There was a period in my life when I didn’t play any video games at all because they were too expensive. Consoles were riding high off their previous console generation and I couldn’t afford a PS3 or a Wii or whatever variation of Xbox that Microsoft was peddling. I also couldn’t afford a gaming PC at the time, and while I installed some PC games on the cheap laptop I had bought for school, it would chug and whine at me whenever I tried to play them. The end result was that I decided gaming just wasn’t for me. I felt like the consoles were this exclusive club where you had to pay hundreds of dollars to enter and then after that, shell out $60 for every game you wanted to buy. The cost was prohibitive for me, and while people argued that there were used consoles and used games I could buy, the cost still didn’t seem worth it.
So I tucked away gaming as something that I wasn’t interested in. In my head, I tried to convince myself that playing games was childish and getting rid of them wasn’t because I had been barred from playing thanks to their cost, but because I was “too grown up” to want to play them. Even for games that I could run on the lowest settings like World of Warcraft, paying an extra $15 a month was more than I could afford. Looking back now, it was probably the right choice at the time. Games weren’t as accessible as they are now, and I was so broke that if I had kept buying games, I would have put myself in dire financial straits.
Luckily, if you’re finding that money is tight and you still want to game, you don’t have to fork out tons of cash to play. With review sites so easily accessible, spaces like HLTB (How Long to Beat) telling you the number of hours you can expect to play each game for, and Let’s Plays showing you organic gameplay, it’s easier than ever to make an informed choice even while on a budget. Full disclosure, though: most of these discounted games and some of the free ones will require the Steam client and a Steam account to play.
1. Humble Bundle: Humble has weekly bundles for games and ebooks where you can pay what you want for a certain amount of games. They tend to have more games in the bundle when you pay for more than the average, but it’s still usually less than $10. Plus, you can decide how much of the proceeds go to Humble, the developers of the game, and to charity!
2. Steam: Steam runs weekly sales on lots of games, but the biggest draw for me when it comes to Steam is its seasonal sale. Steam usually has two big sales per year: a Winter sale and a Summer one when most of its inventory is discounted anywhere from 5% to 95% off. Full disclosure: you are required to download the Steam client to play/purchase these games and will need a Steam account.
3. Indie Gala: In support of indie devs, Indie Gala sells bundles as well with Monday, Friday, and weekend bundles of low-priced Steam games.
4. Good Old Games: This platform focuses more on the older games like the name of it says, but also has all the modern games you could want. Their games are DRM-free and do not require any platform like Steam to run them on. Like Steam, they tend to have weekly sales that you can take advantage of.
5. Groupees: I personally haven’t bought anything off of this site, but it has curated bundles with themes like Pirates and Lovecraftian. The most expensive one I’ve seen on this site was $2 for a bundle with three games in it. Groupees’ bundles are not exclusively games-focused and can also include comics, ebooks, and music.
6. Greenman Gaming: It is a store like Steam, and while you can buy games on its own personal client there, you can also buy for Steam, Xbox, Origin, Uplay, PSN, and others. They have vouchers you can use on top of already discounted sale items to help bring prices down even further!
7. Desura: This is on the list simply for the sake of completion. Desura is a platform much like Steam, and while it has a lot of sales on the site, there have been some troubling claims such as paying their developers late (and more recently, their parent company filing for bankruptcy). I’ve never used the site, so I can’t comment much further than that.
8. Game Tap: This is a subscription service, and while I’ve never used it, the pitch is that if you pay less than you would pay for a regular game, you have access to their entire catalogue, which includes a lot of the more recent mainstream games.
Where to Find Free Games
1. Game Jolt: Entirely free indie games all the time! All of these games are direct download and do not require any platform to play them.
2. Steam: Steam has a Free To Play (FTP) section with games you can play without paying anything. While some of these games are undeniably Pay to Win, you can generally find that out by looking at the game’s reviews in the store, and there are a lot of little gems in here that are amazing (I highly recommend checking out The Plan).
3. Good Old Games: This site will occasionally give out free games, and when you make an account with them, you can get several free games. Stay subscribed to their site and they will notify you when these specials are available.
4. Alpha Beta Gamer: A site that has games that are earlier in development (Alphas or Betas) or student games. There are new additions every day and every game is either free or has game keys available for free, which will let you play them.
5. Ferry Halim (Orsinal): Hands down this is the cutest site I’ve ever seen. The games are simple and generally both adorable and soothing. There’s also a good amount of variety considering that these games were all made by one person.
6. Origins: An EA-only platform, Origins will sometimes have some of their older games available for free for a limited time. You will be required to download their platform in order to be able to play them, though.
7. Kongregate: These games tend to be a bit more simple, but they have a lot of solid online games you can play. They attract developers by sharing their ad revenue, and I have wasted many hours on this site playing the wide variety of games they have available.
8. Armor Games: Armor Games is best known for its flash games and has a Newgrounds-ian feel to it. Its library is enormous, though, and you’re bound to find something for you on this site.
9. Addicting Games: The title says it all. Also known for its flash games, once you’re on this site, you’ll find that time seems to slip away much more quickly than you ever would have thought.
10. Newgrounds: Newgrounds was the original flash gaming portal, but I haven’t heard much about it or looked at it lately. Completely free and created by their own community, Newgrounds has a variety of unique and interesting games with something for everyone.
11. Coolrom: I’m a little fuzzy on the legality of this, so while it’s good to know they exist, I can’t say whether you should use them or not. It’s possible to find console emulators online and download the games for them, but you should check to see if the games legally allow for emulation before you download them.
There are probably loads of sites that I missed, so if you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments below! The more gamers that we can connect to affordable games, the better it will be for everyone.