Walk on the wild side
The Steam Winter Sale is here, and it’s absolutely brimming with steep discounts for virtually every PC game imaginable. While it’s no doubt a great time to pick up recent AAA blockbusters on the cheap (Doom for $20? Yes please!), one of the best parts of Steam Sales is trying new and unique games while the entry fees are low.
In that spirit, here are 15 downright great—but lesser-known—PC games selling for $10 or less during the Steam Winter Sale. (We'll update the article periodicially during the duration of the sale as we unearth fresh finds.)
Endless Legend breathes fresh air into a stale 4X genre, leaning on memorable, asymmetric factions with unique goals tied to their distinct play styles. It’s better than Civilization, better than Endless Space, better than Age of Wonders and Warlock 2—and at $7.49 during the Steam Winter Sale, Endless Legend has never been cheaper.
Enter the Gungeon
You need this bullet hell dungeon crawler in your life if you have even the slightest inkling toward dungeon crawlers or bullet hell games. Enter the Gungeon ($7.49) is the Robotron-style twin-stick shooter perfected.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
The woefully underrated Call of Juarez: Gunslinger’s ($7.49) a just plain fun shooter with an unforgettable blend of comic-style art, a hilariously unreliable narrator, and tense gunslinging duels that feature one of the best face-off mechanics ever seen in games.
Say hello to the Gran Turismo for PCs. Project Cars ($9.89) is a hardcore racing sim with stunning visuals, lush sound, and a great selection of cars and courses. This game’s a steal at this price.
At least if you like racing sims. I prefer my racing to be of the arcade-y variety. But lots of people like sims!
Clustertruck ($8.99) is a platformer, like Mario. But instead of jumping on blocks and goombas, you’re leaping from speeding 18-wheeler to speeding 18-wheeler—the titular Clustertrucks—all under the influence of wildly errative drivers, striving to never touch the oh-so-deadly road. And environmental dangers like lasers and flamethrowers are trying to kill you too.
So yeah, Clustertruck is basically the spiritual opposite of Project CARS—and a hell of a lot of fun.
Right up front: Subnautica ($9.99) is still in Early Access. That’s an immediate turn-off for some people, and to be honest, it usually is for me, too. But despite being incomplete, Subnautica’s already in an impressive state, and it’s a thrill diving beneath the oceans of this beautiful alien world—exploring ruins and lush natural environments, discovering new creatures, building up submarines and bases, et cetera.
Subnautica’s ostensibly a survival game, but an optional Freedom Mode lets you wander the world worrying only about oxygen and health, if you’d prefer a more relaxed experience. This gorgeous game supports the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets, too, if you’ve snagged a VR headset.
Oh wow. Sticking with the underwater vibe, Abzu ($5.99) is a drop-dead gorgeous adventure designed to “evoke the dream of diving,” and boy, does it. Adventure’s a bit of a strong word, though. Abzu’s incredibly linear, and you’re never really blocked by puzzles or danger. The joy is in the journey with Abzu—in the fluid feel of movement, in the awe-inspiring environments, in interacting with massive schools that surround and respond to you—and the journey is damned fine, especially at this price.
You’ll want to snag a controller for this one, though.
Euro Truck Simulator 2
Travel across Europe, delivering cargo to 60 major cities while building out your freight business. Euro Truck Simulator 2 ($4.99) sounds boring. It’s not. It’s surprisingly chill and addictive.
Speaking of surprisingly chill and addictive games, Stardew Valley ($9.99) exploded to become one of Steam’s surprise hits in 2016, thanks to its charming take on the familiar Harvest Moon formula. Go fishing, tend to your farm, woo a would-be spouse—what you do each day is up to you.
Even more impressive? The entire game is a labor of love crafted by a single person. Hot damn.
If Stardew Valley was the surprise Steam indie hit of 2016, Undertale ($4.99) claimed the crown last year. “Charming” is an apt adjective for this one as well, as Undertale blends memorable characters and a surprisingly poignant story that welcomes multiple play-throughs, mixing JRPGs, bullet hell shooting, and puzzles in a unique way that shouldn’t work, but does.
But that’s all I’m saying. You want to go into this one blind. Trust me.
Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition
“Ori and the Blind Forest is occasionally lighthearted, mostly heart-achingly sad, and always stunning. It’s one of those games that takes you by surprise, with the well-worn trappings of the Metroidvania genre giving way to arresting watercolor landscapes and a phenomenal soundtrack and a simple-but-effective fairytale story. It’s like a more effective Child of Light, or a lengthier, more self-assured Never Alone.
There is emotion here, and awe, and beauty. And, if we’re being honest, a healthy amount of screamed obscenities as you get into the later areas. Ori and the Blind Forest can be an uneven and sometimes frustrating ride, but it’s testament to the game’s strengths that I persevered even through its worst sections. It’s a gorgeous experience.”
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Now for an RPG that’s as far from traditional as you can get!
This game should have been a mess. Instead, South Park: The Stick of Truth ($7.49) wound up being one of the most memorable RPGs in recent times, thanks to the direct involvement of show creators Trey Stone and Matt Parker and a heaping helping of shameless fan service. As we said in our review:
“Over the course of South Park: The Stick of Truth’s 12-plus hour running time it throws probably a thousand (or more) jokes at you. Big jokes. Small jokes. Short jokes. Sight gags. Elaborate jokes. Dumb jokes. Offensive jokes. Political satires. Sociological commentaries. Video game commentaries. Commentary commentaries. In other words, everything you’d expect from a South Park game.”
Let’s be real: You already know if you’d like this game. If you’re a South Park fan or are just looking for a fresh RPG (and don’t mind some decidedly NSFW elements), grab Stick of Truth now.
The Talos Principle
The finest puzzler since Portal, The Talos Principle ($9.99) just barely missed out on being named PCWorld’s Game of the Year in 2014. And amidst all those perfectly balanced puzzles, there’s a mind-bending philosophical tale to unfold. What is man? What is faith? Where are you?
This game is something special.
But wait, there's more!
But what about Transistor and Invisible Inc. and Wolfenstein? They’re great games going for less than $10 in the Steam Winter Sale too!
Indeed they are, cranky hypothetical reader. But we’ve already covered those games and many, many, many more gems in our look at 10 great games for under $10 and 15 great games for under $5 during the Steam Summer Picnic Sale. All of the wonders we highlighted there are going for similarly low, low prices during the Steam Winter Sale, so if you’re on the hunt for even more dirt-cheap yet damned good games, check those out.
Expand your horizons
If you expand your horizons a wee bit beyond $9.99, you'll find all sorts of additional gems selling for ridiculously low prices. Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide (pictured), Firewatch, Hyper Light Drifter, Rocket League, The Forest, H1Z1: King of the Kill, Inside, Grim Dawn, and Darkest Dungeon are just some of the must-play PC games currently on sale for between $10 and $14.