Steam Summer Picnic Sale Recommendations

If you are like us, you might be addicted to Steam sales. There's the thrill of the hunt as you find great games for great prices. We're here to point you in the right direction, brave hunter.

My absolute top recommendation for today is This War of Mine. If you haven’t played this game, you need to. It’s hard to pin the genre on this one. It combines elements of survival and strategy in a glorious mashup that's unlike any other game I’ve played before. In most games you play the hero leading the charge with guns blazing; in this game you play as a group of civilians just trying to survive a war. You have to survive through lack of food, lack of medicine, and with hostile soldiers and even other survivors trying to kill you. You can craft items and scavenge for stuff, so it bears a greater resemblance to a survival game in that regard. Graphically, it’s a side-scrolling game in the vein of Mark of the Ninja, so not my usual cup of tea, but the gameplay and concept are just so awesome. It is available now for $4.99. (Ivonne Martin)

My recommendation is Gone Home: a first-person, story-focused exploration game set in the 90s. The story centers on teenager Samantha, but you play as her older sister Kaitlin, who has just come home from traveling the world. The whole game takes place in the same house, where you walk around exploring, looking at objects and getting glimpses of the lives lived there. It plays rather like a detective story, where clues spread throughout the house add together to tell you about people and events. Some information you get simply by turning things over and reading notes, but certain objects also trigger journal entries by Sam, addressed to Kaitlin, which are read aloud to you while you continue playing (or stop to listen, if you prefer that). At the heart of the story is Sam’s relationship to a girl called Lonnie, but you also get to know what Sam’s life was before meeting Lonnie, and a little about the parents’ hopes and disappointments. The level of detail is outstanding: from boxes of photocopied zines to X-Files posters; from pamphlets of the mother’s forest conservation agency to empty pizza boxes with fat stains on the lid. The riot grrrl-heavy soundtrack (largely provided through in-game cassette tapes) is also great, and connects wonderfully with the story. Gone Home is 80% (!) off during the summer sale, so it’s currently $3.99.

My second recommendation is The Stanley Parable. The easiest way to describe this game is as an 1.5 hours long mind-fuck. Though the play-time depends on how you play it, and in fact you can spend very different amounts of time on the game... But explaining why would spoil it. As would most things I could tell you about the game. Sorry! Similarly to Gone Home, this is a game that focuses on experience rather than problem-solving, though here it’s more about raising questions and making you think than about telling a story. It’s not a soothing game, and it doesn’t give you the satisfaction of a neatly tied-up ending or clear tasks to finish—but it’s clever and, occasionally, riotously funny. I'd recommend The Stanley Parable to people who enjoy walking simulators, philosophy, or absurdity—or all of those things. It also seems to be especially entertaining if you've played a lot of video or computer games before, which I discovered while discussing the game with my friend who's a more experienced gamer (let's just say there were some jokes and clever references I didn't get). The usual price may be a little steep for such a short game but its current price of $2.99 is definitely worth it. (Tova Crossler Ernström)

I’m going to go with a really obvious choice: Lego Marvel Super Heroes. While the mechanics are at an "all-ages" level of simplistic, it doesn’t stop this game from being absolutely delightful. It has a fun storyline that skillfully incorporates most of the main aspects of the Marvel Universe from New York to Latveria to Asteroid M. It also has a massive roster of over 150 characters, with all the major heroes and villains from the MCU movies in addition to many of those from the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man comics. In addition to the story mode, you get a massive open world in the form of a Marvel-ized version of Manhattan, with side-quests and races aplenty.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this game for any fan of Marvel or Lego, and very highly for a fan of both, such as myself. It, as well as another ten games in the Lego series, is discounted by 75% at $4.99. (Aranwe Quirke)

If you're like me, you like hard games. These games aren't so punishing that they're unenjoyable. The Dark Souls series challenges you by stripping away gameplay mechanics that we take for granted today. The first entry in the series, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition ($4.99) is a steal. Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin ($13.59) and the critically-acclaimed Dark Souls III ($44.99) are also not to be missed.

I also recommend The Long Dark ($6.79), a first-person survival game that does not feature zombies! The game is presently in Early Access, currently featuring a sandbox mode: you’ve crash landed in the Canadian wilderness after a worldwide geomagnetic storm knocks out all electrical devices; no hope of rescue, you must survive the cold, stave off starvation, and avoid hostile wildlife. Two story modes are being developed, featuring both a female and male protagonists.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown, where you can play dolls with your soldiers, just like I do

Darkest Dungeon ($14.99), as described by the developers, is about making the best of a bad situation, and probably the most punishing of my recommendations. XCOM Enemy Unknown ($7.49) is a very addictive turn-based strategy game which, among many other positive reasons, is popular for how you can play "paper dolls" with your soldiers, not only changing their appearance, but also their nationality, voice accents, and gender-neutral body armor. Lastly, if you don’t already have Tomb Raider ($4.99), what are you even doing. (Adrian Martinez)