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17 of the best budget Steam games

Bulk up your Steam library, don't break the bank

best deals on Steam

Steam is chocked full of brilliant games and amazing deals. But finding the best budget Steam games can sometimes be a needle-haystack scenario. There is a thing as too much choice sometimes, but there’s never been a better time to bulk up your Steam library, whether on a gaming laptop, Steam Deck or elsewhere. There are more games on the platform than ever, true. But thanks to the Steam Deck, thousands of these games can now be played on the move.

Valve’s Steam Deck is something of an anomaly in the world of portable consoles in that it’s living up to the hype it has created. Yes, it’s not perfect. It’s big, beefy and the battery life could be better. But many portable consoles have promised the world (i.e. PC gaming on the move) and failed to deliver. The Steam Deck delivers.

That’s not to say that the latest expansive RPG will run on it without a hitch. That’s pretty understandable. One can dream, but a handheld PC is not at the point to compete with home set ups just yet.

Valve are working on that, though. Regular updates and fixes are being made to make more Steam titles compatible with its hardware. The games retailer’s ‘Great on Deck‘ page is also a very handy resource for deciding which titles have passed all compatibility checks and are ready to be played. That includes the likes of God of War, Elden Ring and Spider-Man. Delve beneath the surface, though, and there’s a treasure trove of great, cheap titles to discover.

What’s more, the Steam Deck and Steam Deck OLED is now available to buy with no wait. Now, it’s time to delve into what bargains you can play on it.

Additional copy by Justin Mahboubian-Jones and Alan Wen

1) Cuphead

Cuphead will likely end up on every ‘best of’ list from now until the end of time, and for good reason.

This run-and-gun classic puts you in control of Cuphead and Mugman, who have the unenviable task of collecting souls for the devil. Not ideal. Players zip, shoot and fly their way across beautifully drawn levels inspired by the sounds and cartoon styles of the 1930s. Dragons, fairground rides, Las Vegas slot machines and giant frogs are just a few enemies that Cuphead and Mugman must face. It’s difficult. Very difficult, and will have you turning off your console in a childlike strop before picking it back up again five minutes later.

The recently released Cuphead companion, The Delicious Last Course, brings yet more beautifully drawn baddies and an additional playable character to consoles. A must own.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

Click here to purchase Cuphead on Steam

2) Return to Monkey Island

LucasArt’s Monkey Island series is something of a rite of passage for those who spent an offensive amount of time sat in front of a Windows 95 computer. The point-and-click puzzle and adventure series followed the trials and tribulations of Guybrush Threepwood as he swashbuckled and smartmouthed his way across a fictionalised pirate-era Caribbean.

The series, known for its dry wit and colourful character, spanned 19 years and five games, with Threepwood last appearing in 2009’s Tales of Monkey Island. For thirteen years Monkey Island laid dormant, but this year the series was revived with Return to Monkey Island under the direction of its original creator, Ron Gilbert.

Return holds on to all the elements that made the Monkey Series so beloved. The dialog is witty. The environments are immersive, while the puzzles are a fine balance between engrossing and enraging. At the time, we called it ‘a last hurrah for the golden age of pirate adventures,’ and is certainly worthy of your hard earned booty.

3) Stardew Valley

Had enough of combat, globe-trotting and intrigue? How’d you like to spend your evenings engaged in something a little more relaxing and gentle – while still retaining that dopamine-dumping gaming loop that ensures you’ll be playing long past midnight?

Allow us to present Stardew Valley, a game in which you take over and run a dilapidated old farm. Not a farm plagued by zombies, not a farm upon which an evil corporation wants to drill for oil. Just a farm on the outskirts of a sleepy countryside town, with some land and a few buildings you can develop. As the seasons roll by, you’ll meet your neighbours – and maybe even fall in love and start a family.

4) The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow

The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow follows the story of a young Victorian woman, Thomasina Bateman, who has been invited to an unsettling northern town by a stranger for mysterious purposes. What could possibly go wrong?

Lots of things it turns out, and it’s the job of Bateman to find what darkness lies under the seemingly quaint village of Bewlay. There are puzzles to solve, villagers to interrogate and dark secrets to uncover, all to a score that broods heavier over time.

Visually, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a throwback to the heyday of 8 and 16bit games. It builds its foreboding English landscape through beautifully blocky and purposefully low-res pixel art, akin to playing a version of The Wicker Man for the Atari.

5) Hades

Failure is an important part of Hades, where each run has a random layout of enemies and death sends you right back to the beginning. That sounds like a turn-off for those preferring a story over a challenge, but this roguelite is more forgivable than most – and better too. 

