We used love and math to find your best deals in Steam’s biggest annual discount spree
Each year, the Steam summer sale empties our wallets and skewers our hearts. People in the know have reported that two out of five Steam games are literally never played, and if you’ve owned a game longer than a couple of weeks, it’s no longer eligible for Steam’s excellent refund policy. So how should you decide whether or not to buy a game that’s on deep, deep discount?
Fashion experts tell us we should consider how much a garment will cost per wear over time, the theory being that a cheap garment falls apart quickly but an expensive classic may well last forever. The Autosave staff compiled their top Steam games by hours played to figure out how much each game has cost per hour. Like a favorite pair of old jeans, some games are priceless.
- BattleTech ($39.99, sale $31.99), 23¢ per hour
Here’s an important thing to know about me. I’m into turn-based tactics games. Like, really into tactics games. In college, I put an embarrassing number of hours into Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, lost the cartridge, bought it again, and put an even more embarrassing number of hours into the new copy. So when some friends started talking about a new tactics game where you’re in command of a team of giant mech pilots, I was all in. Here’s what I knew about the BattleTech franchise before playing this game: it’s been around forever, and there’s big robots in it. And guess what? That’s all I needed to know, going into this game. It’s a great introduction to the BattleTech universe for fresh-faced recruits such as myself, with a good story that feeds you a slow drip of lore instead of overloading you right off the bat, and helpful popups on any in-universe terms that might need explanation. If you’re a fan of games like XCOM, Into the Breach, Advance Wars, or Fire Emblem, and also giant robots, consider giving this one a spin. — Walker Harris
- Witcher 3 ($39.99, sale $19.99), 9¢ per hour
CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3 sticks with me if only because its side quests did not always resolve happily. In fact, much of the beefier optional content left me wondering if I’d somehow missed the dialogue choice or action that locked out the “best ending”. I was jolted by the realization that I should not expect a “best” option from a game whose entire first act takes place in a countryside, ruled by a violent drunkard, with drowned corpses in every puddle. Certain RPGs, with their split duality, had hardwired me such that each decision weighed an invisible scale towards either being a virtuous do-gooder or a punch-first-ask-questions-whenever loose cannon. Sometimes, The Witcher 3 told me with a rueful frown, there is no best option. Sometimes there’s only bad and much, much worse. — Chase Carter
- Dishonored 2 ($39.99, sale $19.99), 5¢ per hour
Reasons to play Dishonored 2:
- You can be sneaky sneaky. Ever wish you could avoid a tricky social situation? In D2 you can! Just jump up into the rafters!
- You don’t have to do murder. Do you hate murder? Did you play Undertale and now live with lifelong guilt about killing NPCs? Get ready to live your best life with the sleeper hold! It’s a slumber party?
- Do you like making manbabies cry? Good news! D2 features an “unrealistic number of women and people of color”! Support games actually having women and POC in them.
- Feeling sad that pride month is drawing to a close? Give your gay a nice dose of either (a) listening to Emily or Corvo’s delectable voices, (b) enjoying having a multidimensional trans NPC, or (c) buying D2: Death of the Outsider and screaming “GAY!” for 30 hours as you unlock a gay backstory for my favourite video game character.
- Need a fun way to let out some pent-up aggression towards cops? Oh boy, this game is for you. Every level is full of aggro-hungry guards who you can punish in the most delectable ways. My favourite: knock them all unconscious and make a boy pile! Not so scary are you now, huh?? Also quick save is your friend (F5) because don’t you just want to see what happens if you throw that big jug of explosive oil out the 3rd story window?? Don’t you?!
