Play-to-earn (P2E) games are at the intersection of crypto gaming and decentralized finance. They provide ecosystems that reward players for interacting with crypto games by either gamifying decentralized finance strategies or integrating them into regular gameplay.
Various games use different mechanisms to create profitable ecosystems, however, not all are sustainable. Because the space is relatively new, many games get it wrong, while some are downright scams.
Our guide will help navigate this new world of financially profitable games. It explores 10 of the best play-to-earn crypto games on the market right now, highlights their pros and cons, and renders a verdict for why we picked them.
1. Axie Infinity – Best Play-to-Earn Game
2. Gala Games – Best Play-to-Earn Gaming Studio
3. Alien Worlds – Best Space Exploration Game
4. Illuvium – Best Auto Battler Game
5.Star Atlas– Biggest Space Exploration Game
6. DeFi Kingdoms – Best P2E Game with High Earning Potential
7. Splinterlands – Best Card-Based Game
8. Genopets – Best Original Play-to-Earn Game
9. Nine Chronicles – Best Role Playing Game
10. UPvsDOWN– Best New Style Game
Axie Infinity is a turn-based game that involves cute, furry little creatures called Axies that battle one another for rewards. The aim is to buy, breed, upgrade Axies, and ultimately win battles.
Players begin the game by buying a team of Axies (i.e. three Axies) and battling them or upgrading them by purchasing Runes and Charms on the marketplace. If you cannot buy three Axies, you can get a starting set for free. However, they are usually quite basic and will need enhancements to fight formidable opponents.
While the game started as a turn-based PVP battler, it has evolved into a Metaverse with five distinct games, all centered around Axies.
Why Play Axie Infinity?
Axie Infinity is popular for ushering in the age of play-to-earn. It was the first major crypto game with P2E mechanics that actually worked and was sustainable. In fact, news of people in the Philippines who earned a living playing the game spread across the industry.
Earning Potential of Axie Infinity
The earning potential of Axie Infinity is still quite high, despite the growth in players over the years. You can earn rewards by winning battles, staking, and land staking.
Battle rewards are paid out in Smooth Love Potion (SLP), an in-game currency that has real-world value. As of writing, one SLP is worth $0.0014, and can be used to upgrade Axies.
You can also earn staking rewards from the game’s governance token called Axie Infinity Shard (AXS) which is worth $4.46 as of writing. Staking rewards are currently at 34% per annum.
Lastly, you can stake Land and also earn a reward. Alternatively, you can use land, which are NFTs, to grow food and other resources needed to feed and upgrade Axies. Stronger Axies win more battles and earn more SLP.
You can buy AXS on exchanges like eToro.
Gala Games is the gaming arm of Gala, a Web3 entertainment studio that creates gaming, music, and film experiences, secured by the blockchain and powered by NFTs.
The gaming arm has published several games, two of which have garnered popularity in the play-to-earn space, earning the studio a place on our list. These games are TownStar and Spider Tanks.
TownStar (now called Common Ground) is a town-building game where you use the few resources (and virtual cash) you get when starting to produce as many products as needed to keep your town running and revenue flowing. You can build petrol refineries, bakeries, nuclear power plants, and much more.
The goal is to not run out of cash needed to run your town. If you achieve all the weekly objectives before the week runs out, you earn rewards.
Spider Tanks, on the other hand, is a PVP battler game where you battle your tank against other players’ (or teams). To begin, you need a tank, which is an NFT that you own. The more battles you win, the more rewards you earn.
Why Play Gala Games?
Gala Games has several games in its lineup with more on the way. You can play any of the available games and earn Gala by winning battles. An ecosystem of multiple games will provide multiple earning opportunities.
Earning Potential of Gala Games
Gala Games has significant earning potential as you could earn from the multiple games in the studio’s lineup. All games rely on Gala and pay rewards.
Alien Worlds is a space exploration game that involves explorers who traverse the metaverse, discover new planets, scavenge for resources, and earn rewards.
Planets, spaceships, tools, and weapons are all NFTs that are fully owned by you, allowing you to buy planets and mine them for resources and, ultimately, Trillium, the Metaverse’s in-game currency.
Alien Worlds has proven its ability to retain users over long periods. It has ranked among the top three on Dapp Radar’s list of games with over 200,000 unique active crypto wallets within the last 30 days, 270 million transactions worth a combined volume of $3.15 million.
Alien World has a healthy earning potential as it spans across two blockchain networks, i.e., the Binance Smart Chain and Wax blockchain networks. You can access liquidity and rewards from both ecosystems.
