Just because you don’t have access to the fanciest gear around doesn’t mean you have to play subpar games. Even if you’re on a potato computer or low-end PC, there’s plenty out there for you to enjoy. Here are some of Kotaku’s top picks for quality games that should run on almost anything.
From the makers of FTL comes a turn-based game that you can think of as kaiju chess. Highly addictive, yet brutal, Into The Breach asks players to protect cities from underground aliens. Often, matches come down to how much you’re willing to sacrifice just to live through another day. Randomized power-ups, optional challenges, and unlockable mechs make Into The Breach extremely replayable, too.
Nine years in the making, Owlboy is a lush side-scrolling puzzle platformer with plenty of heart and soul. While none of the puzzles in Owlboy are brain-breakers, they are clever enough to feel rewarding when you solve them. Mostly, though, you’ll be playing Owlboy because its cast of endearing, lovingly-rendered characters. Read more about it here.
Starbound is a 2D planet exploration game where you make your own fun. Maybe you’d like to build the most elaborate fortress. Maybe you want to meet alien races and unearth their mysteries. Maybe you want to dive for treasure and fight ferocious enemies. Or, maybe you just want to assemble a good crew for your spaceship. Starbound lets you play from a variety of different races, or enjoy the game with a friend. Plus, there are a ton of mods to download.
One of the best-written games around, 80 Days is a steampunk adventure about exploring the world in, well, 80 days. There are over 150 cities to explore, each with their own characters, secrets, and storylines. 80 Days is as much of a game about resource management—making sure you have enough money and items—as it is a game about deciding what’s important when the entire world is at your fingertips.
It’s you against an endless demonic horde in the arcade shooter Devil Daggers. Harkening back to classic FPS shooters, Devil Daggers is a no-frills game all about shootin’ real good and movin’ real fast. See how long you can last, try to beat your own score, and don’t get unnerved by the creatures that lurk in the dark.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth turns an already beefy game into something massive—especially if you get any of the DLC. Like the initial entry, Afterbirth is a randomly generated top-down shooter where you dive deep into a god-forsaken basement. Terrors abound here, but fortunately, there are hundreds of powerful and bizarre items to help you survive. It’s a game you can play for dozens of hours and still experience new things in every single run. Combined with unlockable characters, challenge runs, local co-op and more, Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a lot of bang for your buck. Just know that it’s a crass game that loves gross-out humor, which is to say, there’s a whole lot of poop in here.
While the internet got a little too overzealous about this humble RPG, Undertale is still absolutely worth playing. Undertale is an earnest game that allows you to talk your way out of battles, which is great, because some enemies are too memorable to just kill. Partially a bullet hell shooter, and partially a subversive game that breaks the fourth wall, Undertale is the rare game that evokes capital F feelings.
Borderlands is a classic loot-driven open-world shooter that you can play with up to three friends. While some of the humor has aged poorly, it’s still a rush to tear down a boss and see what goodies it has left behind.
Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the perfect game for those of you who love getting lost in a meaty, evocative CRPG world (think Fallout or Divinity: Original Sin, except cyberpunk.) While there’s plenty of tactical rigor in the turn-based battles, Dragonfall’s biggest hook is the narrative. Expect to have long, fascinating conversations with characters about the world and its politics.
Celeste is technically a difficult “masocore” platformer, but unlike other games in the genre, Celeste actually seems to care about you, the player. Challenge doesn’t exist for the sake of challenge here: Celeste’s character is undergoing a mental health journey, and climbing a precarious mountain is part of her road to recovery. Celeste doesn’t revel when you fail. Instead, it asks you to get back up, because it knows you can do this. But for those of you who are looking to test your mettle, Celeste has a host of optional levels and collectibles that can eat up entire evenings, too.
A platforming roguelite shooter, Flinthook is all about a space pirate trying to steal some treasure. Levels are randomly generated, but the twist is that you primarily get around with a grappling hook. Flinthook may look cute, but dodging around enemies, environmental hazards, and trekking across maze-like ships is tough.
Butterfly Soup is the funniest game I’ve played in years. It’s a visual novel that tells the tale of a group of friends who play baseball. It’s a highly specific game about queer Asian Americans living in California, but by diving into their experiences, Butterfly Soup showcases an extremely human narrative. Also, Butterfly Soup has the most realistic depiction of shitposting that I’ve ever seen.
Hearthstone has had its ups and downs, but for a free-to-play card game that runs on anything from a phone to a toaster of a laptop, it’s hard to beat. The game has evolved a ton over the past few years, with new sets introducing unique mechanics and weird interactions, but there’s a steady-enough flow of gold to keep earning cards or Arena runs. The animations are gorgeous, the tactics simple to learn but complex to master, and if you’re a Blizzard follower, there’s a distressing amount of fan service. The Dungeon Run is secret highlight, mixing roguelike with the base game to create a fresh take on the game’s format. If you have a weak machine, a competitive edge, and time to kill, there aren’t many better ways to do it than Hearthstone. Just don’t be like me; limit yourself on the booster pack spending, okay?
