In this new weekly column, we’re gonna check out gaming on the twilight side of your bank account. That means cheap indies, timely deals, and forgotten treasures that won’t ransack your disposable income.
Gaming is expensive as hell. We all know it, we all deal with it, and we are always holding back from a splurge. “Okay, I’m definitely going to buy that…when AND ONLY WHEN it goes on sale…”
Luckily, with the vivacious indie scene trucking along, amazing games are still available for cheap…or sometimes free. Let’s dive into a few of those (and please peep any sale dates listed below, so you don’t miss out!).
Hooked Bundle (via Fanatical)
Platform: Steam (Many of these games are available for both Mac and Windows)
Price: $3.99 (~$84 worth of games)
Seven complete games for four bucks is hard to beat. The Hooked Bundle features a horror game, an open world adventure, one recent indie hit, and one bonafide classic. For players who never experienced Eric Chahi’s Another World, this remastered relic is easily worth the price of admission. Learn your history, folks!
My other main pick here is Songbringer, a Kickstarted action-adventure inspired by The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. With a charming low-rez pixelated style and procedurally-generated environments, it’s a perfect way to spend a few afternoons.
Either of those two games are worth more than the $3.99 ticket price alone, so cop this bundle before it expires.
**Bundle sale ends 11/28**
Genre: Roguelike, fantasy RPG
For fans of turn-based roguelikes and SNES-styled graphics, Stoneshard looks like a godsend. It’s in genre which can be pretty hostile to newcomers, but has plenty of quality-of-life hooks that are worth checking out. An autosave system eases up on permadeath, there’s plenty of storytelling and dialogue, and the animation’s a treat.
You basically play a fantasy grumpy dude escaping a prison and making his way through a dungeon filled with vampires. The graphics are unusually excellent, and the recently-released (and free) Prologue chapter is a strong showing. The full game is expected to release in February of next year, and Ink Stains Games celebrated a successful Kickstarter for it last month. Good on them.
Check out Stoneshard: Prologue here
Distraint: Deluxe Edition + Distraint 2
Genre: Lo-fi horror, narrative game
Platform: Steam/Windows, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch (original game only)
Price: $4.80 on Steam
A cozy little psych-horror adventure in a snappy pixelated package, Distraint made some waves when it first came out on PC back in 2015. For anyone who’s ever played Jasper Byrne’s Lone Survivor, there’s a similar style here (but less in the way of action). It basically boils down to: walk left or right, interact with things, talk to some people, wait for horrible things to happen.
The simplicity of Distraint makes it an awesome draw on mobile devices, the kind of game you can tuck into half-asleep in bed. Its sequel released last year, but a special Steam bundle gives both games for $4.80, which is a steal. They’re bite-sized and creepy and definitely worth that.
On the App Store, the original Distraint is $0.99 and Distraint 2 is $5.99. Google Play users get a better deal, with Distraint: Deluxe Edition going for $4.49 and the sequel currently on sale for $3.49.
**Steam sale ends 11/19**
Genre: God game
Platform: Steam/Windows/Mac, Xbox One, PS4
Price: $2.24 (PS4)
God games can either be engrossing simulations or just sandboxes to lazily mess around in. Reus leans to the latter at first, but hides a substantive civilization management sim under its charming art style.
Players basically interact with human cultures, helping or hindering their progress, but purely through the use of a few adorable giants (“Reus” means “giant” in Dutch). Each can interact with the environment through an elemental affinity, and the game is played in 2D on a large planetary sphere. Watching your little struggling humans experience greater technology while also making bad ideas—for instance, deciding to kill a few other humans across a sea—is weirdly absorbing. Unable to impact them directly makes the experience feel more like a complicated aquarium, though later levels in the game get much more hectic.
Reus on PS4 is currently discounted to $2.24 on the Playstation Store. At that price it’s a no-brainer, even if simulation games aren’t usually your bag. You can also grab it on Steam for its regular low price of $9.99.
**PS4 sale ends 11/20**
Throwback Pick of the Week:
Way of the Samurai 4
Genre: Immersive sim, RPG, swordplay, choices matter
Platforms: Steam/Windows, PS4
Price: $24.99 (Steam), $19.99 (PS4)
The Way of the Samurai series always curated a somewhat small but feisty fanbase. The games have never drastically changed over each iteration, and began with a simple concept. What if players could essentially control the events of Kurosawa’s classic samurai film Yojimbo?
This means coming into town as a wandering rōnin, meeting the haves and have-nots, maybe speaking with the warring kingpins who run things. Then it’s all on you to side with the beleaguered peasants, link up with the bad guys, screw everyone over, trash the inn, or all of the above. Playthroughs can suddenly end after a swordfight, and beating the game in full usually only takes a few hours. The magic happens when you start it all over again and start making changes and improving your combat skills.
There’s usually a touch of absurdity and anachronism to the series, with surprise moments straight out of Samurai Champloo. There’s all this period-specific garb and weaponry, but also stuff like BDSM and other naughty nonsense, and you can cosplay to your heart’s content. Become a flirtatious anime magical girl with boxing gloves or a naked afro’d swordsman: it’s totally up to you.
It’s truly wild that the last one of thesse came out eight years ago. For fans of Japanese history and action RPGs with meaningful choice-based gameplay (and a healthy dose of weird humor), this is highly recommended. Rediscover this series now, and bemoan the fact that it looks like it’s over, since the studio sadly disbanded.