The Best Games on Steam – January 2019
There is no better time than now to be a PC gamer. Over the past decade and a half, the PC gaming scene has slowly risen from the ashes of the 2000s. Once defeated soundly by consoles from Sony, Nintendo, and even Microsoft, PC gaming has reinvented itself, rising to prominence as a massively-popular way people play games. There’s a dozen or more reasons why PC gaming has become “cool” again, from the widespread availability of AAA games on PC, to the lowered cost of entry for PC parts, to the thrill of building your own computer made of of components purchased through Amazon and Newegg. Slowly but surely, a growing minority of gamers have chosen to build their own desktop gaming PC instead of buying the newest console from the likes of Microsoft or Sony, in order to gain access to higher graphical power, cheaper updates, and perhaps most importantly, the massive library of games offered by Steam.
Steam is the gaming community’s most valuable and vibrant online marketplace for PC gaming, the go-to place for most gamers looking to build a virtual library of titles. The marketplace, first launched by game development team Valve in 2003, has become known for its massive site-wide sales and for its community of gamers. Though Steam has seen its fair share of controversy since its launch, it’s also been one of the main spearheads behind the success of PC gaming throughout the late 2000s and 2010s, the relaunch of the PC as a successful place for gaming aside consoles like the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch. Without Steam, PC gaming would likely not be where it is today, sitting aside consoles as a viable way to play the biggest games of the year on a regular basis.
As we prepare this article, the classic blowout winter sale is only a few days away, timed to begin right on December 20th and to run up until January 3rd. While the recent fall sale featured some solid deals, we’re most excited about the upcoming deals that we can install on our current gaming devices and, most importantly, the deals that are coming for this year’s releases. So, instead of focusing only on current sales, we’ve decided to outline the best games available on Steam today in January of 2019. From massive, full-scale roleplaying games to classic shoot ’em ups, competitive games for online play to local co-op multiplayer titles, we have something for every style of gamer looking for their new favorite game. These are some of the best titles on Steam in alphabetical order for January of 2019.
The most-recent release in the long-running Assassin’s Creed series from Ubisoft, Odyssey follows up last year’s well-received Origins with a move firmly into role-playing territory. From full dialogue wheels to long-winding quests to waste hours and hours upon, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey goes a long way in offering you the Ancient Greece-RPG from BioWare you never knew you wanted. The game is set in the year 431 BC, following a Greek mercenary (either Alexios or Kassandra, depending on which gender you pick at the beginning of the game) as they fight in the war between Athens and Sparta. Having family on both side of the war, the hero tries to reconcile the differences between the two sides, discovering an evil cult along the way. Of course, the real gameplay in this comes not from the war between Athens and Sparta, but all the NPCs you’ll spend your time romancing. Note that, though available through Steam, you’ll need Uplay installed to properly run Odyssey.
One of the most popular genres we’ve seen burst in popularity throughout the 2010s (and largely thanks to Steam) is the roguelike, a subgenre of the RPG that features, among other tropes, randomized levels and permadeath. There’s no shortage of roguelikes on Steam, but one of our favorites to return to again and again is The Binding of Isaac, originally released in 2011 before being redesigned and re-released with all new graphics and a new engine powering the game in 2014. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is the version to get, containing all the fun of the original but in a sleeker, larger package. The twin-stick shooter gameplay is easy to learn, and there’s hundreds of items to experiment with to change the gameplay. You control Isaac (and other unlockable characters), a small child, through a series of dungeons in his house’s basement as he attempts to fight his way to his religious mother and defeat her from the inside. The game has serious themes of biblical allegory and comes from creator Edmund McMillan’s conflicted feelings on growing up with religion, along with his love for The Legend of Zelda.
From one indie game to the next, Celeste is one of the newer titles on this list. First released in January of 2018, this gorgeous retro-style platformer is as fun to play as it is to master. Developed by Matt Makes Games, the same team behind Towerfall Ascension, Celeste builds a single-player adventure platformer on top of the main gameplay aesthetic from Towerfall: the ability to dash in midair. With this new power comes a fully-featured platformer, complete with collectables, secret levels, and all the challenge you could ever want in a modern platformer. Celeste follows a young woman named Madeline who climbs up the titular Celeste Mountain, a fictional location in Canada. The game isn’t just a great platformer, as Madeline grapples not just with the mountain in front of her, but her depression and unease as well.
