Another Steam Winter Sale is upon us. Christmas has made our wallets cry out, but look at all those games on sale. Thousands of them. As sifting through the options can be overwhelming, I’ve compiled a top list for games you could gift a friend but also wouldn’t want to miss out on yourself.
The sale ends January 4th, 10AM PST.
Shadow of Mordor: GOTY Edition
Buy it for: LOTR Enthusiasts or those who enjoy 3rd-person hack n’ slash combat with a healthy dose of adventure and RPG elements.
“Fight through Mordor and uncover the truth of the spirit that compels you; discover the origins of the Rings of Power, build your legend and ultimately confront the evil of Sauron in this new chronicle of Middle-earth.”
This port by Feral Interactive runs silky smooth on a decent Mac, making your adventures in Mordor all the more delightful as you slice up Orcs and make special adversaries with the game’s dynamic Nemesis system.
Alternatively: Tomb Raider
This action-adventure reboot of the popular Tomb Raider franchise should not be missed. I’m not even a fan of the series and I was instantly hooked by the strong visuals, intriguing story and compliment of fun exploration mixed with visceral combat. Leading lady Lara Croft gives a strong performance as she undergoes a complex physical, mental and emotional journey.
Borderlands 2: GOTY Edition
Buy it for: The cooperative minded gamer who enjoys shooting things, getting loot and laughing out loud at the same time. Bring some friends.
Borderlands is a really great series, and while BL2 was released awhile , it is no less fun today than it was years ago. The GOTY edition makes it really easy to enjoy all the fantastic DLC content in addition to the main game – trust me, I’ve put hundreds of hours into it. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is easily the best DLC you will ever play and could be an entire game on its own.
Alternatively: Borderlands The Pre-Sequel
Normally I’d recommend an entirely different game, but TPS is too good to pass up. While not as funny as its predecessors, the game has notable improvements in other areas, such as combat, characters and items. The addition of low-gravity makes movement fun, and the absurd butt-slams never get old. You also get to learn the origins of Handsome Jack and explore the haunting beauty of Pandora’s moon.
Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition.
Buy it for: RPG lovers who enjoy turn-based combat and impressively detailed worlds to explore and navigate.
Divinity: Original Sin was already an incredibly impressive game garnering numerous awards for its pen-and-paper like freedom rendered in game form. Now the Enhanced Edition simply makes it even better with improved graphics, extra voiceovers and tons of new quests, items and encounters. You can easily sink hundreds of hours into this by yourself or with a friend in coop mode.
Alternatively: Wasteland 2
While very differently themed than medieval fantasy, Wasteland 2 offers an incredibly fun and gritty look at the post-apocalyptic RPG. If it seems like an updated Fallout 2, that wouldn’t be that far from the mark. Wasteland 1 is what inspired the Fallout franchise, so it is no surprise to see some similar elements in Wasteland 2. While single-player only, this offers a world of deep character customization, tense tactical combat and a sprawling story with lots of choices and consequences.
This War of Mine
Buy it for: Gamers who enjoy war games, but with a twist.
In this War of Mine you do not play as a soldier, savior, hero or any kind of combatant. Instead you are simply a group of civilians attempting to survive the harshness of war. Battle the cold, scant supplies, scavengers, and soldiers as you navigate a war-torn city. Inspired by true events, this title offers a chilling and touching look at the awfulness of war.
Alternatively: Spec Ops: The Line
While you actually play a soldier in The Line, this 3rd person action game heavily explores the psychological and emotional effects of your actions in war. Featuring a striking visual design, tight combat and a phenomenal story, Spec Ops: The Line should not be missed by any gamer who enjoys shooters.
I wrote a feature for MGS awhile ago that goes into greater detail on why I think all shooter/wargame fans should play this. Check it out.
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.
Buy it for: Those who enjoy swinging sharp and blunt weapons into other players faces, and anyone who has watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Chivalry is a game of extremes. Extreme violence, and extreme humor as a result. Developer intended or not, the game is bound to make you laugh as up to 32 players duke it out in team based and deathmatch modes across a variety of maps. Somehow the game ends up channeling The Black Knight from Monty Python more frequently than not. Still, buy it for the nuanced melee combat system and intense team matches.