-Eric Van Allen
Are you the kind of person who kind of thrives on stress, and do you have a fascination with gothic horror? If the answer is yes to either of those, then Darkest Dungeon is for you. In this turn based RPG, you’ll take a very expendable team of adventurers through some monster ridden caves, where they will almost certainly lose their minds and die. Managing their moods is half the fun though, as characters who break take on new traits, good and bad, that affect their ability to explore dungeons. Try not to lose your head as they lose theirs.
- Gita Jackson
If you haven’t played the mega-popular farming simulator Stardew Valley, it’s never too late to start. Inspired by the classic series Harvest Moon, you head off to the sleepy town of Stardew Valley to farm, fish, mine and get married. It’s simply massive game that you could easily play forever as you get to know the charming characters. Plus, you can have a pet cat or dog. It truly has everything. - Gita Jackson
Spelunky is about guiding a silly little character down into a cave system that is created anew for you every time you boot the game up. There’s treasure down there. There’s also snakes, pit traps, jungles full of danger, and a golden idol god that just wants to smash you. Armed with a whip and a jump button, you try to make your way as deeply as you can into it. You won’t make it to the end every time, and you might only make it once or twice over hundreds of hours, but that doesn’t matter. Spelunky is a game about building skills and learning how to approach unfamiliar situations, and there’s a joy in using muscle memory and the best practices you’ve developed over dozens of games to extract yourself from a sticky situation. It’s the original procedurally generated Indiana Jones experience, and it never gets old.
- Cameron Kunzelman
Hyper Light Drifter is an enchanting, challenging action RPG that’s hard to put down. Fighting through its Zelda-esque world, the player encounters several colorful zones full of strange animals and puzzles. The protagonist is the Drifter, who suffers from a mysterious disease. Hyper Light Drifter’s mechanics are simple and elegant: one button to dash, one button to sword-attack. By slashing monsters, the player charges their gun. Combat is punishing, but never needlessly so. The player grits their teeth, sighs, and goes at a challenge again and again; the game’s rhythm keeps you going.
- Cecilia D’anastasio
Civ V is so good loads of fans still prefer it to Civ VI. It also runs really well on old PCs and even old laptops, though you may need to be conservative with your map sizes.
- Luke Plunkett
Superhot has a simple concept: time moves when you move. But that small conceit creates a shooting experience that no other game has truly delivered. It’s The Matrix. It’s Max Payne. It’s John Woo. The story is a bit self-serious but extra challenge modes mean that you’ll be playing for a long time afterwards, reveling in each beautiful bullet ballet.
- Heather Alexandra
West of Loathing
West of Loathing is a comedy cowboy game overflowing with off-beat humor. Sure, it’s a side-scrolling RPG at its core, but elaborate gags involving everything from wild west tropes to bean wizards are the real main attraction. There are multiple ways to get through areas, many of them resulting in giant punchlines. It’s a game that commits to the bit and is uniquely funny because of that.
- Nathan Grayson
Where most turn-based tactics games are asking you to kill things, Invisible Inc. flips the genre on its head by asking you to do the opposite. Its emphasis on hiding, theft and visibility harks back to classics like Commandos, replacing wartime dorks with cool cyber-thieves.
- Luke Plunkett
Neo Scavenger is a survival game where you travel post-apocalyptic Michigan avoiding mutants and uncovering a mysterious storyline. The low-fi graphics belie complex crafting and an inventory system where you’ll carry most of your possessions in your hands. Turn-based combat is told through text, and fights are both stressful and hilarious. For a simple-looking game, Neo Scavenger is surprisingly deep and varied.
- Riley MacLeod
Gunpoint is a stealth game about breaking into buildings to steal data. Your character can rewire a building’s electronics to remotely control doors, light switches, and alarms, which you can be used against enemies. Sometimes you’ll pull of a clever plan and feel like an ace hacker; other times you’ll screw up and smack yourself in the face with a door.
- Riley MacLeod
Crawl is a creepy, delightful party game where the players are monsters who take turns killing off another player, the sole human. When the human is dead, the player who got the final hit possesses them. Players choose and level up their monsters, which range from skeletons to oozes, and can receive all sorts of buffs, too. Players who don’t get a chance to play the human receive points fittingly called “Wrath,” which they can spend on monster buffs. Crawl spawns good-natured rivalry and is righteously fun to play with three friends on a couch.
- Cecilia D’anastasio
If you’re looking for a massive, sprawling Japanese role-playing game to suck you into a world and never spit you out, you can’t do much better than The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. With a wonderful cast of characters and a world that rewards players who pay careful attention, the affectionately acronymed TitS is satisfying at every turn. This game is the first in a humongous series that’s almost entirely available on PC and easy to run on even the lowest-end potato.
- Jason Schreier