.
The game has a marketplace set up on its website but the main secondary marketplace is AtomicHub. Packs can start for as low as $46, while an individual card might right you as little as $2. A plot of land is a little more expensive. The cheapest land claim on AtomicHub is $648 at the time of this writing.
To get started in Splinterlands, you first need to go to the game’s website and set up an account. You can either create a username and password or connect a compatible wallet. Then the game will prompt you to buy a “spellbook” for $10 and you can start battling soon after that.
#3 – Gods Unchained
- Release date: November 2018
- Game type: Battle trading card
Gods Unchained, which opened for closed beta in November of 2018, bills itself as a free-to-play-to-earn (F2P2E) trading card game where you start with a gifted number of cards and can work your way up to accumulating more cards through winning battles and tournaments.
The open marketplace shows prices for individual cards as low as $1 and others extremely expensive. They fall into several different categories depending on the god, the tribe, the battle specifications, and more.
The game itself involves battling with trading cards, and players need to adopt a strategic mindset to beat their opponent. There are elements like the “bag of tricks” that attempt to balance out the fight, given that one player in the battle will always be ranked higher than the other.
Each card has a few specifications, including health, mana, strength, or another attribute. How and when to use them depends on the player’s strategy and the cards they have at their disposal.
To earn money, a player needs to acquire the main asset in the game — the trading cards. The more cards a player accumulates, the more weapons they have in their arsenal to win more games or the more assets they have to sell on the open market.
The NFT gaming platform has frequent tournaments players can enter to win more cards or level up their ranking. And players can directly invite another player to battle too, creating a community atmosphere amidst game participants.
Gods Unchained also has plans to release a token ($GODS), which will be airdropped to early adopters of the platform and end-of-year tournament participants.
To get started with Gods Unchained, simply head over to its site and set up an account. After you do, the game will give you a starter deck. It explains the differences between the gods and tribes so that you have some basic knowledge when starting.
If you are a little leery about entering a battle against a human opponent right away, you can face the computer to get your skills up.
#4 – Zed Run
- Release date: January 2019
- Game type: Racing
Zed Run, the futuristic horse racing game, is one of the oldest play-to-earn games on this list, launching in January of 2019. It combines a mix of in-game economy, races, and graphics to create a memorable experience for players.
And it is no slouch in the earnings department either. Some players have earned hundreds of thousands playing Zed Run, so much that the game became the talk of the NFT community in early 2021.
As recently as this past summer, the company behind Zed Run — Virtually Human Studio — raised $20 million in Series A funding to continue to develop the game.
To give a quick overview, Zed Run is a horse racing game that employs in-game dynamics like breeding to create an environment where you can race, breed, and sell digital horses. The horses come from four different lineages and have many traits.
You can race them in different classes, with almost all races having an entry fee. All the entry fees are pooled together, and the top three finishers get a percentage of the pot. There are other ways to make money as well — by breeding two horses to create offspring or renting out your male horse to mate with other female horses (called a stud fee).
You can sell the horses on the Zed Run marketplace or OpenSea. Currently, the lowest-priced horse is $33. Some horses have sold for tens of thousands of dollars or higher.
The graphics give off a futuristic vibe. Horses race on a track suspended high in a city, with the buildings and the race track all dark colors, and the horses themselves appearing carved out of rock.
Entering the world of Zed Run is a relatively simple process. First, you need to head to the game’s website and create an account. After you create an account, you need to connect a compatible wallet. Then, you need to purchase your first horse.
Horses are available both on the Zed Run marketplace and on OpenSea. Once you have your horse, you can start racing.
#5 – Battle Racers
- Release date: December 2019
- Game type: Racing
Battle Racers, a build-your-own vehicle racing game, launched in December 2019 and has since become one of the more interesting racing games on the blockchain. It is a unique play-to-earn crypto game because it takes place in Decentraland, the top decentralized metaverse at the moment.
The premise of the game is racing, similar to Zed Run. You can construct your racing vehicle, and there are numerous different parts with different purposes. For instance, there are different wheels, bumpers, appendages, and more available for purchase.
You can also outfit your vehicle with weapons such as missiles, which can help while competing against fellow racers. The graphics for the game are a little cartoonish, giving this arcade racing game a fun and light-hearted vibe, akin to Mario Kart.
As for the play-to-earn dynamics, you can tokenize a car on the blockchain to correspond to your account. When you win races, you can receive bonuses. These may include car parts that you can sell on secondary marketplaces like OpenSea.
To get started, you first need to have a computer compatible with Decentraland. You can get to the race track through two avenues: entry into Decentraland itself or through the game’s website.
