The old quote is wrong: neither death nor taxes are, it seems to me, as terrifyingly certain as the Steam Summer Sale. Yes, once more we can add to the heap that is our backlog by buying games for, what, five quid, on average? But there are so many to choose from that it's easy to get flustered, so who better than the staff of RPS to hand-pick the best ones for your consideration (rhetorical question; do not answer)?
Check out the full list below for a mix of games that should suit all pockets and tastes.
Hyper Light Drifter – £5.99/€7.99/$7.99/60% off
HLD is a mysterious, Zelda-inspired hack-and-slasher with excellent combat, but it's the dash move I find myself periodically thinking about. Chain dashes together with perfect timing and their speed increases; maintain that timing and you can dash at top speed forever, shunting across levels like a blur. Before probably falling into the void and stupidly dying.
Dead Cells – £10.19/€12/£12/40% off
This isn't a mega-bargain, but it's a substantial discount for the best game of 2017. Dead Cells is a supremely satisfying sort-of-Metroidvania about hacking and dodge-rolling through mobs of squishy enemies, and it continues to get better and better in early access.
Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes – £3.39/€3.99/$3.99/80% off
The game I most think about going back and replaying is MGSV: The Phantom Pain, but charging through a 50-hour open world I've already thoroughly explored seems unlikely. Revisiting Ground Zeroes is more achievable: a two-hour, replayable bubble of all the stealth, exploration and cassette tapes that make Metal Gear Solid a constant presence in my memory.
Deadly Premonition – £1.99/€2.49/$2.49/90% off
This open-world survival horror has terrible combat and infuriating cars, it crashes every hour or so, and it's a perennial sales pick for me because its warmth, charm, and story overpower its flaws. Which other game will let you talk with your imaginary friend about Richard Donner movies, steal cigarettes from a dog, receive a pay bonus from your FBI bosses for shaving, whack monsters with a stolen guitar, get a part-time job in the supermarket, and eat a sandwich made with turkey, strawberry jam, and cereal? Many hate this game and I can understand why, but you might fall deeply in love with it. For £2, gwan, chance it.
Devil Daggers – £2.39/€2.99/$2.99/40% off
This first-person arena shmup is fast, deadly, and worth two quid even just for the spectacle of watching the astonishing top scores through the in-game replays. It's so very pretty and great-sounding too, with everything roaring, squealing, groaning, and cackling – even our gun ends up screaming. Put on headphones and lose yourself in skullhell.
Infra – £11.89/€13.99/$14.99/50% off
Wander through, over, and under vital infrastructure of a European city as a structural analyst in this pleasant first-person adventure game. Beyond the delightful premise, it has pretty places to explore, photographs of damage to snap, mysteries and conspiracy to uncover, a catastrophe to survive, and gentle puzzles to solve - plus some trickier optional puzzles for thinkheads. Also, I'm so up for any game which opens with us in a meeting presenting slides to explain our day's work, then lets us stall for ages poking around the offices.
Islands: Non-Places – £0.79/€0.99/$0.99/80% off
Malls, car parks, and other mundane places become magical in this calm little... puzzle game? Click on stuff to make weird and pretty things happen. Splendid.
Viscera Cleanup Detail – £4.99/€6.49/$6.49/50% off
Slip on your wellies and round up three pals to clear up spaceplaces in the aftermath of other, flashier video games. Mop up blood, collect bullet casings, incinerate corpses, refill medical boxes, tidy up barrels, and scrub expositional bloodgraffiti off walls. Cleaning a huge bloody mess, with all the delegation that entails and the banter it provokes, is a wonderful way to hang out with friends.
Yorkshire Gubbins – £2.39/€2.99/$2.99/40% off
Like jokes and clicking on things? Love Yorkshire Gubbins. Help robots, befriend slugpeople, bake pie, and cause trouble in this warm and funny collection of small adventure games set in a Yorkshire town.
