Important: The 2019-20 Winter/Holiday Sales have now ended; prices listed below will no longer be accurate.
It’s the time of year where the main digital shops for PC games have big sales, and there are some great deals in there that are worth checking out.
Despite costing more up-front than a console – significantly more, depending on what kind of specs you go for – using a PC as your primary gaming platform can save money in the long run when you take into account sales like these. If you’re willing to wait a little and not jump on a brand new title on release day, within a year you’ll almost certainly find it discounted.
That’s not to say PC is necessarily the best option for budget gaming, but it is worth considering that many titles can be bought at a significant discount this time of year. If I were giving advice on the absolute best budget setup, I’d have to say that an Xbox One S with Xbox’s GamePass service is hard to beat. GamePass is a subscription service (think Netflix, but for games) and with the lower entry price of the Xbox One S you can be set up and playing a bunch of titles pretty quickly – assuming you have a good internet connection. But we’re getting off the subject.
I’ve had a look at the big sales over the last couple of days, and I’ve picked a few titles that are worth grabbing for the discounted price.
Disclaimer: discounts and prices are in GBP and may vary depending on where you are in the world. Prices are correct at time of writing; sales end at the beginning of January. The list is in no particular order.
Spoiler Warning: Though I’ve tried not to spoil the plots of titles listed below, minor spoilers may be present.
Number 1: Mass Effect 2 (Origin) £4.49, plus £8.79 for all DLC
I named Mass Effect 2 as my number one game of the decade a little while ago, and I absolutely stand by that. The game tells a story that would be at home as a big-budget television show or series of films, as Commander Shepard must put together a crew for a dangerous mission to stop an alien race abducting human colonists.
It’s a much more streamlined version of the first game in the series, with fewer weapon and ammo options cluttering up your inventory. The third-person shooting mechanics are great, and the addition of biotic and technical powers adds an extra dimension to combat.
For a game that is basically ten years old by now, it still holds up remarkably well from a graphical point of view. For £4.49 it’s well worth a punt, though if you want the complete story – including the mission which bridges the gap between this title and its (somewhat disappointing) sequel, you’ll have to get the DLC pack as well.
Number 2: Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition (Steam, £4.49)
Considering that for £4.49 you’re getting the entire main game of Fallout 3 plus five DLC packs, there’s a lot of content here.
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic Washington DC, Fallout 3 dumps players in a large open world. There is a main quest to follow, but there are also dozens of side-quests and other factions and NPCs to meet and engage with. There’s also a “karma” system – with points awarded for bad and good behaviour respectively. Doing bad things to people will result in negative karma and vice versa – these can affect gameplay.
With a ton of ways to play thanks to character creation and levelling-up systems allowing you a huge range of customisation options, Fallout 3 is a steal at this price and if you really get sucked into its world, will give you hours and hours of entertainment.
I’d absolutely recommend Fallout 3 over Fallout 4. But whatever you do, don’t buy the catastrophe that is Fallout 76.
Number 3: The Epic Games Store – Free £10/$10 voucher
This isn’t a single game, but the Epic Game Store is currently offering a free voucher to spend on games over £14.99. I know that the Epic Games Store has been controversial in PC gaming circles because of its aggressive policy of paying for exclusive titles, but they’re currently offering a £10 voucher to anyone who’s signed up.
The voucher is valid until May next year, and can be used on most games priced over £14.99, which includes titles that are currently on sale. It isn’t valid on pre-orders or in-game content, but if you figure a title has been discounted by £10, and you can save another £10 thanks to the voucher, it stacks up to be a pretty good deal.
I have heard that the discount is also available in Euros and US Dollars, but you’ll have to confirm on the Epic Games Store website that the deal is available in your region.
Number 4: Age of Empires: Definitive Edition (Steam, £3.75)
Age of Empires came out in 1997, and was the first real-time strategy game that I played on PC. Microsoft spent a long time reworking this classic of the genre for modern PCs, and though the wait seemed to last forever, the end result was worth it.
Though many people prefer Age of Empires II, I’ve always had a special respect for what the original game did – for both my own PC gaming experience and for the genre as a whole. And the opportunity to dive back in when the Definitive Edition was released was too tempting to pass up.
You start with a Stone Age tribe of humans and have to build a town, while managing such resources as food, wood, stone, and gold. And in addition, you have an array of combat units to fight off other players (either AI or real people if you feel up to that). Battles can be intense in Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, and with the number of units you can have in any one game being raised from the original 50 all the way up to 250 this time around, be prepared for some truly epic fights.
There are campaigns as well if you want more of a story, but I’ve always preferred to set up random matches against AI opponents.
Number 5: Banished (Steam, £5.09)
Another title from my top games of the decade, Banished is a town building and management game.
If you can imagine Age of Empires without the fighting, you’re close to understanding what Banished is about. Players start with a small number of citizens and a stockpile of resources, and must work to keep citizens fed, clothed, healthy, and happy. Striking the balance is harder than it sounds, and gathering all of the necessary resources to build all the different buildings needed takes time.
Different factors affect how well citizens will perform – if they lack suitable clothing they’ll need to spend more time keeping warm, or if they weren’t educated at your town’s school house they will work less efficiently.
