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Is Rivals of Aether Free? The Complete Lowdown

Hey friend! If you‘re wondering whether you can download and play Rivals of Aether for free, I‘ve got your answer: Unfortunately no, Rivals of Aether is not a free-to-play game.

You have to purchase it, typically for around $20-30 bucks depending on the platform and sales. I know, bummer right? Who doesn‘t love a good free game? But don‘t tune out just yet!

Even as a paid game, Rivals of Aether is an indie smash hit that any platform fighter fan or couch competition enthusiast should consider picking up. Let me walk you through everything you need to know to decide if it‘s worth buying.

What Exactly is Rivals of Aether?

For those unfamiliar, Rivals of Aether is an indie fighting game released in 2017 by Dan Fornace and Aether Studios. It draws clear inspiration from Nintendo‘s Super Smash Bros series while putting its own unique spin on the genre.

Some key facts about Rivals of Aether:

  • Genre – Platform fighter/brawler, just like Smash Bros
  • Graphics – Retro pixel art style with lots of charm
  • Starting Roster – 8 animal-themed fighters
  • Playable Modes – Online & local versus, story mode, co-op, more
  • Platforms – PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

So in a nutshell, Rivals lets you battle it out using cute animal fighters with elemental powers, like lions, birds, and rock golems. Up to 4 players can face off locally or online. There‘s even a surprisingly deep single-player adventure mode that unlocks lore and extras.

While clearly inspired by Smash Bros, Rivals of Aether sets itself apart with faster, more technical mechanics, better combos, and dynamic edgeguarding off-stage. The pixel graphics are gorgeous too!

But the lack of familiar faces like Mario or Pikachu takes some getting used to. The starting roster is small at just 8 fighters, though more get added as paid DLC over time.

Okay, now that you know what Rivals is all about, let‘s look at…

Why Rivals of Aether Isn‘t Free

I get the question all the time from my gamer friends – "Rivals looks so cool! Is there a way to download and play for free?"

It‘s wishful thinking on their part, because unfortunately Rivals of Aether has no free trial or demo. Unlike some other popular fighting games, the developers have chosen to stick with a traditional paid model.

According to Rivals creator Dan Fornace, here are the primary reasons they‘ve avoided going free-to-play:

  • Prevent cheating & hacking – F2P opens the door for more cheaters ruining the online experience.

  • Engine limitations – Rivals uses a proprietary game engine that may not easily support a F2P framework.

  • Small team – The solo dev team lacks resources to build out and maintain a F2P game.

  • Current sales model works – The game has sold well enough as a paid title + DLC. If it ain‘t broke…

For a niche indie game like Rivals, I can understand the rationale here. But Fornace does mention possibly revisiting free-to-play in the future as a way to expand the player base. So never say never!

For now though, you gotta pay-to-play when it comes to Rivals of Aether. Next let‘s look at what it‘ll cost ya…

How Much Does Rivals of Aether Cost?

Rivals of Aether retails for $19.99 USD on all platforms. But it frequently goes on sale at 50% off or more, bringing it down to $9.99 or under. Definitely try and snag it on sale!

There‘s also a Definitive Edition that bundles the base game with all current and future DLC for $29.99. Again, look for sales here.

Speaking of DLC, Rivals took the approach of releasing new fighters, cosmetics, and other content in small paid packs over time. There are currently 5 additional fighters beyond the starting 8, costing $3.99 individually or included in the Definitive Edition.

Some people grumble about paying extra for new characters. But compared to AAA fighting games that charge $40+ for the base game and still have paid DLC, Rivals feels reasonably priced to me.

Buying Rivals piecemeal can add up though. You‘re looking at $50+ if you get all the DLC down the road. So I recommend the Definitive Edition if you plan to play for the long haul.

Can You Play Rivals of Aether For Free?

I know you must still be wondering…is there any way to play Rivals free? A demo at least? Well, unfortunately there is no official free version or trial. However, there are a couple options:

Lovers of Aether mobile spin-off

Fornace and crew cooperated with some mobile devs to create Lovers of Aether, a free-to-play mobile game using Rivals characters and lore. It‘s a stripped down, casualized take perfect for phones and tablets. Well worth downloading for some on-the-go Rivals action!

Steam sales & refunds

Steam does offer full refunds on any game with under 2 hours played. You could technically buy Rivals on sale, try it out briefly for free, then refund if desired. But I in no way recommend abusing this policy!

Rivals Modding Community

The Rivals mod scene is huge and pumps out high quality fan-made characters and content. While you need the base game to use mods, it significantly expands the experience for free by letting you play as Master Chief, Waluigi, or whoever you want!