2013’s SimCity was a mixed bag upon its release. According to pre-launch reviews, the game’s systems were excellent and easy to use, but the always-online status of the game caused the required servers to crash, leading to the game being broken for weeks following launch. Though the game eventually was up and running, plenty of people were burnt by the game enough times to give up altogether. If that sounds like you, allow us to introduce you to Cities: Skylines, an original city building game from acclaimed publisher Paradox. Originally greenlit following the failure of SimCity, the game launched in 2015 to rave reviews. A return to the classic style of city building, you’ll be impressed and surprised with how much can get done here. It’s absolutely a must-have for any simulation fans, and if you happen to own a Nintendo Switch alongside your PC, you can finally take your cities on the go.
Dungeon crawlers are a blast, but they’re so often played alone under the cover of your individual room. The major problem with trying to play a dungeon crawler with some friends is, at some point, you’re going to have to pass the controller off. Crawl takes the idea of a joint dungeon crawler and runs with it, choosing to have you and the other players compete with each other and making three of the four players villains instead of heroes. The game begins when you and the other players fight it out to see who starts the game. With three of the players dead, the remaining player begins exploring the dungeon, fighting their way through and collecting gold to upgrade their equipment. Meanwhile, the ghosts will set out as well, possessing the objects and monsters in the room and working to ensure that the crawler himself is murdered, only to take their place.
You know it, you love it, you’ve likely played it—Dark Souls is the RPG of a generation, a game that popularized the type of play that was first seen in From Software’s predecessor Demon Souls, and if you’re a fan of difficult games, Metroidvania-style puzzle box levels, or just RPGs in general, you’ll need to play this game. Dark Souls as a trilogy is actually pretty solid, despite a controversial (with fans) second and third entries, but if we’re going to suggest one of the games, it’s Dark Souls. In the game, you’ll find yourself as an undead soldier making your way through a ruined and corrupted world, with minimal story and even less direction, fighting off enemies in challenges that will have you parrying and slicing away. There are two versions available to play on Steam: the original Prepare to Die PC release, and the newer Dark Souls Remastered from May of this year. If you’re new to the series, we suggest that you pick up Remastered; despite mixed fan reception on PC, it’s the better version for newcomers to jump into.
Summer 2018 has seen a major revival for Metroidvanias, a genre already gaining in popularity even before the past few months of releases. Though Dead Cells has been on PC for quite some time in early access, August saw the official wide release of Dead Cells on console and on PC without the early access tag, and the game was immediately praised for its excellent controls, gameplay, and mechanics. In Dead Cells, players are met with a combination of classic Metroidvania exploration with the difficulty and repetition of roguelikes. In the game, the player must fight their way out of a dungeon while collecting weapons and treasure throughout the environment. If Dark Souls-meets-Hollow Knight-meets-The Binding of Isaac seems like your cup of tea, you’ll fall in love with what’s offered by Dead Cells.
Dead Space is the most prominent game from now-defunct developer Visceral Games. Then known as EA Redwood Shores Studios, Dead Space was the start of a brand-new IP for EA, at a time where the company was trying to hard to innovate after years of criticism from gamers. Dead Space was a major hit, both critically and commercially, praised for its sci-fi aesthetics and its horrifying atmosphere. In Dead Space, you play Isaac Clarke (yes, our second protagonist named Isaac on this list), a mechanic sent to respond to the USG Ishimura after a distress call is received. When you arrive, your entire crew is slaughtered by monsters and mutants that have invaded and destroyed the ship. You must repair the ship while working to fight off these Necromorphs, using your gun to slice and dismember the mutants in order to kill them once and for all. If you love third-person shooters or horror titles, Dead Space is a must-play game.
A sequel to 2014’s Divinity: Original Sin and, by extension, 2002’s Divine Divinity, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an improvement on its predecessor in every way. Set centuries after the last game and in the fantasy world of Rivellon, you begin the game as a Sourcerer who is captured by the Divine Order of the world, a group who have dedicated themselves to persecuting Voidwoken individuals. After being sent to an island fortress known as Fort Joy, a prison for Sourcerers (those who can use Source powers), you find yourself saved from a Kraken attack on the ship after hearing a mysterious voice calling you “Godwoken.” The game is a traditional top-down RPG, with a party of you and up to three other players, a leveling system, and the ability to play in single-player, online, or local co-op game modes. It’s been praised as one of the great RPGs of our time, so if you haven’t jumped on the Divinity train yet, you absolutely should.
