A cornucopia of riches
Steam Summer Sales are a great time to pick up top-notch PC games for rock-bottom prices. Case in point: There are nearly 20,000 games on discount during Valve’s 2017 sale, and nearly half of those are under $5.
But a lot of those games are junk. So we spent hours sifting through the Summer Sale’s stock to find 15 great PC games that cost less than a fiver. (Update: Make that 20 after more sifting!) These may not cost much, but each kicks a lot of ass.
Want more? Check out our roundups of 15 hidden gems under $10 and 10 Steam sale bundles that save you even more money.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor could’ve been just another Assassin’s Creed clone with silky-smooth Batman-like fisticuffs. Instead, the game’s enthralling Nemesis system turned it into something special, procedurally imbuing the enemies you encounter with unique personalities and abilities that evolve over time as you face off again and again. It really made each playthrough feel like your own.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
“Do I cut the red wire or the blue wire? The red wire or the blue wire?” It’s a classic movie trope and now it’s a superb co-op game, too. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes ($4.94 during the Steam Sale) is a delightfully tense asymmetrical game where one player attempts to defuse a complex bomb using instructions from the second player, who is reading a manual on a second PC or mobile device. And you thought charades was hard.
It’s even better in VR if you have a headset handy.
Devil Daggers is like old-school Quake mixed with the fast-paced constant enemy barrage of Geometry Wars. You will die a lot. You will die fast. But with practice, you’ll survive a little bit longer each time. It’s hellishly hard, but even more hellishly addictive. A pure adrenaline rush for $2.50 ain’t too bad.
Okay, okay, we’re cheating with this one—Steamworld Heist is $5.09 during the Steam Sale. We’ll round that down to $5, though, because this gem of a game blends elements of XCOM and Worms with badass free-aim trickshots and a steam-powered robot pirate crew. The developers pitch it as “strategy focused on skill rather than chance” and that’s a perfect summary.
Outlast 2 recently launched, and one of our biggest complaints about it was that it simply wasn’t as good as its predecessor, which became one of the most terrifying PC games ever the moment it released. If you haven’t found time to grab a night-vision camera and explore Mount Massive Asylum yet, the original Outlast is only $2.99 during the Steam Summer Sale.
Bring extra shorts.
On the other hand, Dishonored 2 released late last year and it’s damned good now that some launch day bugs have been squashed. It’s built on the shoulders of a classic, though, as the original Dishonored enthralled with its blend of a reactive, whale-fueled Steampunk world and systematic mechanics that harkened back to legends like Thief and Deus Ex. The only thing better than the first Dishonored? Its price in the Steam Summer Sale—a mere $2.50.
Metro Redux series
Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light are tense, deeply atmospheric first-person shooters set in the subways of post-apocalyptic Russia—until you’re drawn into the wastelands left on the surface. These are some of my favorite story-driven shooters of all time, with a cool STALKER-like vibe. The Redux versions polish up each game with more fetching visuals.
The games are $4.99 a pop during the Summer Sale, making this a great time to catch up on the series before the launch of Metro: Exodus. If you can only afford one, grab Metro 2033 first.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is far from new, but it’s still the best Mario Kart clone available on PC, complete with all-too-rare local multiplayer. It’s a downright steal for $4.99.
Speaking of ugly, brutal, and wonderful games, fans of tough experiences will want to check out Neo Scavenger ($3.74 during the sale).
You wake up in a wasteland with no idea what’s going on, and must survive long enough to figure out the randomized world. Saying that’s harder than it sounds would be an understatement. The game’s mechanics don’t let up, with the constant threats of hunger, weather exposure, dehydration, and devastatingly dirty no-holds-barred combat looming. The fighting, wound system, and inventory are all gloriously, sometimes frustratingly realistic. And did I mention that when you die, you stay dead, and have to start over? There aren’t even experience points in the game—you just learn how to play it better.
Neo Scavenger won’t be for everyone. But if you like it, you’ll love it, and it’s worth rolling the dice when the game’s selling for under $5. The combat system alone is worth it.
Day of the Tentacle Remastered
For decades you couldn’t buy Day of the Tentacle legally. The classic LucasArt adventure wasn’t offered on digital services, and disc versions disappeared years ago. Fortunately, Double Fine released Day of the Tentacle Remastered ($3.74 during the Steam Sale) last year—and this is still one of the finest point-and-clicks ever made, with a witty story and some brain-bending puzzles.
