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The Best Steam Games For Gamers On A Budget

Video games, as appealing and addicting as they are, can also be incredibly expensive. This is especially true for someone who enjoys playing a variety of different games. Newer games from a big name developer can often cost upwards of $60, and while the occasional splurge seems completely reasonable, that price might become just a bit too steep after a few purchases. Luckily, Steam provides gamers with the perfect platform to discover new games from established studios and up-and-coming indie developers alike without completely draining their bank accounts.

From RPGs to horror to point-and-click adventures, Steam offers a wide variety of games for reasonable prices that many gamers wouldn't otherwise see. Steam has also given a platform to those new and upcoming game developers just breaking into the market, matching them up with gamers who are looking for something unique and fresh. Add to this Steam's frequent huge sales that deeply discount their available titles, and you have an impressive smorgasbord for the avid variety gamer on a budget. While Steam does have a large selection of free-to-play games, this list is going to focus specifically on the inexpensive premium games that won't break the bank.

The perfect blend of pizza and murder

There's a reason the Five Nights at Freddy's franchise is so hugely popular. These games are wildly entertaining to play and even more entertaining to watch. For any streamers just starting out who want to offer their viewers an amusing let's play video, FNAF is a perfect option. There's nothing more entertaining than watching other people get jumpscared, and new streamers who don't have the unlimited funds of some of the more established content creators will find that Five Nights at Freddy's, which comes in at only $4.99 for the first game, is the perfect solution.

This game about a night guard at a kids' pizzeria is simplistic in design and execution. You simply watch the security monitors, keep an eye on the animatronics, and manage your resources to make sure the power doesn't go out before your shift ends. Of course, there's the small detail that the animatronics like to move around at night and just might kill you if you don't close the door on them when they get near. For any gamers who enjoy a good jumpscare and a tense survival horror outing without too many complicated mechanics, Five Nights at Freddy's is the perfect game for you.

A nice stroll through Purgatory

One of the most exciting things the Steam store has to offer is access to new and previously unheard-of game studios and developers. In the past, only the biggest game studios were able to release titles that would amass any sort of audience. Now that indie game development has become so popular, unique and artistic minds are creating incredible games that we would otherwise never have access to. Playdead Studios is one of these creators. With their debut game Limbo priced at only $9.99 in the Steam store, there's no way to lose if you decide to purchase this indie gem. 

Limbo is a black and white side-scroller with no dialogue and no "combat" to speak of. That's not to say you can't die in numerous creative and brutal ways, but you won't be shooting up enemies as you run through the eerie landscape of Limbo. Instead, Playdead Studios has created a nightmarish environment, heavy in atmosphere and ominous puzzles that can kill your character in ways you never could have even imagined. The story itself is open-ended and left up to the interpretation of the player, with haunting scenery that's sure to stick with you long after you walk away. Playdead Studios' follow up game Inside is equally intriguing and also available on Steam. Now we just have to wait patiently for the unnamed third title Playdead is currently working on.

Don't look or it takes you

Unless you've been living under a rock, chances are that you've at least heard of Slenderman, even if you aren't quite sure what he is. Though many iterations of the Slenderman story have made their way into internet lore, Slender: The Arrival is arguably the most entertaining way to experience this urban legend. At only $9.99 on the Steam store, there isn't much financial risk in adding this to your library and facing the horror firsthand.

Slender: The Arrival has great replay value, since learning the ending of the story won't exactly ruin the gameplay for you. Add to that the randomization of item layouts, attack patterns, and other aspects of the game, and a replay won't feel like a replay at all. Just like Five Nights at Freddy's, Slender: The Arrival is an ideal game for streamers who are trying to build an audience — because it's full of jump scares, viewers enjoy watching others play it. Plot details are largely implied and if you're looking for a dialogue-heavy game full of combat, this won't be the title for you. But for fans of the survival horror genre, Slender: The Arrival is the perfect pick.

Make sure you learn the rules

As Five Nights at Freddy's proved, survival horror games don't need to be intricate undertakings with huge budgets and incredible graphics in order to be successful and loved by fans. Shawn Hitchcock's Emily Wants to Play is another perfect example of this. Though it may seem nonsensical and without any rhyme or reason to players who don't take the time to look closer at the clues, the game itself actually offers a unique gameplay mechanic that both builds the tension and tests the player's ability to multitask under pressure.