Alternatively: Dead Island
While a vastly different genre, the semi-open world zombie apocalypse of Dead Island focuses on a similar thing: melee combat. Guns do exist, but you will spend most of your time bludgeoning, stabbing and slicing the undead, to, er, death.
Buy it for: Anyone who enjoys multiplayer-only team-based shooters. Also World War 1.
Verdun manages to capture the trench-based warfare of World War 2 with impressive realism, while also making it fun. Obviously I was not in WW1, but this game gives you a sense of what it might have been like. Frantically defending an assault on your trench. Ducking and weaving your way across no-man’s land as you assault the enemy territory, bullets zinging overhead. Maybe you are a sniper, creeping through the bushes looking to pick soldiers off. Maybe you are a commander, directing your troops and scouting the battlefield with binoculars. Maybe you are that grunt rushing the frontlines. In Verdun you can be the kind of soldier that fits your playstyle.
While set in the modern era, Insurgency is a tightly crafted squad-based multiplayer shooter that rewards teamwork and precision. 32 players battle it out across a variety of urban and mountainous regions in both day and night combat. Customizable weapons with a point system let you adjust your guns on the fly, while the responsive controls make sure you don’t miss a shot. This shooter is a blast for anyone who can cooperative with teammates.
Buy it for: Fans of intense arcade racing. Also Tron and awesome electronic music.
Distance bills itself as a “survival racing game” and this is fairly true. You control a unique car that allows you to boost, jump, rotate and fly through a chaotic and twisted city. You will need all of the vehicle's abilities to navigate the creative and dangerous tracks at top speed. Fantastic visuals and a thumping soundtrack accompany the experience, available in single player and multiplayer.
Alternatively: Road Redemption
Not into cars, or all that fancy futuristic stuff? Then Road Redemption is the game for you. A spiritual successor to the Road Rash games of old, RR builds on the basic foundations of that in a number of ways. Not only can you hit people in the face with a pipe while driving at high speed on a motorcycle, (bonus points for doing this while in mid-air) there are now tons of weapons, procedurally generated levels, mission objectives and insane grappling hook skyscraper levels. Honestly it is as entertaining and ridiculous as it sounds so I urge you to check it out.
Buy it for: Anyone who enjoys an amusing and action packed side-scrolling adventure best played with friends.
Castle Crashers has been out awhile now, but I only discovered it recently. It reminds me of a game I might have played as a kid in an arcade, only now I don’t have to spend more quarters when I die. Hack, slash and smash your way to victory with up to 4 friends. Choose your character, upgrade your powers and crash some castles! You can choose what missions to undertake and stop between missions to shop, duel with friends or test yourself in various arenas.
Alternatively: Trine series
All of the Trine games are Mac compatible and feature multiplayer, but Trine 2 is probably the best. Still, all three feature excellent combat, exploration, puzzle physics and eye-meltingly good visuals to dazzle you. Dibs on the Thief though – her grappling hook is way too fun.
HomeWorld Remastered Collection
Buy it for: Real-time strategy aficionados and lovers of space battles.
The original Homeworld 2 was available back in the day for Mac gamers, but the Remastered collection offers both HW1 and HW2 in one tidy updated package. Thanks to Aspyr you can now enjoy epic space battles and sci-fi adventures on modern Macs. With the prominence of historical and present-day strategy games, I find Homeworld very refreshing.
Alternatively: Company of Heroes 2
Space not your thing? Then maybe the intensity of World War 2 is. The original Company of Heroes was also available on Mac, albeit without multiplayer. This time around we get the whole package to enjoy in single player or vs others. The game’s approach to tactics, terrain and line of sight will challenge any budding or veteran strategy commanders. Just make sure you have the specs to run it, as the game is very performance heavy.
There are plenty of other great games out there on sale as well, but the list is too numerous to mention. What are your favorite games this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!