- Satisfy your curiosity and try to outsmart the game by asking “what if I just… “Jumped out the window? Threw a guard into a whale? Ran full-sprint through the whole first level because you’re really bad at stealth games and you’re sick of starting over in the same stupid hut with five guards who can HEAR AND SEE LITERALLY EVERYTHING IN A FIVE MILE RADIUS?! HYPOTHETICALLY. — Oliver Northwood
- Ark: Survival Evolved ($59.99, sale $19.79), 4¢ per hour
Ark: Survival Evolved is a wonderful mess. It is a game that was able to distinguish itself from the myriad other persistent open-world survival building titles by having one thing the others didn’t: dinosaurs. Spawn into a public server naked, with the intention of building up your personal dinotopia. Instead, find every area walled off by player groups and be killed instantly by said players. If taming dinos and surveying the land from atop your pterodactyl is something you must do, gather a group of friends and get a private server running. Ark then turns into an oasis where you can sink hours upon hours with a robust crafting and building system creating your personal dinosaur citadel or palace. Team up with your friends to track rare and dangerous dinos to add to your collection. Extensive modding can add quality of life features you won’t want to be without, and accelerated resource gathering can let you focus on satisfying your inner architect. Whatever you do, avoid the public servers. — Owen Cruise
- Stellaris ($39.99, sale $15.99), 3¢ per hour
Stellaris sees Paradox Interactive’s trademark grand strategy style launch into space. Following in the footsteps of classics like Master of Orion and Galactic Civilizations, Stellaris adds something lacking from those titles: ideological motivation. Much of the fun in Stellaris is in creating a custom race, selecting from a set of core political principles and then role playing them as you spread across the stars. Guide xenophile socialistic lizard people on a quest to create a galactic federation, or militant mushrooms on a crusade to subjugate your neighbors. The choices are many, but be warned, the pace is slow. Stellaris doesn’t bother you with the micromanagement that bogged down similar titles in the past. Combat is simplistic, and large swathes of your empire can be divided into semi-autonomous sectors. The game also benefits from great writing in its many events that will ask you make choices that could alter the nature of your empire. At 60% off, Stellaris is a great value. — Owen Cruise
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition ($39.99, sale $19.99), 2¢ per hour
I know, I know. It’s 2018. At this point, Skyrim’s been released on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and in VR, in addition to its PC release. If you’ve made it this far without playing it, there’s probably a real reason why you’ve been avoiding it. Maybe you’ve never played an Elder Scrolls game and are intimidated by the crushing lore. Great news: I’ve played 200+ hours and probably never made it further than halfway through the main quest, instead happy to gallivant around poking my nose into the most obscure corners of the world and getting into fights with crabs. Maybe you’re just not into fantasy games. More great news: by this point in Skyrim’s lifecycle, there’s hundreds of free, community-created mods that can turn the game into just about anything you could want to play, from running around dressed as a Warhammer 40k character to changing every enemy in the game into a Pokemon. Maybe the usual $40 asking price is too steep for what is essentially a 7 year old game. Well here’s the best news of all: it’s only $20 right now, remastered with high resolution textures and better lighting effects, and includes all the DLC. What’ve you got to lose? — Walker Harris
- Sid Meier’s Civilization V Complete ($149.34, sale $12.27), 2¢ per hour
Even if you’ve never played a bent minute of any Civilization game, chances are good that you have at least heard of Firaxis’ near-legendary franchise of 4X strategy titles. Perhaps someone regaled you with the highlights of a play session that stretched through two meals. Or maybe a friend showed up to class bleary eyed because “all of a sudden the sun was rising.” If you want to know why people share a knowing chuckle at the phrase “one more turn”, pick up Civilization V. While not the latest in the franchise, it benefits from a complete cycle of patches, tuning and DLC that sanded down any rough edges to a shining finish. It is the quintessential computer strategy experience, albeit one burdened by centuries of colonialist sensibilities. What constitutes culture, freedom, and civility are typically Eurocentric, and the early game baddies are reduced to two-dimensional Barbarians. But stomach bad politics and the game will provide a horrifyingly efficient way to lose entire weekends to a single campaign. — Chase Carter
- Fallout 4 ($29.99, sale $14.99), 1¢ per hour
Fallout 4 might not be the best-loved or best-rated of the extensive Fallout franchise, and it might not even be my personal favorite (Fallout: New Vegas claims that honor), but if you’ve been looking to check it out, now might be the time. I personally have clocked in 220 hours on PC alone, with at least that much time also spent on the PS4 version of the game. So what’s the appeal? My favorite aspect of Fallout 4 is one of the most divisive: settlement building. I’m an avid Sims and Minecraft player, and the desire to build is hardwired into my DNA. I’ve never actually finished the main questline, choosing instead to spend my time building and decorating each settlement. Shaun who? — Rebecca Parks