In Bethesda and id Software’s reboot of the classic first-person shooter, Doom takes players back to Hell for a fast-paced, action-packed FPS title that is everything you could ever want from the genre. The game begins on Mars, as the unnamed space marine works towards killing every demon summoned to the red planet. Unlike Doom 3, which put the action in a slower-paced horror title, Doom returns to a fast-moving shooter, a game designed around being as bloody and ruthless as possible. Everything you love is here, from the chainsaw mechanic to the classic shotgun players know and love, with a brand-new combat system that is designed around the player being as vicious and bloodthirsty as possible. Doom‘s biggest problem comes from its multiplayer, but an upcoming sequel, Doom Eternal, might look to rectify that when it releases sometime in the upcoming future.
Dota 2 is the perfect game on Steam for anyone looking for a competitive title to sink hours into. Developed by Valve, Dota 2 is free-to-play without frustrating microtransactions, can be played endlessly online, runs on nearly any modern gaming computer, and is easy to learn but so incredibly difficult to master, giving players a reason to keep coming back again and again. As one of the leading MOBAs online, Dota 2 is no longer in the hottest competitive scene in gaming (a title that eventually moved to survival games, hero shooters, and most recently, battle royales). But if you haven’t tried Dota 2 or any other MOBA available online, you deserve it to yourself to give this genre a shot. From its ultra-high competitive scene to the diehard eSports arena that scene mega-large prize pools of cash for players looking to compete, Dota 2 is a must-have game on Steam.
In the nearly-two years since the release of Dragon Ball FighterZ, the game has managed to rise up from the competition, going from a great-looking fighting game to one of the most popular and most competitive games on the scene to date. Developed by Arc System Works (best known for their own fighting franchises, Guilty Gear and BlazBlue), they’ve managed to take yet another popular anime or anime-inspired series (following their work on Persona 4 Arena) and turn it into something truly amazing. As you select your team of three characters, you’ll be forced to fight, switch, and use assist moves alongside traditional combos to battle your foes online and in a full story mode.
This list isn’t shy on RPGs, but by all accounts, the newest Dragon Quest adventure is one of the best you can buy. The first mainstream Dragon Quest game to come to consoles and PC since 2004’s Dragon Quest VIII (Dragon Quest IX was on the DS; Dragon Quest X was an MMO exclusive to Japan), Dragon Quest XI follows the unnamed protagonist at 16 years old, a young man who grew up in a quiet town with an unassuming life. That all changes when he discovers his true fate: he’s the reincarnation of a hero that once saved the world, and must once again put in his efforts to become that hero once more. Setting off across the region of Erdrea, the hero you control will be joined by friends and faced down by foes as he makes his way through the world. This is a huge game, a traditional RPG that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but sticks with the tried-and-true Dragon Quest formula.
Like Dark Souls, this pick is a no-brainer. You’ve probably played Skyrim if you own a gaming PC, or a console released since 2005; hell, the game is even on the Switch. If you’ve somehow missed out on an RPG that defined the last generation of consoles, however, you’ll want to pick it up on Steam, especially during any number of the sales that helps to make the game cheaper than ever. In Skyrim, you take up the role of a character destined for death, before a dragon attacks the city you’ve been imprisoned within. After escaping, you set out on a quest that slowly reveals your fate as a Dragonborn, a mortal born with the soul and power of a dragon. Skyrim is a wide-reaching RPG, where you can take up any number of quests, battingle monsters and demons, while wondering around the open-world of Skyrim. The game is currently only available as a remastered Special Edition version, which features new graphics and improved performance. A sequel, The Elder Scrolls VI, was teased in June at E3, but don’t expect it to come out on the PS4 and Xbox One—the game is all but confirmed for “next-gen consoles.”
For some, this pick is a no-brainer; for others, picking New Vegas over Fallout 3 or Fallout 4 is an insult to the series. In all seriousness, we found New Vegas to be the best of the FPS-era of Fallout, the closest to the original titles and the best of the bunch, Fallout 2. Developed by legendary RPG maker Obsidian, a company founded by ex-Black Isle Studios devs after the closure of that studio (the original team behind Fallout). There are plenty of things to love (and hate) about New Vegas, but a lot of it comes down to the writing. Obsidian is known as an excellent RPG maker, partly for their writing team led by Chris Avellone (who has now left the company), and the writing shines here. From quests to improved gameplay, there’s plenty for any lover of the series, from Fallout diehards to RPG fanatics, to enjoy. As a bonus, the game regularly goes on sale for just a couple bucks.
