Great Games From Steam's Holiday Sale 2013
Note: This is an ongoing seasonal sale.
Now that December's end is approaching, I thought I'd take the time to highlight some of the great games that Steam's Holiday Sale has been shooting out at us this year. Note that these are the games I purchased myself, and would actually love if you left some of your own recommendations in the comments below. I'm not much of a PC gamer and just recently jumped on this high-speed Steam train. I game – usually – on my laptop, so these games will more than likely run for any of you interested in a title I mention.
I'm not even quite sure how I found it, but I fell under Bastion's spell pretty early on in the game. You play as “the kid”, a silent protagonist who wakes up to find his world in shambles – literally. Awakening to the sight of his now floating home, he begins to make his way to the Bastion, a safe location that every citizen should report to in times of distress. The streets form under your feet and you soon find your trusty hammer, which will help you fight the ghostly opponents ahead. After reaching the now destroyed Bastion, you confront a stranger who helps you begin your quest to rebuild the town using cores that can be found around the world and reached using skybridges (basically air vents that shoot you up into the sky, bringing you to your desired location).
Bastion is a ton of fun to play. Leveling up is a blast and upgrading items and weapons you've salvaged along the way make for not necessarily an original, but an addictive, formula. The clever narration makes up for the silent protagonist here, and I can't imagine it being the same any other way. Witty narrators have been an element I've quickly grown very fond of, and I'd like to see it in other games. Bastion is available on both the Xbox 360 and Steam, and is highly recommended by me.
Guacamelee! Gold Edition
In Guacamelee!, you play as a Mexican farmer named Juan, who, from the looks of him, is not a very happy man. Woken up by a priest from a local church, you soon find yourself getting caught up in an attack on your village.
After heroically trying to save the president of Mexico's daughter, you are zapped by a hellish skeleton named Carlos Calaca, and killed. Coming to a Limbo-esque setting, you equip an ancient and powerful luchadore mask, transforming you into a powerful fighter. It brings you back to the land of the living, and you set off to rescue the president's daughter from the fleshless hands of Carlos Calaca.
I haven't played a terrible amount of Guacamelee!, but I have played enough to know it is great. Being a game that I heard fantastic things about, I jumped when I saw the gold edition of the title drop to $4. I regretted not having a controller to use on my laptop, but I still had fun.
Without a controller, you use various keys to punch and kick your enemies and finish them off by throwing them in any desired direction. Guacamelee! is available on Steam, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and will soon be coming to next-gen consoles with additional content.
Of this list, I have spent the majority of my time playing Killing Floor. Although, this does not mean I like it the best. Months ago, I had a much weaker laptop that struggled to run titles like Bastion. Not only did I have a very low-end PC, I didn't consider myself a PC gamer in the slightest. I had Killing Floor gifted to me and, lucky for me, it ran smoothly. Of my twenty-three hours of game time, I've probably only played with other people four or five times, so this is a game that can be enjoyed solo – though I do recommend hooking up with a few buddies at least once.
Killing Floor is a simple game with a simple objective for the player(s): kill zombies. A game can be created by selecting a map, game length, and difficulty. Around this time of year, the developers change out the standard-looking zombies with Christmas-themed modules. Ordinary zombies wear Santa hats and imitate elves. Slower, fatter zombies that spit acidic vomit are now dressed up as Santa Claus. Tall zombies with melee weapons that charge you are now gingerbread men with candy canes, shouting phrases like “I'm delicious!” in a manner that will creep the hell out of you with headphones on late at night. A nice pop to the head shuts them up however, and maybe you'll even activate ZED mode, a slow-motion gun mode that allows you to witness the destructive process of an exploding head.
When you've taken out a wave of infected, you can visit the weapon store. The store sells guns, body armor that serves as a second health bar, ammo, and other useful items such as frag grenades. The weapon store moves after the completion of a wave, so it's always wise to keep a lookout for it as you near the end of a round. When you've survived each of the waves, you've won the game and will likely want to boot another one up. Killing Floor is available on Steam.
When a friend recommended this to me, I checked it out on Steam and was honestly a bit iffy at first. It was intriguing for sure; randomly generated dungeons with a unique set of characters to choose from definitely got me excited. But I couldn't help but think from the gameplay trailer it would be painfully difficult. Surely enough, when I decided to ignore my nervousness and go with my gut – and the trust I had in the recommendation – it was hard. Strangely though, I didn't regret the purchase, I kept playing – a lot.