- The Long Dark ($29.99, sale $7.49), 1¢ per hour
The Long Dark at its core might just be another survival simulator, sure, but the tranquil scenery, thoughtful gameplay, and art reminiscent of a storybook really set it apart from other games. The game has two modes: story and sandbox. The story mode, which currently has two of five planned chapters, puts the player character in the middle of the Canadian wilderness in a desperate search for their ex-spouse. It includes small and slightly tedious quests, all of which are required to advance to the next chapter. The sandbox mode is arguably more fun, with different difficulty levels (I play on peaceful, aka easy) and different explorable interconnected areas of a larger snow-covered map. For players more adventurous than myself, higher difficulty means higher chance of death by weather or wildlife. There’s even an achievement for surviving just 24 hours on the highest difficulty setting, which I’ve never gotten, coming close at 23. — Rebecca Parks
- Portal 2 ($19.99, sale $1.99), 1¢ per hour
Having been a decade late to the party with the first Portal and loving every second, I resisted the urge to dive straight into the sequel for about, oh, a week? Luckily for me, it was packed full of the exact same humour, style and utterly engrossing physics-platforming gameplay – just more of it, more of it all. The puzzles are more satisfying. The jumps are more exhilarating. The narrative stakes are higher. The story progression is absolutely jaw-dropping at times. The voice acting is phenomenal, in particular being the only good thing Stephen Merchant has ever done*. The method of putting this article together necessitated that we focus on this game, but honestly, my recommendation is to go whole hog and spend $2.23 on the Portal + Portal 2 bundle – the full experience of playing through the two games is one of the most satisfying I’ve had, and at less than 20 hours total (6.3 on 1, 13.4 on 2), the time:enjoyment ratio is one of the best available on any gaming platform. — Charles Wheeler
* Charles’ personal view about the career of Stephen Merchant does not represent the views of the Autosave team, particularly Jack, who thinks it is bad and wrong.
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds ($29.99, sale $19.99), 1¢ per hour
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a game that you’ve probably already heard a lot about, but allow me to explain to you why it’s one of my most-played games of all time. “The Battle Royale shooter that isn’t Fortnite” is broken, strange and very easy to die in – but it’s also incredibly entertaining. No two matches are ever the same – sure, each one follows the general formula of parachute, loot and shoot, but this is done on three maps with sizes between 16 and 64 km². The fact that there are not only multiple maps but that they are vast means that there is always somewhere new to go, something different to do and nowhere is ever guaranteed to be safe. PUBG broke huge records and caused the Battle Royale genre to be what it is today by proving that it could be done in a way that means every match is fun, the tension is always high, and the thrill of getting that chicken dinner win never fades. — Jack David
- Stardew Valley ($14.99, sale $11.99), 0¢ per hour
When I looked up Stardew Valley in the sale, I literally didn’t believe that I’d only paid $14.99 for this game at launch. The game was released in 2016 with two fewer romance options, no late-game goals, and far fewer conveniences, and it was still a great deal. Folks who are disappointed with Nintendo’s silence about future Animal Crossing games should continue to look to Stardew for a fix I’d say is actually better. The multiplayer beta is the big story lately, but something I’m more excited about is the new winter market: a dayslong special event that draws people from town. Instead of an unnatural cutscene environment where everyone says specific things about holiday food, they mingle around but have regular dialogue and interactions. You even see them walking from town toward the beach: a small step for Lewis or Marnie, but a giant leap for Stardewkind. — Caroline Delbert
- Dishonored ($9.99, sale $2.49), 0¢ per hour
This is one of the games I’ve picked up after watching other people play, and it ended up being one of my absolute favorites. I have a soft spot for stealth and I loved that you can complete the game without killing a single person, even though it’s all about being an assassin. You also get an array of supernatural powers that you can use to teleport around on rooftops, spy on enemies, summon rats, possess people, and generally cause as much chaos as you want, although chaos and murder will change the way other people and the environment react as the story progresses. The stylized art is beautiful, the characters are interesting, and it feels extremely satisfying to play the role of a badass supernatural assassin bodyguard saving his country and his beloved little girl Emily. The game is just good plain fun to play, even when the plot twists and you’re no longer sure that the nonviolent options are any better than murder. And the best part? It’s on sale! 10/10 would recommend buying. — Charlie Norton