Illuvium is another alien-inspired game that follows an explorer who traverses the landscape of an alien planet (called Illuvium), gathers resources, and battles monsters called Illuvials.
While the game may have started as an autobattler, it has evolved into a universe with three distinct games, Illuvium Overworld, Illuvium Zero, and Illuvium Arena.
Illuvium Arena is a PVP battle game where you pit your Illuvials against other players’. The game is an auto battler where energy stats carry more weight than skill, so you can fast forward through the battles to the prizes, provided your monsters are strong enough.
Illuvium Zero is a world-building game where you can buy land and mine resources that can be sold on the marketplace or used in some form to earn rewards.
Illuvium Overworld is an exploratory game where you discover the wonders of the Illuvium planet and find and collect new monsters that can be used to battle in the arena.
Illuvium is a game with potential thanks to its AAA-level graphics, multiple opportunities to earn rewards, and ownership structure thanks to NFTs. You can earn rewards in the game’s native token, ILV, by staking on land and winning battles.
Illuvium’s earning potential may not be as high as some others on this list, however, it is still a lucrative venture, provided you take the time to explore and collect powerful Illuvials. You can also buy Illuvials on NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, upgrade them, and resell them for a profit.
Star Atlas is a space exploration and strategy game executed on a scale that trumps other space-themed games on this list. The game, which is still in beta, features AAA graphics using Unreal Engine 5, a vast expanse of virtual space containing multiple planets and species, and entire thriving in-game economies.
You, an explorer, can buy spaceships, tools, and equipment that you will use to explore the vast Metaverse, gather resources, and exert influence in intergalactic politics.
The game uses two tokens, ATLAS, which is used to pay staking, and mining rewards and is the major marketplace currency, and POLIS, which is used for governance and can be staked to gain influence which is useful in voting in the Star Atlas DAO.
Start Atlas is one of the most ambitious space exploration games ever, not just in the crypto industry. The game is shaping up to be more of a AAA game with crypto mechanics than a crypto game with great graphics.
The sheer scale of the game’s intended execution creates multiple opportunities for users to earn. You can be an explorer who discovers planets, mines resources and sells them on the marketplace. Alternatively, you could stake POLIS and earn rewards.
DeFi Kingdoms is one of the oldest play-to-earn games that launched before P2E was an official thing. The game follows heroes (controlled by players) that traverse medieval kingdoms, gathering food and resources, and battling one another.
We’ll admit that the game’s graphics are not the best to look at, but what it lacks in captivating visuals, it makes up for in earning potential.
DeFi Kingdoms is a form of gamified DeFi where decentralized finance activities like staking and providing liquidity are gamified to make them simple to execute for the layman. Hence, the game’s mechanics allow users to engage in profitable DeFi project activities while enjoying intriguing gameplay.
While DeFi Kingdoms may not be the only project to gamify decentralized finance, it is a leader by a wide margin. The game’s smart contracts interact with roughly 37,000 unique active wallets that process about $2 million in volume on a monthly basis.
As of writing, DeFi Kingdom’s smart wallets hold about $40 million worth of user funds, and seeing as almost every quest or challenge is a DeFi strategy that earns yields, opportunities abound.
Splinterlands is a collectible card trading game with multiplayer capabilities, blockchain mechanics, and high-earning capabilities. The game is similar to the Pokemon cards games where players collect valuable cards with various abilities, rarities, and affinities.
The goal is to assemble a deck that is stronger than other players’ decks and then defeat them in a turn-based card battle. There are more than 500 cards, all of which possess one of four rarities, one of seven elements, and one of 64+ abilities.
Similar to DeFi Kingdoms, Splinterlands has been around for a while and has been able to retain its ranking thanks to the numerous opportunities it presents to earn rewards. The game has a 30-day average of 133,000 wallets that connect to and transact with its smart contracts.
Splinterlands has paid more than $7 million in tournament prizes alone. You can also buy cards in the marketplace, upgrade them and trade them later for a profit. If you wish to hold on to valuable cards, you can rent them to other players for a daily fee.
Genopets is a special type of play-to-earn game called move-to-earn that rewards you for physical movements, usually the number of steps you take or the number of kilometers you run.
Move-to-earn games are similar to fitness apps that count your steps or track your run distance, however, they go further by rewarding you with crypto. Genopets goes even further by including more gameplay and reward mechanisms.
The game begins by purchasing an NFT called a Genopet. These pets are powered by your movements which are converted to energy that can be used to upgrade your pet. The more XP your pet has, the stronger it becomes. You can then battle it against other pets to win prizes.