For some, recommending Final Fantasy XV over other, older games in the legendary JRPG series is bordering on blasphemous. But to us, Final Fantasy XV is not just a great entry in the series following the lackluster XIII-series, it’s also a perfect way to show off your gaming PC’s high-end hardware. Final Fantasy XV ditches the turn-based combat of the series for a brand-new real-time action combat setup, one inspired by the likes of Kingdom Hearts but with a much more refined feel. The story is more straightforward than the last several iterations as well, placing you in the role of Prince Noctis, a young man whose life takes a turn for the worst after his city is attacked by an enemy army. From cruising along the roadside with your friends to fighting off evil soldiers, there’s plenty to do in Final Fantasy XV, and the game looks phenomenal while you do it. If you’re looking for a more retro-feeling Final Fantasy, tryout Final Fantasy X | X-2 Remastered or Final Fantasy VII.
Rockstar Games have a legendary status among gamers, from Red Dead Redemption to the underrated Bully. But no series of theirs has earned the same reputation as Grand Theft Auto, and Grand Theft Auto V on the PC is the perfect way to play. Despite mixed user reviews (largely due to 2K Games’ decision to force popular modding tool OpenIV to shut down before the modding tool was once again allowed to be distributed weeks later, as well as recent reports of unheeded bans online), Grand Theft Auto V is one of the best games in the series, elevating the story and the gameplay over 2008’s Grand Theft Auto IV. If there’s one reason to play the game on PC instead of on the PS4 or Xbox One, it comes down to the online community: unlike on consoles, you won’t have to pay to take your gameplay online.
If you’re like many of the writers here at TechJunkie, you grew up playing dozens of earlier 3D platformers. From the genre-standard that is Super Mario 64 to collectathons like Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64, to third-party games like Spyro the Dragon, the 3D platformer was one of our favorite genres in gaming, only to be put out to dry by every company but Nintendo in the 2000s. Through the power of nostalgia, however, these games have made something of a comeback. Sure, Yooka-Laylee was a bit of a mess in certain terms, but when it came to the release of A Hat in Time—an ode to the GameCube era of gaming, with direct nods to Super Mario Sunshine and Psychonauts—we were impressed with just how great the game looks and plays. If you’re ready to jump into a nostalgia-fueled platforming experience, A Hat in Time is the best way to do it.
After the polarized reception for 2012’s Hitman: Absolution, developer IO Interactive went back to the drawing board for the 2016 reboot and prequel, Hitman. Designed as a game set before the original Hitman: Codename 47, Hitman is a third-person stealth game where your main goal is to hunt targets without being caught. Each mission finds you in a new location, assuming a new identity and granting you tools, weapons, and explosions to build your traps and distractions before accomplishing your goal. Released episodically throughout 2016, the game is now available in a full season pack with bonus campaigns and DLC for the standard $59.99 price tag. IO Interactive bought the Hitman license back from original publisher Square Enix, and with the upcoming sequel Hitman 2, will be releasing the game in full rather than opting for the episodic content.
Another 2018 release that has undoubtedly earned its place on this list, Into the Breach is the first game in six years from development team Subset Games, best known for their work on space strategy roguelike FTL: Faster Than Light. While FTL is most certainly worth being picked up and added to your collection, we’ve chosen to highlight their newer game, Into the Breach, a turn-based strategy game where you take the role of soldiers operating giant mechs in a far-future battle against monsters known as the Vek. The game presents you with a series of combat encounters and goals during every match, as you work to fight off the Vek and to be victorious in your conquest to save civilization. The game has been compared directly to chess, in that both games are more about maintaining control of your positions while sacrificing smaller pieces for larger victories. If you’re worried the game doesn’t have a strong story in addition to its pitch-perfect gameplay, think again: Chris Avallone, formerly of Black Isle and Obsidian, was the lead writer on the game.
The Jackbox Party Pack series is made up of some of our favorite local co-op games on Steam to day. Jackbox Games have been developing party titles for over two decades, but the Party Pack series are perhaps their best games as of yet. The concept is simple: The general concept is simple: you and some friends gather around the television, playing party games that involve trivia, art skills, creativity, word games, and other laugh-inducing hilarity, controlling input from your smartphone’s browser. The games are typically designed for up to eight people, though some games have a smaller limit on users and some games really only work if you have a large group of players. From games where you have to pick the liar in your friend group, to user-submitted answers where you have to pick the funniest quote, there’s so much here that makes it easy to play a few rounds with you and your friends. Each of the four currently-available Party Packs include five games to pick from; a fifth Pack is one the way for October 18th.
While some of the titles on this list might be games you’re familiar with, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky might make your eyes glaze over. From the overly-long title to the anime-esque thumbnail, we wouldn’t blame some players for skipping right over this entry. You’d be doing yourself an injustice, however; Trails in the Sky is one of the best RPGs of the 2000s. Originally released on the PSP, Trails in the Sky is the first chapter in the Sky series of Trails, part of a wider RPG series developed by Nihon Falcom, the dev team behind the Ys games. From the strong original story to the fantastic grid and turn-based action combat, Trails in the Sky is a 100-hour RPG with some fantastic writing, great twists, and enjoyable combat. Trails in the Sky tells the story of Estelle Bright and her adopted brother Joshua, two young adventurers who set out to find their father.
