Available on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
We tried not to include too many obvious AAA games on this list, but c'mon--BioShock Infinite for $20 is a steal. I mean, we're talking about one of the best games of 2013. This FPS / RPG hybrid might not have the strongest gunplay of all time, but its gorgeous world and gripping narrative are more than worth the price of a dinner for two at Taco Bell. If you somehow haven't already played BioShock Infinite, there's never been a better time.
Available on: PC, PS4, Ouya
We have to imagine that every gamer has fond memories of four-player local multiplayer battles. Elbow to elbow with friends, laughter, shouting, all of that stuff. But while most games have shed their party roots in favor of online play, TowerFall Ascension keeps one foot grounded in retro gaming with its killer competitive battles. Up to four friends fight in small arenas, trying to stick their foes full of arrows (or to jump on their heads, if they're feeling frisky). It's immensely fun, and a great grab for anyone with three friends, four controllers, and a few hours of time to kill.
Available on: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Strider, a 2014 reboot of Capcom's classic side-scrolling platform action series, is not interested in wasting your time. Within minutes you'll be sprinting through the goon-infested streets of Kazakh City, slicing enemies to pieces while simultaneously performing a cartwheel flip. All the while, neon sparks spray in every direction--a glorious tribute to your assassination skills. This metroidvania adventure impresses with its continuous sense of forward momentum, and it's packed with unlockable gear and abilities, hidden secrets, and more. With excellent pacing and equally fantastic action, Strider does not disappoint.
Available on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
There was a time when the FPS/RPG hybrid was thought to be a lost cause. The original Borderlands proved that all it took was the right balance between the two to come up with a product that satisfies in both aspects, and Borderlands 2 expanded on that in every way, with more content, better gunplay, and more dynamic and interesting ways to build your character. The other reason its germane to this list: you wont run out of places to go or guns to discover anytime soon.
Games in the $1-10 price range
Available on: PC, PS4, Vita
We once wrote up an article on 10 games you can play in under 5 minutes, and Luftrausers ranked near the top of the list. It provides incredible gameplay that you can enjoy in short bursts, dropping you into the cockpit of an experimental WW2-era airplane that needs to blast as many enemies out of the sky as it can before being destroyed itself. It's simple and endlessly replayable, with tight controls and an incredibly slick art style. Seriously, look at those yellow and black pixels. Mm, girl.
Available on: PC, PS4, PS Vita, 3DS
This may very well be one of the greatest 2D Metroidvanias ever made--but far too few know of its gritty greatness. SteamWorld Dig tells the tale of an ambitious young prospector mining the depths beneath a Western town for wealth--oh, and everyone's a robot. The action is a pristine mixture of Mr. Driller's downward spelunking and Super Metroid's constant stream of exciting upgrades, as you explore an entire underground world full of precious minerals and dangerous creatures. The game was already amazing on the 3DS, but the HD visuals for the PC, PS4, and PS Vita versions look absolutely phenomenal. Definitely pick this up if you want a digging game that values rewarding exploration over sandbox-style wandering.
Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Available on: PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Wii U
A fast-paced 2D platformer with a catchy soundtrack that doubles as action cues, Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is an excellent buy for twitch-reaction enthusiasts. Its premise is pretty simple--just time your jumps, kicks, and slides to progress through a stage--but each world gets progressively harder. Thankfully, the game's excellent chiptune music provides plenty of cues for when you should perform an action, as you'll typically do so in conjunction with the beat of the song. It's light-hearted fun that provides a surprising amount of challenge.
FTL: Faster Than Light
Available on: PC, Mac, iPad
One of the coolest parts of Star Trek's space battles is when the captain needs to decide to divert power from one part of the ship to another. It's so tactical. It's here that FTL: Faster Than Light, a spaceship roguelike, shines--in forcing you to make the tough decisions. You might need to turn off the air so that you can temporarily add additional power to your shields, or drop your weapons offline so you can power up your life support. But the time between fights is compelling, too. You'll choose where you want to go as you jump from point to point, making life-or-death decisions along the way.
Available on: PC
Think a game has to be fun to be good? Well, then you've obviously not played Papers, Please, an indie game that shows that there's some great gameplay in forcing players to make brutal decisions and work grueling, punishing jobs. In it, you play an immigration agent in the Eastern Bloc country of Arstotzka, and are tasked with deciding whether or not people get into the country by stamping their passport. It's a painful existence, but makes for an eerily compelling experience.