This dungeon-crawler’s fast and tight combat feels terrific to play as you hack and slash your way out of the Greek Underworld to the surface. And Hades is very addictive for diving back in for another go, seeing what this weapon or that upgrade can do or what you’ll find in the next room. Even if you’ll have to face numerous setbacks, few games make you feel so godly.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

Click here to purchase Hades on Steam

6) Portal

The beauty of discovering a new gaming consoles is that with it, players rediscover the games they once loved. Portal 2 is one of those titles, an oldie but very much a goodie.

Portal 2 was met with rightful praise upon its release in 2011, and it more than holds its own in 2022. Its storyline remains compelling, and to this day features some of the best voice acting in video games. ATLAS and P-body, Portal 2’s main protagonists, haven’t lost a morsel of charm or humour in over ten years. After so many years, remembering how to solve a puzzle brings with it a wave of satisfaction and nostalgia in equal measure. And for those who haven’t experienced Portal 2 before, we envy you.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

Click here to purchase Portal 2 on Steam

7) Crazy Taxi

Crazy Taxi is one of those games, a bonafide arcade classic alongside the likes of Time Crisis and House of the Dead. Hurtling across a version of San Francisco, knocking virtual bystanders out their way, is as joyfully chaotic today as it was upon Crazy Taxi‘s release in 1999. And yes, buses travelling too slow still causes virtual road rage.

Crazy Taxi‘s modern incarnation has thankfully changed little since it first debuted. There are still only two main modes, Arcade and Original, as well as 16 mini games. The controls remain as clunky as the graphics, and there are still thrills to be had in driving off a huge ramp.

Stuff says: ★★★★✩

Click here to purchase Crazy Taxi on Steam

8) Mad Max

There are no shortage of games that appeal to the type of people who believe they’ll thrive in an apocalyptic world. 2019’s Days Gone asks, how would you survive in zombie ravaged Oregon? The Last of Us 2 premises, how would you survive in zombie ravaged Seattle, but what if those zombies were also mushrooms? From war (Fallout) to walking (Death Stranding), today, any apocalyptic experience can be played out in HD.

To that list add 2015’s Mad Max. Mad Max, the game, is essentially a playable carbon copy of Mad Max, the movie. Earth has destroyed itself and oil equals power. Archaic gangs roam The Wasteland dressed in chainmail and you, a lone wanderer who’s somehow kept their chiselled good looks in a world without soap, need to survive.

Mad Max was largely slept on at the time of release, perhaps due to too many disappointing movie-video game tie-in adaptions. Since then, though, it’s since grown into something of a cult classic, where gamers fight for scrap in an open world wasteland. And in an overcrowded market, Mad Max offers a unique spin on the end of the world.

Stuff says: ★★★★✩

Click here to purchase Mad Max on Steam

9) Totally Accurate Battle Simulator

Totally Accurate Battle Simulator has a simple premise, who would win in a fight between one historical figure and another? It’s an immortal question, one that TABS tries to answer in a simple, yet delightfully silly way.

TABS is part strategy game, part uncontrollable mass of flailing bodies in what its developer, Landfill, calls ‘wobbliest physics system ever created.’ It pits cavemen against knights and pirates against woolly mammoths. Is the pen mightier than the sword? Make an artist and a samurai fight to find out.

TABS is a game that can be picked up for a few minutes or will mercilessly squeeze several hours from the day. Don’t just take our word for it, though, as TABS has also been rated the 20th best Steam game of all time.

10) Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0 places you in the neon-lit underworld of 1980s Japan. The economy is booming, capitalism is thriving, and for two junior gang members, Kiryu and Majima, crime is paying very well.

From there, things get pretty weird in this delightfully bonkers action beat ’em up. As Kiryu and Majima make their way through the richly detailed streets of Tokyo and Osaka, the duo can can punch, kick and breakdance their enemies into submission. Minigames range from playing Mahjong and Blackjack to disco dancing in the club. One particular side-quest involves leading a street performer to the bathroom before, well, the inevitable.

That said, later Yakuza titles, such as Yakuza: Like a Dragon, have since upped the absurdity, allowing players to use spatulas and something called a ‘celestial microphone’ as weapons. It’s not to say flailing a kitchen utensil like a nunchuck isn’t fun, but Yakuza 0 succeeds in toeing a line between serious gameplay, story and silliness.

Stuff says: ★★★★✩

Click here to purchase Yakuza 0 on Steam

11) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is arguably Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus, a story of rage, revenge, and offing unsuspecting guards in a myriad of creative ways.

Set amidst a backdrop of the Cold War, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain offers all the heart-pumping stealth action that’s to be expected when sending an angry Solid Snake into a deadly warzone. Where it excels, though, is in the freedoms it offers players. The open-world environment allows for dynamic play, whether it’s the freedom to ensnare enemies in a series of meticulously laid traps or to run in all guns blazing and hoping for the best. Day and night cycles and dynamic weather can make or break a mission. So, too, will giant mechanised robots wishing to destroy you.