In this episodic graphic adventure game from developer Dontnod and publisher Square Enix, you pick up the role of Max Caulfield, a high school senior who has recently transferred back to her hometown of Arcadia Bay, Oregon to attend Blackwell High. After seeing a vision of a tornado destroying a lighthouse, she runs to the bathroom in her high school, only to be witness to her classmate Nathan murdering a female student. Panicked and afraid, she suddenly finds herself with the ability to rewind time, returning to the bathroom to save the student and discovering the girl is her childhood friend Chloe. With the knowledge of the upcoming storm and her new ability to rewind time, Max must work together with Chloe to save not just themselves, but the entire town. If you love interesting, albeit imperfect storytelling, Life is Strange is the perfect game for you. A prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is also available, along with a free spin-off game, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, which became available in June of 2018. The latter game will present clues for season two of Life is Strange, the first episode of which was released at the end of September.
Originally released on the PS4 and Xbox One in January, Monster Hunter: World finally arrived on PC in August, fulfilling the months-long wait between the release as fans attempted to wait it out. A full reworking and revitalization of the original Monster Hunter franchise, World is perfect for returning veterans of the series and newcomers alike. Interested in learning the intricacies of hunting monsters? The layers and layers of systems, weapon choices, and armor upgrades that have kept players hunting for literally hundreds and thousands of hours on the 3DS and PSP releases has a fresh coat of paint, and with online hunting, a full story mode, and plenty of easy to learn tutorials, it’s time for anyone and everyone who wants to hunt to begin.
When No Man’s Sky launched in 2016, it was in a whirlwind of controversy. False promises and a sense that the game wasn’t complete made the launch a difficult sell for anyone looking to play a game that was set against some lofty goals. The game that was supposed to be endless felt like it came half-baked, leaving consumers and reviewers alike scratching their heads at what had happened. Two years later, No Man’s Sky is a different game. Following a few major updates that added many of the missing portions of the game, Hello Games finished off their long trek to rescue No Man’s Sky by launching No Man’s Sky NEXT, a major update to the game that helped to turn the entire experience around. NEXT adds a graphical overhaul, multiplayer support, improved base building, and much more, all in addition to the content added through previous updates. If the earlier promises of No Man’s Sky sounded like your jam, but you were put off by the initial launch of the game, you should absolutely check this out.
In 2010, developer Cavia and publisher Square Enix released NieR, a spin-off from the Drakengard series following one of the endings from the first game. The reception for the title was mixed, with the story and characters praised but the gameplay was criticized for feeling loose and unconnected. Despite low sales at the time of release, the game slowly grew a cult following, and when a sequel was announced at E3 in 2015, fans were excited. Helping to make players even more ready for the sequel, however, was the involvement of PlatinumGames, a development team who knows their was around the combat. The result is one of the best games from 2017, a mix of RPG and action game that is destined to delight almost everyone who plays it. The story is the real gem here, with deep, meaningful consequences and thought-provoking ideas. You’ll want to make sure you get all the endings for this one.
Published by Team17, the developers behind Worms, and developed by Ghost Town Games, Overcooked! 2 is the sequel to the critically-acclaimed couch co-op game Overcooked!. Acting as an expansion and a retooling of the original game, Overcooked! 2 keeps everything that worked about the original and adds new content and new ideas to the mix. Unlike most competitive co-op games Overcooked! 2 requires you to work together in order to win each game, as you and your friends work to prepare and cook orders of food in ridiculous scenarios. Whether you’re dealing with moving walkways, crashing hot air balloons, or some other crazy change in the environment that causes strife between you and your friends, you’ll have to work together to figure out how everything’s going to come together in the end.
From acclaimed studio Obsidian (featured elsewhere on this list for their classic Fallout: New Vegas) comes a throwback isometric RPG, Pillars of Eternity. One of the few Kickstarter success stories that many people still talk about, Pillars of Eternity is a response to the games that the developers at Obsidian Entertainment used to make at Black Isle Studios, like Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, and Icewind Dale. The game is set in a fantasy world called Eora, following a plague of infant “hollowbirth” in which children are born without a soul. The game features party-based role-playing tactics, using a real-time engine with full tactical gameplay, similar to the RPGs from yesteryear you probably fell in love with. Anyone who played Dungeons and Dragons and loved it will want to play this game. As a bonus, make sure you check out Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, which came out in 2018.
