Lock up your credit cards and bid farewell to your retirement plans: it’s Steam sale time once again. The ludicrous bargains that regularly turn up on Steam and other digital shops would probably be the best counter to the common argument that PC gaming is more expensive than the console variety, if the sheer madness of the discounts on offer didn’t lead to inevitable over-spending. And while everyone’s busy grabbing big-name titles that are usually far overpriced, this is also a the best time to take a gamble on some lesser-known games. In that spirit, here’s a little selection of sweet games you might not have heard of that you can buy right now for next to nothing.
Mirror’s Edge – £4.99 (75% off)
Image rights: Electronic Arts
Part of the uncharacteristic burst of fresh ideas that Electronic Arts published in the first years of the last console generation, Mirror’s Edge was always destined for cult status because despite superficially qualifying as a first-person shooter, it’s more about escaping danger by employing parkour skills that take some getting used to but at their best moments lead to some glorious chase sequences where you escape helicopters, clamber up buildings and casually kick a henchman to his doom with nary a pause for virtual breath. Sadly this is about the only thing the game has going for it, since the story is non-existent and every so often you get locked in a room and forced to fight bad guys without any room to exploit your gymnastic skills. Still, Mirror’s Edge is a commendable experiment that only stumbles a few metres from the finish line of greatness.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! - £1.49 (75% off)
Image rights: 2K Games
Unlike curry-flavoured Twiglets, there’s no shortage of pirate games in the world. So while this effort from the brain of Civilization creator Sid Meier has all the swashbuckling and poop-decking you’d expect, what makes it stand out is the sandbox format: there’s something incredibly organic about how the world flows together and a sense that you’re just one plucky captain in a sea full of factions whose squabbles would be going on even if you weren’t there. Penalties for failure are also harsh, meaning it pays to think before annoying someone who has a good chance of sinking your flagship, and the fact that your character slowly becomes less capable as he ages turns the game into an extended roguelike experience, where the challenge is to see how much you can get done with each attempt and retire with the most prestigious legacy of buccaneering badassery. Don’t let the cutesy look fool you: this is an elegantly-designed adventure that stands the test of time.
Gunpoint – £3.00 (50% off)
Image rights: Suspicious Developments
Bringing something fresh to the oft-neglected stealth genre, Gunpoint is a cyberpunk noir (complete with stunningly stylish soundtrack) that puts you in the physics-defying trousers of a private investigator with the ability to scale walls and set traps by rerouting electronics. Each level has a set objective but the toys given to you allow for multiple approaches and, like all the best stealth games, you can set your own challenge level by what degree of stealth you aim for: you might settle for no living witnesses on the first go, but the ultimate claim to fame is to sneak through the whole game without a soul so much as suspecting there might be a man with a trilby perched to the ceiling above their heads. I’d still call Mark of the Ninja a better example of 2D stealth, but Gunpoint’s open levels and sense of humour make it a steal at a few quid.
DLC Quest – £4.99 (67% off)
Image rights: Going Loud Studios
It’s hard to make a full-fledged comedy game that stays entertaining throughout. DLC Quest manages it by being bite-sized and generally sharp in its satire of modern gaming, going so far as to include a free bonus story that allowed the developer to poke fun at newer events in the scene. The very mechanics are used to communicate much of the humour, and while not every jab lands squarely on the funny bone, one moment in particular might be the hardest I’ve ever laughed at a scripted scene in a videogame. For 65p that’s a pretty easy recommendation, and as a piece of satire it’s only become more relevant given the increasing amount of nonsense gamers have to put up with from the very industry they support.
Mashed – £0.79 (80% off)
Image rights: Strategy First
An obscure classic from an era when local multiplayer wasn’t being stubbornly ignored in favour of omnipresent online modes, Mashed pits up to four players against each other in a race with a twist. Not only can you blow up your opponents with weapons like a kart racer, but falling off the bottom of the screen will also kill you, which combines with the weapons’ tendency to backfire if poorly aimed to create a situation where a leading car can wind up sabotaging themselves. It’s an immediately understandable concept done extremely well, and I especially love the little touches like how some weapons have multiple applications, or the optional helicopter mode that gives the player in last place a chance to even the odds. Get three like-minded mates into the same room, unleash the booze and the laughs will be in hot pursuit.
ALL THE ABOVE OFFERS END ON 22 JUNE
Cover image from Mirror’s Edge (image rights: Electronic Arts)