2022 has been a great year for PC gaming, especially since graphics cards are finally accessible again (more or less). But games like Elder Ring and God of War they’re not exactly available unless you’re swinging around a bit in GPU wattage. That’s okay: the PC gaming market is large enough that there are still tons of great new titles that will run on even the most rusty, dusty, crusty Windows computer.
If you’re using a low-power laptop or desktop, you can still play a huge assortment of games from Steam, the Epic Games Store, and others. As I’ve done for the past five consecutive years, I’ve picked the best and brightest games that will run even on low-powered machines. (Oh, and it’s a nice bonus that most of these games come in well under the “new normal” $70 price point.)
Here are my picks, in no particular order. Not enough? Check out the 2021 roundup too!
railbound is a train-themed puzzle game with two talented puppets. (They’re dogs, for those who aren’t terminally online.) Your job is to lay tracks, flick switches, and connect the cars to the engine in the right order. You’ll need to strategically place the tracks and switches around environmental obstacles to make everything work in time.
Initially released on mobile devices, by Raolbound the adorable cartoon graphics hide a fiendishly clever puzzle system. And with over 150 levels in the PC version of the game, you’ll have plenty of head-scratching challenges to overcome. And yes, you can pet the dogs (thanks to a recent game patch).
railboundit costs $13 on Steam.
Somewhere betweenAnimal crossing and Jonestown sits Lamb worship, a manager-dugeon crawler combination. Build your cult of cuddly creatures and compound to become better at combat, then go out and battle to gather resources and defeat rival religions. The juxtaposition of sweet art style and dark subject matter is reminiscent of games like Hollow Knightbut the combination of roguelite combat and city management is unique even without the gruesome spiritualism.
Reviewers say managing the cult of your resurrected lamb takes the lion’s share of the game, so if you don’t like interacting with every member of your crazy little village every day, this isn’t the game for you. Sure, you could just sacrifice them to your dark god to more efficiently kill your cult competition – hurray for player picks!
Return to Monkey Island
For over 30 years the Monkey Island the series has been the gold standard in point-and-click adventure games. So when the original designer and writer team said they were making a new one for the first time since Monkey Island 2 waaaaaay back in 1991, that was kind of a big deal. Almost as good as the controversial new art style, which is a bit more avant-garde than when pixels were almost as big as the floppy disks games came on.
Fans of the original won’t mind, especially if they weren’t impressed with LucasArts’ attempts to keep the series beyond the scope of the first two games. make no mistakes, Return to Monkey Island is, in every sense, a return to the classic point-and-click pirate comedy. If you’re expecting a few decades of game design to have changed that, think again. This makes the game a treat for purists, and perhaps a bit of a chore if you’re more used to Telltale-style adventure games.
Imagine the simple graphics and monster slaying gameplay of the early days Castlevaniacombined with the huge battlefields and armies of thousands of Warrior dynasty. This is Vampire Survivors, an addictive bullet hell shooter that lets you kill an absolutely ridiculous number of pestilential pixelated poltergeists. The game is so small that it actually started online at Itch.io, where you can still play the free version.
The gameplay is surprisingly simple: you don’t even shoot, your little monster slayer will shoot by himself. But the roguelike setup and incremental updates after your inevitable death give it to the game just one more run before bed sensation. Finding the right combinations of weapons and upgrades is key to surviving long enough to make progress.
The Wandering Village
Throughout human history there have been many tribes and peoples who believed that the world rested on the back of some gigantic turtle or serpent. The tiny people of The Wandering Village they don’t have to believe it: they know they live on the back of a giant dinosaur and they like it that way. Another twist on the standard city manager-builder, this game tasks you with taking on your village by literally walking through different environments and weather conditions.
But the village is not the only thing you have to manage. The leviathan you’re riding is just as important as the people and buildings, and you’ll need to keep it happy and healthy to ensure everyone in this symbiotic relationship thrives. A surreal blend of 2D and 3D art combined with soothing melodies creates The Wandering Village a perfect game to relax.
