I personally use Blender, but I’ve used 3DS max in the past. But since it actually costs money and if I’m making game/models for free I can’t see justifying the purchase.
With Blender you have a bunch of free software like MakeHuman (makes humanoid characters, MH) and MakeWalk (MW) which is by the same people as MH. MakeWalk can import MoCap files to make animations extremely easy. Blender also have a fairly good built in skeleton creation for your own custom animations.
You should get Photoshop, whether it be by more shadey terms (I’m not suggesting it, it’s just good to try out the software before buying it can be advantageous) or paying the $10/month. Or you can use Gimp which is 100% free and can do most stuff Photoshop can.
ZBrush works well with MH/Blender for making custom characters as well. The workflow would be MakeHuman → Blender → ZBrush or MK → MH if you don’t have anything you need to do in Blender.
So I’d say try the free software first THEN if you’re serious about making games, get 3DS/Maya since that is the Industries standard. Just my suggestions.