Any PC gaming veteran will tell you that Steam is an indispensable part of getting your Fun on. But what if you’re new to the whole PC thing? Where do you start? There’s a massive library of choice so it’s down to us at Press to Jump Magazine to help you narrow down your shopping list. This list isn’t the end. In fact, it’s just the beginning: Steam’s huge library guarantees you’ll never be short of choice. There’s even a wishlist function that lets you save games to buy later. It can even be shared with your friends in case they might want to buy you a present of some sort.
Presenting: The Press to Jump Steam Essential Collection, a list of games we feel everyone should at least try, if not buy. Many of these games have been out a while, so will be a bargain already. Many of them show the best of what the PC can do, either by outshining their console versions, or by simply remaining exclusive and special. Some will even continue to have active communities extending their lifespan.
1. The Orange Box
The Orange Box is a bundle that includes five titles from Valve: Half-Life 2; Half-Life 2:Episode 1; Half-Life 2: Episode Two; Team Fortress 2, the sequel to the game that put class-based, multiplayer team warfare on the map; and Portal, the game that blends puzzles, first person action, and adventure gaming to produce an experience like no other.
This is cheating a little bit, since there are actually five games in this collection, but the Orange Box is a very very good way to get you started on Steam. Every game in the collection is a classic, and they form the backbone of a lot of mods and total conversions out there. Yes, Team Fortress 2 is already free, but having Portal means you’re prepared for the sequel.
2. Portal 2
The “Perpetual Testing Initiative” has been expanded to allow you to design co-op puzzles for you and your friends!
Portal might have brought some unique gameplay and storytelling but the sequel, Portal 2, refines the formula even further with some brilliantly brutal puzzles and grade A script writing. The voice acting is great, with not only the return of the creepy GLaDOS, but J.K. Simmons playing the head of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson and Stephen Merchant as a weird eyeball thing called Wheatley. There’s also a fun co-op mode to whet your appetite for PC multi-player gaming, if you’re not already knee deep in TF2, where you have to work together to solve puzzles, all the while putting up with the taunts of a crazed A.I.
3. FTL: Faster Than Light
This “spaceship simulation roguelike-like” allows you to take your ship and crew on an adventure through a randomly generated galaxy filled with glory and bitter defeat.
If you want something that’s quick to pick up but challenging enough that you will want to tear your hair out, you can’t really do much better than FTL: Faster Than Light. A great mix of space-faring, survival and exploration, FTL is one of the most accessible rogue-like games out there. We already covered it, along with mod compilation Captain’s Edition, in a recent Now Playing feature.
FTL’s visual style hides a game with oodles of depth, intrigue, and often frustration.
4. Civilization V Complete Edition
Create, discover, and download new player-created maps, scenarios, interfaces, and more!
If there’s one genre where consoles just can’t seem to compete with PC, it’s the strategy genre. From real-time strategy to turn based and 4x (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) games, mouse-driven interfaces are king. And no game series is more strategy than Sid Meyer’s Civilization. Yes, there might be the newer Civilization Beyond Earth, but with Civ V Complete Edition, you get a full package of a completely patched up game and all the extras. Enough to keep you busy for a very long time.
Also, don’t forget to pop buy Reddit’s r/civ for some like-minded folk! Some of the game time those guys have for the game quite often tops 1000 hours, which is just crazy dedication, and further evidence to just how replayable the game is. There’s also their legendary Civilization V Battle Royale, which pits 60 computer players against each other on a giant Earth map.
5. Homeworld Remastered Collection
Experience the epic space strategy games that redefined the RTS genre. Control your fleet and build an armada across more than 30 single-player missions. Choose unit types, fleet formations and flight tactics for each strategic situation.
A masterpiece in fusing story, music, and art, the Homeworld series is a great example of the Real Time Strategy genre. Even better: there’s now a fully remastered collection of the original and sequel! When it first came out in 1999, Homeworld dared to be different by introducing a fully 3D battlefield with some very complex unit behaviour. What stands out the most, though, is just how cohesive the design of the ships look. You feel like every corvette, fighter or frigate came from a real shipyard.
6. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
The Witcher is a story-driven, next-generation open world role-playing game, set in a visually stunning fantasy universe, full of meaningful choices and impactful consequences.
It was a toss up between CD Projekt Red‘s finale to The Witcher’s trilogy or the seminal Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, but Wild Hunt edged out into the lead thanks to its jaw-dropping cutting edge graphics, along with CDPR’s long time love for the PC platform. One of those companies that takes care of their fans, The Witcher III has plenty of free DLC, is born for the PC platform and has more story than you can shake a stick at.
7. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Choose Your Path. It is four thousand years before the Galactic Empire and hundreds of Jedi Knights have fallen in battle against the ruthless Sith. You are the last hope of the Jedi Order. Can you master the awesome power of the Force on your quest to save the Republic? Or will you fall to the lure of the dark side?
Set 4,000 years before A New Hope, this game is a Bioware RPG through and through. Just like the movies, there are some memorable characters (looking’ at you HK-47) and some of the best exploration of what makes ‘Star Wars’ any game has achieved. The sequel wasn’t as good, but it’s just received a huge patch despite being over a decade old, and there’s now a mod to restore lost content.
Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters LIMBO.
As much a work of art as a game, LIMBO is an expert at silent storytelling. The black and white art perfectly marries with the melancholic mood, creating a surreal experience for the player. My first playthrough of LIMBO was completely engrossing. I can’t think of any game that better defines what it means to be ‘indie’. Prepare to be moved.
9. Deus Ex Human: Revolution Director’s Cut
You play Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT specialist who’s been handpicked to oversee the defensive needs of one of America’s most experimental biotechnology firms. Your job is to safeguard company secrets, but when a black ops team breaks in and kills the very scientists you were hired to protect, everything you thought you knew about your job changes.
The cyberpunk RPG genre was redefined by the original Deus Ex in 2000, but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, despite the great gameplay and story. Enter the Director’s Cut of the latest in the series: Human Revolution. It might be a bit more fast paced than the original, but there’s no shortage of great story and easily one of the best video game soundtracks ever.
10. Arma 3
Experience true combat gameplay in a massive military sandbox. Deploying a wide variety of single- and multiplayer content, over 20 vehicles and 40 weapons, and limitless opportunities for content creation, this is the PC’s premier military game. Authentic, diverse, open – Arma 3 sends you to war.
Games don’t get much more ambitious than this. You can do anything from running around as a grunt, to driving a tank, to flying a plane and anything in between. The game is quite multiplayer focused, but the online community is second to none, and the modding scene is vibrant and supports Steam Workshop, making installing and managing your mods a doddle. If you want a taste of how this works, check out the brilliant Dslyexi YouTube channel to see how it’s really done!
11. Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY Edition
Experience what it’s like to be Batman and face off against Gotham’s greatest villains. Explore every inch of Arkham Asylum and roam freely on the infamous island.
Ignoring the disaster that is the last Arkham game, Arkham Knight, the series has been pretty decent. I’d argue that the original, Arkham Asylum is still the best, simply because it came as such a surprise, and kept the concept so tight. It’s not nearly as ambitious as Arkham City, but that just meant it had better focus. Now that it’s a few years old, you’ll be able to pick it up for a bargain.
12. Gang Beasts
Gang Beasts is a silly local multiplayer party game with surly gelatinous characters, brutal mêlée fight sequences, and absurdly hazardous environments.
Easily the best way to start and end arguments, often at the same time, Gang Beasts is a blast. The distilled essence of party brawlers like Smash Bros, combined with interactive 3D environments, and a touch of physics based animation, it’s amazing fun even with it still being in Early Access development. All you need is up to four controllers and three friends (not included).
Discover the world of Transistor, a sci-fi-themed action RPG from the creators of Bastion.
The follow up to Supergiant’s beautiful hand-painted style RPG Bastion, Transistor takes it up a notch with rich environments, engaging story and a great soundtrack, proving that Bastion wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. The best part is, you can pick up both games for a steal.
14. Payday 2
PAYDAY 2 is an action-packed, four-player co-op shooter that once again lets gamers don the masks of the original PAYDAY crew – Dallas, Hoxton, Wolf and Chains – as they descend on Washington DC for an epic crime spree.
While it might have been in the news for the wrong reasons recently, this is easily one of the best co-operative team based games to come out in the last few years. Take on bank heists, jewellery store hold ups and museum thefts as part of a four-man team that plans and executes their missions. If you want to feel like part of the movie Heat, there’s no better way.
15. Ultra Street Fighter IV
The world’s greatest fighting game evolves to a whole new level with Ultra Street Fighter IV.
Pretty much the purest fighting game you can hope for, the latest Street Fighter (until Street Fighter V is out, at least) features all the classic characters along with super-honed gameplay and lightning-fast 3D graphics. As a bonus, if you get good enough you’ll be prepared for all those top international pro-gaming competitions. Fight sticks aren’t essential.
Something for everyone
The list above is by no means the final say in what you should own. The beauty of a platform like this is that there is such a breadth of content to choose from, whether you’re into action games, role-playing games, party games or anything in between. A lot of people would say that this is primarily because of the PC platform, but I think it has more to do with just how diverse the concept of video games has become. Yes, it can be much easier to develop and release a game on Windows/Linux/OSX, but console platforms have made great strides to reduce developer friction, especially in the indie games scene.
The games I picked try to show a wide range of tastes… a starting library that would be flexible as well as fun. The likes of Gang Beasts and Ultra Street Fighter IV are great when you’re sat with a bunch of friends and want a bit of competition. Coupled with the new Steam Link TV streaming box, you can have the best of both the PC and console worlds: Top notch tech and slumping on the sofa.
I chose Steam simply because it’s by far the most popular of all the platforms on the desktop. Make no mistake, you’re certainly not spoilt for choice! GOG.com recently launched a new desktop client, and there’s also the likes of EA’s Origin, which sells all kinds of other publisher’s games, and indie sites like itch.io or Humble Bundle are vibrant and lively places to explore content.
What are your essential games on Steam? Do you think there’s anything lacking or that you’d add as a recommendation?