It's time for another Steam sale, and a lot of the usual suspects are going for a song. But rather than looking at the highlighted AAA games, there's plenty of value available for much less. Under $2, in fact.
All of these games should be available for a song until July 9, the official end date of the Steam Grand Prix Summer Sale, although for Australians that date will likely run into the morning of July 10.
You'll find lots of indies and some real classics at this price point, including the Portal games and some quirkier experiences. Most of the games listed have at least a 80 percent user rating or higher, although chances are you'll have heard of some of these games before at some point.
This story has been updated with new games since its original publication.
It's not Euro Truck Simulator 2 — that's a pricey $7.30 — so there's no multiplayer shenanigans. But it's still absolutely a chill experience everyone should give a go at one stage or another. Virtual driving is relaxing, cathartic, and right now, cheap as all buggery. ETS 1 will run on virtually any laptop and PC in the last decade, too.
The Room was one of the first major puzzle games on mobiles that was thoughtful, enjoyable and premium. The PC version is the best way to experience it (and the prettiest), and it's going for less than a dollar today. You can grab the sequel for under $2 as well, which also comes highly recommended.
If you didn't discover the original formula before the Firaxis reboot, or you've been staring at Xenonauts and thinking about a harder challenge, consider playing the original first. UFO Defense is easier to get into than Terror From The Deep, too.
A brilliant sandbox if you just want hours of mindless explosions and grappling. Being the older game of the series means you won't run into any performance issues either. Top deal for $1.79.
A remaster of the original Sonic from Christian Whitehead (who later worked on the superb Sonic Mania). Definitely one worth playing if you love the classic Sonic formula, and one of the more unusual 2D platformers of its time. If you'd prefer less convoluted level design, and you'd maybe like to venture into 3D Sonic, Sonic Adventure DX is available for $1.34 as well.
Imagine Asteroids with the skill tree and RPG elements of Path of Exile. That's basically BYTEPATH, which is going for 76 cents today. Good soundtrack, solid mechanics, and it'll cost you bugger all.
A minimalist indie puzzler born from a Kongregate prototype, Hook is the kind of game for fans of titles like Mini Metro. It's simple and elegant, starting off with some lines and black circles. Tapping the black circles reels the lines in, and slowly the levels become more complex as wires become interconnected.
Hook has a soothing soundtrack. It's worth playing on the phone, but it's available for $1.15 on Steam now, so you could easily just buy it through that and stream the game to a mobile device if you wanted.
A vibrant parkour platformer without dying or enemies, where the gameplay objective is to proceed from one platform to the next. There's no clear goal at first, and you're just dropped into an atmospheric, quiet world, left to your own devices.
Similar to Feather, the experience is mostly about enjoying the music and the in-game environment. The platforming mechanics are pretty clever as well, although experienced speedrunners/platformers will be able to blast through the game in half an hour. That's probably the only downside though: the game has maintained a solid 95 percent user rating over the last four years for a reason.
A game about surfing an ancient part of the web, Emily is Away Too is a nice trip down nostalgic internet lane, focusing on relationships that play out through EOL Instant Messenger. You talk to a bunch of teenagers, who gradually open up about their lives, with life slowly getting more complicated as college looms.
Without spoiling anything, it's a bittersweet game. But it's also a nice reminder that immersion in a video game comes in many forms. Sometimes, the sound of ICQ and MSN chat windows (or for Americans, AOL Messenger) is all you need to be transported back to the late '90s and early '00s. Well worth $1.50.
If the medium is the message, then AOL's messaging software — at least for my generation — has the same sentimentality as whatever we talked about over it. That's the pitch of Emily Is Away Too, a new visual novel that plays out in "EOL" Instant Messenger windows, away messages and personal profiles.
A formative video game by any standard, the original Deus Ex is still worth a play, even if the old formula is a bit long in the tooth these days. The original experience plays fine, but there's plenty of highly recommended mods, including the excellent Revision creation that Square Enix officially sanctioned. (You can get Revision for free on Steam here.)
A psychological horror adventure going for $1.05 at the time of writing, Distraint focuses on Price and his tale of regret after he repossesses an older lady's home to secure a partnership at work. There's some light puzzle elements, but the game is mostly about the unnerving setting and how Price unravels as he tries to deal with his guilt. The story takes a little while to come together — it's intentionally obscure in the beginning — but the whole game only lasts two hours, and the story offers plenty of closure by the end.
Another minimalist puzzler, Knights is based around the classic chess piece. It's available for 75 cents and has fairly difficult daily puzzles to tide you over after you get through the initial stock of levels.
One of the most important stealth games ever made, and perhaps the best game from Looking Glass Studios (next to System Shock 2), Thief's cunning gameplay still holds up today. The last few missions are still a little rushed and ropey, but the raw mechanics and general sound design remain excellent. It's a shame gamers haven't had a better remake of Thief — the 2013 effort was pretty appalling — but Thief Gold, with or without mods, is still fantastic. Thief 2 and Thief: Deadly Shadows are available for less than 2 bucks a piece as well, but start with Thief Gold first.
If you haven't played Half-Life 2, you really are missing out. It's still one of the best shooter campaigns ever made, even though there's a painful lack of closure that Valve seems happy to leave unresolved almost 15 years on.
An RPGMaker game for 75 cents with a Final Fantasy-inspired system, Suits is about surviving a surrealist corporate dystopia with a monochromatic sketch aesthetic. There's a surprising amount of depth and some good humour: if you've got enough money, you can just pay villains in-game to lose. And the loan shark is literally a shark, by the way.
Great to whip out at an oldschool LAN party, but the individual campaigns for the Predator, Alien and Marine are well worth the $1.87 entry price. The controls are a little floaty and janky for 2019, but it supports modern systems very well. Still the best use of the AvP license in a video game.
A stylish point-and-click adventure for anyone who wants a game on the darker side of life. Made by the developers behind the Cube Escape games and inspired by a heavy dose of Twin Peaks, Rusty Lake Hotel is a creepy puzzler about playing as a butler in the warped world of Rusty Lake.
Rusty Lake Hotel is the seventh game in the series, which began with the freeware Cube Escape game. You can play those from start to finish on the official website, but the Cube Escape series is free on mobile as well.
A free-to-play story-driven explorer, What Never Was tells the story of an old man who passes away through the eyes of his granddaughter Sarah. Tasked with clearing out the grandfather's attic, Sarah goes through her late grandfather's life and accomplishments, piecing together his life one book, relic and memory at a time.
A HD update of the mobile point-and-click adventure starring a janitor that travels between 1972 and 2012 to save humanity. It'll take you about three hours from start to finish, and there's a good amount of suspense without the puzzles being too obtuse or obscure. A good game to knock out over a weekend.
Still one of the best visual novels of the last few years, and absolutely free. Don't read anything about the game — just go experience it for yourself.
What are your favourite games that have gone for $2 or less?