Portal 2 first released for consoles and PCs in 2011, and it’s still the most-recent single player game released by Valve, who have focused their energies on titles like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike. A sequel to the original game released in the classic Orange Box, Portal 2 takes place in the Portal and Half-Life universe, picking up a long time after both Half-Life 2 and the first Portal. When Chell, the player character from the first game, wakes up in a motel, she’s slowly guided through a tutorial area before being put back asleep, waking up, and realizing she’s back in the Aperture Science complex, now overgrown with vegetation and on the verge of collapse. With her portal gun, Chell must once again escape from the building, all while being tortured by evil AI unit GLaDOS once more, now even more vindictive after Chell’s attempted murder of her in the first game. Come for the incredible puzzles and single-player campaign; stay for the excellent two-player co-op levels that can be played both online and in split-screen multiplayer.
What started with a soft thud has been nursed back to health, becoming one of the must-play multiplayer titles on Steam today. Rainbow Six Siege was first released two and a half years ago, to semi-positive reviews and initially-weak sales. Spawned from the cancelled Rainbow Six game Patriots, the Ubisoft-developed title has grown a massive fan base and turned itself into a major eSport, all thanks to the developer care and a series of updates that took the game from a solid base with imperfect playability, to a game that has potential, promise, and some excellent gameplay. In the game, you and other players work together as a team of counter-terrorists, playing through a series of game modes like Hostage, Bomb, Secure Area, and Tactical Realism. The game just recently surpassed 35 million registered players across all platforms, making what once seemed like a dud in the series into a full-fledged excellent game.
After middling fifth and sixth entries in the long-running series, Capcom took their most popular horror series and did something brand-new with it, for the first time since Resident Evil 4: they took it first-person, pushing the violence in your face and making the game scarier than it ever has been before. Resident Evil VII: Biohazard (the subtitle, of course, coming from the Japanese name for the series) is a first-person survival horror game where you play as Ethan Winters, a man who receives a mysterious letter from his wife Mia, a woman presumed dead for three years prior to the start of the game. When he arrives at the supplied address, a house owned by the Bakers, he finds much more than he bargained for: a family full of evil, mutated beings out for blood. After learning both Mia and the Bakers are infected with a disease, he works with a mysterious contact named Zoe to save his wife—and to make it out alive. Resident Evil VII is horrifying and a great return to the series’ roots. The engine used here, RE Engine, will next be used in Resident Evil II Remake, coming out next year.
In 2013, Lucas Pope released Papers, Please, a critically-acclaimed puzzle game in which you worked as an immigration officer for a fictional country, as you worked to decide which documents were real or fake as quickly as possible, in order to ensure you earned enough money to care for your family. Pope returned in 2018 for his second game, Return of the Obra Dinn, another puzzle game feature improved fidelity while remaining a critically-praised game. In Obra Dinn, you take the role of an insurance adjuster for the London office East India Company in the early 19th century. As the player, you’re tasked with determining the fate of the Obra Dinn, a ship washed up on shore after five years missing with none of its sixty-man crew alive. Played out in first person with a gorgeous monochromatic style, you’re given a log book and the “Memento Mortem,” a watch that allows you to play back the audio of a crew-member prior to their death, in order to help fill in the gaps of what happened on the ship.
Rocket League is an odd game, one that you’ll likely either love or hate depending on your enjoyment of the controls. The pitch for Rocket League is simple: it’s soccer, but with rocket-powered cars.” That’s it: a game where you drive around, battling it out either solo or on a team, pushing and “kicking” a soccer ball into the opponent’s goal to score points, using blasters to reach speed, and drifting, flipping, and racing all over the map to hit the goal. The game has a serious eSport following, but it’s also great as a local party game thanks to its variety of modes, items and power-ups, and the 4-player local co-op match mode that allows you to play the game like Mario Kart. The controls do take a bit to get used to, but largely speaking, Rocket League is a blast that anyone with a little patience can pick up and start playing. The game only runs players $20 at normal price, but routinely drops to half of that—and can even be picked up at cheaper prices by waiting around for a deeper sale or a bundle.