Playing as a pizza delivery man, you begin the game on your last delivery of the night. Unfortunately, once you arrive at your destination, you find yourself locked in the house with a little girl named Emily and her three dolls who "want to play." What this means for you, as the protagonist, is that you need to learn the bizarre and seemingly random rules that each doll plays by in order to avoid being killed by them. The puzzles involved in the dolls' games — and the ever-growing complication of multiple dolls playing at once — present players with an increasingly frightening challenge. With Emily Wants to Play coming in at only $4.99 in the Steam store, there's no reason to put off playing this surprising indie title and testing your hand at puzzling under pressure.

Listen to the title of the game and you should be fine

Indie games will never have the big budgets boasted by AAA titles, but this lack of money often leads to immense creativity. Without photorealistic graphics to rely on, many indie developers have had to lean on good storytelling and inventive art styles to make their works stand out in a sea of noise. In many ways, lower budget indie games have been forced to evolve into something special in order to earn their place among the flashier and more well-established options.

Klei Entertainment's 2013 survival horror game Don't Starve is a shining example of using a unique approach to a familiar concept in order to help yourself stand out in the gaming world. Open-world games with little instruction are nothing new. The idea of dropping a player into the middle of a new world without giving them lengthy backstory adds a sense of mystery to a game, and the premise of Don't Starve is relatively simple — you need to keep yourself and your band of comrades alive. 

While the concept seems too simplistic to deliver a truly unique and entertaining game, Don't Starve has a few things going for it that set it apart from other open-world survival horror games. The quirky characters are only further enriched by the Tim Burton-esque art style found throughout the game. This art direction gives the game a very distinct feel and, at only $9.99 in the Steam store, it's not a game you'll soon forget.

For science … you monster

Valve Software has amassed something of a cult following in the gaming world, and the creation of Steam itself is just one of their many accomplishments. With wildly popular titles like Half Life and Portal, it's no wonder people are constantly speculating about what their next release will be. And while there is some debate as to which Valve title is the best, one thing can always be agreed upon: you won't regret spending a mere $9.99 to play Portal 2.

Portal 2 is an incredibly imaginative puzzle game full of witty dialogue, challenging puzzles, and a deep and expansive storyline that isn't necessarily obvious at first glance. This means that Portal 2 is one of those games that will be entertaining to play over and over again, especially because your first playthrough will most likely involve strategizing and puzzle solving, while your second time may involve more listening to the dialogue to pick apart not only the surface plot, and the implied worldbuilding. With brilliant voice acting, entertaining dialogue, and game mechanics that will make you feel like a physics genius by the end, Portal 2 is a steal from the Steam store at $9.99.

Who knew breathing was so complicated?

If you're looking for something unique, you can't get much more unique than Manual Samuel. "Odd" and "quirky" don't even begin to describe this title with a premise that may raise a few eyebrows. Our protagonist, Samuel, gets killed at the beginning of the game and goes to Hell. Instead of accepting his fate, he makes a deal with Death — if he can survive for 24 hours manually taking control of all of his bodily functions, then he can keep his life. This means that players must simultaneously make Samuel inhale, exhale, blink, walk, speak, and perform other herculean tasks throughout the game. Suddenly, walking up the stairs is an impossible request, never mind the fact that you have to drive a car while focusing on all of the other functions needed to keep a body alive.

With Manual Samuel only $9.99 in the Steam store, it's a game that's definitely worth the money, just to experience something never before seen. The low price only makes this unique title all the more enticing, since it's likely not something most gamers would have ever sought out on their own, had it not been available to them through Steam. Manual Samuel is just another example of the advantage the platform has given to both gamers and developers alike, offering the opportunity to connect creators with an audience who didn't even know they needed their game in their lives.

The only time you'll get a theme park to yourself

There are plenty of different genres available in the Steam store, making it the perfect place to find new titles. If you love a good dark and atmospheric horror game that doesn't rely on combat or stealth, The Park just might be the perfect title for you. This indie chiller allows players to walk through an abandoned amusement park in search of their son Callum, all the while slowly regaining their memory of past events and unlocking clues about what actually happened on these dark grounds. With interesting storylines and gorgeous scenery, players will have a great time exploring the abandoned and eerie park, and even riding some of the attractions.

