Last Updated on January 31, 2024
A website providing “free” and “preinstalled” current and retro games is gaining in popularity. But is Steamunlocked safe to use?
Quick answer: no, of course it isn’t. Steamunlocked is offering pirated copies of games – from AAA releases to the classics we’re interested in – via a Steam-like website interface. Worse still, copycat Steamunlocked sites are popping up, offering malware on top of the illegal downloads.
In short, you should avoid it, and every website offering something similar. Let’s look at the details.
What Is Steamunlocked?
Steamunlocked is a download site that presents a series of video games of different genres in a Steam Deck-like interface.
It looks good and is relatively straightforward to use, but behind the FPS, Horror, Action and Adventure and all the other categories, lurks a nasty secret.
Are there retro games on Steamunlocked?
Unfortunately, yes. We would probably ignore this site entirely if not for the fact that various classic titles are listed on Steamunlocked. These include already freely available titles such as Half-Life 2: Lost Coast to full games pirated from GOG (e.g. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron).
Steamunlocked’s collection of retro games is concerning. The retro gaming community already has a problem with piracy, and that website helps nobody.
Is Steamunlocked safe to use?
There are various valid online safety concerns about Steamunlocked:
- Malware: There are reports of malware and viruses being present in some of the files hosted on Steamunlocked.com. This could potentially harm your computer and steal your personal data.
- Security: The website itself has been criticized for having suspicious practices, such as non-functional links in their terms and conditions, raising concerns about its overall security.
- Unreliable: Download speeds can be slow and inconsistent, and games may not always work properly.
Is Steamunlocked legit?
Absolutely not. Each game’s download button links to a shady download site. These ZIP file downloads are intended to be unzipped and used immediately, without installation (this is what “preinstalled” refers to on the site).
This is piracy; downloading games from unlicensed sources like Steamunlocked is illegal and can be punishable by law.
Worse, the “preinstalled” status involves various system files being supplanted on your system for the duration of the game’s run time (if not longer). This could have immediate or long term problems for Windows users.
Are there alternatives to Steamunlocked for free games?
You can’t get through an email inbox without falling over offers for free games these days. While popular, sites like Steamunlocked are pretty irrelevant – the problem is, people just don’t know where to find free retro games legally.
We’ve previously looked at how you can play Mario free online (in your browser!), but there are many more options available. Besides Epic Games (which includes occasional remastered retro titles in its giveaways) you’ve got occasional free games from GOG, Steam, and even Amazon Prime Gaming.
And of course, when it comes to old games that have been ditched by their developers or publishers, various abandonware libraries can also be checked. (Note, however, that with the growing increase in retro gaming, many more classic titles are being reclaimed by their owners – or latter-day IP purchasers).