The Wandering Villageit costs $25 on Steam.
Cursed to golf
For a football fan like me, watching an eternity of Golf Network is far more terrifying punishment than anything Sisyphus or Tantalus had to endure. The protagonist of Cursed to golf he might agree, at least after he had to navigate eighteen holes of hell to escape a golf-themed purgatory. The game is a series of physics puzzles, where you have to make your way to freedom.
But this is “golf” in the Mario sense, even if it’s pixelated (and glamorous) 2D. You can use all kinds of wacky power-ups to overcome the most fiendish traps and tricky bosses of the underworld. Once you finish the main game, you can use your Ace cards in more than 80 special levels and climb the leaderboards.
Fans of fixed camera survival horror classics like originals Alone in the dark and Resident Evil they have to check themselves reported. The game’s sci-fi setting and low-poly anime graphics deliver such a distinct style that it’s a joy to watch in motion, even if what you’re looking at is meant to terrify.
You play as an android, stranded on a crashed ship and in a lifeless world, searching for his partner and his memories. But as you can probably imagine, all is not as it seems. Solve puzzles, conserve ammo and resources, and try to stay alive (if you ever get started) as you solve a dystopian mystery that reaches beyond the solar system.
I was a teenage exocolonist
Growing up is hard enough without dealing with the headaches of oxygen management and the occasional wide-eyed alien. But this is the case with I was a teenage exocolonist, a game that combines classic JRPG elements with modern combat and absolutely stunning 2D art. In addition to keeping yourself and your fellow colonists alive, you’re looking for love in all extrasolar places.
The game is a mix of RPG and visual novel – you might be tempted to call it a dating simulator, but there is more than just flirting under the surface. (Incidentally, this is not really for children). You have ten years to save the colony and prepare for adulthood through card-based combat and conflict resolution. If you can’t, start over and aim for another of 29 different story endings.
I was a teenage exocolonist it costs $25 on Steam.
A pentimento is an image hidden under the top layer of a painting. That’s fitting, since Obsidian, the AAA developer behind Fallout: New Vegas, To the ground, and the outer worlds, it hides among all these indie developers. But this murder mystery set in a 16th-century German village, and illustrated as one of the manuscripts you’d find in an ancient monastery, is about as far from the mainstream as you can get.
While Repentance is essentially a point-and-click adventure game, boasting a story spanning 25 years, with equally stretched decisions and consequences. Self Monkey Island is too much of a throwback for your adventure game tastes, this is sure to offer something a little fresher.
The classic tactical RPG is seeing something of a resurgence this year, with games likeMarvel’s Midnight Suns and Ogre Reborn Tactics. But if you want something old-fashioned and original, go for it Triangular strategy an attempt. Coming from the same Square Enix team of well-received retro RPGs like Octopathic traveller, is a love letter to medieval grid-based party combat.
The fight at three of the world’s leading countries is mirrored in the moral system, which pulls the player’s utility, morality, and freedom in equal measure. A battle setup heavily based on terrain advantage and special abilities should scratch your craving for strategy.
Triangular strategyit costs $60 on Steam.
Honorable Mention: Fortress of the Dwarves
Technically, the first version of Fortress of the Dwarves released 16 years ago. Since then, a small but thriving community has been obsessed with this world-building game, even though its text-based graphics look more like some kind of ASCII nightmare than a modern video game. Understanding its incredibly deep and evolving systems is a study in itself and one that most gamers simply can’t be bothered with.
But you should really give it a try, if only to say you did. And with a new pixel-based graphics makeover, Fortress of the Dwarves now it looks like it’s only 35 years old, instead of something straight out of the dawn of computing. To start a game of Fortress of the Dwarves it is to create a tiny, living, breathing world, and to survive in it is an achievement few can claim…and no one can keep.