With obvious influences from P.T. and games in the walking simulator genre, this unique title combines the best elements of several different types of games, culminating in a tense and exciting experience. Though The Park is one of the more expensive titles on the list, coming in at $12.99 in the Steam store, the price is well worth it for fans of a pick-your-own-pace survival horror game. The Park isn't particularly long if played straight through without much exploration, but players who enjoy taking in the atmosphere and seeing everything the game has to offer will thoroughly enjoy The Park and won't have a problem getting their money's worth.

Become a goat just because you can

Sometimes you just need to turn into a goat and cause random havoc. At least, that seemed to be the logic behind Coffee Stain Studios' Goat Simulator. This game is the epitome of random nonsensical fun. Without any real narrative or set of instructions, Goat Simulator boils its gameplay down into the very essence of what attracts so many people to video games in the first place: entertainment.

Much different from the survival horror titles on this list, Goat Simulator allows players to become a goat and fulfill their very ambitious goals of licking things, causing destruction, and turning into a floppy ragdoll. Described as a third-person perspective action video game, there's not much to dislike — unless of course you're looking for something deep and philosophical, but even then, you may be able to find some meaning in the existential crisis of being turned into a goat. 

Playing much like a skateboarding game where players get points based on various tricks they perform as a goat, the open-world sandbox format doesn't include any concrete goals other than destroying things and enjoying your time as a four-legged animal. Though the game was originally created as a joke, the attention it received on social media prompted developers to fully flesh out the idea. Now, at only $9.99 on the Steam store, you can find all the entertaining goat shenanigans you could ever want.

Be careful who you send to "re-education"

Many games rely on an eye-catching concept or a plot with a unique hook to capture the attention of potential players. Others may require word of mouth to rise in popularity because of a seemingly mundane premise. Papers, Please may not seem like a very exciting game just from reading the premise, but when taking a closer look, you can see that it's gathered a large following because of the surprisingly addictive gameplay.

In Papers, Please, you play as a border crossing immigration officer for the fictional country Arstotzka. As a country with an increasingly hostile relationship to its neighbors, your job is to closely inspect all people wishing to enter Arstotzka to identify possible security threats. While this may seem simple enough, not everyone is what they seem and the "terrorists" you need to identify aren't always the overtly suspicious characters you'd expect. Add to this the consequences of mistakes on your fictional family, and suddenly a typical day at work turns into a high-stress fight for the safety of your country. You also have to think about what happens to those immigrants you label as a threat and send back for "re-education."

This game has proven to be a hit with gamers of all backgrounds, boasting an enticing puzzle that takes advanced sleuthing skills to unravel. At only $9.99 in the Steam store, the puzzle is more than worth the price.

Who needs to pick locks when you can astral project?

Night Light Interactive's 2014 title Whispering Willows is yet another indie game with stunning art direction and a unique premise. Playing as Elena Elkhorne, a young girl looking to save her father, you must use your shamanic powers to astral project yourself through various puzzles and roadblocks. Exploring the Willows mansion, you are able to not only overcome obstacles through some clever astral projection and object possession, but are also able to pick up clues from ghosts that tell of a deeper storyline, giving you another mystery to solve.

The puzzling aspect of Whispering Willows forces players to look at obstacles in an inventive way, recognizing alternate routes and different ways to utilize objects. The dark and ominous undertones that accompany the gameplay only serve to enhance the heavy atmosphere and intrigue. Add to this the gorgeous art direction that is somewhat reminiscent of both Oxenfree and Fran Bow, and you have a game that offers players a truly unique and entertaining experience for only $9.99 in the Steam store

Revisit top-down dungeon crawlers mixed with the Bible

Though games with intricate storylines and photorealistic graphics will always hold a place of dominance in the industry, there are players who prefer gaming mechanics similar to those of an early Zelda game. Even many new game developers are recognizing the nostalgic appeal that these roguelike games hold, creating brand new titles that look like they came from the '80s or '90s. The Binding of Isaac utilizes this roguelike structure to take the familiar aesthetic of early games and infuse it with a dark undertone. With an added layer of biblical stories and references, this seemingly simple game suddenly becomes much more involved.

The game uses the Bible story about Isaac (who was nearly sacrificed by his father before being spared by God) as a jumping-off point. Here, however, Isaac's mother fully intends to carry out the vision she received from "God" to sacrifice her son. Players are able to escape into a monster-filled basement and progress gradually downward through the levels. The top-down dungeon crawler style allows players to experience the nostalgia of their younger gaming days while exploring a metaphor-rich story that allows them to utilize their imaginations. At only $4.99 in the Steam store, The Binding of Isaac is an entertaining and unique game.