Death after death I'd choose a new character and jump into a newly designed castle for me to take on, and despite my consecutive and countless deaths, I was having fun. You see, the good thing about the game is that even though you're dying and choosing a new hero to play as, you're still leveling up. And that's something the player will realize after a little while; the game picks up speed tremendously and you feel much more powerful as you progress, even if you are dying over twenty times before reaching level ten, like myself.
As you level up and earn loot, you can upgrade your hero, which will visually develop your own personal castle. I asked the friend that recommended the game to me if it was supposed to be this difficult, or if it was just my poor skill, and he replied simply with, “dying is like, the entire point.” Rogue Legacy is available on Steam.
Left 4 Dead 2
Valve surprised us when they made their critically acclaimed title, Left 4 Dead 2, available on Steam for free. After I had rushed to install it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the download not only included L4D2, but the original Left 4 Dead content as well. The sweet deal lasted only one day, hopefully long enough for you to grasp it, and ended up stressing out those who bought it at full price. One angry user even threatened to bring the developer to court. More on this at eight.
The first-person zombie-killing shooter comes with numerous campaigns, not necessarily short and not necessarily long sequences, that all feature you and three other players trying to reach an evacuation spot somewhere. As loudly as that screams “repetitive”, the different areas you're thrown into change and are held up nicely by the endlessly fun zombie-killing gameplay.
You're given a nice choice of equipment at each safe house you come across, and are expected to hold out with your chosen items for the entire chapter, so choose your gear wisely. You can't go wrong with a shotgun, pistol, pipe bomb (a bomb that attracts the zombie horde's attention, only to explode when they reach the beeping device), and a medical kit that can heal either an injured ally or you.
There are different types of zombies as well, like: Chargers who, well, charge at you; Tanks, who will bang you up pretty badly if you're not careful; and Witches, who I particularly like. They're crying can be heard from dozens of feet away, and it's important to watch your step and keep your flashlight off when you do reach an area that contains a Witch. Happen to get spotted by a Witch – not fun.
When you reach the end of the campaign, you'll need to survive a final stretch as a helicopter flies over to you. Any players killed or left behind will be mentioned lovingly in the credits. God dang Tanks. Left 4 Dead 2 is available on Steam and the Xbox 360.
I'd been interested in BIT.TRIP RUNNER for a long time before I saw it drop to a dollar. Its gameplay looked like a nice challenge; jumping, sliding, and even kicking your way through numerous levels. And I was not disappointed when I bought it.
The game is divided into three zones, with a number of levels in each. I'm on the brink of the first zone and am itching to play it as I type this. The game starts slow and easy, as most games do, but takes a dramatic turn to the challenges ahead rather quickly.
As you jump, slide, and kick your way along, musical notes play which allow you to keep up with the game's pace and start a tune of your own. This feature – I would imagine – was designed for not only musical entertainment, but to help you. A lot of the game is about trial and error, remembering where you died last to avoid the obstacle next time, and memorizing the tune of the song you're making as you dodge each obstacle helps tremendously.
There are also gold bars to be collected as you dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge (I couldn't resist the Dodgeball reference, I apologize), and if you collect all of them, you unlock a bonus level jam-packed with gold bars for you to gather. BIT.TRIP RUNNER is just one of those games so simple, it's incredibly addictive. It's available on Steam, Wii, and 3DS.
Being another game, like Rogue Legacy, that features randomly generated playgrounds full of loot, Spelunky caught my attention when I saw it win the community's choice for a price drop. I'd heard great things prior, but again, it looked challenging as heck. Like before, I ignored all doubts and purchased the game. It was $3.74; if it was not to my liking, it was not to my liking, and that would be that. But that same feeling of joy that filled me when I started learning my way around Rogue Legacy returned when I realized how enjoyable Spelunky really was. Pretty darn difficult, but very entertaining.
Playing as an unnamed adventurer, a “spelunker”, you explore underground tunnels filled with gold to collect. Enemies like bats and snakes will attempt to hurt you, but they can be avoided or taken head on with your whip.
Careful, though – run out of hearts and you'll have to start from the beginning. Items like ropes and grenades can be purchased, or found, and used to get to out-of-reach areas. I haven't had the pleasure of experiencing anything tear-jerkingly difficult, but I also haven't spent a terribly long amount of time with the title. Spelunky is available on Steam, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita.