New Coke Alice:
Dishonored - Definitive Edition – £7.49/€9.99/$9.99/50% off
All the Dishonored games are in the sale, and now would be a good time to jump on the series (just don't talk about how Dishonored 2's issues on PC, 'k?). It’s like Thief, but with gruesome stabbing and cooler outfits and a human heart that talks to you. Strange arcane powers are bestowed upon you by a beautiful, androgynous, Eldritch sort-of-god. Also, Susan Sarandon is in it.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine – £9.74/€12.99/$12.99/35% off
Let us continue to tap into the surprising celebrity cameo vein. Please enjoy the knowledge that this gentle journey of collecting and retelling stories in the United States – during the Great Depression, so many of the stories are bitter-sweet – stars Sting. He’s actually quite good in it. The game is very good, and has a killer soundtrack (not featuring Sting).
Genital Jousting – £2.59/€3.49/$3.49/50% off
Stay with me. The first time I saw Genital Jousting it was multiplayer only, and kind of made me feel like a giggling schoolboy drawing knobs on textbooks. But now it also has a story mode to play through, with a surprisingly nuanced exploration of toxic masculinity. Also your character is a big willy, hur hur.
Soma – £4.59/€5.99/$5.99/80% off
One of my favourite horror games in recent memory, Soma is mostly scary for the horrible way it makes you consider what actually makes you, you -- although the underwater science facility full of confused machines is also pretty horrible. Now with an optional Safe Mode to turn off some of the monstering.
Mad Max – £3.99/€4.99/$4.99/75% off
Mad Max was one of those games that was almost amazing. An open world, Ubi-style game by the Just Cause people, set in the dusty lands of post-apocalyptic car worship, only spoiled by the complete and utter misery of the boring, game-stopping storms. Thing is, all the hesitations matter a lot less when it only costs £4. There's a lot of fun to be had in this.
Firewatch – £3.74/€4.99/$4.99/75% off
It's just a ludicrously wonderful game, and if anything had put you off finding out why, this price should quite literally put pay to that. Come on now.
Pony Island – £1.31/€1.64/$1.64/67% off
One of my favourite games of 2016, the less you know before you start playing the better. And when you already know it's £1.31, there's no reason not to trust me and try it.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes – £3.74/€4.99/$4.99/75% off
If you're after something to play with chums, and especially with kids, where everyone will definitely be enjoying themselves, then this is the one. The best Lego game they've made, and approximately 3409459 hours long, featuring over 49 billion different Marvel heroes, an open city, and rather a lot of bespoke missions, it's properly brilliant fun.
Dying Light Enhanced Edition – £13.19/€16.49/$19.79/67% off
I started playing this first-person zombie avoider to stave off post-E3 jet lag. The upcoming sequel has the intention of being “more and better”. Can't argue with that, seeing as it's already fun to use a zombie’s shoulders as a springboard and dropkick a bandit in the head.
Tekken 7 – £15.99/€19.99/$19.99/60% off
If you’re not dressing up as a panda with a handbag and beating all the youthful enthusiasm out of a Swedish ninja with bed head, then you're doing fighting games wrong. Tekken can be tough for newcomers and lapsed brawlers, but it is so slickly animated that landing your first combo will make you feel like a god. A malevolent panda god.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – £2.99/€4.49/$4.49/85% off
If you're salivating over the colourful Cyberpunk 2077, this might not be exactly what you're looking for, but it’s a good stop-gap if you haven’t played it already. Prague is a small but neat labyrinth of locked doors and tricky vents. There is a bank and you can rob it. I suggest you do.
Pyre – £5.99/€7.99/$7.99/60% off
The fantasy netball of this purgatorial quest isn’t exactly Rocket League, but the characters you’ll meet while playing in these tournaments are vibrant, curious and likeable. Which makes later parts of the story bittersweet, as more and more of your pals leave to join a distant revolution. Good bye, sweet moustache dog. I'll always remember you.
Northgard – £15.93/€18.75/$20.09/33% off
An elegant RTS that injects the genre with 4X-like paths to victory, where opposing armies are usually less scary than the coming winter. You’ll never feel overwhelmed by complexity, but your people will probably starve to death anyway. The campaign is so-so, so play it in multiplayer and laugh at your friend’s villagers getting eaten by wolves.
