The old curiosity shop
Summers here! Its a beautiful day, the sun is shining, and the goose is getting fat, so what better way to celebrate the beauty of Gods green earth than by staying in and dourly scouring the Steam summer sale for bargains, like a joyless husk in front of a computer screen with the curtains shut. However, thereve been so many sales now. Youve probably already picked up all the stuff you wanted, your heart sinking as you see the Fallout 3 GOTY edition going on sale for the price of a pint (half if youre in London. Sigh) yet again.
But this guide isnt for the wildly-discounted heavy hitters, or the madly-hyped indie games. This is for the stuff you dont normally hear people harp on about; the weird old curios that are largely ignored and unloved, the ones that were never really given a chance by punter and publisher alike. If youre looking for something that isnt a twee pixel art indie game about how much the developer hates themselves or Tom Clancys War Bastard 807, direct your bloodshot, hayfever-addled eyes across the next few slides.
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death (79p / 60c)
The game that prompted the creation of this feature. You see, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is the kind of glorious madness that is so sorely missing from games these days. A proper, low budget effort with AAA scale, ambition and a man with mystical powers talking to a wise-cracking sentient Mayan mask about tentacles on the internet.
Its a God of War clone, but despite those games technically being better, Marlow Briggs doesnt take itself anywhere near as seriously, has an infinitely more likeable main character, and is in some ways (whisper it) more fun because of that. Its the video game equivalent of a B-movie youd find in a bargain bucket at a service station, starring Mario Van Peebles and Christopher Lambert. Major props for the Indiana Jones style artwork too. Also its 79p or 99 cents, depending on where you're from. 79p for one of the most shamelessly silly and fun games that never got a fair shake. And its 60 frames per second, if youre one of those framerate-obsessed berks.
Get it here for 0.79/$0.99. And make sure you read the wonderfully schlocky game description before you do. It might be the best thing ever written.
Bionic Commando (1.69 / $2.49)
Bionic Commando: Mike Patton Edition is another title that never really got a fair throw of the dice, and it flopped badly as a result, perhaps killing the franchise off for good. No, it isnt perfect, and the major plot twist is M. Night Shyamalan bad, but theres really nothing else like it. Maybe people were disappointed that it wasnt an open world thing, and perhaps they were turned off that Nathan Spencer got rid of his ginger buzzcut in favour of some ill-advised whiteboy dreadlocks that wouldnt look out of place on an MTV metal show from 2001.
But the game itself is fun! Its a linear jaunt through a post nuclear wasteland with a bionic swinging arm man who just so happens to sing for Mr Bungle. And Faith No More, when he needs the cash. Also, near the end of the game, theres a button you can press to cuss out one of the final bosses. Yes, all that and a swear button!
Get it here for 1.69/$2.49.
Singularity (3.74 / $7.49)
Singularity was the final full game by Raven Software (the talented chaps behind Hexen, Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast: Revengeance and 2009s Wolfenstein) before Activision decided to throw all their weight behind Call of Duty. Since then, Raven has had nothing else to do but make map packs for Black Ops, Modern Warfare and Modern Black Ghosts. Its the equivalent of hiring David Cronenberg and then getting him to direct coffee adverts.
Singularity is a banger, a first-person bloodbath with time travel, Communists and mutants. Its like BioShocks much less pretentious, bloodthirsty cousin with much better combat, so from that perspective its (braces self) the superior game. It even features a Nolan North character getting killed off right near the start, so extra points for that. It meshes horror and action really well too, and sticks in some time/dimension-warping powers for good measure. Its 3.74/$7.49 in the sale, and has multiple endings if youre down for that sort of thing, comrade.
Get it here for 3.74/$7.49.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines (3.74 / $4.99)
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines was another one sent out to die by Activision. It wasnt even properly finished before release, so its riddled with bugs. However, theres a hefty modding community for the game, so getting it into a playable state requires only a simple patch. Its absolutely worth it too.
Bloodlines has a hefty cult following, and for good reason. It may just seem like Deus Ex: Buffy Edition, but its genuinely one of the finest RPGs ever made. What it lacks in polish it makes up for in character, writing and acting. Its a colourful, bawdy and extremely funny game at times, especially when you compare it to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which for all it did right was just about the dourest thing ever. It features a cracking haunted house level too, with a theremin on the soundtrack, which almost entirely justifies the asking price in itself. Plus one of the character classes in the game can talk to lamp posts and other inanimate objects, so Mass Effect players will feel right at home.
Get it here for 3.74/$4.99.
Omikron: The Nomad Soul (1.74 / $2.49)
Before David Cage started making games that play like late-90s, budget, erotic thrillers, he was a little bit less ashamed of the fact he made daft computer games for a living. Omikron: The Nomad Soul was the first fruit of his loins with his studio Quantic Dream, and is a big daft sci-fi with ambition, serial killers, demons and David Bowie (Bowie had some input into the plot too). The storys borderline indecipherable, but thats part of the games otherworldly charm really.
Its definitely dated, but its still fairly immersive and atmospheric, which is pretty impressive given its been 15 years since the games release. Theres been talk of a sequel too, so fingers crossed David Bowie comes back for that as well. If youre a big fan of Heavy Rain, or even Beyond: Two Souls (not judging, honestly), its definitely worth going back and having a look at Cages much less self-conscious, kaleidoscopic debut.
Get it here for 1.74/$2.49.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (2.39 / $2.99)
Once youve played this, its kind of hard to take the people who drone on about the Walking Dead games seriously. Yes, those games are great, and yes theyre upsetting, but once youve played point-and-click adventure I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, The Walking Dead might as well be Kirby's Epic Yarn. Simply, this game is horrifying. Based on Harlan Ellisons short story of the same name, its the tale of a supercomputer called Am thats destroyed mankind, except for 5 people that its kept alive to torture for eternity. Am sets each character a task to prove they can redeem themselves, which is where the game part comes in. Although the word game denotes fun, and I Have No Mouth isnt really fun in the slightest.
The game just has such a nasty, malevolent atmosphere. Each level is based on its particular characters fears and weaknesses, and everything in the level messes with you, so even when not much is happening, its a stressful, claustrophobic experience. Its less than 3/$3, and so a much cheaper, more effective way of feeling any joy and happiness being sapped out of you than the grim brutality of Killzone: Shadow Fall.
Get it here for 2.39/$2.99.
More for less?
Obviously this is but a small selection of the absurdly cheap deals you can pick up, and it doesnt even include daily or flash deals. And theres other stuff too, like Psychonauts and Call of Cthulhu, that could easily have taken up any one of these six spots. As you can see though, theres plenty to enjoy. Loads of gaming delights to browse, buy, install, and pillock about with for twenty minutes before never thinking about again, as is the Steam way. Siiiiiigh. Have you found anything that you think never got a fair look? Are there any unloved weirdos that you just need to tell the world about? Shove your suggestions in the comments below.
And while you're here, fully committed to reading the internet instead of running around outside shoving ice cream into your gob, why not check out some of our related and semi-related content? Our handy to guide to 50 upcoming PC games for 2014 and beyond would be a good start, and if you want to look further afield than the PC, have a look at The best games of 2014 (so far).