So while not fully free-to-play, there are some viable free options to get a taste of the Rivals of Aether experience. But ultimately, you gotta put down the cash if you want hundreds of hours of content and competition.

Speaking of value…is Rivals worth buying?

Is Rivals of Aether Worth the Price?

As a fellow gamer, I can safely say in my opinion Rivals of Aether is absolutely worth the $20-30 asking price, especially when on sale. Here‘s a quick pro/con breakdown:


  • Extremely polished platform fighter gameplay. Easy to learn, hard to master.
  • Gorgeous pixel art style. Lots of charm and personality.
  • Fun animal-themed roster that feels totally unique.
  • Excellent online play when you want competition.
  • Surprisingly decent single-player content.
  • Active mod support expands the game.


  • Smaller player base than AAA fighters.
  • Steep learning curve for newbies. Expect to lose a lot at first!
  • Only 13 characters (+ variants). Roster feels small.
  • Story mode‘s lore and platforming fall flat.

As a Smash devotee, the crisp platform fighter gameplay pulls me in every time. And the beautiful pixel graphics are icing on the cake. Plus, online competition stays fierce thanks to rollback netcode that keeps matches smooth as butter.

That said, get ready for a trial-by-fire as you learn the complex mechanics, especially if new to the platform fighting scene. Stick with it though, and you‘ll be pulling off hype combos and edgeguards in no time!

For less than the cost of a night out at the bar, Rivals delivers endless hours of competitive gaming goodness. So what are you waiting for? Smash that buy button!

Which Platforms Can You Get Rivals of Aether On?

Rivals of Aether is available on pretty much every modern gaming platform except mobile (for now). Here‘s the full breakdown:

Steam (Windows, Mac, Linux)

The Steam version is the way to go if you want the biggest online community, mod support, and fastest updates. Full cross-play with Xbox is a nice bonus too. Downside is Rivals has some jank with Steam Deck controls and performance.

Current players online: 150-400

Xbox One

Thanks to Microsoft‘s indie friendliness, Rivals is right at home on Xbox One. The console crowd brings a more casual vibe compared to Steam tryhards. Crossplay is seamless. Just know the player base is smaller.

Current players online: 20-100

Nintendo Switch

Surprisingly feature rich! Motion controls, local wireless play, and exclusive co-op modes make this a great way to play on the big screen or in handheld. Too bad no crossplay. Still a lively community of players.

Current players online: 50-250

Can‘t go wrong with any version, though I recommend PC if you want the most competitive experience and mod goodness. Consoles are great for couch competition!

Helpful First-Timer Tips

If you do take the plunge into Rivals‘ stylish pixel-art world, here are some pro tips to get you started:

  • Do the tutorials! Don‘t skip them. The tutorials are critical to learn mechanics.

  • Try every character! Get a feel for the whole roster before picking a main.

  • Expect to lose A LOT at first. Don‘t get discouraged. You‘ll improve faster than you think.

  • Join Newbies Discord to find other beginners and helpful vets. The community is welcoming.

  • Watch tournament VODs to learn from the pros. Copy combos and strategies you see.

Rivals has a steep learning curve, but suck it up through those early beatdowns, and I promise you‘ll be pulling off sweet 0-to-death combos before you know it!

Common Questions from Fellow Gamers

I get a lot of the same questions from friends about Rivals of Aether. Here‘s quick answers to some frequent ones:

Q: Will Rivals ever go free-to-play?

A: Maybe someday, but no plans for it currently. The devs seem set on the premium model.

Q: Does it work on Mac/Linux?

A: Yep! The Steam version supports Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.

Q: How does it compare to Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl?

A: Rivals has a higher skill ceiling and is more polished overall. NASB is more casual friendly if you want to mash buttons with the characters you grew up with.

Q: Can you play Rivals locally with friends?

A: For sure! Up to 4-player local multiplayer is supported. This is how I play most of the time. Online is great but nothing beats trash talking your buds next to you.

Q: Is there a story mode? Is it any good?

A: There is a story mode with some light platforming between fights. Honestly the lore and levels are pretty weak. But it unlocks cool stuff!

Q: What are the best characters for beginners?

A: Kragg the rock golem is a very straightforward character that‘s noob friendly. Avoid technical characters like Forsburn or Zetterburn when starting out.

And there you have it, the complete lowdown on Rivals of Aether and whether you can play for free. Let me know if you have any other questions! Despite being a premium game only, Rivals delivers incredibly fun and deep platform fighter gameplay that provides hundreds of hours of competitive entertainment. I highly recommend giving it a shot, especially when it‘s on sale. Trust me, you won‘t regret it!

See you in the arena, my friend! May the best animal win.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.