Mount Your Friends – £1.99/€2.49/$2.49/50% off
If QWOP was a multiplayer game about having an orgy on top of a goat, it’d look a bit like this. It’s about overcoming awkward controls to climb a mountain composed of your friends, cheering when they pull off something impressive and cheering harder when they fail spectacularly. It’s daft, tense and beautiful, and has made me laugh more than any other game on this list.
Onward – £11.39/€13.79/$14.99/40% off
A VR-only multiplayer shooter with ARMA’s realism and Counter Strike’s round structure. It’s slow-paced, but that’s what heightens the tension of every engagement to heart attack-inducing levels. Also I once stuck my handgun around a corner and blindfire killed someone who was waiting to ambush me, which is the best feeling in video games.
Matt Matthew Matthew C. Matthew Castle:
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc – £8.99/€11.99/$11.99/40% off
Bizarro murder mystery game that mixes Ace Attorney with Battle Royale (the film) as a class of gifted students attempt to murder their way out of prison. It's up to you to solve the crimes in hectic courtroom sections that blend logical deductions with pulsing rhythm minigames. It's obnoxious, but the cases are ingenious (and the two sequels are on sale, too).
Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow - Ultimate Edition – £3.99/€4.99/$4.99/80% off
It's not the 2D Castlevania most know and love, but it's a tremendous mix of pointy Gothic castles and boisterous God of War-ish hack-and-slashing. Patrick Stewart delivers enough ham to stock a deli and it ends with one of the best post-credit reveals I've ever seen (slightly diminished if you've already played Lords of Shadow 2, which is also in the sale).
Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition – £3.74/€4.99/$4.99/75% off
You probably haven't heard of this one. In fact, I think I'm the first person to discover it, thanks to the Steam sale. It seems good and quite well written?
The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings - Enhanced Edition – £2.24/€2.99/$2.99/85% off
It lacks the open world gawp-fuel of The Witcher 3, but its quests are every bit as flexible and morally befuddling. In fact, it contains one of the most consequence-laden crossroads I've encountered in a game – a choice of loyalty that flips the lengthy second act on its head. Play it twice and it's practically two different games. That's just £1.12 per narrative path. Bargain!
Little King's Story – £3.75/€4.99/$4.99/75% off
A true strategy classic, Little King's Story is the cute but deadly medieval RTS you never knew you needed. Build your town, defend its borders, romance some ladies that are way out of your league, and smash your enemies atop your trusty mount, Pancho the cow. Hard as nails but wickedly funny, Little King's Story will have you patching up all the right kind of stitches.
Hidden Folks – £2.99/€3.99/$3.99/50% off
The 'Where's Wally?' (or Waldo, or whatever you want to call him) of video games, Hidden Folks is delightfully chill. I played this on my phone, where every tap elicited a joyous 'boing!' 'durrrr' and 'bling!' as I probed its detailed playgrounds of bods going about their business, but I'd imagine it works a lot better on PC. These huge worlds are too stuffed with...err, stuff to appear on such a tiny screen, so do yourself a favour and experience this how it's meant to be: on the big screen with your trusty mouse and keyboard.
SteamWorld Heist – £3.62/€4.94/$4.94/67% off
As much as I loved SteamWorld Dig 2, it's SteamWorld Heist that remains Image & Form's greatest work in my eyes. It's a side-on turn-based strategy game with robots where you can aim and angle your shots (need I say more?), and there is simply no greater feeling than angling a sniper shot off six different walls and still hitting your target dead centre in his metallic cranium at the end of it. Did I mention there were also collectible hats?
Divinity: Original Sin 2 – £23.99/€35.99/$35.99/20% off
If you haven't jumped into Divinity: Original Sin 2 yet, I highly encourage that you do so immediately. Yes, 20% is not a massive chunk off, but trust me when I say it was one of my favourite RPGs of last year, and it has a metric tonne of stuff included already.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – £14.99/€17.99/$17.99/40% off
Splash out on this if you’re looking for something gritty, as it does a lot of things that are unexpected and unsettling with its audio, especially for headphone users.
