Update: The Steam Summer Sale has now ended. All prices listed below will no longer be accurate. Check back in December for a rundown of some of the best Holiday Sale deals.
Spoiler Warning: I’ve tried not to include major spoilers for any of these games, but minor spoilers may still be present.
It’s that wonderful time of year again! No, not Christmas – though we are halfway there, as yesterday marked half-Christmas – it’s Steam Summer Sale time, which means there are going to be some spectacular deals for PC gamers. Sales like these make PC as a platform much more competitive compared to consoles. It’s true that there are sales on console games too, and of course console games on disc are much more easily traded in and resold, but no sale on other platforms can match the sheer number of deals available on PC.
Some titles can be reduced by as much as 90% – and from time to time there are full games available for free too. Even though getting started with a gaming PC – especially a higher-end one – can be more expensive than a console, these sales go a long way to making up for it.
Let’s do some quick maths! If a games console costs £400, and on average each game costs £40 (newer games will cost £55, older ones might be reduced so let’s average it out at £40) then by the time you’ve bought ten games you’ve spent £800 in total. But you could buy a decent gaming PC for £700, and with the deals available in sales you could easily pick up ten games – or more – with your leftover cash. And your investment will only get better over time. A console player with a library of 50 games will have spent £2,000 on games alone at an average cost of £40 each. A Steam library with 50 titles almost certainly won’t cost you anywhere close to that!
Okay, enough maths. Let’s get into the list!
These are titles I personally like and would recommend; this is not a comprehensive list of everything on sale. Some titles may have been mentioned on my previous PC gaming sale list in December (but don’t read that one, it’s out of date now and the prices will be wrong). The list is in no particular order.
All prices are correct in the UK at time of publication. Prices and discounts may vary by location and are subject to change. The Steam Summer Sale ends on the 9th of July at 6pm UK time.
Number 1: Max Payne (65% off, £2.09)
Max Payne, which was a game I first played on the original Xbox circa 2001-02, is a phenomenal game. Bringing The Matrix’s “bullet time” to video gaming for the first time, its third-person shooter gameplay was unique and innovative. Even though the features which I was blown away by at the time have been reused many times since, at its core Max Payne is still an engrossing crime/noir story that’s absolutely worth experiencing.
The blend of gameplay with graphic novel-style cutscenes adds to the dark, true-crime feel of Max Payne’s world.
Number 2: Vampyr (70% off, £13.49)
A game set in the midst of a pandemic seems particularly timely at the moment! Vampyr uses the 1918-19 Spanish flu as its backdrop, focusing on a doctor in a great rendition of early-20th Century London. Praise was heaped on Vampyr for its soundtrack and the main thrust of its gameplay.
The team behind the amazing Life is Strange put the title together, and Vampyr gives players a lot of choice about how to proceed through the game.
Number 3: Assassin’s Creed Origins (80% off, £9.99) & Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (67% off, £16.49)
The Assassin’s Creed franchise, which kicked off in 2007, almost burnt itself out by the mid-2010s. Publisher Ubisoft pushed for more and more titles to be released – more than one a year at one point, and the result was that the quality dropped and the franchise almost died. Origins rebooted Assassin’s Creed and introduced a number of customisation options and roleplaying game elements, something Odyssey refined a couple of years later. The result was two of the best games in the whole series.
Both games have a free “Discovery Tour” DLC, which is a non-violent walk through some of the real-world history of the games’ ancient Egypt and ancient Greece settings.
Number 4: Doom (2016) (70% off, £4.49) & Doom Eternal (50% off, £24.99)
Considering Doom Eternal only released three months ago, and is arguably a contender for game of the year, its 50% discount is huge! In 2016, Doom rebooted the long-running franchise, returning the series to its action roots and away from the horror vibe of Doom 3. This worked phenomenally well, and Doom Eternal honed that formula still further.
Both games also have great soundtracks that perfectly fit the tone and setting. Above all, Doom and Doom Eternal are just good solid fun.
