It’s been a bumper year for gamers on a budget. While we’ve seen prices of some triple-A games hit new highs, it’s the quiet, charming indie darlings that have stuck out most to me. Games like Vampire Survivors and more recently, Just King, cost next-to-nothing.
Rather than restrict how much a dev makes on their game, these low prices have ballooned their audiences and caused hugely popular reviews across Steam—you pay for what you get, and sometimes, you pay a lot less than you should. These games are all brilliant. Short, sweet little packages of fun, some of which will end up in GOTY lists across the board. Here’s our list of the very best games you can get for less than $5 on Steam.
We’ve covered Vampire Survivors multiple times already here at TheGamer, including as a part of our indie spotlight piece where we emphasise just how much value you get out of your purchase. If you haven’t dived into the hyper-moreish world of Castlevania-inspired bullet hell chaos, the sort of game that has now inspired an entirely new genre (we still haven’t worked out a name for it), then I highly recommend you do so. Right now. This is a game that chomps its way straight through the arterial vein of my fledgling GOTY list.
20 Minutes Until Dawn
First, there was Vampire Survivors. Then there was 20 Minutes Until Dawn. The premise is pretty similar—there are multiple waves of enemies you have to defeat interspersed with boss rounds that drop loot, and an upgrade system that changes the way your character plays. You do have to aim your weapon in 20 Minutes, so it’s a bit different in that regard, but otherwise it’s more of the same bullet hell action. Use the grenade launcher. I dare you.
Tinyfolks is a short and sweet indie game in the style of Darkest Dungeon, with art, music and development all handled by a single person. When I say short, I do mean short—you can finish this game in two hours if you’re experienced with the genre, but there are more difficult modes and challenges to complete if you so desire. The music is charming, the gameplay has the potential to be just as complex as DD with further updates, and it’s less than a fiver—you can’t really go wrong here.
Just King is an auto-battler but also an action rogue-like, and it looks a little bit like Binding of Isaac and plays like SNKRX. If that’s all a lot to take in, this is another unique game on the list that really sticks out considering it costs less than $5. SNKRX is the closest comparison I can come up with—that was that game where you pick a team of various characters that play in a snake formation, and you have to build synergies. The premise is the same in Just King, and with future updates I can see this one going above and beyond with different boss fights, characters, and potential combinations.
Stacklands is a personal favourite on this list—it’s a deck-building, card-shuffling, town-management, RTS game. Drop a villager on a berry bush, get berries. The game’s mechanics are easy-to-learn, and things quickly become challenging as more enemies appear on your screen. Although it might look like a simple, straightforward game, it gets real hectic real quick. There’s a reason why this is one of the highest-rated games of the year on Steam. Play it, if you haven’t already.
Sit back and enjoy the drive, the game. Retrowave is one of the most stylish games of the year, and one of my personal favourites for when my brain needs a break from digesting terrible news on the internet. The music is great, the colours are great, the game is great. Things to remember: it is not a racing game, and do not play around young children unless you want them to fall asleep. The game was originally released a couple of years ago, but received a sizable DLC in May, so it counts, okay?
Nightmare of Decay
This is a love letter to the 90s Resident Evil games, and what a letter. It’s essentially the OG Resident Evil updated with some mod cons, compressed into a highly enjoyable and refreshingly nostalgic two to three hours. You can’t really fault this FPS. Just kill the zombies. Shoot them in the head. It feels good. Sounds good. Feels a bit like time traveling into a past where Resident Evil was actually even better than it was.
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