On this list, we have fast-paced FPS games, difficult and grindy RPGs, and strategy games often compared to chess. If you want something to chill out with, instead of working hard towards goals or stressing your mind, we have the perfect game for you: Stardew Valley, a game developed by Eric Barone and published by Chucklefish. An homage to the early Harvest Moon games, Stardew Valley is a farming simulator game that follows a player character who takes over their grandfather’s farm in an attempt to get away from the hustle and bustle of their office job, to something a bit less dreadful. Once in Stardew Valley, the player will have to manage and tend to their farm, while also interacting with and meeting dozens of NPCs in the town, becoming friends, meeting potential mates, and even getting married. The game has been praised for its laid-back sense of play, its ability to be both goal-focused and allow for various choices in play, and its gorgeous pixel art and music.
This might be another controversial choice on this list, as Steam reviews surrounding this collection have been mixed to say the least. There are plenty of Street Fighter games you can pick up on Steam, from the well-received Street Fighter IV to the controversial Street Fighter V. There are some serious critiques to offer about the 30th Anniversary Collection, but we’re recommending it for two reasons. First, you’re receiving twelve games here, and most of them are pretty enjoyable! The game’s been receiving strong reviews on other platform, and if you’re newer to Street Fighter, you’ll likely have no issues with some of the games using older arcade ROMs, the main complaint in Steam reviews. The second reason we’ve picked this title: Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is one of our favorite Street Fighter titles ever released, and now you can play it online through Steam with friends. If you aren’t convinced, just listen to this soundtrack.
If you’ve played Minecraft to death and you’re looking to switch up, Terraria might be the game for you. While comparisons to Minecraft have become a bit tired, it’s worth noting that the game’s aesthetics and general gameplay qualities are pretty similar, albeit in a side-view, 2D landscape like Super Mario Bros. The game uses 16-bit sprites in an open sandbox world, with a focus on exploration, crafting, and combat above all else. The worlds are procedurally generated, and the player character begins with a few tools for mining and combat. Terraria features NPCs that offer quests and goals to the player to complete, and doing so allows these NPCs to populate the player’s main base. There’s even an endgame in Terraria, with a final boss that involves summoning and completing a certain number of quests. Terraria is a solid title, preferred by many over Minecraft for its variation on the crafting and combat abilities, and is worth trying out from Steam—especially if you can get it on sale.
The first game from Celeste developer MattMakesGames, Towerfall Ascension was originally released as simply Towerfall on the doomed platform Ouya, before being ported to the PS4, Steam, and other platforms with the new name. Known as one of the few games worth playing on the Ouya before its demise, Towerfall Ascension is the perfect local multiplayer game for your PC, with a focus on 4-player combat and a similar style of gameplay to the likes of Super Smash Bros. or Nidhogg. In Towerfall, you and the other players are each given a bow with several arrows, along with items, power-ups, and special arrows spread throughout the arena. Your goal is to kill off the other players using your arrows by jumping and dashing around the map, with the latter ability used to catch other players’ arrows in the air as they fire. The game is a blast, and though a single-player option exists, the game truly shines in multiplayer mode.
A role-playing game design for those who love role-playing games, Undertale was a surprise hit when it released in 2015. Developed independently by Toby Fox, the music composer for the webcomic Homestuck, the game sees the player controlling a child as they explore a top-down world filled with caves, towns, and puzzles. Combat is handled by using a bullet hell-style game mechanic that requires the player to control a small heart as they avoid attacks. You can fight back, or befriend the enemy in question, choosing not to fight the enemy but to spare their life and talking your way out of combat. There are plenty of ways to play the game, from resisting combat to fighting back against the enemies who attack you, but you’ll have to choose carefully: each of your choices in this game have some effect on both the story and the enemy difficulty. Though the hype cycle for Undertale was extreme, three years have passed since its release, helping to push the game as a must-play RPG without overselling the promise.
Do you like Destiny? Feeling deflated because of the more controversial aspects surrounding Destiny 2? Looking for a free-to-play game that does a lot of the things Destiny does, but with a bit more honesty and polish? Warframe has been on the market for years now, and has slowly begun to draw a more active audience over the last several years thanks to lots of developer care and free patches. With both PvE and PvP options for your combat, a full story-based mission set, and fair, non-pay-to-win elements that make it an obvious download for anyone looking to try out a third-person MMO-esque shooter online. Warframe is all about the grind, which helps to keep you coming back to the game again and again to play just one more mission. Oh, and the fact that the combat is fast, smooth, and features a Vanquish-esque sliding mechanic helps too.
It’s not often that games get the chance to be truly funny, in a way that movies and television shows and books often are. Sure, games like Deadpool or Borderlines have nerd-centric jokes in them, either in their fourth-wall breaks or by appealing to very gamer-friendly senses of humor, but when it comes to meeting the standards of some of the funniest pieces of entertainment of all time, like early seasons of The Simpsons, or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or Ghostbusters (just to name a few acclaimed comedies), games almost never measure up. West of Loathing is an exception, a deeply-funny indie game, a slapstick comedy where you wander around the wild west as a stick person cowboy, exploring the 2D open world designed with gags coming a mile a minute. Any fans of RPGs, text-based adventures, or comedies like Airplane will find plenty to love here.
