Yes, Gamers, it is that time of year again—time for the Steam Winter Sale, which becomes more of a normal seasonal sale and less of a gamified mess with every year that passes (for better and for worse). 2021 was a pretty great, albeit odd, year for video games, so I wanted to bring that strange, messy energy into my end-of-year recommendations. Without further ado, here are some games to check out as part of Steam’s massive Winter Sale:
Risk of Rain 2 is one of the most video game-ass video games there has ever been. In it, you are one of almost a dozen little guys and you run around defeating enemies and collecting items to make yourself stronger. There are a lot of enemies, and many more items. You will become an ascendant aspect of Death, you will kill the King of Nothing, you will be crushed by a planet time and time again until you manage to barely claw your way out. Easily one of the best roguelites of the last few years, the game is about to receive its first expansion in early 2022 so now is the perfect time to hop on.
2021’s signature fighting game, and my excellent introduction to the genre, is on sale for a delicious 30% off. Strive manages to be a perfect introduction to a famously hostile genre through its relatively simple combo structure and difficulty floor, and its plethora of system mechanics which allow for more experienced players to draw a lot of depth from the experience.
is an excellent photography sim with a shocking amount of depth. It is also one of the best pieces of cyberpunk fiction in the history of the genre—charting the fall of a city to U.N. mismanagement, climate crisis, and kaiju. Macro, the game’s first and only DLC, builds on this with a surprisingly beautiful and hopeful conclusion. Umurangi Generation manages to capture the reality of living through the early 2020s through an incredible act of cyberpunk self-portraiture, and you’d be a fool to pass it by.
Developed by 80 Days studio, and narrative design tool developer, Inkle, Heaven’s Vault is an archaeology game about language. The game’s unique narrative structure, stellar writing, and linguistics-based puzzle design have cemented it as a modern cult classic. In fact, the game’s narrative was strong enough to earn it not one, but two novelizations which were released a few months ago.
Hardspace Shipbreaker is a game about space capitalism, and a brilliant one at that. You play as a shipbreaker, a highly skilled and poorly paid specialist who spends their days salvaging massive spaceships. The game’s use of depressurization, fuel lines, electrical systems, and the terrifying weight of gravity make it a simultaneously tense and meditative experience that is unlike anything else I’ve ever played.
Dread XP has become one of my favorite publishers of the last few years, producing five incredible horror collections that are all contained in this delectable $24 publisher bundle. The Dread X Collections manage to consistently confront the player with unique and exciting horror experiences, each of which is made by a different developer. Spookware, which is also included in the bundle, is horror WarioWare and I cannot recommend it enough.
E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy is a deeply strange video game. You play a cybernetically enhanced member of a strange faith order known as E.Y.E., who does a lot of violence through some of the most ambitious immersive sim gameplay this side of Deus Ex. By the end, you will go from stealthy infiltrations and tense gun battles to bunny hopping through battlefields with enough speed to test the sound barrier, detonating enemies from afar with your terrible psychic might. It is a weird, messy thing that everyone should try at least once.
Battletech is one of the best tactics games of the last five years and it did not receive nearly enough love upon its original release in 2019. The game sees you at the head of a new mercenary company, trying to find its place in a brutal galactic conflict—all the while managing your meager funds, mech upkeep costs, and pilot salaries. Battletech manages to ride the fine line between tactical depth and complexity for complexity’s sake, and includes some really great mech customization that facilitates some truly wacky builds.
Yes, yes, roguelike deckbuilders are way too common at this point, but…Monster Train is a true standout with its tower-defense-esque combat and terrific build diversity. You play as the commander of a train trying to make it to the heart of Hell, which has frozen over following heaven’s most recent assault. To do this, you will combine multiple factions of powerful demons, each of which has their own unique strategies and mechanics. It’s a great little game that I wholeheartedly recommend to just about anyone.
The House in Fata Morgana is a stellar visual novel with some of the best narrative twists and turns I’ve ever seen across any medium. In it, you play as an unnamed protagonist moving through the history of a palatial mansion, each story revealing more about both its past and your own. The game manages to be both conceptually fascinating, thematically resonant, and breathtakingly human at every turn—and it is easily one of my favorite stories in all of video games.