If you’re in Decentraland, you go to the Battle Racers race track (shaped like a car), then to the car set-up section where you can create your vehicle. After you’ve created your vehicle, you walk to one of the four players’ spots (there are glowing lights underneath them), then wait for the game to start.
If you go to the game’s website, you click the “play” button to get started. It’ll take you to a server that shows how many other people are logged in. Then you need to connect a wallet (either MetaMask or Venly). The next screen will take you directly into Decentraland where you can build your car and race it.
#6 — Alien Worlds
- Release Date: December 2020
- Game type: Strategy
Alien Worlds, a “mining and exploring” blockchain game, was released in December of 2020. It has since seen a meteoric rise in popularity, gaining 3.3 million users by October of 2021 to become one of the most popular and coveted NFT games around.
Likely leading to Alien Worlds’ rise in popularity is its interesting gameplay and economics. For instance, users can mine and earn an actual cryptocurrency called Trillium by completing everyday game activities. The token is currently trading at $0.26 with a market cap of $234.6 million, so it has actual value.
This ability to earn cryptocurrency, combined with the possibility of winning NFTs through exploration, can make playing Alien Worlds quite lucrative and fun.
Alien Worlds involves a certain amount of game theory. Although you can mine Trillium and cash it out, you can also stake Trillium to go on exploratory missions, which can yield NFTs.
That means you need to use some of the Trillium for bigger rewards, a sort of delayed gratification.
Holders of the token can also vote in planetary DAOs, which is something of a governing body. There are many planetary DAOs, and all are competing for Trillium. This game element leads to alliances between people and groups, another game theory element.
Alien Worlds is unusual for a few aspects: Staking and DAOs are often not in-game functions, even among play-to-earn crypto games. The NFT game is also on three blockchains: WAX, Ethereum, and the Binance Smart Chain.
Starting your career as a Trillium miner in Alien Worlds is simple and completely free. You just go to the game’s website, click the “Play & Earn” button, and connect your WAX wallet. Then you select your avatar, create a username, and select a planet to mine.
You pick your tool to mine with (you start with a shovel and can buy or find more down the road), then click “mine!” Now, you’ve started playing the game.
#7 – Blankos Block Party
- Release Date: December 2020
- Game type: MMO
Blankos Block Party — a newcomer on the scene — launched in December of 2020 and combines high-quality graphics with quests that you can complete solo or with friends.
Blankos Block Party, while only available on PC and Mac, is a breath of fresh air into the blockchain gaming field and allows for multiple gaming options, including collection, shooting, and racing. In the game, you can collect items or characters to sell on the marketplace for actual money, making this game play-to-earn as well.
In Blankos Block Party, you have a main character, which you can suit up with skins and items. This character can go on solo quests or join up with other characters to pursue bigger challenges.
The environment of Blankos Block Party is something of a sandbox. Even though you may not have coding experience, you can create your own games within the universe for all to enjoy. The gameplay itself is fluid and not limited to simple graphics.
You have a fully formed character that you can move around using a few commands. And there is no shortage of different areas to explore and test out.
The play-to-earn dynamics in Blankos are simple and straightforward. To gain items to sell on the market, you must go on quests, which can have different objectives. If you complete the quest, you can receive NFTs that are sellable on the market. Because only PC and Mac owners can play Blankos right now, the value of the items may be limited at this time.
But make no mistake — if Blankos Block Party gets big, those OG items can be worth a great deal.
Perhaps what separates Blankos from other games is its functionality. Your character is completely moveable and can interact with the environment around it. This moveability is very different from more static turn-based games like Axie or those without the ability to move a character like Zed Run.
To get started in Blankos Block Party, you need a PC or Mac. If you have one, you can go to the Blankos Block Party website and download a launcher specific to your device. After that, you just sign-up and start exploring.
#8 – Neon District
- Release date: July 2021
- Game type: RPG/Quest
Note: Although Neon District has been out for a couple of years, the release date listed here corresponds to its move to the Polygon sidechain and a few months after the launch of its play-to-earn mechanism.
Neon District, the RPG and quest-style blockchain game, experienced one of its biggest rises in popularity this year. The game combines a storyline and combat elements to bring a different aspect of NFT gaming to viewers than other simple combat or racing-type games.
The game puts you in a futuristic city with an RPG-like situation to run through. As you move forward in the game, you gain experience and items. Neon District used to be solely on Ethereum before gas fees and slow transactions pushed it over to Polygon.
It turned out to be a fruitful choice. Once Neon District moved to that sidechain, the number of its registered users ramped up throughout the summer before the game saw an additional 5,000 unique wallets sign up at the beginning of fall.
The game has a mode called “Neon Pizza” where teams compete to deliver pizzas to different Neon District citizens. Neon Pizza involves a little bit of game theory.