Skyrim was a game loved by many, but the lack of a definitive story and the lackluster combat disappointed and infuriated some of the people who bought into the hype cycle, only to find the game simply wasn’t for them after all. If you fall into the latter party, you might be best off giving The Witcher 3 a try. Often considered one of the best RPGs of all time, and the winner of numerous Game of the Year awards upon its release in 2015, CD Projekt Red’s concluding game in The Witcher trilogy is a game that you simply must play. In The Witcher 3, you play as Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter who has trained since childhood. After recovering from amnesia in the first game, he slowly recovers to become the monster hunter legends portray him as. In Wild Hunt, he must look for his long-lost daughter Ciri, currently on the run from a group known as the Wild Hunt, a force determined to use her powers for evil. CD Projekt Red’s development skills have earned the game loads of praise, and their next RPG, the first-person shooter Cyberpunk 2077, is expected sometime in the next couple years.
A sequel to the 2009 reboot, Wolfenstein: The New Order surprised players and critics alike when it was released in 2014 to massive critical and commercial success, delighting the likes of everyone who played it. An action-packed first-person shooter with a tale of Nazis in an alternate-history United States, the game picks up three years after the last title, when, in 1946, hero B.J. Blazkowicz and his associates fail to infiltrate enemy lines, before being captured in a Nazi laboratory. Though B.J. manages to escape the clutches of the Nazis, he hits his head and falls unconscious for fourteen years. Now in 1960, B.J. learns that the United States lost the war against the Nazis in 1948, transforming the US into a Nazi-run regime. B.J. takes up his new role in the Resistance, fighting against the Nazis to try to win back control of the United States. The game is a chilling take on alternate World War II history, and is one of our favorite stories in an FPS game to date. A sequel, Wolfenstein II, was released in 2017, to similar critical success.
A sequel to 2012’s critical classic XCOM: Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 picks up twenty years after the events of the last game, also developed by Firaxis Games, taking place in a scenario where humanity was defeated by the alien invaders. Following the surrender of the people of Earth, XCOM was betrayed by the council nations, forcing XCOM to become nothing more than a resistance force that continued to lose numbers as years went by. The gameplay of XCOM 2 follows the gameplay of the first one; they’re both tactical turn-based games, in which you play as the Commander, giving commands to your forces to move around the map and to fire at enemy invaders. New to the game are secondary objectives, which push the players to not just accomplish their primary goal, but to gain access to the secondary tasks as well. XCOM 2 was followed by War of the Chosen, a new expansion released in 2017 that added some additional variety to missions within the game.
Sega has been on a tear over the last year or so, releasing plenty of cult classics once exclusive to consoles to PC through Steam. Games like Bayonetta and Vanquish were released on PC to high marks of praise, and later this year, the Yakuza series will make its debut on PC with fan-favorite prequel Yakuza 0. In the long-running series, Yakuza 0 is everything fans love about the games rolled into one ’80s-set game, a perfect starting point for anyone new to the series. Set in an open-world environment, players take on the roles of Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, alternating between the two characters. While the plot is interesting and gives you plenty of quests to take on—not to mention plenty of ways to beat up your opponents—the real star of the show here is the minigames that allow you to star in a remake of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video or play arcade games for fun. There’s plenty to do in Yakuza 0, and you can now dive into the world of Japan’s criminal underground on your PC.
If you’re looking for an action-RPG with time-tested battle systems and a surprisingly-good story, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is your game. Don’t let any part of the title turn you off: Ys (pronounced “eece” like fleece”) is Falcom’s long-running RPG series, dating back to the 1980s. Though this is the eighth mainline game, each story is self-contained, with only main protagonist Adol Christin carrying from game to game. Likewise, you can ignore the subtitle; though it eventually comes into play in the story as Dana becomes the secondary main character, it doesn’t matter for long stretches of the game. Ys VIII follows Adol as the boat he’s travelling on is attacked by a sea monster, he finds himself and the other passengers washed up on the cursed Isle of Sieren, a dangerous island filled with ancient monsters that should be long extinct. As an action-RPG filled with dungeons and exploration, any fans of Monster Hunter, The Legend of Zelda, or even Kingdom Hearts will find plenty to love here.
Got a favorite game on Steam? Let us know in the comments below, and check back here in the winter for additional games we love on Steam!