To unlock the earning feature, you must buy a habitat where you can craft power-ups which can be used to upgrade your Genopet. Crystals obtained from your habitat can also be sold on the in-game marketplace.
When you buy land, you can then convert your steps to KI, an in-game currency used to reward users.
Genopets puts an innovative spin on fitness. It encourages people to stay fit and active by rewarding them with crypto. However, it does so in a sustainable way as you can continuously bank steps, upgrade, and battle for real-world cash.
Genopets’s smart contracts connect with about 7,000 wallets on a monthly basis that process roughly $26,000 worth of transactions. While this may not be life-changing, it does make the game a great choice for side income.
Nine Chronicles is a blockchain-powered role-playing game (RPG) that follows characters traveling across and exploring the nine regions of the land of Yggdrasil. The game is adventure-themed with swords, shields, and medieval-style characters.
You can explore the mysterious regions of Yggdrasil, collect rare materials and artifacts, forge powerful weapons and tools, and take down terrifying bosses. As usual, tools and weapons are NFTs that are owned by you.
You can also challenge other players to championship battles in the arena and win rewards for victories, or team up with other players to defeat world bosses.
Nine Chronicles has attracted a large player base with roughly 57,000 wallets connecting to and making transactions worth around $470,000 per month. The barrier to entry is low as you don’t need a wallet or crypto to begin.
Nine Chronicles has a sustainable economic system that goes full circle. Players explore the regions and pick up materials that can be used for weapons and tools. These tools can be sold on the marketplace for the native currency, Nine Chronicle Gold (NCG).
NCG can then be staked to earn wrapped NCG (an erc-20 crypto version which can be sold) and Balancer’s native token, BAL. Earning on Nine Chronicles is as simple as choosing which point in the value chain you wish to enter.
UPvsDOWN is a decentralized betting game that allows you to bet on the direction of Bitcoin’s price at the end of a 25-second period. The price of Bitcoin will either go up or down. Your job is to try to guess the right direction.
There are pools for both directions. To join a pool, you have to wager at least 5 MATIC, but you can wager up to 200 MATIC. At the end of the 25-second betting period, the price of Bitcoin is logged and then logged again after 10 seconds. Both prices are compared and the pool that guesses correctly wins.
UPvsDOWN is a straightforward way to win cash while playing a blockchain game. The game’s smart contracts are all on-chain for transparency and the price closely tracks the aggregate in the market (we checked).
You’re also not alone as over 2,000 wallets have connected with the game’s smart contracts in the last 30 days, moving over $60 million worth of volume.
UPvsDOWN has an incredibly high earning potential as the liquidity is provided by other players and the volume stats show that players are pumping in volumes.
Play-to-earn crypto games are crypto games that integrate decentralized finance strategies and mechanics into their gameplay so that players can profit from playing. The goal is to make playing the game profitable so that people keep coming back and contributing to the ecosystem.
Continued contributions by numerous parties ultimately lead to a stable ecosystem that mimics an economy that continually creates value for all parties involved.
While different games use various strategies to achieve this virtual economy, the key point is that the model works and is sustainable.
Different play-to-earn games work in different ways, however, all their activities are focused on creating real financial value through gameplay.
Usually, players will need to get involved in some form of gameplay, be it battles, tournaments, foraging, or more to unlock the earning features. Most games use native tokens as the primary form of value transfer. These tokens are used to reward players for completing tasks that help further the game.
To create demand (and some counterbalance), games will often require users to spend these tokens to either unlock certain features, buy characters, or upgrade powers and weapons.
These tokens can then be exchanged for cash at a rate usually determined by games’ perceived values or by how much demand for them is created inside and outside the game.
Earning crypto is the whole point of play-to-earn games. Virtually all games reward players in crypto. Most use native tokens but some reward players in Ethereum. You can earn crypto by:
The only way to verify a play-to-earn game in an absolute way is to examine its smart contracts to ensure the game does what it says it does and that it is secure. Seeing as most people do not have the skills (or time) to pull this off, you’ll have to rely on other factors.
One of these factors is a game’s backers. Games that have the backing of huge VC firms are less likely to crash, at least not as easily as those without. However, this is not a guarantee as the goal of VC funding is to generate profit for the firm, not primarily for the users.
Another is partnerships with real-world brands. Games that have partnerships with big brands are less likely to crash and are legit as these companies usually have access to information that regular users don’t.
If brands are willing to partner with a game, it is because they have seen certain elements that point to profitability or longevity.
