Good budget games prove that a game penny saved is a game penny earned, but it can be hard to keep up with sales and there’s no guarantee you’ll want what’s on offer. Wish lists live up to their name more and more as their content remains out of reach and beyond the realm of reality.
But there is another class of cheap games out there, lurking in the shadows. Sometimes they’re simply less well known, come from independent studios, or are released with less fanfare than better-publicized competitors. Other times they are games that you already know and you may be surprised to see their price. But they all share one important trait: They don’t need to be on sale to get a great price.
Delving into the store dungeons of Steam, GOG, indie publishers, and countless other net-alleys, I pulled out a collection of weird and wonderful budget games of trapped pedestals and statues’ eyes. Join me in giving wallets a well-deserved break and celebrating the best of the $15 and under crowd.
Dungeons of Dredmor
What is? A weird and fun mix of classic tile-based roguelike and interactive comedy, Dungeons of Dredmor sees you trying to get to the bottom of its many dungeon floors and assassinate its namesake: the evil Lord Dredmor. Expect tick-based combat where everything moves when you do, ruthless difficulty, and more quirkiness than even your average Tim Schafer game.
Why should you buy it? From the words Lutefisk and Diggle, Dungeons of Dredmor had me in its clutches. Dredmor’s style is a combination of irreverent humor with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek genre references and a crossover of nerdy culture. In most games, the punch bowl I just described is served with a fire hose, leaving you drenched in a college freshman’s idea of good taste. But instead, the lovely people who once ran Gaslamp Games stuck with Dredmor. Its quirky mix of silliness and dire consequences evokes long-dead adventure games like King’s Quest and Quest for Glory in every cup you sip.
Dredmor doesn’t skip leg day to rely solely on humor. While he won’t find the level of depth he’ll see in veterans of the roguelike field, who he might add generally benefit from decades of development, Dredmor still supports dozens of different playstyles with abilities like classes. approach to the characters. You can mix up each match and take on the big guy at the bottom of the dungeon stairs as a communist archaeologist, pirate emomancer, or crazed battle geologist.
But unlike most major traditional roguelikes, where their code branches are often the closest thing to user-generated content, Dredmor has a large modding community. So whether you want to add a little spice, or just toss the liquor cabinet into the punch bowl for the sheer chaos that ensues, you have a huge library of options to choose from. For just $7, with three full expansions included (Conquest of the Wizardlands, Realm of the Diggle Gods, and the free You Have To Name The Expansion Pack), it may be the best deal every day of the week on everyone. steam.
As a close friend’s Steam review puts it: “I’ve spent more money on sandwiches and enjoyed them less.”
legend of grimrock
What is? A dungeon crawling RPG that brings smart ideas and a stripped down approach to the classic genre. Expect to navigate first-person and conquer monsters and puzzles as an atmospheric story slowly unfolds. You’ll wield swords, cast spells, and spring traps with a cast of four woeful fantasy crash-test dummies under your command.
Why should you buy it? Seeing Legend of Grimrock for the first time is like walking into a Einstein–Rosen Bridge (opens in a new tab) Straight back to the early ’90s, when games like Eye of the Beholder, Wizardry, and Dungeon Master ruled with an iron fist. But while Grimrock can take leaves from his predecessor’s books, he uses them to make a deliciously refreshing cup of Earl Grey, hot.
Grimrock narrows its focus to dungeon crawling, reducing the number of classes and races to three and four, respectively. He packs the genre’s typically sprawling systems into diamonds: an unadorned skill build, active, often frenetic combat, and effective puzzles. A thin but meaningful story unfolds through Grimrock, with its cast of criminal misfits visited by a mysterious voice in their heads as they rest and notices littering the dungeon. But there’s no holding hands or exposing yourself, outside of the cutscenes that open and close the game. Forgoing the glut of extra options that are woven into so many other dungeon crawlers, Grimrock lets you savor simple flavors.
The fights will allow you to learn to exploit the different weaknesses of each enemy: the tunnel ogres will attack you and you can dodge them to receive free attacks; other enemies can’t attack from the sides, leaving openings for you to surround and lick. Spellcasting finds you typing in combinations of runes to create your spells, like some kind of data entry wizard trying to get rid of the latest TPS report. , and you’ll swing other combatants’ weapons by clicking on the cooldown, like a juggler trying to keep your colored balls spinning.
By removing the over-complication from the dungeon crawler genre, Grimrock has achieved something special. This is a clever and pretty game that feels like a well-crafted puzzle throughout, then adds options like “old school mode” (where the auto-mapping features are off and you have to draw the map by hand yourself). same) ), and the ability to create your own custom dungeons for others to play with. Together, it’s a feature set that shows the Almost Human Games team really does get a venerable genre in a rare way. Grimrock is “respect your elders” printed in bold 72 point but in video game form.
Dungeon of the Eternals
What is? Dungeon of the Endless is a mix of roguelike and tower defense, pitting the survivors of a crashed starship against hordes of enemies. You’ll unlock new technologies, level up your survivors, build modules in rooms, and try to keep the power generator that lights up the darkness alive to reach the next floor of the huge dungeon on planet Auriga.
Why should you buy it? Trying to explain my love of Dungeon of the Endless gives me some of the same feeling I get playing it, like laying tracks under a moving train. During his most frenzied moments, the Endless feels like he’s given me too many limes to take. I look at him sternly, asking, “Look now, what am I going to do with all these files?” But he just smiles serenely and hands me another confusingly delicious citrus fruit to try and stuff into my arms. Not sure if I’ve lost the thread of the analogy here, but basically: limes are sour, and so am I when my plans go awry.
Fortunately, with Endless, I never feel cheated, just defeated. And before the amount of stuff I’m awkwardly juggling comes crashing down on my head, I’m given regular reprieves. Since the DNA that runs through the Endless’s veins is that of tower defense, his moments of sheer panic come in waves. Every lull before the storm is a break to consider how to prepare for the next wave, or even avoid it, if you’ve managed to set yourself up right.
In Endless, only dark rooms will spawn enemies, so careful resource management can give you longer stretches with little to no interruption. But since the map, and the route out of the elevator, are random on each floor, you’re making educated guesses at best about where to explore. In Endless, the bill always comes due eventually, and when it does, you’ll have to ride the whirlwind of enemies.
For me, two big things separate Endless from just being a great tower defense game. The first is the fact that not only does it support up to four players in co-op (better with two, I personally think), but it’s a blast to play that way. Coordinating your resources and supporting each other during the chaotic tension of waves of attackers, from killer crystals to classic zombies, is a new standard for testing friendships at their best.
The second is the roguelike and character progression that Dungeon of the Endless has on display. With each of the 18 characters in the base game (and 10 more in the $4 worth of DLC) bringing a unique skill set, plus a wide variety of items to equip them with, Endless goes beyond defending the tower. Your characters give you a more personal involvement in each encounter. They can grant powerful buffs, boost your economy, or become the most dangerous mobile turret you can imagine, right up until an angry glowing piece of geometry murders you to death.
But when life gives you lemons, say to life, “I really feel like I have enough lemons already, but I guess whatever.” And then buy Dungeon of the Endless for $12.