Number 5: Terraria (50% off, £3.49)
Terraria is 2D Minecraft. That’s basically its selling point, yet the game is so much more than that. Earlier this year, Terraria received what was billed as its final update, as the team behind it are moving onto other projects. In the nine years since it was released it’s been updated a number of times, bringing new elements to the game. There are some great boss battles which are difficult and require a lot of strategy and skill. And it’s a great game to play with a friend.
I had a lot of fun playing Terraria in co-op, and though it’s designed to play great as a single-player title, that was where I had the most fun.
Number 6: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (75% off, £12.49)
I’ve sunk countless hours into Civilization VI since its 2016 launch, and this digital board game has never been dull. While I’m not wild about its business model, as there are now a large number of DLC packs, the base game is still really enjoyable for fans of turn-based strategy.
I picked Civilization VI as one of my top ten games of the last decade, and for good reason!
Number 7: Shenmue I & II (75% off, £6.24)
I’ll probably be recommending the first two Shenmue games to everyone I meet for as long as I live! The first entry in the series was the first game I played that really showed me what gaming as a medium was truly capable of. Telling a slow-burning story of revenge that would be at home as a big-budget series or film, Shenmue created a genuinely realistic world, pioneering the “open-world” concept before anyone else. It was unlike anything I’d ever played before, and its story holds up today.
Some aspects of these games haven’t aged well, particularly the controls used for fighting. But if you get lost in the story, as I did, you won’t care.
Number 8: Plague Inc: Evolved (60% off, £4.79)
I first played Plague Inc. on iOS, and it’s rare that a mobile game like this can be successfully ported to PC. There are a few examples, of course, but it’s an uncommon success story. Plague Inc: Evolved is very similar in terms of gameplay to the original mobile title: you play as a disease trying to wipe out humanity. Timely, I know. The graphics got a boost and there are a wider variety of options in the current PC version.
Plague Inc. was on my tongue-in-cheek list of inappropriate things to watch and play while self-isolating a few weeks ago.
Number 9: No Man’s Sky (50% off, £19.99)
No Man’s Sky is an interesting title. Widely criticised on its 2016 release for failing to deliver on a number of promised gameplay elements, in the years since Hello Games have put in a lot of hard graft to rehabilitate its image. In 2020, after a number of free updates and patches, No Man’s Sky finally delivers on those initial promises, and I had a lot of fun with its sci-fi setting and exploration gameplay.
Some people have been put off ever buying No Man’s Sky because of the controversy. If you feel strongly about it that’s absolutely fair enough – but you will be missing out on a fun experience.
Number 10: Ori and the Blind Forest (75% off, £3.74) & Ori and the Will of the Wisps (20% off, £19.99)
I’ve been partway through an article on these two amazing games for a while, but I keep getting sidetracked. Hopefully I’ll finish it before too long! Both Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps are beautiful games – both visually and in terms of their stories. The games both 2D platformers in that niche genre often referred to as “metroidvania”.
Both titles are considered masterpieces, and I honestly can’t recommend them highly enough.
Number 11: Jade Empire: Special Edition (75% off, £3.74)
Bioware is better-known today for games like Mass Effect and Anthem, but in 2005 they released Jade Empire, a role-playing game set in a fictional world based on ancient China. Hot off the heels of their success with Knights of the Old Republic, the game uses a very similar format as players build up a party of characters and go off on an adventure. I had a great time with Jade Empire back on the original Xbox – where it was a console exclusive – and recently replayed it on PC.
I’ve long considered Jade Empire an underrated gem, and if you like Bioware’s older titles from the 2000s, you’ll definitely have a great time here.
Number 12: Grand Theft Auto V (50% off, £12.49)
Grand Theft Auto V is a juggernaut – having premiered on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it’s set to be ported once again to the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Not many games have such longevity, and the amazing thing is that in the seven years since its release, it’s hardly ever dropped out of sales charts across all platforms. The reason for this success is of course its multiplayer mode, but there’s a great single-player campaign too. If you’ve somehow avoided it until now, it could be a great time to pick it up!
