With each passing season, the Steam sales become harder to navigate. Countless new games launch on the store every year, and the dispassionate algorithms that rule the storefront grow increasingly unlikely to show you anything but the year’s bestsellers. There’s a growing number of fantastic games that come and go with zero fanfare.
Wes Fenlon and crew have already covered the big-name games you should check out in the 2022 Steam Summer Sale before it wraps up on July 7, at 10am PDT. Being the terrible hipster that I am, they’re letting me recommend some less-than-mainstream gems that have probably flown under your radar (as gems are wont to do, being underground by their nature), all available at steep discounts.
A cozy warm blanket of a Zelda-esque action-RPG, set in a vivid, tactile world made of cozy warm blankets, and populated by moth-people and carpet-dragons. Knit together tears in the (literal) fabric of reality and tie down enemies with ribbons. It’s an absolute feast for the eyes, extremely creative and deserving some time in the limelight.
A hack n’ slash action-RPG that’s unlikely to tax your GPU, on account of it not having graphics. Part audio drama, part first-person swashbuckler, complete with weapon loadouts, blocks, parries and even a magic system. Designed to be fully playable even for those without sight, those who can look at a screen will only see a hazy starfield and some item stats.
Dap | $6.99/£5.49 (50% off)
If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Dap takes the mildly unsettling formula of Nintendo’s Pikmin and steeps it in some powerful horror vibes and pixel art that I struggle to even describe. Lead a tribe of little woodfolk called Daps through an increasingly cursed forest. Huddle close to campfires, avoid monsters and eventually fight back with deadly magic.
Making a good roguelike, shmup, or comedy game is hard enough. Project Starship X somehow pulls off all three at once. Fight against Zombie Space Hitler, chill out with Cthulhu’s grandma, visit Space Texas (it has guns), and do some interdimensional bowling in this weird, funny, challenging and replayable arcade shooter.
Onirism | $9.89/£7.69 (45% off)
An easy recommendation at this price, even in Early Access, Onirism is a madly ambitious genre-splicing platform/shooter set in a young girl’s videogame-tinged dreams. Onirism is Banjo Kazooie, Timesplitters, and Call of Duty all at once, and plenty more besides. The current version features around half of the planned story, plus a mountain of solo, co-op and PvP one-shot scenarios.
Love the concept of Neon White but can’t stomach all that ’90s anime excess? I’m not judging. Well, maybe I am, just a little. Anyhow, Lovely Planet Remix is another tightly wound speedrunning FPS with hundreds of bite-sized levels, but with a soft and squishy Katamari-like aesthetic. It never gets old, constantly mixing up how your weapons and character handle in often-silly ways.
No bullet hell here despite the Touhou name, just a relaxing restaurant management game. Part Recettear, part Diner Dash, and with a pinch of rhythm. Gather ingredients by day, stock your menu, and serve evening meals to the generic townsfolk while creating customized dishes to please named regulars. A hit in Asian territories, recently localized and now rolling out some DLC.
A distinctive but accessible roguelike, complete with gamepad-friendly controls. Infiltrate a massive undead stronghold while alternating between human and vampire forms. One moment you’re hanging with the local humans, the next you’re dodging sunbeams and guzzling blood. A recent beta-branch update added more locations, enemies and secrets.
Retro FPS design meets outsider art. A surreal and lengthy adventure through the incredibly cursed fjords of Norway, full of weird locals and monsters. It’s a constantly inventive adventure, challenging, strange, and compelling. Northern Journey’s unusual art style is a result of having no lighting engine: every shadow is hand-painted onto the world.
Bungie may be a studio best known for their first-person shooters, but true fans still hold a torch for their Myth series. Simple but compelling fantasy squad-tactics games, pitting a small task-force against impossible odds. Nordic Warriors is one of the few Myth clones around, delivering familiar thrills to a modern audience, including a lot of quality-of-life improvements.
Venineth | $7.99/£5.99 (60% off)
A ball-rolling exploration platformer where every single frame looks like a ’90s raytracing showcase. Explore strange alien landscapes full of abstract shapes and weird devices, and piece together what you can of the wordlessly told story. Impeccable vibes elevate a simple concept to something transcendent.
A trio of ARG-adjacent investigation adventure games, all set in the same universe. Analyze data, research real-world hints on Wikipedia and an assortment of fake websites, and maybe even do a little (simulated) hacking as you unravel conspiracies both international and interdimensional. While closely related, each of the three games have their own distinct feel and internal logic.
FORZA POLPO! | $10.14/£10.14 (30% off)
Inspired by quirky PS1 FPS platformer Jumping Flash, Forza Polpo is an adorable (yet surprisingly hardcore) pastel-tinged shooter. Explore a surprisingly cute apocalypse, harvesting Pink Energy to glue the broken world back together. Still deep in Early Access, there’s a lot to like about what’s already on offer.
An infectiously silly platform shooter inspired by Mega Drive classics like Gunstar Heroes, but starring a legally-distinct-enough take on Sam & Max’s casually homicidal rabbity thing. Aside from perhaps being a tad easy on Normal difficulty, this is a fast little ride with great music, surprisingly funny writing and voicework, and tons of weird space monster bosses to zap.
Beacon | $11.99/8.99 (40% off)
After many long years in Early Access, roguelike shooter Beacon quietly launched late last year. Juxtaposing crisp and clear flat-poly aesthetics with some positively grody body-horror prose, you play as a cloned ‘survivor’ of a ship crash, each run splicing new DNA into your next body to create new (and frequently horrible) mutations to help you thrive and escape.