The future is uncertain for series, though. Since The Phantom Pain’s release in 2015, Kojima has left Konami with the latter keeping the rights to his creation. However, if Snake’s ninth outing proves to be his last, then he can rest easy.

12) Vampire Survivors

It’s typical, really. After getting hold of a Steam Deck earlier this year and dreaming of all the AAA RPGs the powerful handheld PC would now let us play on the move, we found ourselves drawn to a game that could very easily run on a computer from 20 years ago. And Vampire Survivors continues to be our most-played Steam Deck game to date. 

Vampire Survivors may offer the most bang for buck over any other title currently on Steam. For just £4, you can get a hold of one of the most addictive and enjoyable gaming experiences out there right now. The premise is simple. All you have to do is survive an ever-growing horde of monsters using only a joystick and a will to fight on. Each run allows you to unlock better characters, items and gear, in the hope you’ll be able to last the whole 30-minute gauntlet. You’ll fail, fail, and fail again in this battle against chaos, but that’s what makes it so great. Vampire Survivors has you chasing the rush.

Like the best games in its genre, Vampire Survivors will always have you itching for one more go, while its basic visual style won’t bother you at all when its chaotic brilliance really starts to reveal itself. 

13) Tunic (£25)

Looks can be deceiving. You’d be forgiven for assuming that Tunic, the long-awaited indie release about a cute-looking fox on an adventure, is going to be a cuddly game that holds your hand along the way, but you couldn’t be more wrong. When the titular (and green tunic-wearing) cub wakes up on a beach at the beginning of this 12-hour game you’re told next to nothing about how it got there or what it needs to do next. 

Instead, as you make your way through Tunic‘s mysterious fantasy world you’ll collect pages that gradually form the in-game manual. You won’t be guided towards a weapon, key item or an objective, and the game won’t explain its mechanics and systems in a tutorial. Harking back to adventure games of old with more than a nod towards Zelda, you’re all on your own here, and it’s really quite refreshing. Tunic’s combat is surprisingly tough too, but it’s not the game’s biggest strength, and if you just want to explore there’s a no-damage mode, something frankly every game should have. An old-school gem.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

Click here to purchase Tunic on Steam

14) Marvel’s Midnight Suns (£30)

Marvel’s Midnight Suns could have very easily been just another licensed cash-grab. And while developer Firaxis is mostly associated with the super hardcore tactical XCOM reboot, complete with infamously harsh hit-rates and permadeath system, Midnight Suns is no mere re-skin. This is a role-playing game with deep character-driven storytelling that’s quite unlike anything the studio has previously done. The tactics system is also very clever, with the randomness of battle coming down to what attacks each hero can use based on the cards in their hand. At £30, it’s on the higher end of the bargain bin. Marvel fatigue may also be very real, but Midnight Suns is a title that will still draw you in.

15) Terraria

Terraria is the game that refuses to die. Terraria was first released in 2011, but this part-Minecraft, part-retro dungeon crawler remains just as addictive today as it did 12 years ago. Dig your way through randomly generated (and pixelated) 2D worlds, build structures with foraged items and zap walking skeletons with arrows. So far, so sandbox. But Terraria offers returnability in droves for the price of a fancy sandwich. A simple yet rewarding gaming system, satisfying base-building and a joyful co-op experience makes Terraria a classic.

16) Kunai

Another platformer worth your time (and money) is Kunai, a charming 2D title in the vein of Metroid. In Kunai, you play as Tabby, a cat (obviously) but one that’s been infused with killer robot instincts and the soul of a great, ancient warrior. In fairness, that sounds like the behaviour of many a cat, but set in a world of robots and AI predators, Tabby must jump, climb and flip its way through this pixelated world to save humankind. It also has a pretty killer soundtrack, too.

Stuff says: ★★★★✩

Click here to purchase Kunai on Steam

17) Contraband Police

Have you ever wanted to play the part of a customs officer stopping weapons, contraband and illegal materials entering a former Soviet block nation in the 1980s? Us neither, but Contraband Police is a pretty great way to cosplay that experience in the safety and warmth of your own home.

Controlling a border is no easy job. Along the way, you’ll meet some unsavoury characters, shoot your way out a few sticky situations, and protect the great (fictional) realm that is the Acarist People’s Republic.

Click here to purchase Contraband Police on Steam

Profile image of Jack Needham Jack Needham


A writer of seven years and serial FIFA 23 loser, Jack is also Features Editor at Stuff. Jack has written extensively about the world of tech, business, science and online culture. He also covers gaming, but is much better at writing about it than actually playing. Jack keeps the site rolling with extensive features and analysis.

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