The familiar open-world Grand Theft Auto gameplay is still present, but the open world of Los Santos feels like a genuinely lived-in city. There are also some great voice acting performances from the trio of main characters.
Number 13: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (70% off, £3.89) & The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (70% off, £3.89)
I remember reading about Morrowind in a gaming magazine (remember those?) in 2002. I thought it sounded absolutely fantastic, and when I picked it up for the original Xbox I wasn’t disappointed. Morrowind is such a full game – even now, almost two decades on, there are quests I’ve never completed and factions I’ve never joined. Oblivion is a half-step between Morrowind and Skyrim, and while it’s been a while since I played it – and I’ve only played it once – it was definitely a fun experience at the time.
Oblivion also features Sir Patrick Stewart in a voice role, and though his character isn’t present through the whole game, having his voice definitely adds to the experience!
Number 14: The Deus Ex Collection (88% off, £7.79)
2003’s Deus Ex Invisible War was my first foray into the series. I went back and played the first game in this first-person action/adventure series afterwards, as I fell in love with its dystopian future setting. Human Revolution came in 2011 and dragged me right back into that world, and Mankind Divided – which is a direct sequel to Human Revolution – rounds out this bundle of four games.
Even if you skip the older titles, definitely give the two most recent ones a try. They’re great first-person stealth/action games, and there’s a surprising amount of customisation.
Number 15: Murdered: Soul Suspect (90% off, £1.59)
I like games with a novel or interesting premise, and Murdered: Soul Suspect definitely has that to offer! A police detective is murdered – don’t worry, that isn’t a spoiler, it’s practically the first thing that happens in the game! The twist is that this is the playable character, who returns as a ghost to solve his own murder! As a mystery game, once you’ve solved the case there isn’t much replayability, but for this price it’s definitely worth one go around.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is underrated, at least in my opinion. It isn’t particularly long, which is one reason why it may have underperformed when it was released in 2014.
Number 16: Planet Coaster (75% off, £7.49)
I loved games like Rollercoaster Tycoon and Theme Park back in the day. After a number of years where the theme park management sim didn’t really receive any new titles to speak of, Planet Coaster reinvigorated the genre. There are a wealth of options for your theme park – which can be almost overwhelming at first – resulting in a game with limitless customisation potential.
Even without any of the game’s DLC packs, there’s still a heck of a lot to have fun with here.
Number 17: Mirror’s Edge (90% off, £1.79)
Mirror’s Edge is one of those titles that has been heavily discounted for several years now. I don’t really understand why – it’s a great-looking game that plays really well, and its parkour-based running and jumping gameplay is uncommon if not wholly unique. From that point of view, I bet it’s something you won’t have experienced before – reason enough to pick it up for less than the price of a pint!
EA’s recent deal with Valve to bring their games back to Steam means the sequel, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, is also available.
Number 18: Titanfall 2 (67% off, £8.24)
Big caveat here: I haven’t played Titanfall 2 yet. However, it’s widely regarded as a phenomenal game, but was released in a very competitive window for first-person shooters, with EA pitting it against two big annual releases from Battlefield and Call of Duty. As a result it underperformed in the sales department. Titanfall 2 is another game which benefits from EA’s recent move to bring their back catalogue to Steam.
This is a game I’ve had on my wishlist for a while, and I was pleased to be able to pick it up at the discounted price!
Number 19: Sonic Mania (66% off, £5.09)
Originally a fan project, Sonic Mania is a beautiful old-school 2D Sonic game that you would think had been lifted straight from the Sega Mega Drive! The story behind the game’s development is sweet – a group of dedicated fans put together a rough cut which they showed off to Sega, who snapped it up and commissioned them to expand and polish it for the mass market.
Sonic Mania is a labour of love by genuine fans of the series. Too few games nowadays can say that.