Move-to-earn games reward users for physical motion. They are usually integrated into either walking or fitness applications that incentivize users to use the applications by essentially paying them to move.
Some games in this category may require you to buy an NFT to begin, like a pair of digital sneakers. You may also be required to turn on your GPS feature so the app can track your movements.
Open worlds are usually metaverses that provide a platform for builders to create games and experiences, and for users to own land. Metaverses can be rewarding as builders can create assets that are sold on internal marketplaces.
You can join games in open worlds, win gems, and sell them on the marketplaces to earn money.
Autobattlers are games that are built around battles, but have an auto function that runs through them automatically. The battles are not dependent on skill or strategy, but on power levels, special weapons, and affinities.
The goal is to increase your character’s power level and then battle them against other players with lower power levels and win prizes which can be sold for cash.
Strategy games include card games and other 2D or 3D games that involve strategy. They can be turn-based (like card games) or live-like farming or town-building games. They usually involve gathering cards and resources, and using them to win battles and tournaments.
The safety of play-to-earn games depend on the security of their smart contracts, the soundness of their economic models, and the builders’ ability to grow the game and attract users.
Smart contract hacks are common in crypto, and often lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. While getting smart contracts certified by security experts is a good first step, there are cases where certified smart contracts have been breached.
One viable way to protect from this, for people without technical skills, is to stick to games from established developers and studios. They usually have more experience writing secure smart contract code and usually have a treasury that could be used to make users whole in cases of breaches.
The best way to know if an economic model is sound in the long term is to create a data simulation to test it. Seeing as this is beyond the scope of the average reader (and this guide), we’ll focus more on factors like inflation.
Inflationary tokens tend to decrease in value over time. If the token used for rewards is inflationary, then the dollar value of rewards decreases over time. If this is the major incentive for gameplay, then it is unsustainable as players will eventually stop playing as the dollar value of rewards dwindles.
Taxes due on play-to-earn cryptos depend on the laws in the region you live in. Some countries view cryptos earned in games as income and subject them to the prevailing income tax rates.
In regions like the US, the purchase and sale of in-game NFTs are taxable events as they are considered crypto-to-crypto trades which usually incur a capital gain or loss depending on the fair market value at the point of disposal compared to the value when the NFT was first purchased or received.
All cryptos earned in a game are treated as income and taxed as such based on its fair market value at the time it is received, at least in the US. If the crypto increases in price before you sell, you may also have to pay crypto capital gains tax on the difference.
If the crypto decreases in value, you may be able to claim capital loss deductions in your tax report.
Ultimately, the taxability of play-to-earn cryptos depends on the laws in your region. You may want to engage the services of a licensed tax professional in your region.
To connect to P2E games, you’ll need a crypto wallet. We used MetaMask for this guide. You can download the mobile app, but we recommend the browser extension because most games are browser based.
Navigate to the MetaMask website and click on Download. Select the version you wish to download, i.e. the browser extension, and create a new wallet. Ensure you write your seed phrase down and keep it safe (and offline).
You’ll need some crypto to use to buy NFTs or play many of the crypto games. MetaMask has integrated onramps for you to buy crypto with your credit card or through Binance’s p2p market. Alternatively, you can transfer to your wallet address from a centralized exchange or another wallet.
Navigate to a game and connect your wallet. For this guide, we connected to DeFi Kingdoms. The game is in-browser so you can easily connect with your browser extension.
Once the game loads, you will be asked to connect your wallet. Do so. Note that you may need to add the network the game is on if not already connected. For example, DeFi Kingdoms is built on the Harmony network, although some parts are on an Avalanche subnet.
We explored 10 of the best play-to-earn crypto games and chose Axie Infinity as the best overall because of its proven P2E mechanics, enjoyable gameplay, metaverse expansion, and large player base.
The game generates impressive earnings for its most dedicated players, but casual players can get some side change. It has also been found to be safe and not contain malware, provided you download the official versions from the website.
However, if Axie Infinity isn’t your style, you can try any of the other nine we covered. To begin playing, you may need to know how to buy Ethereum as many of these games run on Ethereum or its derivatives.
The tokens covered in this guide were chosen through rigorous research and reviews. We paid attention to security, transparency, reputation, gameplay, tokenomics, and competitive edge.
The tokens listed are the best we found in the various categories we listed them. For example, we listed Genopets as the best original P2E game as their concept of using virtual pets to harness movement had never been done in the move-to-earn space.
Check out our why trust us and how we test pages for more information on our testing process.