Teams can choose to ambush another team delivering pizza rather than deliver a pizza themselves, potentially setting them up for greater rewards. Or a team can choose which type of citizens to deliver to, affecting reward size as well.
In the game, there is one main option for earning money: by accumulating NFT items through quests or combat. The NFTs can be sold through markets like OpenSea. While some are being sold for low prices, some have listings for hundreds of Ether.
While still in the shadow of more popular blockchain games, Neon District is still chugging along. During Q4 of 2021, they plan to add more developers and give players access to Version 2.0 of the game. The game’s public release is expected soon after that.
To play, you need to go to the Neon District website first and set up an account. After you’ve put all the information in, the game will allow you to select your first characters. Then, you start your first shift slinging pizza, and you have a few options for using the time in your work shift.
#9 – The Three Kingdoms
- Release date: [projected Q1 2022]
- Game type: RPG
The Three Kingdoms, based on the classic history of the three Chinese kingdoms that warred for dominance, is launching for passive gameplay this winter to much fanfare. The hype for this game has built steadily over time as it seeks to fill numerous gaps that previous generation NFT games have left.
While most NFT games have basic gameplay and a rudimentary storyline, The Three Kingdoms sets out to be a full-scale strategy and battle game. Your goal as a player is complete empire dominance, and you do this by waging wars against rivals. A list of in-game actions you’ll be able to perform are:
- Siege cities
- Sack cities
- Battle opponents
- Recruit characters to your army
The game is PVE for now, so you’ll play against the computer. But the GameFi plans are certainly ambitious enough to make up for the lack of human enemies. The Three Kingdoms already has two tokens — $TTK, which is the general token, and $CHI, which is the in-game token.
You can gain NFTs by conquering cities, and each step of the conquering phase has some game theory. In some instances, you may siege cities by staking NFTs or occupy cities while gaining NFTs and in-game currency. You can also monetize events in your territory, earning more in-game currency.
In addition to the enhanced play-to-earn capabilities, The Three Kingdoms promises an engrossing storyline, which many blockchain games have lacked thus far. This will be a full RPG in addition to a battle strategy game and could make a big splash in the NFT gaming market.
It is open for just passive gameplay at the moment, but you can still access the kingdom and toy around with the game. First, head to The Three Kingdoms’ website and click the button “Enter Kingdom.” A button on the upper right-hand side will prompt you to connect your wallet.
Once you’ve entered the game, you have just a couple of options: “Outskirts” and “Recruit.” Essentially, you are recruiting people for your army. You can also meet your heroes. All this must take place on the Binance Smart Chain, so having a wallet compatible with that chain is crucial for playing.
More parts of the game will open up for public play in early 2022.
#10– Wolf Game & Derivatives
- Release date: [projected Q1 2022]
- Game type: Game theory
The Wolf Game debuted late in 2021 and quickly became the talk of crypto and NFT Twitter, hooking people with its engaging game theory premise and the ability to make passive income off its in-game token $WOOL.
Soon, the game shot up the charts on OpenSea, and sales volume for the collection raced into the millions of dollars. The reason the game amassed such high sales in a short time period is its addictive premise.
The game features two sets of animals pitted against each other in the conquest for $WOOL. There are sheep, whose wool is tied to the token, and wolves, who oversee the shearing of the sheep and take a percentage while also stealing on occasion from the sheep owner’s take.
Wolf Game, while simple, had high, addictive stakes due to the amount of money that was generated. Players staked their sheep for $WOOL and could shear at any time, but stakers of wolves received 20% of any sheared $WOOL. If a sheep owner wanted to keep all their $WOOL, they could do so by unstaking their sheep.
But if they did, there was a 50% chance the wolves would steal all their $WOOL.
Wolf Game, because it is open source, has spawned off countless derivatives, including the popular Wizards & Dragons. This competition, along with some exploits found in Wolf Game code, has caused the game’s popularity to wane.
However, it still provided some juice into the crypto and NFT communities, all without much gameplay.
If you’re looking to play Wolf Game now, you’ll have to wait until the exploits are patched up and the team releases the game in Q1 of 2022. There are many derivatives similar to it that you can try. The best way to explore playing is to head to the Discord of the game you want to play and ask questions specific to the team there.
A Word on Sandbox
Now, a quick thought about Sandbox. We decided not to include it because rather than a single gaming experience, it is essentially a metaverse where you can build different experiences, including, but not limited to, gaming.
We saw it as a platform rather than a game itself.
Experts believe that blockchain gaming will be an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars if not well over $1 trillion. Blockchain games are likely to become more complex, have better graphics, and create more engrossing storylines than games on the market today.
The play-to-earn dynamics could become more interesting as well, leading to a future where some people don’t work for an employer but instead play video games to make a living.