So, you received a gift card to Steam during the holidays. If you own a gaming PC or a Steam Deck, that’s like getting the key to the city. There are so many great games on Valve’s PC gaming platform, and you can potentially get a lot for your money (did you know that Steam gift cards can also be used to buy hardware like the Steam Deck OLED?). So how can you possibly decide what to buy?
That’s where this post comes into play, providing you with a couple handfuls of titles that are getting some well-deserved attention on Steam, as well as informing you about the best deals on 2023’s top games happening during the Steam Winter Sale that’ll last through Jan. 4, 2024.
Fun fact: almost all of the games below are included in Polygon’s ranking of the best games of 2023.
If you have a couple of friends who you like to play games with, consider Lethal Company, which costs $9.99 (note: it’s in early access). It’s a survival horror multiplayer game that can cause rapturous screaming and laughter, often at once. You’ll work together to gather scraps and loot from creepy locales, at least for as long as you can until monsters or environmental hazards wreck you in the most unpredictable ways. While the game is terrifying at times, the proximity-based voice chat amps up the humor of losing your pals or barely escaping death. Polygon’s video crew streams Lethal Company on Twitch from time to time, and you can check out a previous stream here.
Baldur’s Gate 3
Whether you play games solo or with a crew, Baldur’s Gate 3 is a must-play game on PC. This RPG is heavily steeped in Dungeons & Dragons in terms of its universe and ruleset. That said, you don’t need to have ever played D&D to quickly get immersed in this title. Each battle is turn-based, and you command a crew of four characters, complete with their own weapons and spells. The fights are always exciting, but what happens outside of fisticuffs is equally — if not more — riveting. You’ll make decisions that alter your path through the game, as well as your relationships with key characters. If you’re clever, you can even talk your way out of battles. There’s so much possibility at every turn that it’s impossible to see everything that Baldur’s Gate 3 has to offer in a single playthrough. During the Steam Winter Sale, Baldur’s Gate 3 costs $53.99 (normally $59.99).
No Man’s Sky
Hello Games’ first-person space exploration game No Man’s Sky is the oldest title on this list, having launched in 2016 to middling reception. Since then, the developer has delivered update after game-changing update, continuously raising its own bar to give gamers near-total freedom in space. Simply put, No Man’s Sky is a treat for how much it’s currently selling for ($29.99), and the experience is what you make of it. It can be a chill space exploration game where you collect resources to upgrade your ship to its fullest capabilities. You can focus strictly on building outposts. Or you can become a space pirate, fighting other players to capture their treasures.
Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew
Most of us have played tactical espionage games, but Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew puts a spin on the concept — one that only its developer, Mimimi Games, could have pulled off. The swansong for the studio is its best work, building on its previous games like Shadow Tactics and Desperados 3. Visually, it walks the plank and dives headfirst into a pirate aesthetic, with characters and settings that my colleague Alice Newcome-Beill described in her review as “Monkey Island-esque.” During Steam’s Winter Sale, this game is $31.99 (normally $39.99).
Cocoon is a puzzle game that doesn’t go out of its way to explain itself to the player. But, like the best of its genre, it’s designed to tap into our curiosity, encouraging us to think outside of the box (er, sphere). The dialog-free title was directed by Jeppe Carlsen, who also helped design other minimalist puzzle games, including Limbo and Inside. It’s worth the price of admission just to experience its ingenious planet traversal puzzle mechanic. This title is $5 off during the Steam Winter Sale, costing $19.99.
Hitman World of Assassination
IO Interactive left many of Polygon’s staff obsessed again in 2023 thanks to the introduction of a new mode in Hitman World of Assassination. Its Freelancer mode puts a roguelike spin on the game, allowing you to become even more of a super agent when you’re on a hot streak of killing targets. Your success earns you items, weapons, and intel that can make it easier to clear tougher levels you face later in Freelancer mode. However, you go back down to the bottom rung if you die, keeping only some of those collectibles. It sounds punishing, but I promise it’s a good time. It’s also a fantastic way to get more comfortable within Hitman, and to master its mechanics and equipment.
IO Interactive’s big $69.99 bundle that contains every map from its modern series costs just $27.99 during Steam’s Winter Sale.
Dave the Diver
In Dave the Diver, you do much more than merely dive. In addition to spearing fish and collecting materials, you help run a sushi stand at night. As you repeat this cycle through the in-game day and night cycle, you earn more customers, which in turn lets you expand your restaurant’s capabilities to serve new kinds of meals and food items. There’s enough to get obsessed with, and that’s before the game introduces hook after hook in the form of minigames, a fun story, and a list of objectives that never gets too overwhelming. Dave the Diver is wholesome as heck, and it’s one of 2023’s best games (even though it debuted in early access in 2022). During Steam’s Winter Sale, the game costs $15.99 (normally $19.99).
Octopath Traveler 2
One of Square Enix’s best games of 2023 doesn’t have “final” or “fantasy” in the title, yet it deserves a similar level of attention. Octopath Traveler 2 has the necessary ingredients to be revered by its target audience of RPG fans nostalgic for SNES classics like Chrono Trigger. It has excellent tunes and a fun battle system, and each of its character’s stories are captivating. We referred to it as “quintessential gaming comfort food,” so make sure to consider it if you have a spot in your gaming library for an adventure that’ll take dozens of hours to finish. This game is $41.99 during Steam’s Winter Sale.
Chants of Sennaar
Not many games ask you to essentially learn a new language. Chants of Sennaar does, but don’t confuse this inventive indie title (one of Polygon’s favorite games of 2023, and one of the most gorgeous titles of the year) for a new spin on Duolingo. The game begins shrouded in mystery, as the player wakes up from a sarcophagus. You’re given the simple task to move through the environment, which is conveniently riddled with puzzles, the solutions to which are made easier once you know the foundational pillars of the local language. Not just that, your knowledge is used to make sense of the culture you’ve found yourself in. The sense of discovery from piecing together the mystery is something that many gamers will enjoy. It’s easily worth its $15.99 sale price.
Everyone’s Steam library needs a big, deep RPG that you can sink into during the winter. Diablo 4 is a fantastic one. Months after debuting on Blizzard’s own PC client (causing many Steam Deck owners to jump through hoops to get it running), it’s now available on Steam. This entry hardly needs an introduction, but it deserves one. The latest entry in Blizzard’s revered Diablo series made good on the name by offering a polished, rewarding experience at launch. And it’s only gotten better since, whether you’re playing alone, with randoms, or with friends. Plus, more content is on the way in 2024. And, with its Steam Winter Sale price at $41.99, it’s never been more affordable on PC.