While you’re at it, check out Grim Fandango Remastered ($2.99 during the Steam Sale), another LucasArt classic revived by Double Fine.
For a more modern take on graphical adventures, give Oxenfree ($4.99 during the Steam Summer Sale) a whirl. “Oxenfree is a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who unwittingly open a ghostly rift,” the game’s description reads, but it isn’t really scary. In fact, it’s pretty laid back. The real stars here are the strong cast of characters, and an “intelligent conversation system” that tweaks your relationship with those characters—and the story—based on your responses.
A silly game with just plain fun gameplay mechanics, BattleBlock Theater ($2.99 during the sale) forces you to perform onstage for an audience of evil technological cats that have captured hundreds of your pals. This top-notch platformer will put a big smile on your face—especially if you’re playing with friends. BattleBlock Theater features a wonderful cooperative experience, complete with local “couch” co-op support. There’s a ton of replayability here, especially with the handy level editor that ships with the game.
This War of Mine
This War of Mine ($3.99 during the sale) puts you in the shoes of civilians simply trying to survive in a war-torn land. It’s not “fun” in the classical sense. But This War of Mine is stark, sobering, eye-opening, and incredibly well assembled. It’s the antithesis of Call of Duty, and well worth your time.
Mount and Blade: Warband
Mount & Blade: Warband ($4.99 during the sale) is ostensibly an RPG, and an interesting one that at, but the real appeal here is the massive 64-player multiplayer battles, which still draw gamers in en masse. The medieval weapon-based combat is nuanced, brutal, and deeply satisfying. It’ll hook you for hours on its own, then hook you for life once you discover the deep library of mods available for the game.
Mount & Blade’s graphics are starting to show their seven-year age, but the gameplay goodness outshines the aesthetics, and the ho-hum looks mean that the game will run on a wide range of PCs. And hey, if you pick this up now, you'll know if Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord will be up your alley when it launches later this year.
Brothers—A Tale of Two Sons
Come with a controller, try to play the whole thing in one three-ish hour burst, and prepare to cry. Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons ($1.49 during the sale) is one of the most cinematic and emotional games ever created. The unique control scheme, which has you directing both brothers simultaneously using the two sticks on your gamepad, only intensifies the connection.
Developer Hazelight recently teamed up with EA to create A Way Out, a similarly co-op focused jailbreak game with shades of Shawshank Redemption and Uncharted. Look for it in 2018.
Crypt of the Necrodancer
Transistor landed on PCWorld’s top 10 games of 2014 thanks to its haunting setting, luxurious art, an insanely customizable combat system, and one of the best game soundtracks ever. Every aspect of the game gels feels elegantly crafted to gel harmoniously with the others. Three years later, it’s still one of my favorite games in recent memory, and it’s only $2.99 during the Steam Summer Sale.
How can a game that costs a mere $2.84 during the sale be this gorgeous? Even better, The Swapper’s brilliant puzzles and philosophical narrative are just as delicious as the visuals. This sci-fi game where you create clones and jump from body to body is one of the best puzzle games in recent memory.
The Banner Saga ($4.99 during the Steam Sale) hooks you in with gorgeous Disney-style artwork, but don’t let that fool you. This game’s bleak tale is anything but kid-friendly, putting you in charge of a caravan fleeing a horde of uncaring monsters and subjecting you to a series of choose your own adventure-style choices where there’s often no satisfactory result. The story’s enthralling, the graphics are sublime, and the brutal tactical combat should scratch your XCOM or Final Fantasy Tactics itch.
Oh, and it made me cry.
Rusty Lake: Roots
Rusty Lake: Roots is a grim, gruesome, and grand point-and-click adventure that follows a single family across three generations and half a century, breaking the story up into 33 individual vignettes arranged on a pseudo-family tree. We loved it at full price, and during the Steam Sale it’s only $1.49.
More Steam sale gems
Still looking for alluring Steam Summer Sale deals? Check out PCWorld’s roundups of 15 hidden gems under $10 and 10 Steam sale bundles that save you even more money to find even more fantastically cheap favorites. It’s a great time to stock up your game library.