Sonic Mania – £11.24/€14.99/$14.99/25% off
Sonic Mania was probably my favourite game from last year, mostly because I'm a Mega Drive boy at heart. The way the team behind it understood what made Sonic so good in the 90s, expanded upon it with fresh ideas, and added the catchiest soundtrack in years, all makes for a really fun retro experience. Ahead of the Sonic Mania Plus expansion that brings Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel back to the series, this is a good time to pick it up.
[I asked for 'two or three' games and Dominic sent 10. Like a man possessed – with the spirit of sharing bargains, that is!]
Monolith – £2.79/€3.99/$4.99/50% off
Drum-tight roguelike shmup. Very little chaos, massively high skill ceiling, charming pixel art and tons of depth and modes to be unlocked. I wrote a little about it here.
Princess Remedy 2: Princess Remedy in a Heap of Trouble – £0.39/€0.41/$0.50/80% off
Charming microcomputer-style RPG/shooter from the creator of Ittle Dew, Iji, Hero Core and plenty more. Sequel to the original Princess Remedy, which is also free on Steam. Cure people by shooting their illnesses, and go on dates with everyone and everything, including furniture. Check out the free original here.
Spark The Electric Jester – £5.49/€7.49/$7.49/50% off
I'd previously recommended this Sonic/Kirby/Sparkster mash-up platformer with some small reservations due to weak combat, a wobbly script and some bugs, but the day the Steam sale started it got a massive update that addressed absolutely everything. Now it's a must-have for the Gotta Go Fast crowd, with an amazing soundtrack.
A Robot Named Fight – £5.14/€6.49/$6.49/50% off
It's a combination that really shouldn't work; Super Metroid mashed up with The Binding of Isaac, but it somehow plays great. Very familiar Metroid elements are mashed together at random to create small, self-contained worlds where key items are needed to open new zones. A lot of replay value, too, with new areas, bosses and endings unlocking through extended play.
Two excellent indie strategy-RPGs, a bit like Final Fantasy Tactics meets early Ultima. Simple graphics, but with a great soundtrack and complex, involved combat. Combat powers work in the overworld too – use axes to chop trees, ice spells to freeze rivers, etc. Voidspire is more story/exploration driven, while Alvora is roguelike-ish.
Super Cloudbuilt – £7.99/€9.99/$9.99/50% off
While the original was fairly well-known, this expanded re-release/remake failed to sell despite being a vastly superior game. On the surface, this 3D platform shooter is what Mega Man X would be like if it was 3D. Dig a bit deeper and it's a speedrunners dream with massive freedom of movement.
Fight'N Rage – £10.04/€13.39/$13.39/33% off
Scrolling brawlers are something of a lost art. Fight'N Rage's solo developer doesn't just remember how it's done, but has crafted one of the best in the history of the genre. Pure arcade joy, immense skill ceiling, tonnes of extra stuff to dig into and great in co-op. I reviewed it here.
MidBoss – £5.49/€7.49/$7.49/50% off
Charming isometric roguelike with a Disgaea-ish art style and sense of humour. You get stronger by possessing monsters, and those worried about the difficulty can breathe a sigh of relief - this one features difficulty and accessibility options all over, letting you tune the experience to preference.
Copy Kitty – £8.54/€9.36/$11.24/25% off
One of my favourite platform shooters in years, and a two-person passion project many years in the making. Inspired by Treasure's games like Gunstar Heroes, it's a quirky little thing with a steep learning curve, but there's hundreds of fun weapons to use, and it just added Steam Workshop level-sharing.
Immortal Defense – £1.39/€1.79/$1.99/80% off
Over a decade old, but semi-recently updated on Steam. One of the best (and most weird/creative) tower defence games ever made, with a genuinely great story about becoming an undying entity outside of normal time and space.
Have we missed some absolutely crucial games? Give each other the good recs in the comments