The annual Steam "Winter" Sale is currently on. That wonderful time of year where your wallet is bombarded by powerful deals and the risk of falling into temptation becomes too much.
I became a devoted fan of the Steam Sale back in the day of the flash deal, where timing your purchases right gave you some extreme discounts, instead of this bland one-size-fits-all blanket sale they have now. It became a game in and of itself, and I was a playa. But I don't wish to dip too far into mawkish nostalgia. It's time for deals!
I'm an aficionado of video games. I love them, I play them on the reg, I'm all about them. I'm a connoisseur if you will. And in this time of relentless sales allow me to be your shepherd through the valley of darkness. You may hear the siren call of the latest releases, the AAA's - that's the suckers game. Look away from them. There are some deals to be had here that won't break your bank.
My list of the best games under $5 (AU) that absolutely need to be in your Steam library:
Psychonauts This is $3.62. Wait, wha? One of the most amazing games of all time for that much money? Voiced by Angry Beavers and Invader Zim's Richard Horvitz, you are Raz - a psychonaut in training. You go into other peoples minds and battle their inner demons, clear out their mental cobwebs, remove their baggage and other metaphors that become real. If you've played this in the past then you should know they fixed the Meat Circus level and it's not suicidally difficult any more. If you've never heard of the Meat Circus level then you need to buy Psychonauts.
Fallout: New Vegas Built on the now somewhat dated but still functional Fallout 3 engine, this is an entirely new game in a familiar setting. FONV is bigger and better in every way. Gone is the linear path of Fallout 3, FONV lets you go your own way. Align with one of three factions, or none of them. Double-cross them or stay loyal. There's no karmic system any more, merely reputation with various factions. This is the post-apocalyptic survival simulator of choice. The modding scene is insane and the expansion packs bring this in to well over a hundred hours of gameplay. You get a gun that is also a robot dog. Or a robot dog that is also a gun, it's all about perspective.
Portal 2 Portal was brilliant. An incredibly well constructed puzzle game with, and this was a huge surprise, a stunningly well written black comedy script. Portal 2 is everything you loved about Portal but ramped up to 11. It's better in every way and you need it in you right now. The script is even better and the vocal performances of Stephen Merchant and JK Simmons are exceptional. Cave Johnson is one of the most iconic characters in video game history. As a game it's incredible, as an experience it's unforgettable. Grab the original Portal while you're at it, they should both come in under $5.
Dawn of War (plus expansions) In the grim darkness of the grimdark future, there is nothing but war. Warhammer 40k has always been over the top, and the progenitor of the term "grimdark". Dawn of War is one of the best Warhammer 40k experiences you can have in a game and in and of itself is a very solid RTS (which is my favourite genre). Things went a little wonky with Soulstorm but Dark Crusade is where it's at - and that's not just because I prefer to play Necron. If you love old school RTS and you want a throwback to Command & Conquer with a grimdark coat of paint, then grab this. Steam says that I've clocked over 200 hours of play on this, that's your recommendation.
Hotline Miami An 8bit, yes not 16 but 8bit, top-down murder simulator. The common misconception is that this is an action game. It isn't. It's a puzzle game that also requires twitch reflexes. You play as a mute psychopath who is a hitman for a mysterious organisation. You go to places and murder everyone inside. Rinse and repeat. The trick is that one hit kills - the bad guys and you. So the game becomes kind of like Groundhog Day or Source Code, you keep redoing it until you figure out the right way to win. By murdering everyone in cold blood. It's difficult, sure, but rewarding. Also has an unexpectedly awesome soundtrack.
Half-Life 2 Presumably there are people who may not have played this. It's possible they exist, however unlikely. If you are one of them then rectify that immediately. Easily one of my top 10 games of all time.
FTL: Faster Than Light I usually hate rogue-likes, or rogue-lites - I can't remember what term we agreed on. But FTL is special. It's amazing. You pick a space ship and a crew, fit it out with weapons and equipment and try to stay alive as you run from the evil Rebellion. You will try, you will fail, and you will love it. Again, hours played is over 100 on this. Get it.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution While the original Deus Ex comes in at probably number 2 on my favourite games of all time, it's a bit too dated to come back to. Leave the past where it is. Human Revolution is the prequel to Deus Ex and while it never reaches the lofty pinnacle of its predecessor, it comes close in a lot of ways. Not quite RPG, not quite FPS, but all Bladerunner simulator. I quite enjoyed this, even if Adam Jensen's gruff stoicism becomes grating towards the end.
Saints Row The Third What began as a GTA clone grew into something different and this is my favourite entry in the franchise. Easily one of the most epic opening 15 minutes to a game of all time. Then it goes insane. Ever wanted to be a fat, naked clown and beat people to death with a giant dildo? Saints Row got you covered fam.
To The Moon Anything I say about this vaguely playable story will spoil it and you don't want that. Trust that it's on the list for a reason.
Braid Incredible art style and ambiance. A platforming puzzle game where the gimmick is being able to control the flow of time - or not control it, but deal with how it operates differently. A true puzzler and a great dopamine hit when you figure things out. Builds to a really powerful ending. A must have.
Trine A fantasy style, physics based platformer. I think there's co-op play but I don't have friends. Anyway you have a knight with a shield, who blocks damage. A thief with a grappling hook, who gets you places. And a wizard who can make objects to stand on. By their powers combined you have a fun platformer. The second game is more of the same, which isn't a bad thing. The third is the Trine equivalent of The Last Jedi and needs to be burned in a fire. But Trine the original is a classic.
Dungeon Warfare You have a dungeon and you need to use physics based traps to kill off the pesky heroes who try to steal your shinies. Don't let the graphics fool you, this is one of the best tower defense games I've ever played. Go and punt some people into lava, you'll feel better.
Orcs Must Die Fine, if you want better graphics then this is the same game as Dungeon Warfare, pretty much. Again, flip guys into lava. It's fun. This throws you straight into the action with a third person shooter element. There you go, if you can't find some value in that there's something wrong. Go forth and hide from the relatives over the festive season with some PC classics.