Number 20: Garfield Kart: Furious Racing (60% off, £5.19)
I love funny, silly racing games like Garfield Kart or Meow Motors. If you don’t have a Nintendo Switch but are missing being able to play Mario Kart, this could be a fun alternative! It’s a comparable experience to Nintendo’s kart-racer: a fun, arcade racing game that’s easy to get started with.
Additionally, if you’re a fan of the Garfield comic strop (I was only dimly aware of it) you’ll find many familiar faces.
Number 21: Total War: Medieval II (75% off, £4.99)
The first game in the Total War series I played was its first entry, Shogun: Total War. The follow-up to that game was Medieval: Total War, and I wouldn’t like to guess how many hours I lost playing that game in the early/mid-2000s! Medieval II updates the game using a more modern engine, and brings a lot to the table. A title that mixes grand strategy with real-time battles is, for many strategy fans, the best of both worlds.
While a lot of people will recommend the Total War: Warhammer games, I think the franchise works best with real history, and the medieval period is just perfect for this kind of game.
Number 22: Banished (66% off, £5.09)
I’ve talked about this great city-builder a few times here on the website. It’s absolutely fantastic, and the fact that this complicated game was developed by just one individual is still shocking to me! Banished is in that sweet spot when it comes to open-ended games: easy to pick up but hard to master.
The game starts with a small number of settlers, and players must build up a town, gathering and storing enough resources for everyone. Getting the right balance is what the game is all about!
Number 23: Red Faction (75% off, £1.24)
2001’s Red Faction pioneered destructible environments in games. Using rockets and other explosives, it was possible to blow holes in walls or floors, create foxholes and craters, and generally use the levels themselves to gain the upper hand. I didn’t own the game at the time, but a friend did and we spent hours in multiplayer trying to outsmart each other with traps and hidey-holes! If you can think of any modern game that allows for such environmental mayhem, chances are it owes a lot to the trail blazed by Red Faction.
For me, this one’s on the list as a nostalgia trip and a bit of a guilty pleasure. But Red Faction does have a fun campaign, and if you can look past the outdated visuals I think you’ll have a fun time.
Number 24: Fallout 4: Game of the Year Edition (70% off, £11.99)
My first experience with the Fallout franchise was 2008’s Fallout 3. Fallout 4 is more of the same, as Bethesda brought development back in-house after outsourcing Fallout: New Vegas. There are a range of ways to play and plenty of customisation options, and the base-building element which was new to Fallout 4 is a ton of fun and could be a whole game by itself. It’s kind of a post-apocalyptic version of the house-building seen in The Sims!
The Game of the Year edition includes both main DLC packs, each of which expand the story and provide new areas to explore.
Number 25: Portal 2 (80% off, £1.43)
There really isn’t anything quite like the Portal series on the market. A mix of puzzle game, 3D platformer, and first-person action game, Portal 2 builds on its predecessor and gives players a truly unique experience that can be difficult to put into words. There’s a horror element to the game too – nothing scary, but definitely unsettling, especially if you pay attention to the dialogue!
Setting aside the “can’t count to three” jokes, it would be great if Valve could revisit this series one day. It’s been almost ten years since Portal 2 was released, and while it still holds up today, I’d love to see a new game using this formula.
So that’s it. Some great deals in the Steam Summer Sale.
If you were to buy every single entry on this list, it would cost you £228.20 – for 33 games (including the Deus Ex bundle). That averages out at £6.92 per game or thereabouts. Considering some of the titles were only released in the last few months, I think that represents outstanding value. To reiterate what I said at the beginning, these sales give PC an edge over consoles, despite consoles being cheaper initially. Something to consider as we await the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, eh?
I hope this was interesting and informative, and may have given you some inspiration for titles to take a look at as we enter the summer season. At a time where some form of lockdown or quarantine is still in place in a lot of areas around the world, having something to do to kill time is more important than ever. Gaming can be great for that.
All of the games on this list are available for purchase on Steam at time of writing (26th June 2020). Prices were correct at time of writing. The Steam Summer Sale ends on the 9th of July 2020. Prices may vary by region and are subject to change at any time. All of the games on this list are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. All screenshots and artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.