Considering the entire game was built by just one single person, Banished is an amazingly detailed experience, one that’s very easy to get stuck into and lose hours playing.
Number 6: Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Origin, £5.11)
When it was released in 2007, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga contained levels set across all six Star War films. Obviously since then we’ve seen the Star Wars universe expand, but that doesn’t mean that this incredibly fun game is not worth taking a look at, especially when it’s on sale.
If you’ve never played any of the Lego games, they take whatever their setting is and make it incredibly fun. This is a very polished game, and has literally hundreds of collectables and unlockables hidden throughout its numerous levels. Every major and minor Star Wars character from the first six films makes an appearance – and when unlocked, almost all are playable.
Going back to a previously-beaten level with a different set of characters might unlock new areas or allow access to previously-off limits collectables, and finding every single hidden Lego kit and collecting every single coin to 100% complete Lego Star Wars is a heck of a task. For such a low price there’s a lot to do here, and while it isn’t a game that takes itself seriously in any way, it’s great fun and well worth a look. I’ve even played this with people who aren’t Star Wars fans and they all had a great time.
Number 7: The Witcher 3: Game of the Year Edition (GOG, £10.49)
Big disclaimer: I haven’t played this game for myself. But The Witcher 3 is held up by many gamers as one of the best single-player experiences ever created, and with the Game of the Year Edition at 70% off, giving you the main game and both of its expansions, I’d say the reviews alone make it worth a look if you’re like me and haven’t got around to playing yet.
Excitement for the series is sky-high at the moment, thanks to Netflix’s The Witcher series getting rave reviews and being picked up for a second season. So maybe this could be a good time to finally jump into this world.
Number 8: Project CARS (Steam, £5.84)
For some reason, racing games over the last few years have all ended up looking absolutely stunning, and Project CARS is no exception. For a game that’s approaching its fifth anniversary it looks incredible, and even if it were released today it would still be a great-looking title.
But there’s more to a game than graphics, and luckily Project CARS has a lot to offer for racing fans. There are 65 cars in the base game, with others available as DLC – and the DLC packs are also on offer at the moment. Each car can be tuned to fit the way you want to race, and there’s both a career mode as well as the freedom to set up individual races.
Number 9: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Steam, Origin, and Epic Games Store, £45.64)
Another big disclaimer: I haven’t played this game yet. But Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a return to single-player gaming for the Star Wars franchise, and by all accounts it’s a great game. Some reviewers have criticised the difficulty – even comparing it to Dark Souls – but there is a “story mode” which supposedly reduces this significantly.
This isn’t going to be a game like Knights of the Old Republic, because it’s not a role-playing game in the same way as those classic titles. It’s more in the vein of an adventure title like the Uncharted series, but with a Star Was setting.
When you factor in that the £10 voucher will actually let you nab this for £35.64, this might be a title worth picking up over on the Epic Games Store, and considering it’s only been out for a month or so, the 17% discount seems generous.
Number 10: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series (Steam, £5.01 or Origin, £4.74)
I mentioned the Knights of the Old Republic games in the entry above, and at £5 or less for both games, that’s a pretty great deal in my opinion. I played both titles on the original Xbox when they were new, and they’re absolutely incredible.
Taking a setting several thousand years prior to the events of the main Star Wars films, Bioware gave themselves an almost blank canvas to tell a really exciting story of a war between Sith and Jedi. And you actually get to choose whether to stay with the Light Side or allow your character to succumb to the Dark – with different outcomes in both games depending on which path you choose to follow.
Some people will tell you that Knights of the Old Republic II is the better title, but both are incredibly strong stories, wholly single-player, and a lot of fun to spend hours with. The non-linear nature of the story, as well as a number of optional side-quests, and of course the differing Light Side and Dark Side paths, combine to make both titles very replayable.
Number 11: The Monkey Island Collection (Steam, £7.64)
A series whose first two titles date back to the days of MS-DOS, Monkey Island is a hilarious pirate-themed point-and-click adventure. The first two titles – The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge – have been remastered with voice acting and up-to-date graphics in this collection.
The series follows the story of wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood, as he blunders his way across the Caribbean. I don’t want to spoil any of the jokes, but the series has an incredible sense of humour.
These games require a lot of puzzling and thinking, figuring out which objects in your inventory could be combined or used to interact with the environment. There are walkthroughs online, though, so if you get stuck help is available.
And the third game, The Curse of Monkey Island, has one of my all-time favourite NPCs: Murray the talking skull.
Number 12: Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition (Steam, £2.39)
In a strange way, the manner in which Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition portrayed Hong Kong felt familiar to me – I’d played Shenmue II years previously, and despite never having set foot in the city, playing Sleeping Dogs felt like a strange homecoming of sorts.
The game takes the Grand Theft Auto playbook and completely changes it up – firstly by switching the setting from America to Hong Kong, and secondly by making the player character an undercover police officer instead of a criminal.
There’s a hugely detailed story to get stuck into, and an exciting open world that genuinely feels lived-in. I have no idea why the game is so heavily discounted, but for less than the price of a drink you’ll get hours of fun, both from the main game and its DLC packs.