The Binding of Isaac
I bought The Binding of Isaac with its available DLC a long way back, when I had that lower-end PC I was telling you about earlier. It was one of the few games that ran, and a good one at that. Recommended to me by the same person that told me about Rogue Legacy, I bought it willingly. Five dollars is, and always will be, better than a brand new sixty dollar console title, so what the heck, right?
You are Isaac, son to a religious nut of a mother who tries to kill you after she is supposedly commanded by God – who is likely just a wiseass narrator – to sacrifice you. Isaac flees into the basement, now on the run, and must now face the evils that live beneath the ground.
As if I haven't mentioned it enough already, the game is pretty difficult with varying randomized dungeons and boss battles as you progress. Using your own tears as your source of defense, you take on different creatures roaming your basement. The game isn't endless, however it is challenging and hard to beat. I have seven total hours and haven't beaten it a single time. I've come close, though, and that's enough to bring me back for more.
As you play, you can find keys to unlock chests and upgrade Isaac so that his tears are stronger, and his movement is faster. You can even find a companion, like Isaac's cat, that allows you to have multiple lives. Special cards can be found strewn around as well, giving Isaac powers such as “mom's pad,” which can be used to stun or hurt enemies. When you've grown tired of Isaac, there are other characters for you to unlock, too. The Binding of Isaac is available on Steam, and a retail version is also available for PC and Mac, titled The Binding of Isaac: The Most Unholy Edition.
My final game on the list is Hotline Miami, a 2D, top-down, brutal shooter that pits you, an unnamed killer, up against mobsters all around the city. The game doesn't always go in chronological order, there are few characters, and it sometimes feels like you're going in a circle – but (at least from my experience) you don't seem to care because the gameplay is so darn fun.
Pummeling the mob to a sweet soundtrack is undeniably entertaining, and makes for a great time. Using guns and melee weapons, like crowbars and knives, you battle your way through sections of tough gangsters that will kill you in an instant if you're not tactical about where you step first. Although I have gotten lucky and been able to quickly wipe a section clear with several swipes of a crowbar.
At the end of each section you'll be graded on your performance based on things like “boldness” and how long it took you to clear the area. It pushes a player like me to reach for an A and be quick on my feet. As for the story, it seems to still be unraveling where I'm at in the game, which is pretty early on, but so far the gameplay is the aspect pulling me forward. Hotline Miami is available on Steam, PlayStation 3 and Vita.
Now if you excuse me, I'm gonna get back to my Steam library. Please post a game or two you recommend below in the comments section, and/or let me know if you'd like to know more about one of the games I mentioned above.
Big Chief 1January 1, 2014, 4:00 pmFeatured CorrespondentI feel victim to the sale and spent over $100 on it. But I got tons of games out of it so I regret nothing :D
Samuel FranklinDecember 28, 2013, 11:39 amFeatured ContributorLooks like a great little haul you got this year! You've picked up some of my favourites. Bastion is wonderful no doubt about that, you'll love what it has to offer. Spelunky is a classic thats been rebooted (got my edition through GoG.com earlier this year).
I didn't realise L4D went free, I own them both so that doesn't really matter. Its an okay game but suffers from the same problem as Killing Floor (which I've owned just about since its release) is that you need friends on TeamSpeak or Skype to really enjoy either of them.
Germ_the_NobodyDecember 27, 2013, 2:25 pmCorrespondentBastion is one of my favorites. I didn't even look at Guacamelee! until the other day cuz I thought the name was stupid. Horrible reason not to look at the game but I mean come on. =p It looks pretty fun. Hotline Miami is super fun with its gross graphics. I get it though, it's retro. Cool. Rogue Legacy is crazy cool. I picked up Left 4 Dead 2 while it was free but haven't played it yet.
Very nice article.
I don't have any noteworthy recommendations today other than the Assassin's Creed franchise being on sale on Steam.
Mike AcciarinoDecember 27, 2013, 8:01 pmFeatured ContributorThanks, man. I'm glad you enjoyed reading the article. :]
Germ_the_NobodyDecember 27, 2013, 8:07 pmCorrespondentIt's a really good one. Most sales articles don't even offer opinions. Good job.