Number 13: Euro Truck Simulator 2 or American Truck Simulator (Steam, £3.74)
If you’re looking for a slower-paced experience, something to do while you listen to your favourite tunes, or you’re just a big fan of trucking, one or both of these titles might appeal to you.
The Truck Simulator games put you in the boots of a truck driver, giving you journeys across either Europe or the United States to complete in exchange for cash you can use to buy new vehicles and upgrade your fleet. Business management is part of the simulation, but at its core it’s primarily a driving game.
This isn’t like a Grand Theft Auto or Crazy Taxi title where you’re rushing around, not caring about damage to your vehicle or the environment. Collisions will cost money, and the point of the game isn’t to kill and destroy, it’s to relax and enjoy the beautiful environments. American Truck Simulator is my favourite of the two, simply because of the scenery, but both games are strangely compelling, and if you need to unwind or just have time to waste, you could do a lot worse.
Number 14: The Outer Worlds (Epic Games Store, £37.49)
Another title that comes with the “I haven’t played it yet” disclaimer, but The Outer Worlds received stellar reviews from critics. Coming from Obsidian Entertainment – the team behind games like Knights of the Old Republic II and Fallout: New Vegas – this wholly original title takes players to a distant outer space colony where corporations are in charge.
The environments look amazing, and from what I hear the story is an exciting one. Another game that might be worth spending that £10 voucher on, The Outer Worlds has been on my radar for a while, and I can’t wait to see what it has in store.
Number 15: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Game of the Year Edition (Steam and GOG, £3.89)
Another of my all-time favourite games, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind represented a massive jump in both quality and scale over its two predecessors, and really set the stage for future Bethesda titles – including Skyrim and the Fallout series. The roots of what would become Skyrim are here on full display, and while the game’s lack of voice acting and heavy reliance on text may be offputting for some, it is an incredibly detailed experience.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind actually offers a lot more than its sequels, Oblivion and Skyrim, in some respects. There are more weapon types – including throwing knives and spears – and more factions to join – including three great houses. Considering this game was first released in 2002, it was incredibly ambitious, and the open world it created, while imperfect and dated by today’s standards, was a monumental achievement.
Hundreds of hours of gameplay await if you really get stuck in, and because of the huge number of factions it isn’t possible to complete every single quest and side-quest in one playthrough – so there’s always a reason to come back. I bought the game when it first came out on the original Xbox, and in 17 years I still haven’t completed 100% of the game. There really is just that much to do here.
It isn’t possible to detail every single game that’s currently on sale, such is the scope of Steam and other shops. But I found a few more that would be just as worthy of an entry on the list above:
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Steam, £3.89) – If Morrowind‘s reliance on text isn’t your thing, Oblivion is fully voice-acted and is a great entry in the series in its own right.
Two Point Hospital (Steam, £8.49) – A spiritual successor to classic title Theme Hospital, this game is a hospital management title with a real sense of humour.
Steel Division: Normandy ’44 (Steam, £11.89) – A realistic WWII real-time strategy title with a detailed and exciting single-player campaign.
Control (Epic Games Store, £32.15) – Another contender for your £10 voucher, Control is a supernatural third-person adventure.
The Sims 4 (Origin, £8.74) – It can be hard to recommend The Sims when considering the price of all of the various expansions, but at this discounted price it could be worth it if you want to try the most up-to-date edition of the classic life simulator.
Shenmue I & II (Steam, £8.49) – Absolutely among my all-time favourite games, Shenmue tells a slow-burning, cinematic story of revenge, set in a wonderfully realistic open world.
Resident Evil 2 Remake (Steam, £14.84) – Considering this is one of the best games of the year and only came out in January, this horror title’s 67% discount is huge.
Star Wars Battlefront II (Origin, £19.99) – Though incredibly controversial upon release for its microtransactions, Battlefront II has a solid single-player campaign, which has been updated with a free expansion, and the story it told was worth the asking price.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (Steam, £24.99) – A fun, arcade-style air combat game with an interesting story.
Rise of Nations: Extended Edition (Steam, £3.74) – Similar in some ways to Age of Empires, this game is a fun RTS title that takes you through almost all of human history right up to the present.
So that’s it.
A few titles I found that are worth considering before the sale ends at the beginning of next month. I reckon if you bought all fifteen entries on the list, you’d have spent £143.58 (assuming using the £10 Epic Games Store voucher) and that works out at less than £10 a game – including two brand new, expensive titles. Excluding Jedi: Fallen Order and The Outer Worlds, you’d spend £70.45 and have a huge library of games to play heading into 2020.
These sales are part of what gives PC gaming an edge over consoles, and even if you just want one or two new titles to play, there are some great discounts on plenty of games across every genre.
I hope this has been helpful for some of you. Remember that sales are currently taking place on GOG, Origin, the Epic Games Store, and Steam – and a number of titles are available in multiple shops so it’s worth shopping around to make absolutely sure you’re getting the best discount.
All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer and/or publisher. Prices listed are for the UK versions only and were correct as of 22/12/2019. Sales end at the beginning of January – though it’s possible some discounts may end sooner. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.